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charcutepalooza april challenge. hot smoking.


It’s time for another Charcutepalooza challenge, and this time, we want you to get in touch with your inner McGyver. We’re taking all we’ve learned from salt rubs, salt cures, and brines, and we’re adding fire. It’s Hot Smoking time.

And once again, Kim and I are saying, “Poor Dennis,” at least once a day. My wonderful husband, a mostly-vegetarian fan of simple foods prepared simply, is extremely patient. And loving. And not a fan of smoked foods. (Or cured, for that matter.)

Dennis tells people the secret to our happy marriage is that he “lets Cathy be Cathy.” And he means it. But for four days last week, it was tough going. Twenty seven pounds of meat sat brining, salting, curing and otherwise bleeding in the refrigerator. There was no looking past the slabs of pork belly, the visceral jowl, looking way too much like what it is. A pig cheek. And then the large containers of brining pork loin, a big meaty shoulder, sliced and salted, drying on a rack over a sheet pan. That’s a lot of meat. Confronting.

Saturday, after six hours in Paul & Elaine’s backyard, smoking various fabulous tasty treats, I walked in the front door and Dennis said, “Have you been smoking?”

Seriously? I had to remove my clothing in the laundry room.

So, you’ll see why Kim and I were feeling a little sorry for Dennis.

Last night, right before turning in, I stirred together the batter for English muffins. (Thank you for yet another spectacular recipe, Michael Ruhlman.) I had in mind Eggs Benedict. After all, I had my very own homemade Canadian bacon, leftover egg yolks from my class (pavlovas! buttercream!) for hollandaise. And extra beautiful farm fresh eggs crying out to be benedict-ed.

This morning, I’m griddling the English muffins – Dennis was intrigued. Impressed, even. I told him about the eggs benedict plan, and this is what he said…

“You made Canadian bacon? I used to love Canadian bacon.”

The angels sang out.

I would feed my husband charcuterie. He might even like it.

So, tonight’s dinner will be eggs benedict, from scratch. (No hollandaise for Dennis, thankyouanyway. Oh well.) And for the time being, until next month’s challenge, we will forget about the pity party.

For the Apprentice Challenge, please hot smoke salmon.

For the Charcutiere Challenge, please hot smoke either pork loin (Canadian bacon or spicy smoked pork) or pork shoulder (tasso ham.)

Big props to our generous sponsor, D’Artagnan – they’ll have pork shoulder and pork loin discounted, just for Charcutepalooza. Remember to show them some love with links and mentions. If you aren’t receiving emails with the discount code, send me an email to get in on this great deal.

Remember this is the last week for the Cochon and Charcuterie events – I am so excited to be attending in Little Washington, Virginia on Sunday, March 20. There are still a couple of spaces left.

Yes You Can Smoke

I tested a variety of methods but I know many of you are already smoking lots of things, so please chime in and share your knowledge. Your pastramis made me sigh and get a little teary-eyed.

We’ll be giving away this fabulous Charcutepalooza apron, handmade by Charcutepalooza-er Pam, who blogs at Snappy Service Cafe , and can be found on Twitter at @LeakySpoon. Kim and I will randomly select a comment on this post and we’ll announce the winner in Kim’s post 3/31. And get this? Pam’s offered to personalize the winner’s apron with your name, blog name, Twitter handle, or favorite pig part. Won’t you let us know what you think about hot smoking? Share your tips, your tricks. This apron could be yours.

Post on the 15th. Tag your post charcutepalooza and we’ll be sure to see it. Share your blog post with Punk Domestics. Cross post and upload photos on Charcutepalooza’s Facebook page and Flickr page. And don’t forget to share all those great original recipes on Food52.

Indoor Smoking
For indoor smoking, use fine wood chips, not big chunks, and use them dry, not wet. These fine chips – sawdust? – are available at hardware stores, kitchen stores, and through Amazon. I liked the four pack as I had the chance to play with fruit woods and hickory, and the classic for salmon, alder wood. For more tips and hints, Elaine found this cool book full of great ideas and information for indoor grilling and smoking.

