Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Smoke it!

Schematic diagram of the smoker

The smoker in action

Once you've made some sausages, there comes a time when fate requires you to smoke them. This time, it was when some friends came from Brazil and shared a recipe for Azorean style linguiça. This style of linguiça seems a lot leaner than the stuff you buy in the supermarket, using pork shoulder trimmed of fat, red wine, garlic, more garlic, and while we're at it, a bit more garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Once it's been stuffed into pork casings, it's traditionally smoked.

The Mark I smoker was to use a rectangular charcoal grill to generate the smoke, which would rise through some duct work into the smoking chamber. Unfortunately, the grill leaked smoke so badly that much of it never got to the chamber. It was hard to refill, if needed. Then, to add a last parting shot, the duct tape decided that it did not want to stick to warm metal, even though the metal never got too hot to touch in the smoker.

Luckily, the Mark II was started at about the same time as excess smoke started escaping from the Mark I. It would use an old wok to hold the wood chips, held firmly against a conical hood that would direct a maximum amount of smoke into the ducting and hence into the smoking chamber.

About the same time the last piece of duct tape popped off the metal, the Mark II was ready for action, held together with rebar wire and formed to fit snugly over the top of the wok. The plug snicked into the extension cord, the electric lighter began to sizzle on the damp wood chips, and in a short time voluminous billows of smoke emerged from the upper smoking chamber. The lighter was unplugged as smoke shrouded the back yard... maybe this new system was too efficient? Once unplugged, smoke levels returned to normal, and all it took to get things smoldering again was a quick five minutes of electric heat. Eventually, the chips lit enough to smoke on their own and the starter was removed.

Three hours later, about five pounds of linguiça emerged, giving off a nicely smoky aroma. Into the refrigerator it went, where it would hang to dry.

This smoker, while great for sausages, apparently won't work for salmon since the smoke is much too hot. The Mark III will have longer ducting so that the smoke will cool before reaching the chamber. The new chamber will probably resemble a wood wardrobe, with opening doors and a combination of racks and hanging spaces so it can be used for hams, salmon and sausages, depending on the occasion.

The sausages are still curing a bit in the refrigerator, awaiting everyone's arrival for the Big Tasting. So, I'll save the sausage report for later just to thicken the plot.

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