Farewell Bagels & Lox
Sadly, after almost 60 years in business, J. Willie Krauch and Sons have smoked their last fish. I read the April 1st announcement on twitter and initially, I assumed it was an April Fool's day joke. They say denial is the first stage of grief.
Within hours, I was reading tweets by local entrepreneurs hoping to buy the business in order to keep the beloved smokehouse running.
Isn't the third stage of grief bargaining?
Unfortunately, this is not the sort of business that a group of well-meaning investors could operate. J. Willie Krauch & Sons sells an artisinal product. Everything is done by hand. You may be able to pass along the skills, but not the commitment or the heart required to produce a product as fine as J. Willie Krauch & Sons smoked fish.
This brief excerpt from the company's website illustrates what I'm talking about:
"Ever since 1956, when Jorgen Willy Krauch opened a Danish-style smokehouse in Tangier, Nova Scotia, this family-run operation has been a place where the time-honoured tradition of doing things the old-fashioned way reigns supreme.
You could call it the art of producing a perfectly smoked fish.
Top-quality smoked fish takes time and care, Max says. Sure, automated machinery would speed up production, but it would take something away from the taste and quality of the product. "When you're doing it all by hand, you're paying attention to the details. I can taste the difference and I think other people can too." "
Read more about the people behind this wonderful local business here.
Once I'd reached the final stage of the grieving process, acceptance, I decided I'd better do something special to bid farewell to the smoked salmon I love so much. So, even though it is a bit of a process, I baked a batch of homemade Montreal-style bagels to serve with the best smoked salmon in the world.
To make these bagels yourself, gather the following ingredients:
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 to 3 quarts water
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 egg white, lightly beaten
- 2-4 tablespoons assorted seeds and/or seasonings
Stir the honey and yeast into the warm water, and let the mixture rest for a few minutes to proof. The mixture should become milky in appearance and bubble a bit. If your yeast doesn't proof, turf it, and start again with fresh yeast.
Add the water mixture to the flour and salt in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour in incorporated. The dough will be stiff and dry. You may need to add a couple of extra tablespoons of water to get all of the flour into the mixture.
Once the dough comes together into a ball, turn out onto a clean surface and knead for 3-5 minutes, until dough becomes smooth and satiny. Don't add any extra flour to the dough when you knead it. If the dough sticks to your hands or the countertop, use a light sprtiz of water to dampen the surface, this should prevent sticking.
Place the dough in a well oiled bowl to rise. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot for 60-90 minutes, it should double in volume.
Turn the dough out onto a clean surface, and divide it into 8 equal pieces.
To form each piece into a bagel shape you can:
Roll the dough into a ball using cupped hands and poke a hole through the center with your thumbs in order to form the shape of a bagel.
Or, roll each piece of dough into a log about 8-10 inches long, and pinch together the ends of the log to form your bagels.
I've tried both, and most of the bagels formed by rolling a log and sealing the ends came apart in the poaching liquid. Neither method resulted in a neat looking donut shape, they were all pretty lumpy. I'm OK with that.
Place the bagels on a baking sheet lined with a well oiled sheet of parchment paper to rise. Loosely cover the bagels with plastic wrap, and put the baking sheet in the fridge overnight for a slow second rise.
Remove the bagels from the fridge a least an hour before you plan to cook them, and let them come to room temperature and continue to rise on the counter top.
Preheat the oven to 450F.
In a large pot, add the honey, soda, and salt to your poaching water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Then, reduce heat to medium, let the mixture come to a slow boil.
Gently drop the bagels into the poaching liquid one or two at a time, and allow them to cook for about 1 minute per side. Use a slotted spoon to flip the bagels over after the first minute of poaching.
Remove from the poaching liquid with your slotted spoon, and place on well oiled parchment lined baking sheet. Leave about an inch between each bagel, you may need to divide the bagels between two baking sheets to avoid overcrowding.
If you plan on adding any toppings, now is the time. Brush each bagel lightly with the beaten egg white. This will not only help your topping stick to the bagels, but the egg wash will provide a nice shine.
Finally, sprinkle with any combination of seeds and seasonings that tickles your fancy. Add as much or as little of your chosen topping as you would like. I generally just scatter a few sesame seeds. But sometimes, I'll whip up a mix of poppy, sesame, and cracked fennel seeds, and liberally cover the tops of the bagels with the mixture. Depends on my mood.
Bake the bagels for 8 minutes, rotate the pan, and continue to bake for another 12-15 minutes. The bagels should be golden brown.
To serve, slice the bagels in half and smear liberally with softened cream cheese. Top each half with a thin slice of smoked salmon. Garnish with a few thinly sliced bits of onion and a sprig of fresh dill.
I enjoyed my farewell bagels and lox with a frosty glass of beer and drank a toast to the Krauch family, quoting Douglas Adams, "So long, and thanks for all the fish!"
Please remember, seek out and support your local artisanal food producers, they make the world a better place!