McGyver Your Wok
Line your wok with aluminum foil, then cover dry wood chips with a dome shaped piece of foil (to keep the meat from dripping directly on the wood), just insert a small grill rack and add your meat/fish and either use the wok cover or create a tent with more foil, crimping it all airtight. Heat the wok on the stovetop until you see a little smoke, reduce the temperature to medium low, and cook for the recommended amount of time. (Here is the guide I used, from the New York Times.)
Review: My wok is cast iron, and therefore took far too much time to get hot enough to make the wood chips smoke. I think a lighter weight wok would work well. It took a long time to get to temperature and there never was big smoke, just weak smoke, so the taste was dull. Make sure you open the window and get the wok right over to the fresh air before opening it up, then you won’t have smoke detectors going off, a kitchen filled with smoke, and so on.

Cameron’s Stovetop Smoker
A metal box with sliding cover, a rack and drip pan. Everything fits together, so it’s easy to store, and the sturdy handles fold back in the most clever way. The small size would be perfect for a two person household and will allow you to smoke up to 2# of salmon or pork loin or shoulder. The larger size, which I purchased, is about the size of a lasagne pan. A 3.5# piece of pork belly fits perfectly. Available from Amazon for $30-$45.
Review: I love this smoker. The smoky flavor is perfectly imparted. It’s easy to clean, easy to use. Very little smoke escapes until you open the lid (see above.) And when we did open it up inside, oops, the over-the-stove exhaust hood took care of the concentration of smoke quickly. The downside is the inability to regulate the temperature. I guesstimated a handful of chips for the bottom of the smoker, put it over a medium flame until a wisp of smoke snuck out, then reduced the heat and was able to smoke salmon (20 min.) and pork (45 min.) to perfection. It seemed like magic that everything worked as it’s completely impossible to control. I will be using this stovetop smoker often (like, every Sunday morning! bagels and hot smoked salmon? be still my heart.)

Smoking Outside

The Big Green Egg
Paul and Elaine have one of these really cool contraptions. They’ve used it for grilling, and only once for smoking, so we were using information from the internet to help us along. We had some issues controlling the temperature and we nervously babysat for most of the 2 hour period, open the top, close the top; open the bottom vent, close the bottom vent. I do expect the next attempts will get easier.
Review: While Charcuterie recommends 200° for smoking, we liked the moist smoked results at 250°. The meats came out of the Egg with a gorgeous crust. I’m not sure the stovetop smoker will ever achieve that intense smoky salty crispy amazingness.

Mercy, that’s some pig.

I look forward to more experimentation and more Saturday afternoons in Paul & Elaine’s backyard. (Extra specially nice? I designed their garden a few years ago and now I get to hang out there.)

Weber Gas Grill (McGyver returns)
I used the Weber two ways. I used it to keep a very low heat under the Cameron’s Smoker (see above.) This was a great absolutely carefree way to smoke foods for long periods. It’s easy to manage the low temperatures, although not low enough to cold-smoke.
The other smoking method came from reading several websites devoted to fiddling a smoker out of a grill. I made an aluminum foil packet (6″ x 8″) of half wet wood chips and half dry. I poked some holes in the packet and placed it on the right side of my grill. I lit only the left side of the grill. Once the temperature was at 200°, I placed the meat to be smoked on the right side (indirect heat) of the grill. The piece of pork shoulder (tasso) came out beautifully. Perfect crust, nice smoke flavor, but missing that extra, really nice, charcoal taste of the meat smoked on the Egg.

Wish I had…
A Bradley smoker.
Maybe in my next life.

Most impressive McGyver effort
Check out this cardboard box smoker. I believe this deserves a merit badge…

Hot Smoked Salmon

Last April, Food52’s weekly contest theme was Salmon. I entered a recipe I’ve made for 25 years, or more… Salmon with Sorrel Sauce. It’s a good recipe, and always a hit at a dinner party. I was thrilled to be selected a finalist, but thought I’d never win when I saw the competition – what an AMAZING recipe. Meet Christine. She’s a culinary school grad, a journalist, and a great friend. She’s on the Meat-wagon, curing goat belly and hanging duck breasts with all of us.


