It’s time again for Charcutepalooza. This month’s challenge involved smoke – it specifically called for Smoked Salmon.
Smoking is something that really excites me – I love the heritage and tradition that surrounds such a simple act. Dana and I have committed to getting a smoker – as soon as we have a place that we can store and use one without fear of complaint with the neighbors. For this months challenge I decided to MacGuyver my own smoker out of existing household items.
We also switched the main ingredient. The only sustainable salmon I has access to was far too nice for my first experiment – I was quite convinced it would have turned out to be half-smoked, half-cooked and half-awful and based on my results below, salmon would have been a disaster with my home-made smoker. I substituted our home-cured bacon (a new skill I’ve learned from Charcutepalooza that I am thrilled with).
You get the idea from the pictures above on how this was built. The heat eventually became too much for the aluminum tray pictured and it burnt through (the major pain with creating your own devices for preserving such as smokers and dehydrators is the amount of time you have to stay close by to monitor everything). I replaced this with a roasting pan which I bought at value-village for $1. This worked better although it was both smaller and shallower and my heat became very difficult to control. I think I would find a way to raise my meat higher next time and tent or box the whole thing. I think I’d also use charcoal as my heat source as it would help control my heat.
The wood chips were cherry wood – they were harvested near our hunting cabin and are the off-cuts of what will be our harvest table in the next year or so.
Smoke starter steady – if there was a highlight, it was the amount of smoke this produced. I was thrilled with the smoke (and smelled like campfire when I returned to our apartment).
The entire contraption was tended with aluminum foil. It worked well but made it difficult to see what was going on.
Herein lies the ultimate problem with my approach – one piece overdone, one underdone and one just right…
I continued the process for a few hours and finished them in the oven (hot smoking requires an internal temperature of 165. I froze chunks in the freezer and use this as lardons – matchstick-sized pieces of bacon that start a stir-fry or sauce.
Despite the problems I’ve emphasized above, I was thrilled with te results. I think I would have COOKED the salmon but the bacon remained bacon and while a more consistent temperature would have allowed me to increase the flavors by smoking for far longer with a lower temperature, the flavor definitely comes through and I need to continue these experiments. I’m convinced I can make something closer to a ‘real’ smoker to further improve the results – share any of your tips below and we’ll share our progress in coming months…