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Anyone here into cold smoking food?

I've been giving this a whirl in the last couple of weeks - it's very simple to cure and smoke both salmon and bacon, in both cases ending up with something about half the price and twice as tasty. I've just finished a breakfast of maple smoked bacon, eggs from my chickens and coffee that I roasted myself. Only thing on the table that wasn't home produced was the toast. Beautiful.

If anyone fancies giving it a go, you can get started quite cheaply. I bought a smoke generator for £40 odd quid, bought some various types of sawdust and made the smoker out of a cardboard box. You can spend significantly less or significantly more if you fancy it, but say 50 quid will get a beginner going with very little margin for screwing things up.

Fancy Christmas with your own smoked salmon and bacon?

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2 hours ago, Fully Detached said:

Anyone here into cold smoking food?

I've been giving this a whirl in the last couple of weeks - it's very simple to cure and smoke both salmon and bacon, in both cases ending up with something about half the price and twice as tasty. I've just finished a breakfast of maple smoked bacon, eggs from my chickens and coffee that I roasted myself. Only thing on the table that wasn't home produced was the toast. Beautiful.

If anyone fancies giving it a go, you can get started quite cheaply. I bought a smoke generator for £40 odd quid, bought some various types of sawdust and made the smoker out of a cardboard box. You can spend significantly less or significantly more if you fancy it, but say 50 quid will get a beginner going with very little margin for screwing things up.

Fancy Christmas with your own smoked salmon and bacon?

Links to the smoker vendors and any useful tips sites, please? I am interested in giving this a go.

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Sure - I got most of my stuff from this site:

ProQ Cold Smoke Generator

They sell sawdust as well - quite expensive at £4.50 for 500g, but it was convenient for me to order it all together. They also sell their own cardboard box smokers at the rather comical price of over £20. It took me about 10 minutes to make mine with a large box, a bog roll insert as a chimney, a couple of garden canes pushed through horizontally as shelf holders or hanging racks, and just punching a few holes either side at the bottom to ensure airflow. And a lot of sellotape. When I get time I will build a proper one out of wood, but I'm also considering building a hot/cold smoker out of brick as a later project. There's loads of sites out there if you google cardboard box cold smoker to get you started.

I think the most important thing to note is that cold smoking obviously doesn't cook the meat, so you have to cure it first with salt and brown sugar, then smoke it, and (in the case of everything except smoked salmon, which you can eat raw), you need to cook it afterwards. Curing the salmon takes no more than 24 hours, bacon is probably minimum 4 days and maybe up to 12 I've heard. It depends mainly on the thickness, and the bit I had this morning only took 4 days to cure nicely. You then smoke for 6-10 hours depending on your preference, and after that you'll need to leave it for 4-5 days for the flavours to equalise throughout the meat.

I recently did 1.4kg of salmon fillet, all in one go. When it was ready I cut it into slices, bagged it up in portions in my vacuum sealer and chucked it in the freezer - it defrosts fine and keeps all the flavour.

Here's a video of a guy doing smoked salmon - ignore the fact that he keeps wiping his fishy hands all over his hawaiian shirt and that his smoker goes out over night - his curing method is dead on and very easy to do.

I haven't tried cheese yet. One thing that I really like is a mix of sunflower and pumpkin seeds, marinated overnight in a tiny bit of molasses, water, paprika and cayenne pepper, then smoked with mesquite, or anything else you have handy. After smoking I put them in the oven at about 100 degrees for 40 mins just to give them a bit of crunch, and add a lot of salt. Give them 3 days and you won't be able to put them down.

If you're interested, I really hope you have a go - it's very easy, inexpensive, and really quite hard to cock up - but gives you so much scope for trying various things out.

If you want any more info, just let me know - I'm still learning and experimenting, but it's safe to say already that we won't be buying prepacked smoked salmon or bacon again.

 

Oooh, one tip before I forget - with bacon, it's worth cutting a couple of slices after curing and before smoking, chucking them under the grill and checking them for saltiness. If it's too salty you can soak the meat in water for a few hours to take some of it out. I did that with the stuff I've just done and I'm bloody glad I did.

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2 hours ago, One percent said:

A link to a proper cold smoker. :)

http://www.fortuneskippers.co.uk/index.html

Nice! I haven't tried kippers yet, but the one disaster I did have was some mackerel for Mrs. Detached. It was way too salty, and ended up going in the bin. I did that before I heard the tip about soaking in water to remove the salt after curing, so that might have solved the problem. But I don't think she's in a big rush for smoked mackerel again :)

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Thanks for that. Been meaning to give cold smoking a go for a while now, but not got around to it. Will give it a go now.