Her recipes (find them on her blog and on Food52) are spot on smart, tasty, and they work. Every. Single. Time. She was my competition, and her recipe for Hot Smoked Salmon Soba and Asian Greens Salad was brilliant.

So, since last April, I’ve made Christine’s salmon recipe many times and Dennis likes it more than any other I make. But I’ve never managed to trick out a smoker until this challenge came along. I usually grilled the salmon and hoped that did the recipe justice. (Sorry, Christine.)

I have to tell you. Smoking makes a HUGE difference. The way the smoke works with the five spice powder is amazing. Make this recipe. Right away. It’s fantastic.

The salmon is also great served cold, as an appetizer. And here’s the most surprising thing. I froze some, just to see if it would freeze well once smoked. That fish came out of the freezer perfectly, with no reduction in texture or flavor. We snacked on it, with crackers, in the late afternoon Spring sunshine, while the pork smoked.

Another evening, in just one hour’s time, I brined a pound of salmon in salty water flavored with molasses and sorrel, then smoked it over alder wood. I served that salmon on stone-ground grits topped with creamed spinach scented with nutmeg.

Have fun with your brine, with your wood chips, and with your salmon.

Smoke and Pork Are BFFs

There was a time when I grilled pork tenderloin all the time. For parties, for quick dinners, for the leftovers, for the cold sliced pork sandwiches. It was inexpensive and easy and fast. And, let’s face it, pretty boring until you added a great sauce.

When you brine, or salt cure, a pork loin, a larger cut from the same general part of the pig, then add smoke, you’ve created a little bit of paradise. That dullish cut becomes sublime. From one four pound loin, I made both the Canadian bacon and the spiced smoked pork loin following the recipes in Charcuterie. Because I had pieces that weighed just 2 lbs. each, I cut the brine amounts, or the salt rub amounts, in half (by weight) but kept the curing times the same. Both pieces of pork were smoked at 250° for a little more than two hours in the Big Green Egg. And they are really really good. So much better than any pork loin I’ve ever made.

Store bought tasso ham has never been a favorite of mine, but I thought I would try it home-cured. You could knock me over with a feather. It’s completely different. Completely. The big meaty 4.5# pork shoulder (boned) made five 1” thick slices, with almost two pounds leftover for another project. Two slices were cooked on the Cameron smoker, two on the Big Green Egg and one on the Weber. Each slice ended up weighing about 6oz, after smoking, which was exactly the right amount for this delicious dinner party ready recipe.

Thanks go out to Stonyman Gourmet Farmer for generously providing the meats for my challenge posts. DC area Charcutepalooza-ers should email Susan to pre-order. Pick up at the Bethesda Women’s Market (W,F, Sa).

Charcutepalooza loves our sponsors. D’Artagnan offers 25% off the meat-of-the-month. If you aren’t receiving your email with the secret code for Charcutepalooza members, register here. And the trip to France – an awesome grand prize deliciously designed by Trufflepig and Kate Hill at Camont.

70 thoughts on “charcutepalooza april challenge. hot smoking.”

  1. Wow! This puts me right out of my comfort zone. I thought I could sleep easy once I’d found out what the challenge is, but now my mind’s racing – indoors or outdoors – salmon or pork – too many decisions to make!

  2. Thank you for waiting until April for this challenge as it’s just about time to have the windows open around the house in Maine :)

  3. Wonderful! I am looking forward to getting out the smoker I picked up last year. So far I have only smoked ribs and chicken – looking forward to expanding my repertoire!

  4. I made the indoor wok smoker when we did the bacon challenge and it worked well. It made my bacon so much tastier than when I didn’t smoke it. I have since used this technique for ribs with much success. I’m looking forward to smoking some salmon!

