Smoking Meat

posted by Julius Schneider

Once our cold smoker was ready we started putting in all sorts of meat to smoke. We started with some wild pigeons and wild ducks that we had around the lab.

The pigeon breasts were cured for two days in vacuum bags, with a range of different aromatics: black garlic skin, malt extract, freeze-dried blueberries, yoghurt, salted walnut paste – though birch sirup and a spice mix made out of juniper and coriander seeds turned out to be most flavorful.

The breasts were smoked for two days in the cold smoker and rested afterwards for one day in a 6°C fridge.

Here are the recipes for the two best outcomes:

– 15g juniper/coriander mix + 12g salt

– 20g birch sirup + 10 g salt

Rub each breast on the bone with the mix, and vacuum-pack. Cure for two days then put in the smoker for two days. We didn’t wash off any of the curing before smoking. After two days the breasts should aerate in a cool, dry place. Debone it and slice it thinly. Delicious!

The duck breasts turned out best when dry-cured for two days and smoked for the same length of time. All of them had a basic mix of 2% salt and 1% sugar. The most flavorful were the ones cured with fennel seeds and dried, powdered trompettes. We let them rest as well for one day in the fridge at 6°C before slicing them up thinly. 

What turned out to be a real delicacy was the hot-smoked bacon.  Try to get a big piece of pork belly (we did 2kg pieces) with skin on. The recipe we adapted is from the highly recommendable book ‘Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing’ written by Ruhlman and Polcyn.

The recipe we made adds cold-smoked garlic and bay leaves. If you have a cold smoker, you can make your own cold-smoked garlic, but if not just use regular garlic.

50g salt, 50g sugar, 12g pink salt, 4 bay leaves, 3 garlic cloves, for a 2kg piece of pork belly

Slice garlic and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Rub all over the belly, then pack it in a plastic bag and seal. We didn’t vacuum it since the belly should be in its own brine after a while. Cure the meat for seven days, turning it each day to ensure even salt distribution. After seven days, wash off the cure, pat dry and put it in the fridge uncovered overnight.

For hot-smoking, heat the charcoals until white-hot and don’t forget to soak your wood chips in water for 30 minutes before using them. Once the charcoal is hot, hang the meat in the smoker and put the soaked wood chips on top of the charcoal. The smoking took one hour but this might differ depending on your smoker. We took the bacon out when the core temperature reached 65°C. Let it cool down slightly and remove the skin.

Eat it luke warm, which is amazing, or let it cool, pack it airtight and slice it when you have the craving for such a delicacy. 4kg of bacon lasted one day in the lab.