Quite a few years ago I attended a wonderful lecture at The Springfield Museums given by Claire Hopley, author of The World of Blantyre & The Cookery of Christopher Brooks. At the time Downton Abbey was in its height of popularity and the “cottages” of the Berkshires were the closest thing many of us had for comparison. In my case, my husband happened to be the General Manager of Blantyre so I had an additional interest in the lecture. A native of the UK, Hopley gave a fascinating talk about the homes of the Berkshires and the foods that were served there during the Gilded Age. Blantyre, one of the original Lenox cottages, was built in the early 1900’s and at that time fish arrived to the Berkshires by train having been caught at fishing lodges, packed on ice and later stored in the ice houses including one at Blantyre. Robert Patterson, the owner of Blantyre at the time, was a big salmon fisherman. While it is unlikely that the people living there at the time made this recipe- they certainly enjoyed salmon as a luxury most common people would not experience.
Hopley served numerous dishes from the book, recipes derived from former Relais & Chateaux Grand Chef Christopher Brooks, who, at the time, was the executive chef at Blantyre, and a personal friend of our family. One that stood out to me was the pastrami salmon, which, was not only delicious, but tremendously impressive to see displayed as well. Hopley includes this recipe in a summer section of the book. We actually love it in the fall and winter. With the holidays approaching this is a recipe that we make often as it works for hors D’oeuvres, lunches and breakfasts. Due to its size, it is perfect for parties and it will be sure to impress your guests.
Ingredients Pickling Spice:
2 Tablespoons black peppercorns, 2 Tablespoons mustard seed, 2 Tablespoons coriander seed, 1 Tablespoon chili flakes, 1 Tablespoon juniper berries, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg, 1 cinnamon stick, 6 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon ground ginger
** grind all of these ingredients together using a spice blender until coarse.
Ingredients Salmon Pastrami:
5 oz. Kosher salt, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon sugar, 4 teaspoons pickling spice, 1 tablespoon pink salt, 1/4 cup dark brown sugar, 1 garlic clove- minced, 1 quart cold water, 3 pound side of salmon, 2 tablespoons white peppercorns, 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
**Place all ingredients except the salmon, white peppercorns and coriander seeds into a saucepan and bring to a boil then allow to simmer for five to ten minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely before pouring over salmon, which should be placed in a shallow dish or fish roasting pan. Pour the mixture over the salmon and place in the refrigerator for 36 hours. The fish should be totally covered by the liquid. If it is not add more water. After 36 hours remove fish and discard liquid. Allow fish to dry and then grind the remaining white peppercorns and coriander seeds. Press this on top of the salmon and return to the fridge, uncovered, until it dries out, at which point you will cover it with cling wrap. This fish should be stored in the fridge until ready to serve.
In the fall we love to serve this on simple Wasa crisps and top with a few sliced Maille gherkins. In the winter, or for holidays, we love to dress it up a bit with more refined crackers and perhaps some sour cream or chutney. The pepper and coriander dry rub adds a hit of spice and the salmon takes on a very creamy taste which compliments the heat perfectly. If you ever have the chance to visit the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts be sure to consider staying at Blantyre, it is truly magical and the food is amazing.