  5. Yay! New Challenge. I love new challenges. I wish I could have eaten with you the night you made that eggs benedict. Looks fantastic. As far as smoking goes, the real trick is not to over smoke it. I think that sometimes my husbands preference for smoke is way greater than mine. I like it a little more subtle. Then again he is from Texas so I forgive him.

  6. Once again, I’m right there in the groove with y’all! Last month I had just gotten a brisket corning when the brining challenge got posted. Since I had a two day head start I figured I’d try something new and did Canadian bacon and eggs Benedict, too! http://piginapen.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/b-song/

    Now I don’t want to double dip on the Canadian bacon so I’m thinking some Tennessee Tasso is in order for this month. A south Louisiana girl transplanted to middle Tennessee doesn’t have much choice here, does she?

    Y’all have me singing! Nothin’ like a little Hank Williams first thing in the mornin’!
    “Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and file’ gumbo
    ‘Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
    Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-o
    Son of a gun, we’ll have big fun on the bayou “

  7. I have been wanting to do a Tasso Ham for a few months and now I have a great excuse to do so. So far I’ve tried to do all of the apprentice and charcuterie challenges but my fish allergy will limit me this month. That’s OK though, my freezer runneth over!

  8. This looks amazing. I have to try the the salmon with sorrel – sorrel is a passion of mine. And your corn cakes with oysters and ham. I see salmon and ham in my future. April is going to be a great month! Thanks, Cathy.

  9. Cathy, when you do you sleep?? It’s going to take me the better part of a week just to parse through and absorb the scads of information above! Thanks for the fantastic primer and the incentive I need to start smoking early this season. (We usually get going with pulled pork and a few chickens on July 4th!) xo

  10. Cathy, I shared your desire for a “real smoker” for a long time. I smoked in a card board box, and on my Kenmore 4 burner grill, and then, last summer I bought a propane fired MasterChef and have not looked back.
    From salmon to BBQd ribs, brisket to kielbasa, I have smoked or slow cooked almost everything in it. Even if you are not looking for an intense smokey flavor, just one smoke packet ads another layer of flavor to a sunday pot roast.
    My tip: make small foil packets for your chips. I do soak mine, and put about a handful on a pice of foil, and fold like a little present. poke a few holes and done! The packets give more control over the amount of smoke, and make clean-up easier. I have used this method in all my smoking contraptions.

  11. I assume it’s OK to do both….and can’t wait

    I did tasso a ouple years ago but it only made it to gumbo – the tasso cream idea sounds fantastic and am anxious to try!! Took out a piece of shoulder I had designated for coppa but may have to go this way instead – good challenge and thanks for the recipe idea!!

  12. You’ve just made my man’s day. He finished welding together a gorgeous smoker last summer and loves any excuse to smoke. And it just so happens I have a love affair with all smoked pork products. ;)

  13. Nice to see the Big Green Egg getting a mention. They’re fantastic pieces of equipment…I love mine. I saw your twitter question to Ruhlman about brined chickens. You’ve got to try chicken on the Egg.

    If you’d like advice on controlling temps, I’d be happy to help. Or ask the friendly folks at http://www.eggheadforum.com

  14. The Big Green Egg is great for cooking lots of things, but smoking any meat on the BGE is perfection. I smoke my own bacon, panchetta, Canadian bacon, salmon, duck & duck prosciutto. You guys will love it.

  15. I do my smoking on a Weber Charcoal grill. I set the meat off to one side and the charcoal on the other side and it works great for hot smoking. Blessings on you and yours for the recipes.

    John Wilder

  16. So, brining the corned beef was a success, more or less. The corned beef was good, but I wasn’t too happy with the flavors from the pickling spice in the Charcuterie book. The all-spice and cloves were too overpowering for my tastes. I think I will halve them in my next batch of spice.

