From the fishing port of Boulogne-sur-Mer : a visit to a traditional smokehouse
This is the story of a family, steeped in ancient values and traditions. Corrue-Deseille is one of the very last traditional fish smoking and salting companies in Boulogne-sur-Mer.
8.00am: Is when Cédric Corrue meets us for our visit to the Corrue-Deseille smoking and salting factory that he manages alongside his brother Pierre.
The premises are located in the Capécure area of Boulogne-sur-Mer dedicated to fishing and processing fish. As the busiest fishing port in France, the family-owned company is supplied with fresh fish every day.
Although this seems like an extremely early start for a visit like this, once inside the factory we soon realise that the workers here have already been hard at it for several hours!
Fish is, above all else, a family matter here: Pierre and Cédric are the fourth generation to manage the company. There are only four traditional smoking and salting factories remaining today, although there were more than 80 at the start of the 20th century.
According to Cédric, the company’s strength lies in just one or two key factors: an insistence on top-quality ingredients, the upkeep of an ancient tradition and the passion of the staff.
The temple of smoked herring, haddock and salmon
Every year, one thousand tons of finished products are processed at Corrue-Deseille, including 450 tons of herring products, their speciality. Herring is also the origin of the business. All their products were based on herring in the time of Cédric’s parents: kippers, cured herring, marinated herring, sweet herring fillets, rollmops… Other varieties of fish only arrived later, to meet the growing demand of consumers.
8:30am: The start of our visit: the storeroom where the herring, haddock and salmon are kept. Herring purchased between November and December comes, in part, from local fishermen. One of the very first stages of preparation is salting: the fish is placed whole in brine for between 48 and 72 hours. Certain fish are gutted, others not. The salmon and haddock are then placed on wire racks whilst the herring is hung. Each fish follows its own process. Salting, gutting and setting out are only done by hand in order to ensure that as little of the flesh is lost as possible.
The smoked fresh fish at its finest
9am: after having watched the preparation, we head into the smoking room, the heart of the company. Up above, a statue of the Virgin Mary keeps watch. The people of Boulogne are superstitious and the Virgin protects them from fires. Hot or cold, smoking is done in the traditional way and can last until 6pm! As for the taste, Cédric explains to us that there is nothing like it and we take him at his word.
Just beneath the smoking room sits the cellar. That is where the smoker prepares the fire using logs, wood shavings and sawdust from beech trees. This is a delicate phase as the amount used must be precise, the objective being to produce nothing but smoke.
9:30am: we are witnessing the very last stages of the process prior to shipping: filleting, cutting and conditioning in wooden crates.
Here again all tasks are carried out by hand in order to protect the flesh of each fish. We are really impressed by the precision and speed of the cutters: these salmon, trout and halibut are all in expert hands.
Cédric suggests we try a few slices of smoked trout that have been freshly cut.
Despite the early hour we are happy to accept! The fish is an absolute delight and really does melt in the mouth.
The finished products are then delivered to restaurants, wholesalers, communities and big or medium-sized retailers in France and across Europe.
Savoir-faire, artisan crafts, professional fishmongers, quality… these are the values that stand out from our visit.
24 Rue du Docteur Duchenne, in Boulogne-sur-Mer