Makin Bacon, part 2

So having turned the bacon in the baggies daily, emptied the juices twice and followed the advice from my 1930’s book on smoking and curing by re-salting them once around the mid-week mark, today I embarked on the final part of the journey; smoking.

Smokers are simple. No, not the ones that hang around the office doors paying a fortune to suck 4000 different chemicals into their lungs, including the 51 known carcinogens… well, maybe they are simple, but I’m talking about the good smokers, them of wood, metal or even cardboard construction.

A smoker at it’s simplest is just a container to slow down the passage of smoke long enough for the molecules to penetrate, permeate or otherwise coat the desired item, in this case our bacon. A cardboard box over a small fire with a grate on top and said item laid out would do this admirably. As the heat would cook the object too this would be a hot smoker. A cold smoker could be created by building the fire say ten feet away from box then building a channel to guide the smoke to the box. Generally cold smoking is what you do to bacon, sausages and hams, so for the last week I’ve kept my eyes out for the necessary bits and bobs around the farm to build my own cold smoker. Prepare to be stunned by simplicity, but first the preparation of the bacon.

I took the cured flitchettes out of their ziploc bags, washed the remaining salt and cure off of them, rubbed them dry with a teatowell before hanging them for a further hour while I cobbled the smoker together.

The honey-cured bacon hides behind the less bashful caraway and salt-only cured examples, here seen happily drying in our kitchen

I then went outside and assembled; a pallet, a bottomless barrel, 8′ of ducting, including a 90 degree elbow, a shelf from an old fridge, two boards, half an old plenum and the cast iron firepit from an old kitchen stove. I didn’t need all this – I could have just dug a hole for the fire, dug then covered a trench leading from this to the barrel then put one cover over the fire and one cover over the barrel but it rains a lot here in Nova Scotia, when it’s not snowing that is. I assembled them into this;

Oh, um, yes - the sink is the lid in this instance, although I found a sheet of metal that fits perfectly and later weighed this down with bricks. And the sink. Just for good measure. It gets windy here in Nova Scotia.

Next I made my own hardwood briquettes by cutting up a piece of kindling. I recommend a more health & safety concious cutting mechanism, plus for every briquette I made I lost two or three down the back of the woodpile. They’ll turn up, next spring. I then went and stole some embers from our wood furnace and put it all together, hanging the bacon from the fridge grate as below.

Okay, okay, it looks rusty but the meat is HANGING, aka not touching anything ferrous. And it's early days here so it's not very smokey, but it does work a treat!

Et Voila – it’s raining/sleeting/snowing outside yet my smoker is chuffing away nonchalantly. According to my book I should smoke it for a day if I want a mild flavour and up to seven days if I want a strong flavour. I’ll probably plump for somewhere in the middle then use that as a guide for my next batch, of which there are five flitchettes of bacon, plus two whole sides of as yet uncured stuff from Linda-pig, whose demise I will entertain you with another day, promise.

Meanwhile my wife has just started early labour so while she squeezes a seven and a half pound baby out of her nether regions I can just sit back with my feet up knowing my bacon is smoking away at the farmstead. Ah, a farmers life for me.

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