    Unfortunately, I don’t know if I will be able to complete the smoking challenge by 4/15/11. See, I live in Chicago and I only have a Webber 18.5 kettle grill and a Q220. Now, it is till a little brisk and blustery here so I don’t know how hot I’d be able to get the kettle and whether I would be able to to keep the temperature constant enough.

    However, I am in the process of building an “Alton Brown smoker” (see the “Q” episode of Good Eats). I need to wait until some of the garden supply stores open in in order to find and purchase the remaining parts. The good thing about this smoker, if you haven’t heard of it, is it is a ceramic/clay smoker for less than $100.00, which is less than a big green egg (which would be ideal but my wife won’t let me have one just yet). Consequently, I can maintain the heat levels better and not have to replenish the wood chunks as often as with a metal smoker or kettle.

    Anyway, rest assured, I will be making the smoked pork shoulder because that is one of the bestest things ever. In addition, I will be combining the smoking and brining and making a PORK BELLY PASTRAMI. Trust me when I say this, there is nothing like it. If you’re interested, let me know and I can give anyone who wants the info.

    Cheers,
    Matt

    1. Matt, the Weber kettle will be fine. It works great for smoke-roasting even in winter — use indirect heart: pile the coals on one side, put the wood chips right on top (in a foil tray, or one made specifically for smoking wood chips), and once it’s smoking away, put the food on the other side (with the vent holes open above the loin, chicken, or belly). Pork belly pastrami sounds terrific, by the way. A recent post of ours on winter smoking here: http://tinyurl.com/4oq2ms2

      Cheers, Scott

    2. No worries buddy. Check out ‘the method’ on the wsm fan site, virtual weber bullet or so titled. You can use the offset technique in the kettle and follow ‘the method’ on the site for piling unlit charcoal topped with a few hot ones. And, unless Chicago is hurricane windy, just put you grill around a corner away from the wind. Temperature isnt ad big a factor as you might imagine. I smoke up here in sub-zero all winter. Check out the ‘Reena Newman’ blog on the blog roll. Cheers!

      James

    3. I used a pickling spice recipe and technique that was from Saveur:

      http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Saveur-100-2011-Corned-Beef-and-Cabbage

      I cut back the red pepper flakes to 1t but kept everything else the same. The spicing was nicely balanced. I like the technique of holding a small bit of the spice for cooking. I also ONLY would cook corned beef in a pressure cooker.

      I have made my own corned beef for several years now and this was the best ever because of the spice mixture. I also used pink salt for the first time and it makes the meat much juicier and it is a nice pink color rather than a brownish grey.

  17. I do my smoking on a Char-Griller barrel grill with a smoker side box.

    I bought a whole brisket for the brining challenge. Half of it became corned beef, and the rest became pastrami.

  18. I use a Big Chief smoker with a small box controller (like the dial on an oven) which means I can dial the temperature up and down as I wish. Great to maintain low temperatures, especially for smoked trout and salmon. Nice little unit but could do with a jacket in the winter.

    I also try swap the wood shavings out before they turn to ash, its the clear smoke that delivers most of the smokey flavour instead of loading up on soot.

    Means I run through a bit more shavings.

    You could also try adding spices into the shavings, dried hot chilli peppers or rosemary is awesome can add a great bite or additional aroma to what you are smoking – be a bit wary of chillis if you are smoking inside though unless you are happy to clear your sinus at the same time haha!

    The bacon I usually smoke for about 6-8 hours slowly raising the temp until its cooked.

  19. Our smoker is still covered in 2 feet of snow, but by golly I’ll dig it out. Also, can anyone please tell me how to post on the charcutepalooza facebook page?

  20. I’m loving that all the challenges are one step ahead of me. I just got out my smoker, new to me, a sort of clunker, but I’m going to make that thing work! Beautiful post and amazing meats! Your tenacity and willingness to try any and every thing is always inspiring!

  21. Tasso, YES!!! I needed an excuse to make this. The only grill we have is a lodge cast iron, hopefully that will do the trick. Otherwise we’ll try to do it stove-top.

