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Preserve Your Own Meat with a Homemade Wood Smoker

written by: Cara Moore•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 5/19/2011

Smoking food is a traditional way of preserving food. Setting up homemade wood smokers means fish and meat as well as cheese and vegetables can be preserved and enhanced by the use of hardwood smoke.

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    Smoking is a Traditional Way of Preserving Food

    fish in a smoker dreamstime 6554844 Smoking food is a traditional way of preserving and adding flavor to food. Cheese, fish, vegetables and meat can all be smoked. The practice of smoking herrings started in the late 13th century, the fish was first soaked in brine and then hung in tall chimneys for several hours before they were barreled. Native Americans of the Pacific West Coast smoked salmon over an alder wood fire.

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    Building a Smoke House

    When building a permanent smoke house function as well as appearance is important so that the structure blends in with the garden. The smoke is contained within the house, so this will not be a nuisance. Coldsmoking.co.uk has downloaded plans for making a smoke house that uses dowels and metal oven or cooling racks inside a wooden ship clad house. It uses a converted garden incinerator with a wire mesh basket inside. It is attached to the smoke house with aluminum ducting to feed the hardwood smoke into the house. The incinerator could be placed in a green house to use the generated heat.

    To make an impromptu smoker take a galvanized bucket with air holes punched out, or use a garden incinerator, with charcoal topped with hardwood chips and bricks on each side to create an up draft, then a packing box or even a cardboard box can be used with wooden dowels across to hang fish or to hold a oven tray for cheese. The box is then covered with an old blanket or tarp.

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    Supplies Needed for a Smoke House

    Hardwoods such as alder, fruit woods such as cherry, hickory, maple, or oak are used because it is slow burning, each type of wood imparts a different flavor. Chips of these hardwoods are readily available from barbeque suppliers. Softwoods such as pine should not be used as it will burn too quickly and the resins from the smoke will give the food an unpleasant taste. Old oven tray racks for placing food on and a used baking tray to catch any juices can be used. Wooden dowels, either used to hang fish from or to place the metal oven trays on will be required. An oven thermometer will be needed to monitor the temperature of the smoke house and a food temperature probe will be needed to measure the internal temperature of smoked foods such as sausages.

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    Preparing Fish to be Smoked

    Food such as cheese should be placed on the trays to allow the smoke to circulate. Fish can be hung down from the top tray. Meat and fish are soaked in brine first before smoking. Salt draws out moisture by osmosis and prevents the growth of mould and bacteria. An eighty-percent solution is achieved by taking 1.20 kg (2 ½ lb) of salt to 4 litres (8 pints) of water. To prepare salmon add brown sugar or black treacle (molasses) plus crushed garlic and onion and lemon juice to the brine. Brine the fish for about an hour per 450g (1 lb). Allow fish to dry in a cool place for twenty-four hours, then cool smoke for up to twenty-four hours for a large piece. Cool smoking for fish is when the temperature does not rise higher that 30° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). This is used for fish eaten uncooked such as salmon and for kippers or smoked haddock which is cooked before serving.

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    To Cure and Smoke a Ham and Smoked Pork Sausages

    sausage smoking dreamstime 7917203 

    To cure and smoke a ham make a brine of 2 kg (4 lb) coarse salt, 60 g (1 ¼ oz) saltpeter and 6 litres (1 ½ gallons) of water. The brine should be boiled and skimmed until the liquid is clear, when cool pour over a 4-5 kg (9 ½ to 11 ½ lb) boned ham to pickle for an hour. Then to make a Wiltshire cure use a brine of 650 g (1 ½ lb) coarse salt 18 g (¾ oz) salter petre, litre (2 pints of beer) 450 g (1 lb) black treacle or molasses, 10 to 12 juniper berries and 12 g (½ oz) crushed black peppercorns, boil all these ingredients together, leave to cool and then pour over the piece of pork which has been pickled. Leave at a temperature of 3° Celsius (35° Fahrenheit) for two days per 450 g (1lb) weight. Turn the ham every other day so that all parts are well-covered. After the ham is cured, remove and dry it with clean muslin and place it in a cotton bag, leave to dry for 24 hours in a cool place. Then smoke at 25° to 30° Celsius (75° to 85° Fahrenheit) for a total of twenty-four hours of smoking time. Weigh ham before and after smoking, there should be a twenty-five percent loss of weight. Store in a cool dry larder, hung from the ceiling so there is a circulation of air, or store in the refrigerator. Cook it before use and eat hot or cold, once cooked, store in refrigerator, it will keep a week.

    Smoked Pork Sausage is a traditional recipe that combines pork, salt, pepper and rubbed sage. The sausages are hung for two to six hours depending on the color of sausage desired. The internal temperature of 140 ° Fahrenheit (60° Celsius) is needed to kill any trichina which may be present in the pork.

    Resources:

    Cameron-Smith, Marye, The Complete Book of Preserving, 1982

    Further Resources:

    Epstein, Ed, "Build a Smokehouse (A Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin)", 1984

    Erlandson, Keith, "Home Smoking and Curing", 2003

    Peacock, Paul, “The Smoking and Curing Book – 2nd Edition", 2009

    Images licensed from Dreamstime.