Quick Recipes and Easy

The Barbecue Smoker Science of Food Preservation – And A Bit Of Fun Too!

Barbecue Smoker Recipe Evolution

Smoking has evolved as a means to preserve food before refrigerators were invented or the canning process. How ancient is the art of smoking? Well no one really knows for sure but it’s been around a lot longer than any evidence that documents it. I’ve read that there’s a smoking pit in China that’s believed to be 5000 years ancient so we can safely assume that it’s been around for some time.

Traditionally the food preservation would have started with either curing or brining and then the smoking process would follow on. Nowadays with the advent of refrigerators, smoking and indeed brining or curing is more concerned with flavour rather than food preservation. For me and many people it’s about enjoyment too, getting the best ingredients and taking time over preparing food is a dying industry in this age of globalisation when the pace of life is so quick. Life’s too small, let’s slow down and savour all that’s to be experience with traditional food preparation.

Curing

Curing using smoke works well for both meat and fish. The most common chemicals used for curing today include ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or sodium nitrate albeit ascorbic acid is used also to maintain the colour of the meat at the same time. In days gone by the preferred choice would have been potassium nitrite but essentially it’s a salt.

Things have of course started to develop from tradition with the quest to add flavour by curing so it’s now common to include some sweet flavouring with the salt such as sugar, treacle, molasses etc or to spice it up with chili powder or cayenne pepper. The fundamental point but is that curing is a dry process.

The curing process then can take many weeks or months and the end results are well worth it. The classic commercial curing that we see day in day out comes from curing belly pork and we end up with bacon. It frustrates me that even today there’s so much water in commercially prepared bacon and if this isn’t a reason to try home curing, I don’t know what is. It’s a simple process too.

Question your butcher for a pork belly or part of one depending on how huge you want it. Rub the belly all over with a 75%:25% mixture of salt and brown sugar and add a bit of chili or cayenne to your taste. Place the pork belly in a plastic container and bung it in the fridge for 2 months. Be patient and you’ll never want to buy commercial bacon again!

Brining

Brining is the wet process where we simply immerse the meat in a salt solution or brine – and that’s it. It works well for salt beef, turkey and fish (salmon in particular) as a precursor to smoking and the basic method is outlined below.

The vital thing is to make a salt solution that is completely saturated. Stir salt into water until no more will dissolve, now heat it gently and see how much more you can get to dissolve. When finished, let it cool and immerse the meat for a few days making sure that the meat is kept fully immersed in the brine.

That’s all there is to it, just wash of the brine and the meat is ready for smoking.

I hope you try it, I’m sure you’ll like it.

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