I do a lot of hot smoking and have a ProQ charcoal and a Bradley smoker. I thought I could adapt the Bradley to separate the smoke generator from the cook box, but perhaps the wee maze thing would be better. Also, the Bradley uses a compressed disk of sawdust every 20 minutes and over 12 hours that would be far too much smoke.

Smoked a large pork shoulder at the weekend to pulled pork consistency. That’s good eating.

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15 hours ago, Captain Cavey said:

Thanks for that. Been meaning to give cold smoking a go for a while now, but not got around to it. Will give it a go now.

I do a lot of hot smoking and have a ProQ charcoal and a Bradley smoker. I thought I could adapt the Bradley to separate the smoke generator from the cook box, but perhaps the wee maze thing would be better. Also, the Bradley uses a compressed disk of sawdust every 20 minutes and over 12 hours that would be far too much smoke.

Smoked a large pork shoulder at the weekend to pulled pork consistency. That’s good eating.

I'm pretty sure that Bradley make their own adapter to do just that - they sell them on the site I bought my sawdust from. I've no idea about the sawdust usage though. I'm keen to try hot smoking at some point, but I do enjoy the curing process with cold smoking and the fun that it introduces.

I've got a couple of bacon joints on the go now, we'll smoke one in maple tomorrow and something else the day after. I'm keen to try some apple or something like that. Although actually with my palate I may as well just go for "smoky" or "less smoky".

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On 16/11/2017 at 21:47, Fully Detached said:

Although actually with my palate I may as well just go for "smoky" or "less smoky".

Turns out I was wrong there - I can tell the difference.

I went for hickory in the end - smoked it for 8 hours on Friday and had some for breakfast this morning. It was absolutely delicious. I smoked another piece in apple yesterday, so looking forward to trying that, but the hickory is going to be hard to beat I think.

One thing - I used a rather more precise calculation of salt required to cure it this time, but even so, it was incredibly salty before we smoked it. The first piece I soaked in water for 8 hours, and we decided this morning that taste wise that was about perfect. The piece I smoked in apple I also soaked, but forgot about it, so it ended up having nearly 24 hours in water - not sure what that will do, and I'm wondering if it might even knacker the cure, but we'll see.

So top tip - measure the salt, expect to need to soak it for a few hours between cure and smoke, and then load that sucker up with hickory. Give it a few days in the fridge, and prepare to amaze yourself.

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A food smoking topic is apposite at Christmas.

I've been occasionally smoking fish at home for 20years or so, mostly using oak or beech sawdust. 

The bible I've used is Keith Erlandson's book, and papers from the UK's now closed Torry research station.

For food preservation, the water content has to be brought down. The brining achieves some of this via osmotic draw, and the air drying the rest; this means that atmospheric conditions have a bearing on the  length of process and the result. 17.5% reduction in weight is my goal with fish. The smoking chiefly imparts flavour, although the tars do have mild antimicrobial properties.

Americans and Scandinavians seem to go in for smoking in a big way, but is always seems a bit haphazard to me, such as lighting a fire  in a greenhouse or outhouse, or adding a steel box to the barbecue. Most cold smokes I've done take two to three days to remove sufficient water, and the temperature must be carefully kept below 30degC, else the cell walls break, and the food cooks, and feels completely different. I've tried cheese, chicken, quail and quail eggs, and herrings/bloaters a few times in the past.  Oily fish like mackerel smokes well because oil is oleophilic, but the value of the end product is low, so it is better to stick to salmon.

 

BTW I've not been a member long. Came from TOS after Googling to see if there was now a dictionary definition of DOSBODS. I completely agree with the freedom of thought and speech reasons for the site creation.

Edited by Everentt

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9 minutes ago, Everentt said:

A food smoking topic is apposite at Christmas.

I've been occasionally smoking fish at home for 20years or so, mostly using oak or beech sawdust. 

The bible I've used is Keith Erlandson's book, and papers from the UK's now closed Torry research station.

For food preservation, the water content has to be brought down. The brining achieves some of this via osmotic draw, and the air drying the rest; this means that atmospheric conditions have a bearing on the  length of process and the result. 17.5% reduction in weight is my goal with fish. The smoking chiefly imparts flavour, although the tars do have mild antimicrobial properties.

