The Arbroath Smokie is a type of smoked haddock. The tradition of smoking these haddocks is said to have originated in the small fishing village Auchmithie, a little north of Arbroath in Scotland. The smokies soon became a habit in Arbroath hence the name by which they are known today. In the past, the village was largely populated by families of Norse origin.
The origin of this tradition is still debated, though it is said that it might go back as far as the first Vikings’ raids in the region during the 11th century. Still, since the life and economy of the town of Auchmithie has long revolved around fishing (mostly haddock, herring, crab and lobster), we can say for sure that the tradition is at least two centuries old. There is a legend that tells that the tradition initiated when a cottage caught fire, where some haddock had been hung for drying. They were found in the cottage’s ruins, smoked but still edible.
The first step of its preparation is to salt the fish for about 2 hours, depending on size. Later, they are tied by the tail and hung in pairs on wooden rods. Then, the salt has to be washed off and the fish are left to dry for about five hours to harden the skins. The smoking used to be done using smoke pits prepared by women; a hole was dug in the ground and half of a whisky barrel was set into it. The rods were placed in the smoke-pit and smoked over oak or beech, covered with layers of hessian to trap the smoke. Smoking time is approximately 45 minutes. Nowadays, people from the region continue to smoke fish in their backyards to sell to the local community. In addition, there are also a few local businesses. Undoubtedly the best flavour is when the fish is hot off the barrel. It is mellow with overtones of salt and smoke. It can be also eaten cold.