Fresh out of smoke

Smoked halibut flesh shimmers with a delicate yellow color. In the mouth, a buttery, delicate texture combines with the taste of herbs and smoke. A feast for the palate. As are all marinated and smoked salmon from Martin and Ruth Waser from Beckenried NW. The couple are sitting on the terrace of their home on Lake Lucerne, greetings Mount Rigi and Mythen from the other side of the lake, but the most important thing is under the terrace: in 60 square meters of their smokehouse, the oven is outside under the roof. They have been smoking fish here for over 25 years, 90 percent of which are salmon. This is her hobby and should remain so – although the chefs of about two dozen, mostly upscale restaurants, kiss her away from the smoked fish.

Martin Waser (57) works full-time with two brothers in a family-owned forestry business. But the fish did not let him go since he learned to cook at the Hotel Sternen in Beckenried. “It was the first time I came across cut salmon,” he says. After graduating from business school, he leaves the industry and starts smoking salmon himself. His first gastronomic customer was Daniel Aschwanden from the boutique hotel Schlüssel Beckenried, and shortly thereafter the hotel Villa Honegg in Ennetbürgen NW. The demand is growing thanks to the mouth-to-mouth propaganda of chefs. Today, customers include not only companies such as Culinarium Alpinum in Stans NW, Hotel Kempinski Palace in Engelberg OW (more on this on page 22) or the revolving Rondorama restaurant on Stanserhorn, but also a delicatessen in northern Italy. .

hand fed

Initially, they were smoked in the local butcher’s furnace. “We used to have to get rid of the batch because the oven was not secured,” says Waser. No longer a problem today. You can burn 100 kg of fish in your own oven at once. Then a delicate fish smoke rises from the chimney by the terrace. But at the moment the stove is idle. “We just stopped a shipment because the salmon are still too small,” says Waser. They get it from Scotland from completely drug-free farming. “It is sustainable, the fish are hand fed, gills are killed, hand filleted and shipped to us on ice,” explains Waser. Greenland halibut comes from wild fishing, you buy Swiss fish from Swiss salmon at Lostallo TI, from Basis 57 in Erstfeld UR or from Brüggli in Sattel SZ, pike comes from Lake Lucerne and Lake Murten.

“Quality has to be right,” says Ruth Waser, 55. Only then does the husband use salt and herbs for the dry marinade. 90 percent of all customers prefer salmon this way, but Waser also marinates fillets with Asian paste or his own harvested cranberries and blueberries, distillates such as the regional Walden gin and Seven Seals whiskey. Or with Williams. “Flavors should enhance the flavor, not overwhelm it!” Says Waser. The fish are stored in the resulting brine in a cold store for about four days – they always lie flat, never hang.

Three tons of fish a year

Martin Waser usually lights the cold smoking and drying oven overnight, filling it with beech fries. Here, too, Waser plays with special materials, such as wood chips from the Seven Seals whiskey barrels, in which the whiskey has been stored for several months. After two rounds in the warehouse, they are transformed and instead of throwing them away, Wasers gives them a second life in the form of pieces of wood. Quince or apple wood is also used.
Burning French fries produces smoke. It is cooled to 25-27 degrees Celsius and wrapped around the fillets. Depending on the size of the fillet and the weather, it will take some time. If the humidity is high, it will take longer.

All at prices more than fair to manual labor. Wasers sell herbal salmon for CHF 52, distillate treated salmon for CHF 60, black halibut and Swiss fish for CHF 65 per kilo.
Wasers smokes three tons of fish a year, 70 percent of which are smoked. goes to gastronomy, and 30 percent. to private persons. One third of their production is carried out before Christmas. Martin marinates and smokes, Ruth vacuums and arranges distribution. “So-called contemplation does not start until December 25,” he says, laughing.

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