Bound by kip­per ties

UN­CHANG­ING FOR­TUNE’S: For 140 years lit­tle has al­tered at For­tune’s Kip­pers. Chris Berry goes be­hind the scenes of a very York­shire in­sti­tu­tion. Pic­tures by Tony Bartholomew.

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Seven Days -

ENRIETTA Street in Whitby is a na­tional trea­sure. This lone cob­bled sin­gle-track lane that leads to the cliff edge on the south side of town is a pe­riod drama pro­ducer’s dream. It’s as though lit­tle has changed here for cen­turies and it is still home to one of the town’s long­est es­tab­lished and best loved busi­nesses, For­tune’s Kip­pers. This year the fam­ily cel­e­brates 140 years of trade.

For­get Drac­ula, Goth weeks, folk weeks, Whitby Abbey and Whitby jet. Up here time stands still and the fa­mil­iar fra­grance of oak-smoked her­ring is a re­minder to all of child­hood days when fam­i­lies such as mine made their way be­yond the 199 steps to the abbey, round­ing the cor­ner to take in the aroma from the smoke house.

Change is clearly not a word in the vo­cab­u­lary of Whitby’s last sur­viv­ing kip­per en­ter­prise. The fam­ily has used the same smoke house and shop for more than 90 years and the orig­i­nal smoke house was sit­u­ated just be­hind their present premises. They’ve not moved and have no in­ten­tion of do­ing so.

“We’re still smok­ing the kip­pers the way we have al­ways done since our great great grand­fa­ther Wil­liam started in 1872,” says Barry Brown who man­ages the smoke house and shop in part­ner­ship with his brother Derek. They are the fifth gen­er­a­tion of the For­tune dy­nasty to run the busi­ness, sons of Jean Brown and grand­sons of Wil­liam For­tune, who ran it as the third gen­er­a­tion.

“The split­ting of the her­rings is straight­for­ward and rep­e­ti­tious. Ev­ery­thing is done by hand. Once they are split and gut­ted they are soaked in brine for 40 min­utes and then hung on ten­ter­hooks on what we call a balk. The her­rings are then taken into the smoke house where they are smoked for 18 hours and over three fires. The length of smok­ing can vary a lit­tle be­cause we won’t put them into the shop un­til we feel they are golden brown and ready. They go in as her­rings. They are still wet fish at that time, but they come out as a kip­per.

“We use a mix of beech and oak, with a bed of soft­wood to start the fire. The oak is too dense to light on its own. It all de­pends on how long we want the fires to burn and how big we want them. The evening fires burn for the long­est but there are also times when we put a fire on at lunchtime for about an hour or so to get a few ready for the af­ter­noon if we need to.”

In­side the smoke house the walls are cov­ered with a tar made from the steam,

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