Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Poppie likes to smoke

Poppie being a workaholic spent most of his life working, he worked alot when the older kids were small, he now regrets the time he didn't spend with his older kids. I try to tell him he was doing the best he could at the time, he needed to make money to feed, cloth and house them. His parents had split when he was little, his grandparents and uncle helped raise him until he was 10 where upon he got a stepfather that liked to beat on him. His parenting skills were not develop in youth and having not really had a father he was making it up as he went along. He was and is determined to correct any short comings he had made with his older kids and try and do a better job with the younger kids. Our older kids are pretty good kids on the whole so I think he did a pretty good job for a young father the first time around. You really can't compare a father at 21 with a father at 51, can you? The reality of it is that, Poppie, is one of the most gentle men you will every meet and he would give you the shirt off his back... But I digress.

Poppie needs things to keep him busy that aren't to hard physically, he has a 10 lb weight limit and is not allowed to work at anything more than a couple hours. So I try hard to get him doing a hobbys, since I am an artist, by trade, I tend to encourage him artistically. He is now making knives, does some wood working, frame making and has come a long ways to becoming an artist in his own right, true we do things in a combined manner which gives alot of our work a male and female perspective which is unique and different. One of the things he has really taken to is smoking briskets. We have a big family barbecue every 4th of July and some of the extended family, around 45,  attend for Poppies brisket and the fire works.  One of his nicest compliments was from a friend from the deep souths, mother, who said it tasted just like being back home in Alabama. I would say that was high praise. So Poppie thought he had a handle on smoking hams and bacons. I don't think he realized it would be a whole different process.

He at first decided he would alter an old antique refrigerator to accomplish the task, but I figured he would need something a little different. I went on line, my new found friend, and read numerous articles on cold smoking as apposed to hot smoking which was what he does with his briskets. I finally purchased a book, which I rarely do, as Poppie needs it on paper in hand to get a real grasp of a written idea. So after reading the section on smoke house, backwards and forewords, the other section on brines he had no interest in, which I studied. He built a smoke house off the side of his chicken house, he did put the refrigerator smoke right next to it, after all it is bigger than his previous smoker and the 4th comes every year. He was ready for the meat; and now I just had to get it ready for his smoke house.

We butchered our sow, once we were assured that the weather wouldn't not be getting above 45 day or night, and as we live in Montana not a problem after late October really. I read all I could on brining and decided that I wanted to dry brine, we had brined 20 years ago with hit and miss results. I found part of the problem we had described in the readings, I studied. We had prepared our liquid brine fine, the egg floated and everything. What we hadn't known was that as the meat draws in the salt from the brine and it needs to be refreshed something they don't tell you in any of the recipes. I now know how to do quality liquid brine but thought the dry brining sounds better and is supposed to have a better result. Old tried and true recipes are simple, lots of good quality plain food salt.  If you are on the no salt craze this is not the time to skimp, if you do try this and don't use enough salt it will make you sick.  You can use the sodium nitrates or prague but they are not actually necessary and they do add the chemicals I am trying so hard to remove from my life. Basically you layer the meat with adequate amount of salt per pound in a crock or wooden barrel and let it set for a time per pound, you then remove the meat, rinses, and dry for several day, and then smoke. If you want good old country ham you don't actually smoke it you dry and then age at blow 45 for 3 plus months, up to years if you  have the place to store it in at under 45 degrees.

Poppie smoked the meat  in his little smoke house with apple wood, cherry wood and alder. He had nice little flameless smoldering coals, in the bottom of his smokehouse. He feed the little fire between two day and two weeks depending up what he was smoking, bacons or an 18 lb ham.  Poppie who hadn't eaten bacon in years loved it and is now a bacon man again. The hams are just as nice, smoky, firm, and so much better for you than the injected hams you get from the new processing. I will adjust my times in the salt a little next time as they are just a little salty, but that was a first time try error.  Next time I will tell you about my attempts at kefirs and cheese...

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