“The quality of Irish salmon is superlative, in the sense that it can hang”

Irish master salmon smoker Hederman’s fish has been called the finest around by the Observer and the New York Times.

With only a couple of weeks to go before Christmas, Hederman’s do a quarter of all its annual sales in just 13 weeks.

“Its very intense,” said Caroline Hederman who runs the smokehouse with her husband Frank,  to SalmonBusiness.

40 years ago, Frank Hederman started to smoke fish having been drawn to Ireland’s heritage. The company focusses on a small batch of production, avoids mechanisation or automation where possible, to create high-end handmade smoked salmon. The fish has won mentions in the New York Times (“Mr Hederman smokes fish which is a little like saying Steinway makes pianos”) and the Observer Food Monthly.

Business partner Caroline Hederman didn’t want to go into details how much they produced but explained that it supplies a small amount of high end fish to local markets as well as internet sales to the UK, the EU as well as the US. “The UK is our closest and biggest market, thats where all the potential is,” explained Hederman.

Wild fish smoker
“Frank started smoking and gained his reputation as a wild fish smoker. He did that exclusively until fishing at sea was banned in 2006 and then he started using organically farmed fish from Ireland only,” said Hederman. It sources from Mowi Ireland.

With a team of six Frank and Caroline smoke salmon with the skin on, without slicing, while handling the fish as little as possible as so not to spoil.

Self taught Frank Hederman has spent decades refining the rare traditional skills of hang–smoking in an authentic timber smoke house. PHOTO: Hederman

“The quality of Irish salmon is superlative, in the sense that it can hang, if you have anything that is poorly farmed then it has no muscle culture and therefore ends up on the floor. Therefore the benefit of hanging, it improves the fish enormously, which creates an opportunity for the fat and the oils to disperse and the smoke to infuse,” she said.

“That traps oils and doesnt allow smoke in so you get flabby flavours fish. Ours is very fine quality to the extent that people mistake it for wild fish,” she added.

The fish has won rave reviews from chefs such as Tom Parker Bowles and Rick Stein, the latter who sources it for his restaurants. Though, Hederman said that she wished more chefs would commit to quality.

“People talk about provenance and supporting local supliers until they are blue the face but you have to meet very commited chefs to get your products. Rick Stein is one of those will only buy the best seafood,” she added.

“There is a shortage of organic salmon at the moment – but we have a good relationship with our supplier and they support Irish businesses” PHOTO: Hederman

In Ireland, growth of Irish salmon has stalled for years. Is the availability of salmon an issue for you?

“The prices of raw material is fairly consistent,” she added. “We are not dealing with a commidity, in Ireland its not something that is available in enormous size. There is a shortage of organic salmon at the moment – but we have a good relationship with our supplier and they support Irish businesses. They come to us before they go abroad – if they have any shortages, we are the first to be able to purchase, we are very lucky like that”.

And are you looking to get into new markets?

“We dont go searching for business, we let people come to us. As a small producer, you could go around Paris or Italy and not really get that far, as it’s like finding a needle in a haystack to find chefs who are committed. So we let our repuation bring them here,” concluded Hederman.


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