A Very Brief History…
The people of Shetland, the most northerly of the Scottish Islands, have been salting and curing fish for centuries. We’ve done this as a means of survival and trade.
Whether the staple “Piltock”, to help us see through the long winters, or cod, to trade with a multitude of nations, Shetland has centuries old traditions where salt fish are an embodiment of endurance and of unlikely cosmopolitanism.
For over six-hundred years, Shetland has been trading salt fish. Grand houses were built by merchants and Lairds, paid for on the back of exploited labour. An example of the links to the Hanseatic League can be seen on Whalsay, with the 'Breman Böd', also known as the Hanseatic Booth. Much later, Symbister House was built, for the Bruce family who were Lairds of Whalsay.
Fortunes were made and lost. International trade waxed and waned, mostly driven by outside political decisions. For example, the Hanseatic League's dominance ended with the Scotland/England Act of Union in 1707. Later there would be strong links forged with Dutchmen and the Basque County. These too have passed.
It is generally regarded that in the 1800s, the Basque Country had the most developed and refined cod culture and cuisine in the world (still evident for those who have holidayed in Spain and Portugal). To them, the most prized of all salt cod was that caught by Shetland Cod ‘Smacks’ and dried on Shetland stone beaches. They called it the Shetland Cure.
For further reading, try ‘The Cod Hunters’ or ‘Cod, A Biography Of The Fish That Changed The World’ – both available from our shop.
Our Artisan products are a continuation of these traditions. We hope they reflect our heritage and pay a small tribute to the skills and hardships endured by our forebears, to bring you the world’s finest salt fish, “The Shetland Cure”.
Thule Ventus – What's in a Name
The company name? Well, Thule Ventus is a combination of ‘Thule’, latin for north and Ventus, which is latin for wind. The Roman Empire described ‘Ultima Thule’ as the farthermost north. It is a title variously claimed by Norway, Shetland, Faroe, Iceland, Greenland or any other northern rock over the horizon. However, the Roman historian Tacitus (born 56AD, died 120AD), said it was as “being somewhere beyond mainland Britain”. So that settles it, it’s Shetland.
We are a family business. Although we incorporated in 2014, we have been salting fish for generations.
Below is my Great-Grandfather, Robbie Irvine, standing outside his croft house at Sanshoull, on the island of Whalsay.
The photo was taken some time in the late 1940s or early 1950s. You’ll see a line of small fish, probably small piltocks, hanging out to dry, after being salted.
I am David Polson, I own Thule Ventus. That's me with James Martin.
The business started as a hobby, using skills learned from my father and from my fellow crew members, when I worked on the ferry that ran between Whalsay and Mainland Shetland. Now we are salting and packaging our own fish, plus selling fresh fish from Blydoit.
We featured on James Martin’s Islands to Highlands in 2020. James Martin was very taken with our range of products, especially the humble salt piltock.
We have an approved fish processing facility, approval mark number SA 076 UK. We are also accredited by SALSA – Safe and Local Supplier Accreditation.
ABOUT THE FISH
All our fish is landed by local boats, either to the Lerwick or Scalloway fish markets in the early hours of the morning. We work with local fish mongers ‘Blydoit Fish Ltd’ to buy the freshest and best quality fish. Blydoit is another small, local, family owned company. Their expert filleters have the fish prepared by lunchtime and we have it salted by tea-time.
The fish slowly absorb the salt and give up their moisture. We check the fish regularly and once we’re happy that they’ve taken up enough salt we start the drying process. The whole process typically takes two-months.
We only use koshering salt to ensure that the only ingredients are fish and salt. No phosphates, no ‘E Numbers’, no infection of brine, no additives or anti-caking agents. With Thule Ventus, all you get is Fish, Salt and Time. The only mechanical intervention in the process is that we dehumidify the ambient atmosphere.
ABOUT THE FISHING BOATS
The fishermen who catch our fish, like their ancestors, have come together as family, neighbours and friends to form crews that own and operate their own vessels. They endure the worst sea conditions and weather imaginable to bring ashore some of the best seafood in the world. We’re privileged to be able to use their fish.
Here are some of the boat whose fish we buy:
Who caught your fish?
Every Thule Ventus salt fish pack comes with a label that provides the names and MMSI number of the vessel that caught the fish in the pack.
If you go to www.marinetraffic.com and enter the MMSI number in the search facility, you will find that boat. Find out details of the boat and where she is fishing.
We are proud of our fish, it's traceability, heritage and quality.
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