Just over a year ago I wrote a piece about the start of a new venture into curing meat. It was doing really well, so much so that I was making food all the time and making any progress on the business side. As generally happens when something is going well, something else comes along to alter the balance. In this case it was to finish the UK tour of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (with my musical hat on!). I wrote about this whilst I was away for this tour and a subsequent tour to New Zealand. Now back fully in the UK I decided to have another crack at the meat business.
One of the benefits of having been away for a while was I got to evaluate what worked and what didn’t. Bacon was always fun as was Scotch eggs albeit time consuming. The pastrami was also good as was Ox tongue and everyone liked the beef bacon. I’d established that I could restart these at any time and, always being one happy to embody the spirit of adventure, decided to try and solve some of the production gaps. The biggest gap was smoking. I have a stove top smoker which was fine except that it was difficult to regulate the temperature and was low on capacity. After a happy meeting at my local pub one of my neighbours announced that they had a large Brinkman hot smoker and would I like to use it?
I jumped at the chance! Here at last was a large cooking area with thermometer and chimneys to boot. Excellent! I cracked straight on with brining a brisket. This is something I have done a few times now and I really like this brine recipe from Michael Ruhlman
Brisket Brine for pastrami
- 6 ounces or 3/4 cups Morton’s kosher salt (or 200 grams if measuring water in liters)
- 3 ounces or ½ cup sugar (100 grams)
- 2 teaspoons pink salt (sodium nitrite), optional
- 5 cloves garlic, smashed with the flat side of a knife
- 2 tablespoons pickling spice
- 1 x 5-pound beef brisket, the more fat it has the better
Combine 1 gallon/4 liters of water with kosher salt, sugar, sodium nitrite (if using), garlic and 2 tablespoons pickling spice. Bring to a simmer, stirring until salt and sugar are dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until chilled. Place brisket in brine, weighted with a plate to keep it submerged; cover and refrigerate
This is a good around cure for the brisket and I have added extra flavours including bay leaf & cardamom. The beef can cure for a minimum of two days but I quite like it upwards of a week. It’s a question of taste.
After the brining the meat looks like this.
I’d loaded the smoker up with charcoal and set the temperature to about 150º C (350ºF) , I’d made a smoke generator with soaked wood dust & dried sage from my garden in a foil container covered with heavy duty tin foil, pierced in several places. This was topped up twice during the smoke as was the charcoal.
Topped the brisket with dijon mustard and ground pepper corns and coriander seed and then smoked the brisket for about six hours, cooled it and sliced it.
Needless to say the taste is excellent. Good smoke flavour and real aroma and the pepper crust is amazing. I’ve also tried ribs in the hot smoker…
So the hot smoking was only part of the puzzle. Dry cured bacon was great but I needed the ability to cold smoke product once it was cured. This was all proving to be beyond me until the arrival of an ex-chef friend who also is a carpenter… “no problem” says Spencer…
So here is then the Spencer Carlowe Mk1.
It took some effort to get it home in my wife’s convertible car but arrive it did. I’d already cured some bacon in preparation and so we loaded it up. The smoke is generated by a concentric frame that holds wood dust. This smoulders away for up to ten hours producing a good supply of smoke.
This exceed all expectations , the bacon was superb and all the extras just blew us away! This was a six hour cold smoke with the temperature around 60º F (19ºC). I love the colour difference on all the smoked food but especially the bacon.
Spurred on by this and with Spencer, the ex -chef, becoming less ‘ex’ by the day we planned another day. I’d ordered some more dust on-line in a variety of flavours. We picked oak for the second smoking and the raised the bar with regard to product range.
The whole smoked pepper that we’d made on the first smoke was good but started to lose the smoke after crushing. We ground it for the second smoking and with greater success. the one thing we were desperate to try was salmon. I’d found a London cure (nothing to do with the devolution vote honest…) which was to cure just in salt for less than 2 hours, we then smoked the salmon for about 5 hours. The result was amazing! another hit. It cuts well and tastes fabulous.
I’d also fancied making Merguez sausage as I’d not made a lamb sausage yet. These, even unsmoked, were great. Big bold spices and still with a great lamb flavour. We made up some merguez flavour mix
- 1/4 cup sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons ground fennel seeds
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
for this recipe…
- 1 lb. (500 g) ground beef or lamb
- 4 oz. (120 g) ground or finely chopped fat
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
- 2 tablespoons merguez spice mix
- 2 to 3 teaspoons harissa
These were stuffed into collagen chipolata skins and rested for a couple of hours before smoking.
We had to smoke them…
All in all the whole rejuvenation of ‘Cured!’ has been a great success…