Craster Kippers, Northumberland
We should look out for something more than just generic kippers. Britain has some fine regional variations on the theme: Manx Kippers are prized by some, Mallaig on the West Coast of Scotland retains one venerable smokehouse; Great Yarmouth , though more famous for bloaters , has its own version; and on the coast of Northumberland there is Craster, where a fourth generation of the Robson family is engaged in the business.
Craster used to land boatloads of herring to make kippers, but no longer, though the herring shoals do appear to be recovering somewhat – maybe because we are too picky to deal with bones these days. The Craster kipper is made in the proper, traditional way as they have been since 1865, which is why it tastes good but unlike certain inferior versions doesn’t threaten to glow in the dark. When will the food giants learn people have gone off the idea of bright orange fish?
Briefly brined then slowly smoked over a fire containing oak sawdust and whitewood shavings, strung high in the smokehouse rafters, the naturally coloured Craster Kippers are a seasonal treat. Only the plumpest with the right oil content are used, which means when they start to spawn they won’t make the grade. Just as it should be.