A Living from the River. Ray Turner's Delaware Delicacies Smoke House
Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em
Turner’s hand-built smoker and smoke house are next to his hand-built home, deli store and storage buildings, which are all in a place called Eel Weir Hollow, according to maps dated to the 1800s. Turner has built his business over the decades on the eel population and eel heritage of this place. He also smokes and sells salmon, trout, pheasant, shrimp, duckling, cornish hens and cheese. Lots of cheese. More than seven tons of cheese since 2007.
Turner hot smokes the eels and most of his products. Hot smoking brings the meat’s temperature to 145 degrees for the fish, 165 degrees for the fowl. Turner cold smokes salmon and cheese. In cold smoking, product temperature cannot exceed 90 degrees; cheese must be held to 70 degrees so it doesn’t melt. A civil engineer by training, Turner rigged his smoke house to cold smoke products even on the hottest summer day.
His smoke draws from five different kinds of sawdust—cross cut dry, cross cut green, joint cut dry, joint cut green and dry stump. He loves sawdust made from apple wood and, in fact, uses nothing else. He will trade you a shopping bag full of his products for a pick-up’s load of apple wood.
Turner works hard to make his living from the river. His customers appreciate his hard work. “I do quite well,” said Turner, “but it’s not easy work. Building weirs, I can haul a couple of tons of stone a day.
“I have no computer, no fax, no microwave, no cell phone, no BlackBerry. I have tranquility, eagles, the river. I have my Chevy, a canoe and a sign.”
“It’s a job that’s never done,” said Turner. “I love the job. It’s a journey.”