Saturday, January 23, 2016

Out in the Cold

I don't always know where my projects are inspired. But this time I'm pretty sure that my interest in cold smoking came from how expensive smoked salmon is. Cold smoking is like barbecue in that food is flavored by smoke of long periods of time, but since it's “cold” the food doesn't get cooked.

So I did a little research and found a couple recommended ways to cold smoke at home. So I tried one of these ways last Fall. Given I didn't really know what I was doing I didn't want to start with something I could mess up too badly. So I decided to start with some cheese. And not even expensive cheese. Cheap Colby-Jack.

You may recall that much of last fall was actually still summer, so my first attempt led to cheese melting and running through the grates. So it was still too warm. Though the cheese did taste good.

So back to the drawing board I went. I did some research on the Internet (search on instructables) and found that a lot of people had success using a soldering iron as their heat source. A hole would be punched in the bottom of a can or in to an aluminum foil “pan”, the soldering iron inserted and wood chips added. So there was my next attempt (I happened to have an unused soldering iron, so no metals, like lead, on the tip).

So my little gizmo was popped into the bottom of my cheap water smoker and plugged in. Afte a bit the wood chips started smoldering and I started to get smoke. So with another trip to by cheap cheese, the second attempt was make. And though the day was still a little warm, and the smoker is black, there was a little “oozing” of the cheese, but this was a success. I wrapped the cheese up in plastic wrap and waited a few days as the websites suggested. When I tried the cheese a few days later, it was really good. Nice and smoky.

Since then there have been other smoking days and different cheeses have been added. So far, the smoked cheddar, turned into pimento cheese spread has been the biggest hit. Though smoke cheese on any sandwich is hard to turn down.

Recently I was looking for a vegetarian “bacon” substitute and discovered smoked mushrooms. Since the main flavor of bacon is the smoke, that made sense. I sliced up some mushrooms, tossed them with a few other things that flavor bacon (salt, pepper, paprika, etc.). These came out of the smoker kind of limp and not too appetizing. But a short stay in the dehydrator turned them into pretty tasty “bacon” bits.

I still haven't worked my way up to trying salmon, but perhaps on some cold day (salmon is supposed to stay under 40 degrees F while smoking) you might see some smoke coming out of my back yard.

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