Cold smoked, in hot demand: Rainbow trout from Ernst Fish Farm in Reutte

Last updated 25.10.2017Irene HeiszIrene Heisz

Peter and Andreas Ernst run a traditional fish farm in Reutte-Lähn, which boasts of a number of special features: Cold-smoked rainbow trout is one of their signature products.

Peter Ernst is sure of one thing: “I could never work in an office or an assembly line. The thought alone is abhorrent. I have always been an outdoor kind of guy”. So it makes perfect sense that Peter chose the family fish farm for his career and pursues his greatest passion, hunting, as an active hobby.

Ernst Fish Farm can look back with pride on a tradition that spans almost one hundred years. Originally from Ammersee in Bavaria, Peter’s grandfather came to work as a shepherd’s boy in Ausserfern in the early 20th Century. He purchased the fish farm in 1920, which is now in the hands of the third and fourth generation, Peter (born in 1961) and his 29-year-old son, Andreas.

Naturnahes Idyll: Im Reuttener Ortsteil Lähn liegt die traditionsreiche Fischzucht von Peter und Andreas Ernst.

Natural idyll: The traditional fish farm of Peter and Andreas Ernst is located in the Reutte district of Lähn.

“I could never work in an office or an assembly line. I have always been an outdoor kind of guy”. Peter Ernst manages the fish farm in its third generation.

Every year, eight tons of fish leave the 20 reservoirs owned by Ernst Fish Farm, which is located in the Lähn district of Reutte. River, brown and rainbow trout as well as char can be found at the facility. Char is in strong demand at the moment. For no seemingly logical reason, fish preferences are also dictated by consumer trends.

Reuttner rainbow trout are one of the signature products of this family business, which Peter and Andreas breed in a special hatchery. It is an indigenous species, which means: the breed has never been mixed with any other subspecies of fish in forty years and is therefore a particularly robust and adaptable strain. The river trout are often purchased as stock for fishing areas.

Fish are delicate creatures; they need their routine and rest, because disturbances directly affect the health and consequently the quality of the fish. External persons are therefore not granted access to the reservoirs. The fish are fed once a day and the water in the reservoirs is changed weekly – the very best cold spring water of drinkable quality, of course, “because this makes an enormous difference to the quality”, explains Peter Ernst.

A question of quality: Ernst fish swim in fresh spring water of drinkable quality, and you can taste it.

A question of quality: Ernst fish swim in fresh spring water of drinkable quality, and you can taste it.

A question of quality is also the in-house processing of the fish, such as traditional hot smoking over an open beech-wood fire. The most coveted specialty of the house, however, is the cold smoked rainbow trout, which is only available in winter. “I am not suggesting that we are the only people who make this in Tirol, but I don’t know of anyone else who does”, says the Reutte-based fish farmer with obvious pride. “We have customers who stock up on supplies for the summer when we smoke cold for the last time of the season in spring. The product is also excellent for freezing. Peter and Andreas sell their fish in their own farm shop and deliver to farmers in the Reutte region.

Peter talks of his profession with passion and pride. It goes without saying that he not only eats fish frequently, but is also an enthusiastic cook. The credo of this man from Ausserferner is simple: “I would never pass food onto others that I don’t eat myself”.

Currently in strong demand: Char. Fish preferences are also subject to changing consumer trends. All photos: Ursula Aichner

Currently in strong demand: Char. Fish preferences are also subject to changing consumer trends. All photos: Ursula Aichner

Peter Ernst is also willing to share a special tip from his own recipe collection: Rub a fillet with cold-pressed olive oil – the oil must be of the same premium quality as the fish! – sprinkle it with some mild game seasoning (!) and a little pepper and then cook in the oven at 170 degrees for around 15 minutes. Salt? Not necessary at all! Lemon? “Definitely not!” Peter replies firmly. “Only fish that aren’t quite right need the neutralising quality of lemon juice to disguise their bad flavour. This is not necessary for our fish. Quite the contrary: I would never camouflage their natural flavour with lemon!”

Ernst Fish Farm products are available from their own Farm Shop and Reutte Farmer’s Shop.

Irene Heisz

Witty and sharp-tongued, Irene Heisz is a journalist and author who writes blog posts about Tirol, Tiroleans and their peculiarities—and there are many of them!

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