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The Smokehouse Story

The Native’s story begins with bacon . . . more specifically, my deep love of bacon!!

Appalled by the declining quality of British bacon over the decades, and after an extensive search of local butchery establishments (none of whom, at that time, were producing their own bacon in house), I’d come to the conclusion that, the only way I was ever going to enjoy the kind of bacon I liked, was to produce the stuff myself! What I craved was a good old-fashioned bacon with its rind intact, good fat to lean ratio (by which I mean, of course, lots of fat), properly dry cured and actually smoked with . . . well . . . real smoke! Needless to say, a trawl of the web did reveal a small number of quality producers scattered nationwide, such as Emmett’s of Peasenhall in Suffolk, quietly shipping sublime bacon, by post, to those in the know! And, having sampled their wares, it's these small artisan producers that inspired me to begin my own ‘smoking’ journey.

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A frenetic period of research and experimentation followed (well, that’s new hobbies for you!); smoking bibles, such as Steve Lamb’s ‘Curing & Smoking’, were purchased and avidly consumed, the old shed was cleared out and a cheap larder fridge installed as a curing/drying chamber, and a cold smoker was designed and rapidly constructed from scratch (now Smoker No.2 and still in regular use). From the outset, the results were surprisingly good, and friends and family, with whom I shared the spoils, were suitably impressed. The kernel of a business idea had been planted.

The venture truly kicked off in late 2016 as a sideline to my busy fulltime landscaping business, a hobby business, so to speak. Operating out of our own home kitchen, a small shed and a homemade smoker, I opened for sales every Saturday morning selling loose bacon by weight, wrapped in brown greaseproof and tied up with string. The environmental health officer seemed happy with these arrangements and awarded the business five stars. It was all systems go!

As well as my standard dry cured and cold smoked back and streaky bacon, the range was soon expanded with the introduction of my unique Kentish Black Sweet Pickled Streaky; a dry/wet cure hybrid that involved the week-long immersion of the cured bacon in a ‘pickle’ of stout beer and molasses, before a light smoke over oak. I also offered smoked cheddar and butter during the winter months; nothing fancy, just affordable proprietary dairy brands smoked with care.

2017 saw the self-building of a purpose designed production facility at the end of the garden. The old shed was demolished and the refrigerators (now three of them) temporarily moved into the house, where production also continued.

With two businesses to run and little spare time, the smokehouse build progressed slowly, in fits and starts, taking almost a year to complete. However, once finished, the new building would provide a fully equipped production space, including a walk in cold room and new larger smoker. With the new facility fully operational, 2018 saw the introduction of my first vacuum packed lines, allowing me to supply bacon to other retailers, as well as my own postal customers via a new online shop. In January 2019, I decided to expand the range with the introduction of, what was soon to become, my signature product; Alder Smoked Salmon. I was keen to buck a recent trend among niche producers towards sweet cured and alcohol infused smoked salmon products, preferring instead to return to basics with a simple salt only cure and a mellow tasting smoke, so as not to mask the underlying flavour of the fish. The new line was very well received, as was the Oak Smoked Haddock launched later in the year. However, the introduction of these two new popular fish based products, alongside the existing bacon range, quickly presented logistical problems in terms of production and storage. Some production processes returned to the home kitchen, which was not ideal, and, after some months of juggling, I came to the difficult decision to discontinue the bacon range to concentrate on the fish products, exclusively.

Plans to bring my landscaping business to a close and make the smokehouse a full time concern in 2020 were brought to an abrupt halt in March of that year by the Covid pandemic. The smokehouse was closed initially for three months, before reopening on a limited basis, producing batches of salmon and haddock on a monthly basis, on the first Saturday of each month.

Which just about brings us up to date. It's now Spring 2023 and I have finally given up my landscaping business to concentrate exclusively on the Native. Production has been stepped up to a weekly basis, opening hours extended to five days a week, new products introduced and vacuum packed versions of some lines made available. There's plans to extend the product range with the introduction of further smoked fish lines and, possibly, some dairy items too. So, here's to the future!

Thanks for taking the time to read the story of the smokehouse and, if you have any questions about my products or any other aspect of the smokehouse's operation, please do get in touch.



Whitstable Smokehouse Guy

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