About this blog...

Food has been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. Food and the festivities surrounding its arrival to the table has always been a focal point in our family. For many years I have been amassing the cookbooks, recipe cards, cooking journals, diaries, manuscripts and clipping files of our once extensive family.

Personally, I’ve been professionally involved with food for over 40 years in numerous and varied culinary capacities across the country so I also have the collected stories, as well as current and on-going food-related experiences from my own life I’d like to share.

My idea has long been that someday I would bring all of this marvelous raw material together into a culinary journey through our family’s heritage. This journal is the beginnings of that journey.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Smoking Meats - Hot and Cold

Big smoking day today.  I have about 40 lbs of pork to smoke; about half of it hot smoked (2   shanks, 4 cappocolo, some spare ribs and a few chops) and half cold smoked (6 slabs of belly and 2  jowls for bacon, and another few chops) 
My hot/cold smoker set-up is a combo hybrid.  The hot box is fairly stock propane unit, off-the-shelf with the exception of the converted smoke stack.  The cold box is home-built from a 35-gallon galvanized trash can, some stove pipe parts (chimney), and some shelf brackets plus a length of dryer hose and a battery-operated fan from Radio Shack to pull the smoke from the hot box. The fan runs for a couple of days on 8 AA batteries.  It is switched(side of the battery box) but I've never cold smoked without it running so I probably could have skipped that additional feature.
I'll be smoking with hickory today so I get the chips soaking in the chip box.
I'll also be doing a moist smoke so I get my pan of water on to heat.  No sense in putting cold water in the smoker and having it take that much longer to get up to temperature.  I also season my water bath heavily with garlic, onions, hot peppers and a glug of cider vinegar. I'm not sure if it really imparts any flavor to the meat but it sure makes it smell great while cooking!
I drain the chips after about 15 minutes and put them and the water pan in the smoker, fire it up and crank the heat to "high" to pre-heat while I get the meat ready.
Yesterday I pulled all the meats from their respective brines/smears and set them on sheet pans in the fridge to air-dry for about 24 hours.  Additionally, I tied all the cappos roast-style to help them hold a nice tight shape while smoking and really packed the outsides with my spicy cappo seasoning (See this post for details)  That just left setting the pieces up for hanging today.  I poked holes in a corner of each belly piece, using a butcher's steel, threaded some heavy cotton twine through and knotted a small loop.  I usually use paper clips for my hooks, simply hooking them through the twine and then hanging them on the smoker racks.
   

Time to load the hot smoker.  I put the shanks, ribs, and some of the chops on racks in the hot box, then hang the cappos below them and close up the box.  You want to keep open-door time to a minimum on the hot box - you don't want to vent any more smoke out then absolutely necessary plus even, constant, low temperature is the key to great results. I've read that you have to plan on adding a hour to your smoking time for every time you open the door.  This sounds a little extreme to me but it does emphasize the point well. I'll be shooting to keep the temperature in the hot box just under 200 degrees F today.
With the hot box going well it's time to fill the cold smoker.  I hung the belly pieces on a rack at the highest position, then fill the rack  with the chops and jowls, flip on the fan to start the smoke flowing from the hot smoker and snap on the lid.  It's going to be a little warmer outside today than Ideal for cold smoking (supposed to be in the low 50's) so I opened the damper in the chimney of the cold box to help keep heat from building up.  I've got temperature probes in place so I can track things throughout the day and I'm going to try to keep the temperature below 100 degrees F in the cold smoker.
  
After 30 minutes I adjust the heat down a little in the hot box.  Once they equalize, both boxes are sitting right at their design temperatures and they stay there the rest of the day without further adjustment. 
6 hours later, the meat is done!  The internal temperature of the biggest pieces are above 160 degrees F in the hot box and all of the pieces in the cold box look and smell perfect.  It's time to unload the smokers.
I put all the pieces on lined sheet pans and pop them in the cooler right away to start chilling overnight.  The next thing for most of them will be slicing packaging, and freezing. Oh yeah - and eating!
Cold smoked bellies (bacon)
Hot smoked chop
Cappo
Shank
Spare ribs


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