The Cottage Smallholder

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Companionable bacon home smoking. The old fashioned way.

smoked loin jointThe Chicken Lady answered my tom-tom invitation to share our chimney and indulge in a bit of home smoking last night. She arrived with her husband S and a large joint of wet cured belly of pork wrapped in an old red muslin curtain.
“I did wash it and loads of red dye came out. Perhaps it will stain the pork pink and get over the problem of not using saltpetre.”

I was regretting not using saltpetre on my loin of pork, wanting a good pink colour but had convinced myself that it was good to try different cures.

TCL had used a brine cure, using the floating egg trick (see tricks and tips below) to get the saline solution just right. I had soaked our loin of pork for 60 hours in a saline – light Muscovado sugar solution. It’s important to get the egg to float well in the salt water before you add the sugar – I used a salt sugar ratio of 1.5:1. Last night I rubbed in 2 tablespoons of Molasses just before I wrapped my joint in a thin layer of muslin for smoking.

The hefty red muslin parcel and my loin joint were hung in the chimney. We poured some drinks and lit the fire. I’d found some dryish logs with a good ratio of dry to damp. They had been sitting on grass. – perfect for creating smoke but tricky to keep alight.

If the fire is too hot, the flames cook and smoke the meat. We were aiming for cold smoking. The meat is cured as it is hangs in the chimney and smoked so gently so that it remains raw with a rich smoky taste when cooked.

This is old frontier stuff. Experimental and great fun. I’m loathe to buy a smoker. I’d much prefer to use the inglenook chimney and perfect the art of old fashioned home smoking.

As I fiddled with the fire we chatted companionably. Eventually we seemed to get the perfect smoke. We decided to leave the joints in the chimney overnight. The massive log was still smouldering this morning. I reached for our parcels and unwrapped mine.

It looked like ham. Initially I was devastated until I sliced off a sliver. It was edible and delicious. Not at all over salty. Thank goodness I had jettisoned the saltpetre. Fred sells some great home cured bacon that looks similar. Grilled for a few minutes, it tastes divine. The thickness of muslin clearly affects the curing times. With two or three layers of muslin a loin wouldn’t cook overnight. With just a six hour smoke one layer would probably suffice.

I quickly unwrapped The Chicken Lady’s blushing parcel. A much slimmer joint, but folded over and wrapped in at least 3 layers of muslin, it had smoked far more slowly.

I jumped into Danny’s car and raced to their end of the village. We decided that it needed more smoking. As we said goodbye, The Chicken Lady made a tantalising suggestion.
“Do you think we could do fish in the future? Or would it smell terrible?”
I hadn’t considered fish.

Danny’s car immediately revolved and pointed towards the superstores. I bought two small wild Alaskan salmon steaks, gave them a recommended dry cure and am about to dampen the fire down for an overnight smoke.

I’ve wrapped it in 5 layers of muslin. I love cold smoked salmon and hate poached salmon. Watch this space for the result in a few days time.

Trick and tips:

Fred Fitzpatrick’s tried and tested method for getting your wet pork salt cure just right is to float an egg, in its shell, in the brine. If the egg floats and protrudes a half centimetre above the surface, it’s perfect. If the egg sits too proud add more water, if the egg sinks add more salt. Simple and virtually foolproof. Bacon cured with this method will only stay fresh in your fridge for a week or so, like the supermarket packs. So chop it into sections and freeze it.

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  1. Henry Charteris

    Dear Fiona,

    A friend of mine has just given me a back eg of a small deer and I live in a house in Devon with a large open fire with a smoking ‘bar’ in the chimney. I have wanted to try smoking something for many years now and thought I would give this a whirl. Any thoughts on venison smoking as opposed to pork as your site popped up when I was looking for some tips?

    Kind Regards,


    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Henry

      I reckon that it would be the same as pork or beef. Would love to hear how it turns out.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Vicky

    I’m sorry but I have no idea.

  3. vicky york

    Thanks for you coments, but this does not answer my question as the inglenook i am talking about has no way of entry to it so i did not know it’s purpuse,have you any more ideas, thanks

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