Americans and Scandinavians seem to go in for smoking in a big way, but is always seems a bit haphazard to me, such as lighting a fire  in a greenhouse or outhouse, or adding a steel box to the barbecue. Most cold smokes I've done take two to three days to remove sufficient water, and the temperature must be carefully kept below 30degC, else the cell walls break, and the food cooks, and feels completely different. I've tried cheese, chicken, quail and quail eggs, and herrings/bloaters a few times in the past.  Oily fish like mackerel smokes well because oil is oleophilic, but the value of the end product is low, so it is better to stick to salmon.

 

BTW I've not been a member long. Came from TOS after Googling to see if there was now a dictionary definition of DOSBODS. I completely agree with the freedom of thought and speech reasons for the site creation.

Welcome and a great first post 

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On 23/12/2017 at 19:47, Everentt said:

A food smoking topic is apposite at Christmas.

I've been occasionally smoking fish at home for 20years or so, mostly using oak or beech sawdust. 

The bible I've used is Keith Erlandson's book, and papers from the UK's now closed Torry research station.

For food preservation, the water content has to be brought down. The brining achieves some of this via osmotic draw, and the air drying the rest; this means that atmospheric conditions have a bearing on the  length of process and the result. 17.5% reduction in weight is my goal with fish. The smoking chiefly imparts flavour, although the tars do have mild antimicrobial properties.

Americans and Scandinavians seem to go in for smoking in a big way, but is always seems a bit haphazard to me, such as lighting a fire  in a greenhouse or outhouse, or adding a steel box to the barbecue. Most cold smokes I've done take two to three days to remove sufficient water, and the temperature must be carefully kept below 30degC, else the cell walls break, and the food cooks, and feels completely different. I've tried cheese, chicken, quail and quail eggs, and herrings/bloaters a few times in the past.  Oily fish like mackerel smokes well because oil is oleophilic, but the value of the end product is low, so it is better to stick to salmon.

 

BTW I've not been a member long. Came from TOS after Googling to see if there was now a dictionary definition of DOSBODS. I completely agree with the freedom of thought and speech reasons for the site creation.

In terms of curing I recently did two bacon joints, one loin and one belly, and decided to go down the slightly more scientific route of weighing out the salt and sugar rather than just lobbing in what looks like a good amount. The loin cured very nicely in about 7 days, but the belly, only an inch thick at most, was a real pain. After 12 days I eventually lobbed more salt in and it firmed up overnight.

With bacon, the trick I've found is to try a bit between curing and smoking, and if it's too salty, to soak it for 6 hours (although I've accidentally done 24 hours before and it hasn't caused any trouble).With salmon, the meat doesn't seem to absorb much of the salt so it's not been a problem yet regardless of how much I used to cure it.

The other thing that I'm learning is that - completely contrary to my expectations, both bacon and salmon taste much better after a few days in the freezer. If I try a bit of salmon a few days after smoking, there's not much taste of either fish or smoke. Give it a few days in the freezer and the flavours really seem to come out.

I guess it all comes down to personal taste though - what works for me may not work for the next person.

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5 hours ago, Fully Detached said:

The other thing that I'm learning is that - completely contrary to my expectations, both bacon and salmon taste much better after a few days in the freezer. If I try a bit of salmon a few days after smoking, there's not much taste of either fish or smoke. Give it a few days in the freezer and the flavours really seem to come out.

It is mentioned in the books that a few days of resting/maturing is needed before consumption. I don't know the exact reason, but the smoke initially sits on the surface and will only diffuse into the flesh over time. Similarly, initially the salt and dehydration might not be uniform throughout the product. Weight loss also continues after smoking so long as the product isn't sealed in containers. I wouldn't freeze the product unless I wanted to keep it for weeks or months.

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Just now, Everentt said:

It is mentioned in the books that a few days of resting/maturing is needed before consumption. I don't know the exact reason, but the smoke initially sits on the surface and will only diffuse into the flesh over time. Similarly, initially the salt and dehydration might not be uniform throughout the product. Weight loss also continues after smoking so long as the product isn't sealed in containers. I wouldn't freeze the product unless I wanted to keep it for weeks or months.

No, I already rest it for 4-5 days, but still find it tastes better after freezing. Like I said it's down to taste, but that seems to work for me.

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