EBERSOL - A narrow, winding road leads up to Ebersol, a hamlet lost in the eastern Swiss mountains some 920 meters above sea level. Norwegian deliverymen must be astonished to find a salmon farm so far away from the fish's natural environment
The chalet of the Balik farm is enchanting. The air of the Toggenburg valley, always brisk. The water of the Thur river, clear and fresh. The calm, absolute.
Nothing here could suggest that 24 employees produce smoked salmon for European, American, Japanese and Middle Eastern clients. But its in the Balik farm that the reputedly "best smoked salmon in the world" is produced, following an ancestral method that dates back to the last tsars of Russia.
Hans Gerd Kübel, the owner of the farm in Ebersol and founder of Balik, is also the man behind the secret recipe: back in 1978, on a trip to Berlin, he met Israel Kaplan, the Russian grandson of the last official salmon supplier of the Russian Court --the only living person to know the Russian method to smoke salmon. The two men got along so great that Kaplan shared with Kübel the time-honored secret to a refined, subtly salted and delicately smoked salmon.
In 1993, Hans Gerd Kübel rode to Geneva on his Harley-Davidson to meet up with Peter Rebeiz, head of Caviar House (today Caviar House & Prunier)... with smoked salmon in the side satchels of his motorbike. Although at first Kübel and Rebeiz seem to be on different wavelengths, their common love for arts finally sealed the deal.
The Russian method is unique in this business as it relies entirely on mans know-how and never resorts to machines. Salting, hand filleting, cold smoking following a closely guarded process, and finally skillfully cutting tranches. The "journey" takes four days for each of the 60,000 salmons that arrive each year to Ebersol, an eternity compared to other "smoked salmon factories ."
With a shelf life of less than three weeks, the product doesnt allow storage. Supply is thus closely linked to demand.
Ways of producing salmon have evolved over time, even for the Swiss farm -- but the method of smoking salmon is still the same. Baliks know-how is 100% traditional. The water of the Toggenburg valley does the rest.
Read the original article in French by Emmanuel Garessus
*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations