Founded in 1948, Sunburst Trout Farms has been family owned and operated for 3 generations.
Dick Jennings loved his Grandfather's land in Western North Carolina, covered with forests of oak, hickory, maple, and poplar, watered with two rushing streams, and with 100 acres of reasonably flat land that could be cleared.
It was 1931 when Dick first walked these streams. He wasn't barefoot, but his cheeks were tanned, and he was carrying a Prince Albert can of worms.
This was unique compelling stuff for a little boy raised in Pittsburgh, compelling enough to bring the young veteran of WWII back to these mountains in 1948 to start the first commercial trout farm in the South.
This meant ignoring his deceased Father's advice, "Don't stay in these mountains, you'll starve", and it also meant dropping out of the Yale School of Engineering, where, until then, he had been an honor student.
These imprudent acts were, to some extent, vindicated in the year 2001, when Dick Jennings was inducted into the Western North Carolina Agricultural Hall of Fame.
Thus, the Sunburst Trout Company was born.
Early on, supplying trout to anglers and sportsmen was okay, but the first quantum leap was to come in the late 60's when the Eskimos in Iceland were noticed to be heart disease-free. They ate fish and developed almost no harmful blood lipids.This observation caused a lot of interest in ongoing research, and trout was to become a popular seafood. Dick had by now married Frances Clark, and had had three children. During the 70's and early 80's, he traveled quite a lot to learn the ins an outs and also the ups and downs, of processing and displaying trout to that new and promising market. In 1980, the Jennings Trout Farm was to become Sunburst Trout Company, LLC with the arrival of daughter, Sally, and her husband, Steve Eason.
They, along with Barbara Green, an able New Jersey transplant, moved forward. That "moving" meant years of hard work, and many disappointments. It also meant three additional well chosen production sites and a large processing facility. Dick became the in house sales rep to 8 to 10 upscale supermarket chains along the East Coast and many of the local elegant restaurants, including the renowned Biltmore Estate and the famous Grove Park Inn and Spa. By the late 20th century the beautiful mountains of Western North Carolina were becoming a tourist attraction of unexpected proportions with a need for new and exciting ways to present trout.
In the late 90s, Sally's and Steve's sons Wes and Ben joined the family business full time to make yet another generation of Jennings and Easons to further push the envelope of creativity that young progressive folk always seem to achieve. To conitnue evolving and trying to get back to our roots in February 2011 we changed our name to Sunburst Trout Farms, and began using the logo you see today.
So the techniques of smoking, boneless fillets, processing red trout, and preparing caviar, all began to expand the horizons for commercial farming at Sunburst. Soon to follow were a pate (dip) and a trout burger (cake). Carefully portioned pieces of the largest fattest fillets and even a presentation known as "en papillote", a French culinary concept, were also making a name for themselves.
Sunburst has perfected a cold smoked Scottish Trout using only top quality fillets for their new presentation. These preparations were practical only after adapting their production to a much larger trout. The resulting large trout are similar in look to salmon, but milder and more delicate.
Equipment to do the processing was largely purchased in Europe because of their know how. Trout farming began there during the American Civil War. A very important reason for the success of Sunburst Trout is their loyal and extremely skilled staff. Over half of the employees have worked there for 10-20 years.
The sophisticated equipment harnessed with the efficient staff lend credence to "doing it by hand with a technological twist" in the 21st century. Additionally, there is a growing network of mountain trout farms for sourcing their young but not yet full grown, fatted, and filled out. And finally, with the emergence of overnight delivery and cold packaging, their marketing has become more individualized and more widespread.
Healthy, Fresh Trout
The pink flesh is the normal color of most trout and salmon. It is not a matter so much of species as it is their diet, which includes NO animal by-products, NO antibiotics and NO growth hormones. Of further importance is the fact that we net the live trout, bleed them, filet them, and pack them at 36 degrees, all within one hour, summer or winter.
Finally, the gloss on the filets is sure evidence of healthy fresh trout. A “stale” filet has little gloss. The gloss is their outer protection and is loaded with natural antibodies to protect them from external infection.
Sunburst Trout contain NO mercury, PCB’s or Pesticides*
* lab results supplied on request
Farm Raised Rainbow Trout
Farm Raised Rainbow Trout, a native American, respond extremely well to Aquaculture; i.e., controlled feeds and selective breeding in a controlled habitat. The result is that the fish reach 4 pounds before maturity. Heretofore, this has been done in salt water only, the result being superior and full bodied rainbow trout. Fresh water production of large trout is slower but results in a milder, more delicate flavor.
Our Controlled Habitat
Our Carolina Mountain water source is the pristine, federally protected Shining Rock Wilderness Area in the Pisgah National Forest. The water has and never will be touched by industry guaranteeing overall purity and freshness. The water is naturally acidic which contributes to the product’s excellent shelf life. Our water flows in at 12,000 gallons per minute enabling us to maintain up to 20 feet per minute across all ponds and runways.
This water volume and flow velocity is double the normal practice in the industry. Another standard practice difference is cultivating fewer fish per cycle. These standard practice differences benefit the trout in the following ways:
- Provides continuous and vital stream of oxygen
- Maintains healthy metabolic activity
- Provides exercise swimming against the current (like in the
wild) enhancing natural development and growth.
With all this scientific explanation, the end result for the consumer is healthy, delicious, plump and firm filets.
Wild Vs. Farmed
Trout are much more than a source of protein. With the interest in the relationship between fish consumption and health, questions arise frequently as to the nutrient
composition of trout. Dr. Joyce A. Nettleton, author of Seafood Nutrition, has done extensive research on this subject, and has demonstrated the very high content of Omega-3 fatty acid in the Farm raised rainbow trout versus wild trout.
In addition to our nationally famous fresh filets we offer specialty
products which have been featured in Parade Magazine, USA Today and on the Food Network.
Delectable Sunburst Trout Specialty Products
Premium Portion-Cut Smoked Filets
Hot Smoked with our own recipe yielding a one-of-a-kind flavor using Hickory and
Grapevine clippings from a local vineyard.
Cold smoked using native red oak and our own special blend of spices, creating a unique mild flavor.
Smoked Trout Dip
Made with smoked trout and fresh vegetables in a cream cheese-sour cream base.
Exotic Rainbow Trout Caviar
Bright orange eggs, yielding a subtle caviar taste for the sophisticated palate.
The Best Trout Recipe Ever
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp chili powder
2 tsp grated lemon rind
3/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 Sunburst Trout Filets
Mix ingredients and pour over Sunburst Trout Filets.
Marinate for 2-6 hours.
Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.