  22. Having a friend sending me your blog link, is a sign from the food gods; I need to drain the rain from the smoker and get moving. I look so forward to discovering past blog posts for more smoking inspiration.

  23. Hi Mrs. Wheelbarrow,

    I think that you are using pork loin and pork tenderloin interchangeably but they are two different cuts of meat. Under Smoke & Pork BFF you talk about a four pound tenderloin but I don’t think tenderloins get that big. So I believe that you mean loin?

    Great job with this project! I have been following along with every challenge.

  24. Can I just tell you how much I LOVE this challenge!!! We were just discussing Canadian bacon because hubby has been eating it daily. I just ordered a pig from our local farmer so I’ll have to see all the cool things everyone does.

  25. I am so happy for the “smoking” challenge. I have been studying smokers for about 9 months, after I bought “Charcuterie” and read their opinion of the Bradley Smoker. I have used my gas grill with good success, but I just can’t get enough of the real smoke flavor. So I finally made my decision yesterday to invest in the Bradly Smoker because of the hot and cold smoke options. Amazon has a great price on the non-digital version. It arrives late next week. Can’t wait to try it.

  26. Smoked Salmon….

    Ohhhhh Goodie!

    I already have a recipe boiling in my head for it. Gonna work on it this weekend! Unless it’s snowing…again.

    Yea…right. Spring is here…..ppptthhhhht!

  27. We used to have a smoker and my husband Tom was the smoker-in-charge. Though we grilled much more often, occasionally I’d brine a turkey breast in some apple cider, dark beer, and spices and he’d smoke it for me. Those made the best turkey sandwiches ever.

    Thanks for the McGyver tips. It’s going to be fun trying to rig something up for April’s challenge!

  28. I was just given a 3 lb. piece of salmon (frozen though) but will be trying to smoke it in my charcoal grill when it defrosts, gets brined and etc. Got some apple and mesquite chips to use

  29. My hubbie is a MASTER smoker ( not officially- but he is) We do real BBQ down here in the South!!!! We are serious about our smokin….
    My fav that he does is Smoked Turkey—the best turkey you have ever had- he brines it first!
    His babyback ribs are also pretty finger likkin good– I can’t eat ribs out anymore because the just do not stack up!
    I will try and get some smokin done and turned in for April! I think we will do lamb for Easter on the grill.
    He had successfully been using an electric smoker lately, but he still favors his old fashioned charcol smoker I think.

  30. I just found your site… Is the April Challenge due March 30th???? I may join up with ya’ll the next go round…. Just not sure about how this all works for sure.. I will be reading up!!! So psyched abt this!
    Erika

    1. Hi Erika – Welcome to Charcutepalooza. All the info is under the banner at the top of the page- check out The Ruhls and The Challenges to get started. Cheers, Cathy

  31. Cathy – I have a green (uncured) ham brining now. I am using the recipe from the Ruhlman/Polcyn book but with a few tweaks. This weekend I am going to hot smoke it for an American style smoked ham. Would that count toward the challenge?
    JimD

    1. Hi Jim, This challenge is for salmon, tasso or Canadian bacon. There may be a ham challenge later in the year (not telling!) but this one is specifically the three items. Cheers, Cathy

  32. Did the tasso and salmon last week and did the whiskey glazed chicken (I subbed turkey wings) over the weekend – all well and tasty (the almonds are also really good – did those before Christmas). Can’t wait for the next one!!

    1. http://livingmydreamlifeonthefarm.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/charcuterie-smoked-canadian-bacon/

      I loved this months challange, I got a full 14 pds loin and made 4 different batches of Canadian Bacon, and spent a whole sunday morning/early afternoon smoking it and some more corned beef, turned out heavenly, I will for sure make this for Christmas morning for everyone this year.

      However life happens and I got a really bad flu this past week and so you get a little post on it with the only dish I made, hubby eat though two whole peices so far and the rest is frozen for later use. Feel free to share with facebook etc, as I am not on it.

      I am looking forward to the coming challange.

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