I had been thinking of cold smoking my piece of curing elk heart, and then ‘Meat Smoking and Smokehouse Design‘ arrived from the library. Inspiring book. No question I was going to give it a go after reading all kinds of cool ideas on how to cold smoke. It’d only been curing a couple days, but I had some bacon that was ready to get smoked, and I figured I’d take care of them both at the same time. I wasn’t looking for a heavy smoke on the heart – just enough of a touch that when it’s shaved thin, you can detect traces of smoke. We’ll see if I got it right in a few weeks post hanging.
So I improvised a setup – one of the things I love about cooking with fire: it’s adaptable and conducive to use of ingenuity. It’s -2C outside, and the books I’ve been reading say cold smoke’s upper limit is 32C, with a desirable range of 12-22C. I figured that so long as I could get the piece in the smoke well above the fire, I’d be good. So I grabbed an old rack from my formerly employed bbq, plopped it atop my fire’s brick wall, and weighted it down with a couple bricks. Surprisingly solid. So the bacon would get a warm-ish smoke, and the heart a cold smoke. I ended up placing my bbq lid atop the bacon to contain more heat and smoke, and it still leaked plenty of smoke onto the heart piece. After an hour or two, the elk heart was still cool to touch.
You’ll see in the photos below that my setup allows for a separate fire/heat source to the right. This allows me to generate embers to keep apple branches smoking away. I found today that the best results came from simply pulling the sticks from under the bacon, placing them atop the fire for a minute until re-lit, then shaking/blowing the flame out and throwing them back under the bacon to smoke away again. Success. Heart goes back into the fridge for the smoke to even out and cure for a couple more days, and the bacon will meet its usual fate.
So you’re using split birch as a heat source?
I made a mass capacity monstrousity cold smoker from an old freezer, which is doing pretty good. Very interested in the cured heart you’re doing.
Yep – I have spruce and birch for heat. Because I have a supply that’s free, mostly. I smoke with apple, cause it’s plentiful here.
Old freezer – cool idea. That is lots of capacity!
Yeah I’m south of Red Deer. I use propane for a hot smoke and a hot plate for cold smoke, with the dampers wide open. I could probably fit the whole back leg of a deer in there.
Can’t find much apple around here but will sometimes use prunings from the spring. Typically I use barkless, dry diamond willow (bark makes very, very bitter smoke). Nice mellow smoke that leaves the food brick red. The bark is easy to get off if you just burn it for a bit and then put it out — the tree I cut from was hit by a grass fire.
Andrew – good tip on the willow, I’m going to have to try that, including the burning off of the bark.
I’ve still got to rig up something for cold smoking with some capacity – I’m keen to tackle the challenge.
Pingback: Dry Cured Elk Heart Verdict « Kevin Kossowan