First Smoke in the new Oak Barrel

There is something very special about the first smoke in your new smoker, watching the steady cloud of smoke swirling and dancing through a maze of carefully prepared cuts of meat, the plan finally coming together!

 

So you’ve seen the simple oak barrel build and are wondering.. well, what happened next?!

After preparing our bacon with a very simple dry cure, the bacon was removed from the fridge and threaded with butcher’s string for hanging. There is any number of ways this can be done, but this is the way I do it.

In the past I’ve found having a double loop makes it easier to control how the meat hangs. I like string, some people just use hooks.

I recently found a great needle at a local butcher’s supply store which made skewering the meat very easy.  With a stainless steel kebab skewer and a little imagination, you can always make your own. Be sure to use decent butcher’s string and have your muslin cleaned and read to wrap the meat in afterwards as well.

Now that you have all the meat ready to hang, make sure the smoking chamber is clean and all the hooks or racks are in position. Hang the meat aiming to ensure even spacing and preferably each piece hanging in isolation from all the others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you haven’t already, its time to unleash the smoke generator, whether its one that you built yourself, or bought online. For this particular batch, we used a combination of  apple (predominantly) along with a handful each of hickory, mesquite and sheoke, packed into the Smokai generator.

Use a thermometer to gauge the temperature, 37C is cold smoking, 40-50 is warm smoking, and anything over 65C is hot smoking.

As we were also smoking Polish style pork neck, we opted for cold smoking to start, then began to increase the heat with a few pre-started heat beads placed in a tin in the base of the barrel.

UH-OH! Houston, we have a problem..

About an hour in, we ran into one of our first teething issues. Although the barrel is circular, the jet-like torrent of smoke, coupled with the volume of meat in our smoker meant that one low hanging piece was bearing the brunt of it all.

Without a baffle, the strong torrent of smoke can concentrate in a single location in the barrel causing your meat to smoke unevenly.

This is a issue simply solved by installing a baffle. Essentially you need to position an object in front of the entry point into the chamber that will assist to spread or divert the smoke and distribute it evenly as it flows in. A small steel or aluminium plate, or timber board will do just fine.

Rotating the lid on our barrel also helped to alter the path of the smoke by realigning the hole we had cut in the top for the smoke to leave the chamber.
2 hours of cold smoking and 6 hours of warm smoking later, the bacon was visibly starting to take on a pale golden colour. After another 4-6 hours, they were ready. All the meat was removed from the barrel, and allowed to hang in the cellar for a short while to cool before being tightly wrapped in cling film and refrigerated. The pork neck was allowed to rest overnight before being smoked again for a further 10-12 hours.

 

 

 

 

 

Now that the meat has been smoked, it’s time to exercise a little patience and let it rest a few days in the fridge. This will allow time for the flavours to “mellow, merge and mingle” to quote Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Generally, in the first few days following smoking the flavour is very strong, more on the “campfire” side of the flavour spectrum, than the delicious smoky bacon side.

Of course it would have been rude not to try a little, just a quick taste!

These are just the cuts from the ends, enough to tidy up the sides of each portion and to satisfy the craving of your taste buds. They certainly don’t look much here but I can assure you the smell wafting through the kitchen was to die for!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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