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Home Smoking Basics Helps You Preserve Meats

June 30, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many books that help with general raising of food, cooking food, canning and drying but there are other ways to handle meats too. Smoking has long been used, and in Home Smoking Basics author Maria Sartor shows and teaches you how to do it.

I read a considerable amount, and am always on the lookout for books that I can recommend to readers, as well as give to our farm share customers. If it helps make better use of the food we produce it’s good for all!

The Home Smoking Basics book teaches you what hot smoking is, and why you should use it – when brined and cooked to enjoy immediately! Warm smoking is done at lower temperatures for longer times, and cold smoking is a longer process that no cooking takes place. Examples of warm smoked is pre-cooked sausages, while ham and sausages are more apt to be cold smoked.

The author goes in to types of wood – from walnut for pork to vine wood for game, duck and beef, to beech or fruit for other uses. There’s a break down of things ‘everyone knows’ and explanation of the reality. For example:

Curing salt is a mixture of approximately 99.6% sodium chloride and 0.4% sodium nitrite. It is used to prepare all types of hams and cured products, to ensure the keeping quality. Curing salt greatly inhibits growth of micro-organisms while also improving the taste. Mixing the curing salt with sugar (approximate amounts: for every ounce/kilogram curing salt, add two teaspoons or 10g of sugar) also gives the meat its characteristic red, appetizing color. A complicated biochemical process produces nitric acid; when this acid breaks down, this causes nitric oxide to form. When nitric oxide binds with the red meat pigment (myoglobin) to make nitrosomyoglobin, the meat will stay red after it is cooked. This chemical process is called reddening: uncured meat turns gray when cooked while brined remains red to pink.

However, nitrite curing salt has a bad name – it is considered carcinogenic and is toxic in quantities of over 0.18 ounces (5g). Therefore, the legal limit is between approximately 1/1000 ounce to 3/1000 ounce per pound (or 50 and 250 milligrams per kilogram).

I can hear it. “OOOh chemicals! Bad food companies putting chemicals in our food.” Go back and read that again. It is a natural process, and it happens in your own kitchen too! Chemical sounding things need not be scary – but knowing a little bit of why things do what they do is good. It helps drop the fear factor when you understand how and why things happen. Smoking and salt has been used for centuries, and often it wasn’t known WHY but just that it helped keep food safe. Today we identify chemical processes and it is too often scary when it shouldn’t be.

If there’s a fisherman in the home, this book can be the source of many tasty meals. Hot smoked trout, char and whitefish or carp, pike, wels catfish and salmon are treated with detail. Perch, bream, tech and even eel get attention in preservation and smoking. Those near saltwater may be more interested in sole, plaice, flounder, halibut (a favorite here that I don’t get nearly enough anymore!), dogfish, redfish, cod, haddock, mackerel and of course salmon in a smoker. Others may prefer scallops, shrimp, crawfish (or crayfish if you prefer), or pork, beef, lamb, rabbit, venison, chicken, turkey legs, duck or goose breasts and so much more. Even garlic, nuts and other foods can be smoked.

Going beyond just smoking, there are recipes included to make the most of the yummy smoked treats you create. Nice photos throughout the book. Check it out if you’re stocking up, living off fish for the summer or just looking for something different. If you need more incentive – there are recipes like this one:

Peppers Stuffed with Smoked Ricotta:

1 bunch oregano

2 onions

2 garlic cloves

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 pound ground meat

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 cup chicken stock (from a cube)

1 can of peeled tomatoes (15 ounces)

salt

black pepper

1 pinch of sugar

1 bay leaf

4 green peppers

1/4 cup cubed toasting bread

5 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup smoked ricotta

1 pound ricotta

1 egg

1 egg yolk

salt

white pepper

1 bunch parsley

Wash and pat dry the oregano, strip off the leaves and chop coarsely. Peel the onion and finely chop. Peel and press the garlic.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and brown the chopped meat well for 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic and half the oregano, and cook together for 10 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste, deglaze with the stock and let it boil down. Add the tomatoes with their juice to the meat. Season with salt and pepper; add a pinch of sugar and the bay leaf. Add 1 cup of water and simmer down for an hour.

Meanwhile, cut a lid out of the peppers on the stem and and remove the cores with a small knife.

Cut the bread into small cubes and fry in a pan with 3 tablespoons oil until crisp. Finely grate the smoked ricotta and wrap the fresh ricotta in a cloth and lightly squeeze out the liquid. Mix the cheese, egg, and egg yolk, the remaining oregano and bread cubes, and add salt and pepper.

Fill the peppers with the mixture and set on the lids.

Pour the sauce into an ovenproof dish, set the peppers in it, and drizzle on the rest of the oil.

Bake on the lowest rack of a preheated oven at 360F for 40 minutes.

Wash the parsley, pat dry and chop. Serve the peppers with sauce, garnished with the parsley.

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