Doing my family genealogy a couple of winters back, I traced the Scottish side as far back as the 18th century to Arbroath, home of the smokie. A few miles north of Dundee, this fishing village reeks of oak and smoke as the locals artisanally hot-smoke the haddock. It’s one of the protected foods (PGI) of Britain.
I visited Alex Spink’s smokery at 7am while they were building the fire to smoke the cured haddock. The fish are paired and tied with hemp twine and hung over a wooden lathe or ‘kiln stick’. Hemp contains oil so the string doesn’t burn, is difficult to get hold of nowadays but the area was a flax spinning centre in the 19th century. The phrase ‘done to a turn’ derives from the half hour that it takes for the haddock to turn a golden brown. The lathes are then lifted out and switched around to smoke the other side.