No vampire would surely dare cross the threshold of Marcus Peters and Rowan Jones’ Somerfield home — the smell of smoked garlic should be enough to send them screaming into the night.
And, if you are inclined to take vampire stories with a pinch of salt, well, Peters and Jones can help there, too, with a platter of smoked, spiced sea salt at the ready.
The pair are owners of the Original Smoke and Spice Company, and although the actual smoking is done at their specially designed smokehouse in Lincoln, they naturally keep a good supply of product at home.
“We are just hooked on it,” says Jones. “We are the original converts.”
And it seems they are not alone. The smoked garlic bulbs and smoked, tumble-roasted, spiced sea salt are proving winners for the young couple, helped along by their enthusiastic approach to marketing. The pair spend their weekends selling the garlic and salt at markets and South Island festivals, where their “London barrow boy” interactive approach turns what could be an ordinary transaction into a bit of fun for buyer and seller alike.
Peters knows what he is talking about when he mentions the east London influence. He spent 10 years there, working as a chef and often buying supplies directly from the stallholders at local produce markets.
His kitchen routine had long included smoking garlic and flavouring salt for use in his menus, and soon after his return to Christchurch a couple of years ago he decided to turn those skills into a business.
“There was a bit of trial and error in it,” he says. “I designed and built the smoker myself and I had to learn how to work with the variety of atmospheric conditions we get here. I smoke about 100kg of garlic each time so we are talking pretty big batches. You can’t afford to blow it.”
Large “printanor” garlic bulbs from Marlborough are used for their high volatile-oil content and strong flavour. They are smoked whole over manuka, bay leaves and rosemary for maximum flavour, while retaining the firmness of the cloves. The resulting garlic is mild, with a slightly nutty, herby flavour along with the expected smokey, woody tones. It adds an extra flavour to many foods.
Solar salt from Lake Grassmere is used in the spiced salt. It is smoked on screens, then tumble-roasted with garlic, shallots, coriander, mustard seeds and chilli. The roasting drives the oil deep into the salt to give a delicious, complex flavour.
It even looks good, with the golden grains of the roasted salt flecked with the colours of the other ingredients, and there has been interest from a United States purchaser.
“This salt has a bit of a cult status now,” Peters says. “Anyone who tries it never goes back to ordinary salt.”
And as for those vampires? They’re not saying, but the garlic seems to keep colds away — neither Jones nor Peters has had a cold for about a year and a half.