Wait – whuut??
Ok, let’s back this up a bit…
Two weekends ago we slaughtered our first pig, complete with traditional dip-scalding and scraping to remove hair and pigmented skin. We had lots of help, which is good because it is a lot of work!
The belly slabs and the jowels were liberally rubbed with a cure of 50/50 salt and sugar and stored in a cold animal-proof place. As the week progressed, the moisture drawn out would get discarded and more cure applied as needed. At the end of the week, the cure is rinsed off and the slabs are dried and wired-up for hanging.
Meanwhile, two hams, some hocks, and trotters were all immersed in a brine of again, about 50/50 salt and sugar and left for the week. As this was a bit long for brining the small pieces (too salty!), after the brine was poured off, we soaked them in fresh water for an hour or so to draw some of the salt back out. Then all pieces were dried and tied for hanging.
Hanging where, you ask? In our smoker! Our goal was to cold-smoke these pieces to get the flavour and to be able to freeze them and then thaw and cook at a later time.
We dug a bit into a hillock and built up three sides of firebrick reclaimed from an old chimney. There is a monstrous 20″ x 20″ paver as the base, the firebrick is dry-stacked (as this is a “temporary” setup), and a matching 20″ x 20″ paver on top. We shaped a few bricks for the terracotta pipe vent to direct the smoke out the back.
We filled in around the bricks and overtop the terracotta pipe with a clay-heavy soil. The front of the firebox was closed up with an old electrical panel cover – door opens to add more damp shavings; whole panel comes off when we need to dig out ashes! A bit of scavenged flashing helped to keep smoke from seeping out where the panel meets with the top paver.
The smoker box is several frames of wood stacked on each other. In the top frame we drilled some holes to slide electrical conduit through, from which we hung the meats! The lid is a full plywood pallet upsidown. Hard to see, but we inserted a long-probe brewing thermometer in the side to keep an eye on temperatures inside the box.
We initially made a hot fire of dry wood to have a good bed of coals and to ensure the pipe was warmed up so we would get an adequate draw – four feet of flame says our draw was too good and the temperature in the box was over 300 degrees F! We cooled the fire down by adding damp alder shavings and restricting the air intake. We cooled the smoke box down by wedging one of the frames up a bit to let some cool air mix in and by rotating the lid to let more smoke and heat out. There was plenty of smoke passing through so we weren’t missing out on the whole reason for this setup.
Those tweaks did the trick and we landed right on target of 75 deg F. About 5 or 6 hours of smoking has left a very nice smokey flavour in the bacon – not subtle and not overpowering, I don’t think it get’s much better than this!
Best. Bacon. Ever. xD