Charcutepalooza March Challenge: Hot Smoking

Charcutepalooza info. 

I really can’t remember the first time I hot smoked. I was probably around ten give or take a few years. I used to help my mom smoke chickens or turkeys a couple times a year. I’ll have more on that later. For this challenge I went all out. I used three recipes from Charcuterie by Ruhlman and Polcyn and then a couple of my own.

Smoked Pork

As I’m writing this I’m stunned by the different types of smoked pork I did without doing ribs and Boston butt which are my normal fare. Instead I did two types of bacon, pork loin, and pork sirloin.

For the bacon, I followed recipe for fresh bacon on pg. 41 and then smoked it to 150 degrees. The result was very tasty bacon that was given a pass by all when fried, however everyone agreed that it could have been sweeter. That said, when cut into lardons and served with a white bean soup that I made using a large strip of skin from the bacon for seasoning, everyone thought they were fantastic.

For the white bean soup, soak a pound of white beans in salted water over night. Rinse the beans and put them in a large heavy pan (I use my ceramic bean pot) cover with water, and add a large piece of skin from the belly (I used about a three by 9 inch strip). Simmer in the oven for 4 to 8 hours at about 250 degrees. For the last hour sauté an onion, a carrot, and a stalk of celery in olive oil with salt and pepper to taste and add to the pot. Fry your lardons and use them to garnish. I made French bread to go with this meal.

From a whole pork loin, I cut three nearly equal lengths. The small end and center piece I put into the brine from Canadian bacon pp 88 and 89. Because of problems with the weather I ended up leaving it in the brine for an extra day with no adverse effects (speaking of the brine it smelled so good I wanted to taste it). The large end I rubbed with the spicy dry rub for pork from pp 89 and 90 and wrapped in cellophane for 48 hours. I smoked them all until the thickest portion of the large end was 150 degrees.

Spicy Pork Loin

Spicy Pork Loin with Asparagus and Yams

Cubano Sandwich

The spicy pork was a big hit… so big that my dad seemed to cut himself a slice every time he walked through the kitchen for the next couple days.

The Canadian bacon was also a hit. We enjoyed it several ways, but probably the most satisfying was what I like to call an “Egg MyMuffin” a recreation from a famous fast food chain that used homemade muffins and Canadian bacon with real sharp cheddar cheese and a poached egg.

One of the best dishes I made was Carne Adovada. This is a simple dish in which pork is cut into cubes, marinated in red chili, and then baked and served topped with cheese to be eaten with a warm flour tortilla. It all starts with a simple puree of New Mexico red chili seasoned with garlic and salt to taste. I used a quart to marinate two whole pork sirloin pieces for two days. I rinsed the pork and allowed it to dry on a rack in the refrigerator. Next I smoked the pork with hickory (my preference for this would be pecan but I couldn’t get any at the time) for a couple hours. I cut the smoked pork into cubes and then covered them with the chili puree that I had marinated them in. This I baked covered at 350 until the meat was tender and the chili was bubbling (about an hour).

Before serving I stirred the meat and covered with a layer of cheddar cheese to melt. To eat tear pieces of warmed tortilla’s into pieces large enough to pick up a cube of pork with some cheese and red chili. Serve with beans and a salad.

Smoked Poultry

I’ve had an obsession with smoked poultry for as long as I can remember. Our first smoker (Little Chief electric) was a gift from an old couple that lived across the street from us when I was young. They were a multitalented couple from Oklahoma. He worked for the Santa Fe Railroad and was a musician of local renown (my uncle say’s he could start playing in the middle of nowhere and draw a crowd within an hour). To this day I have fond memories of sitting on the curb staring at the open door to his house through his garage as we listened to him play WWII era classics, ragtime, and contemporary music on both piano and organ.

While time consuming, there is nothing difficult about the process. Additionally it only requires 5 ingredients. You’ll need poultry of your choice (for this post I smoked a turkey and a duck), salt, sugar, hickory, and time (for best results I do it over three days).

Day one, clean any nasty bits left in the cavity of a thawed bird. Also, trim any excess skin and fat from around the openings at both ends of the bird. Rinse and dry the bird. Mix equal parts of salt and sugar together in a bowl. Apply the salt and sugar liberally rubbing it into the entire surface of the bird both inside and out. Wrap the bird in a towel to absorb any liquid drawn out of it. (I love the thin cotton flour sack type towels for this, but any will do so long as you can bleach it when you wash it.) Next, I put the bird in a bag (for turkey I used a garbage bag, the duck fit in a gallon ziplock) and put it in the refrigerator for 24 hours.

Day two, rinse the salt and sugar off of and out of the bird and dry it completely inside and out. You’ll want to leave it uncovered in the refrigerator overnight to allow it to continue to dry. A V shaped roasting rack turned upside down in the pan is a great stand for drying small birds like chickens and duck. Just stand the birds up supporting them on the v shaped grates of the rack and tuck the legs in between. It will work for a turkey too, but they have a tendency to flop over. The main thing is to have as little skin as possible touching anything else. The dryer the skin, the better the smoke will stick to the bird.

Day three, the bird’s skin should now appear dry and somewhat translucent. This is the perfect condition for smoking. At this point I will remove any quills left in the skin (the drying tightens the skin making this much easier at this point). I like to hang my birds to smoke by tying a slipknot around each leg and running the string between them up through the cavity to hang on a hook. This helps hold the cavity open for the smoke and allows you to stagger the birds in the smoker so they don’t touch. You can adjust the height by trying knots in the string. Be sure to leave several inches between the bottom of the bird and the bottom of the smoker. The string tends to stretch a bit and the legs will go akimbo causing the bird to end up lower than where it started.

I like to get a good 4 to 6 hours of smoke on the birds (this can vary depending on the source of the smoke, saw dust takes less time than say chips or chunks of hard wood.) keeping the temperature as low as possible. I usually can keep it between 180 and 225 degrees depending on the weather. If there is any contact between birds be sure to move them around as you add more chips to the smoker. When done the birds should have a nice amber coloration to them.

I like to finish cooking the birds in the oven. For the duck I scored the skin in a crisscross pattern across the breast and down the sides between the legs and wings. This helps the fat melt and drain away from the bird keeping it from being too greasy. My turkey was in the roaster, so I propped the duck up on canning jar rings in a baking dish. It only takes about 30 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees to finish cooking both birds (180 degrees in the thick part of the thigh).  Once cooked you’ll see that the color is considerably darker than it was when they came out of the smoker.

I loved to serve smoked poultry cold. Side dishes vary depending on the time of year- anything you might serve with fried chicken or barbecue will go well.