I’ve just spent most of the day trying out my new smoker. Keeping the sawdust smouldering (as opposed to flaming furiously or grumpily going out) seems to be a rather hit and miss affair, but I’m hoping to climb a steep learning curve over the course of my next few attempts.
The best news was how cool the smoke actually was. The only way that I could keep the sawdust alight was to build a small fire out of kindling in the firebox and then place charcoal on top of it once it was lit. When the charcoal started to glow white hot, I just added oak shavings to the embers and checked on the smoke production every twenty minutes or so. I’d assumed that this would result in a hot, or at least a warm, smoking, but it was just not the case. It was only when the sawdust or coals burst into flame that any heat was produced, but I'm equally prone to believe that a chilly, blustery January day didn't hurt one bit in maintaining a low smoking temperature.
It did seem as though I used a lot of sawdust, but after twelve hours of dry curing and about five hours in the smoker, this was the result:
It certainly smelled smoked and it was cured but not cooked. It was not sufficiently cured and smoked to be kept for any length of time, but it was going to be fine to keep in the fridge for a day or two or to freeze either whole or sliced.
As it happened, this piece of meat was earmarked for a choucroute garni the following day and was washed down with a particularly pleasant bottle of Leitz Riesling Rüdesheimer Magdalenenkreuz Spätlese 2003.
This pale lemon gem was just 8% ABV and was a delight from beginning to end. Baked apple, lemon and lime citrus and gentle kerosene aromas wafted across the nose. The palate was sweetish but with balancing acidity – possibly lacking a little zip due to the heat of the vintage – and was flavoured with citrus and honey dipped green apple fruit. Rich and ripe, with a touch of minerality in a supporting role. Just starting to show its age, but very pleasant nonetheless.
And the meat? It was somewhat short of salt, but this was easily remedied during cooking. I’ll double the curing time for my next attempt. The smoke was subtle, its presence noticeable and enjoyable without being overwhelming. After simmering for two hours it was beautifully tender and a joy to eat with the choucroute, a selection of wurst, a boiled potato or two and a charming glass of Riesling. Truly a meal fit for a king and an inspiring start to my smoking career.