The wine barrel cold smoker project
Ithink we all know that smoking, drying and curing meat originated as a means of preservation. Of course the spin-off benefit is that the meat normally acquires a delicious flavour from the salt and smoke in the process. Today, with refrigeration, canning, curing and aseptic packaging, the smoking of meat and fish is largely done as a means of adding flavour and enhancing texture. I have always loved the taste of properly-cured and coldsmoked delicacies. So, after years of dreaming I finally got around to doing it myself.
There are many different methods of curing and smoking meats, but before I tell you about my smoker let’s start by understanding some of the most common processes.
This is a way of preserving meats by exposing them to salt, sugar, herbs, spices, nitrates and nitrites. These are either rubbed onto the meat dry or applied by immersing the meat in (and sometimes also injecting it with) a suitable brine mixture. Basically the salt and sugar draw moisture out of the meat, the herbs and spices add flavour and the nitrates and nitrites act as antibacterial agents, effectively preventing the growth of clostridium botulinum and other nasty bugs. They also contribute to the nice pink colour that cured meat acquires. Nitrates and nitrites are relatives of good old saltpetre which is used in gunpowder! They should only be used in the recommended proportions to meat weight or brine volume and with caution because they are poisonous if ingested in high doses.
Cold smoking is a way of enhancing the flavour of cured foods without actually cooking them. After curing, the meat should be properly dried to form a tacky skin which is called a pellicle. This allows the smoke to adhere to the meat
Every intersection of iron hoop and plank needs to be screwed together to hold the barrel together.
Our smoker in action next to the in our increasingly cluttered braai corner.