What are my special features?
Bloaters are a form of smoked herring associated mainly with the East Anglia coast, in particular with Great Yarmouth. The herrings are brined and then smoked whole, without gutting and splitting them beforehand. Including the guts gives them a stronger more intense flavour, often described as ‘gamey’. The herrings are cold smoked for about 18 hours, keeping them whole helps to keep them moister than if they were split and gutted before. A traditional product made using Bloaters is bloater paste, which was an extremely popular spread throughout most the 20th century although this popularity has declined over the last 40 years.
What is my history?
Herring fishing played a very important role in the development of Great Yarmouth with bloaters being a significant part in this industry. Great Yarmouth was a major fishing port, and approximately 100 years ago was home to around 3,000 herring boats. In the season 5,000 women were brought by special trains to gut and pack the bloaters. The shoals moved down the East Coast for 6 months followed by these migrant fish workers. As herring flocks on the East Anglia coast declined after the Second World War and the public’s palates changed, the popularity of Bloaters also declined from the 1950’s onwards.
Why am I forgotten?
The decline of the popularity of Bloaters has gone hand in hand with the decline of the herring fishing industry along the East Anglia coast. As there is only one commercial producer in the area, and with the declining popularity of Bloaters, this product is at risk of disappearing altogether. With smoked fish today often being made using liquid smoke and dyes, the traditional methods for producing bloaters as well as the unique flavour of traditionally smoked fish products could soon be forgotten by the British public.
There are still herring stocks available along the East Anglian coast, but they are very unpredictable. Because of this fishermen in this area prefer to seek more economically stable sources of income. It is because of this that Bloater producers in East Anglia often have to seek their herring from more reliable and sustainable, but further afield, sources in the North Sea.