Michael & Rhona's Story
I ’infuse’ salmon with a delicate blend of hickory and mesquite to impart a distinctly smokey flavor.
“You don’t want to ‘cook’ the salmon,” says Michael Jacobs, self-described “Smoke Master,” who’s been smoking salmon for over two decades. “Instead,” he says, “I ’infuse’ it with a delicate blend of hickory and mesquite to impart a distinctly smokey flavor.” But before it’s even smoked, each batch is brined in a unique blend of all-natural ingredients, hand-selected by the Smoke Master, himself, and guaranteed to satisfy even the most die-hard of smoked salmon connoisseurs. Michael’s wife and partner, Rhona, gets the final say in what eventually makes it to customers tables. “She’s my harshest critic,” says Michael, “and whether it’s a new recipe or a new batch of smoked salmon, Rhona’s word is final.”
Michael and Rhona’s story began on the east coast of Ireland, where they first met, then married, and eventually started their family. They wistfully admit that they were spoiled with the abundance of fresh Atlantic Salmon, smoked in the best of Ireland’s traditions. When the Jacobs family emigrated to America in the mid-1980s, they were hard pressed to find smoked salmon that resembled anything like what they used to eat from their native homeland. Although they enjoyed the best of the Pacific Northwest’s smokehouses, they never found anything quite like the smoked fish from home… and that’s when they began to do it themselves.
What started out as a hobby has turned into a successful family business for the Jacobses. Each week, the pair begins the process of smoking small batches of salmon to sell at the Portland Farmers Market at PSU on Saturdays and the Hillsdale Farmers Market on Sundays. They have steadily built their culinary reputation among Portland’s locals, as well as those visiting as far away as Germany and Japan. “We pride ourselves on using only the freshest and finest ingredients around,” says Michael. He adds that having access to a steady supply of premium, wild-caught, Pacific Northwest salmon makes his work a bit easier, too.
The Jacobs family have preserved salmon in their Irish tradition for over 20 years now. They don’t plan on expanding or selling the business; instead, they’re “keeping it small, local, and under the watchful eyes of Rhona’s strict quality control,” says Michael. Rhona nods in agreement, then adds, “What point is there in turning something so uniquely personal into just another faceless, corporate brand?” The Smokery is now, as will remain, a personal experience shared by a husband and wife with their local and visiting customers, who they commonly refer to as their “farmers market friends.” They welcome all to their weekend booths, where they enjoy sharing their passion for some of the best smoked salmon the Pacific Northwest has to offer with others.