Let’s get one thing straight…. Charcuterie is one and the same thing as Cured Meat. It follows that as you first cure your meat, game and just about anything else you want to smoke, Smoked Meat & Game belong to the Charcuterie-Cured Meat Family.
Why Smoke Your Food?
In the good old days, food was first cured – either dry-cured in salt or brined (wet-cured) in salt and water – then smoked to preserve it. Think of hams hanging up in the kitchens of Downton Abbey and you’ll get the idea.
Nowadays we have fridges and freezers, so food is smoked primarily to add flavour. It can also cook, colour and enhance the ingredient’s texture.
What Ingredients are used in a Cure?
Salt always features in a cure and in a wet cure, some form of liquid. Saltpetre a.k.a. Potassium Nitrate was once used liberally but is considered “controversial” nowadays.
Any number of dry or liquid ingredients can be added for flavour, from sugar to honey, peppercorns, herbs – dried or fresh – chillies, wine, apple juice, vodka and so on. More or less, anything you like.
What’s the difference between Hot- or Cold-Smoking?
To simplify, cold-smoking exposes the food merely to the smoke whereas hot-smoking also introduces the element of heat directly from burning or smouldering materials, most often wood.
Hot-smoked foods can be lightly cured as they are cooked by the application of heat.
As cold-smoked foods are “cooked” by the cure with the smoking adding additional flavour, the cure will be heavier (i.e. made with more salt) and will be applied for longer.
Check out these two great recipe ideas provided by Bradley Smoker…
Are they the only ways to smoke food?
Well, they are the ones that count.
There is also warm-smoking where food is smoked at a lower temperature than hot-smoking.
Then there’s liquid-smoking although I’m not sure if it really counts. It’s a liquid made by condensing wood smoke and is used as a flavouring. Actually, it’s a substitute for the real thing – that’s to say it gives a smoky taste without having to bother to cook in a smoker.
What equipment do I need for smoking?
To be honest, you can get away with a regular kettle barbecue a metal smoker box and some wood chips.
If you want to master the craft, you should invest in a Bradley Smoker. With a range to cover all options they’re used by top chefs – Mark Hix to Nathan Outlaw as well as the home smoker.
Did You Know?
- Almost everything can be smoked. We’ve probably eaten smoked meat, game, poultry & fish but what about tea (lapsang souchong), scotch whisky (peat is burnt to smoke the barley), cheese, garlic, eggs, salt, chillies, sun-dried tomatoes – even butter?
- In Victorian times, saltpetre was added to food served in prisons and all-male boarding schools on the questionable grounds that it “dampened desire”.