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. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Vicky

    Our Inglenook is an old chimney with a new chimney built inside it. The new chimney starts about four feet above the fire basket. We hang the joints to be smoked just below the new chimney.

    Ideally you make a fire and once it is going well you add a wet log (anything except pine). This will smoke and also burn very slowly.

    WE also have a wood burning stove that opens into an old chimney (rather tan a flue). This is a perfect smoke chamber and smokes our joints far more quickly than the inglenook.

  2. vicky york

    can you tell me about the old ingenook. the one i am talking about is brick built and all closed in about 5ft high with a slate roof ajoining the houe.

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mash

    The egg is in its shell and is raw.

    I now monitor the egg as I add the salt and go ahead when it is just floating. The bacon doesn’t keep for as long (about a week in the fridge) but it is far less salty.

    I also now add two heaped teaspoonfuls of black treacle to the cure. Delicious.

    It might be worth checking out our other bacon posts and comments.

  4. OK so call me a big fat dummy…

    is the egg in question raw or hard boiled?


  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Thanks for getting back to me. What a shame that they don’t stock them any more.

    Hi Dan

    Yes, it’s exciting. Breakfasted with my mum this morning and she’s now hooked on home cured loin!

    Our inglenook has a small modern chimney built inside it so it draws like a dream. There™s a hood with a lip where it reaches the smaller chmney(I hang the bacon from this) probably four feet above the fire. I could install some hooks a bit higher.

    It™s going to be a bit cramped in the chimney on Saturday but if you™re interested in trying out this method you™d be welcome anytime. Email me through the contact us page if you™re interested.
    The salmon was a disaster, I think the fire must have gone out!

  6. Fiona, this all looks good. What I wouldn’t give to have an inglenook fireplace to try all this.

    If you are worried about heat then your best bet is to place whatever it is higher up the chimney.

    Also, I wouldn’t worried too much about wrapping your salmon in muslin. It’ll probably smoked better out of it…..

  7. Kate(uk)

    The packs came from Lakeland, but they don’t seem to do them any more. They are made in Norway, so I shall look out for them if I go there again and stock up!

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate(uk)

    I haven’t dared taste the salmon yet!

    Those foil parcels sound interesting. Where did you get them from?

    Smoking in the inglenook is fun but quite tricky to get the smoke just right!

    Yes, I agree, the yoghurt is scrummy!

    Hi The Chicken Lady

    This is good news! My bacon is delicious too.

    I’m not sure if I’ve got the salmon quite right. We ate hot smoked eel from the smokehouse in Orford one Christmas. That would be easy to do as it’s cooked and easy to see when it’s done.

    I’ll be smoking at the weekend again. Same time, same place if you’re interested.

  9. The Chicken Lady.

    I’ve just baked the streaky, and what can I say the flavour is amazing, it has turned out pefectly, i didn,t have to pre-soak and it isn,t too salty. For my next venture I will experiment more with the soaking liquid. Let me know how the salmon turns out, as I have a craving for smoked eel.

  10. Kate(uk)

    I bet that salmon will be divine- I bought some foil parcels for smoking in the oven last year, they come with woodchips in them and you put the meat/fish in the parcel and cook slowly. Very nice indeed, but the home made inglenook method just sounds so much more fun and much more delicious too!
    Thanks for giving me the push I needed to make me get round to making my own yogurt Fiona- just finished another batch and it is lovely, even my husband has noticed how much nicer the yogurt is.In fact so delicious it had to be sampled the moment it was ready…

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