dang! this is an excellent thread! great stories!
when i was a little kid my widowed grandmother remarried a guy that owned a commercial smokehouse. he smoked fish (whiting) almost exclusively.
the summer before 10th grade, my mom talked my new grandfather into giving me a job.
the job required me to be at work at 5 am. for the first hour we cleaned fish. the fish came in headless, but needed to be gutted. after about an hour of gutting fish and throwing them into big old-fashioned bathtubs on wheels, we brined the fish and let them soak until it was time to rack them and roll them into the big walk-in brick smoke ovens.
the business was wholesale, we sold mostly to supermarket chains and bar suppliers. but we also did custom smoking for anglers and sportsmen.
now, it might sound like a good job to smoke fans, but it positively sucked! cleaning thousands of fish every day before the sun is up sucks most egregiously. that whole summer i stank like fish and smoke. i stank so bad my dad made me ride in the bed of his truck when he picked me up at the end of the day! LOL! all my clothes were throroughly saturated with fishy smoke.
as miserable as the job was, it did have its benefits. i got to taste all sorts of wonderful expertly smoked fish. everything from sturgeon (probably the best) to swordfish and all the salmon you could possibly imagine. one of my grandfather's specialties was lox.
after that summer, i never expected i would be doing any smoking myself. living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there were always places to get good ribs. (a lot of the good old places are gone now, but in Berkeley, where i'm from, you can still get good ribs at Everett & Jones. i'm not sure if Flint's, over there on Shattuck is still in business, but that was another great Berkeley smokehouse, as is Doug's, over in Emeryville)
but when i moved down here to southern california (santa barbara area), it was impossible to find any ribs. there are some pretty good ribs up the coast in San Luis Obispo, but i only get to that place on the rare trip to nothern cali...too far to drive just for a meal.
so when my brother got a smoker and started telling me how easy it was, i figured i should give it a try.
it took about a year to talk my wife into letting me buy a smoker. finally she gave in. i bought my smoker in the fall of 2008. a charbroil silver smoker.
and it sat, unopened, in the box for almost a year. (yeah, that's the way i roll. i'm a big time procrastinator! LOL!)
well, eventually i opened that sucker up and started putting it together. then it sat half-assembled for about 2 months until my father-in-law helped me finish it.
last August, i finally bought some wood and some ribs and set about to get smoking.
i found this forum right in the middle of my first smoke. good thing, because almost nothing went right that first time. i couldn't control the fire. i decided that i had to get the fire issue straightened out before i spent $$$ on more meat.
for weeks and weeks i did test fires and was getting really frustrated because i couldn't control the temperature. when i put the smoker in the garage for the winter, i was skeptical i would ever get the hang of it.
then, at the beginning of this summer, my brother (who still lives in northern cali, and has the same smoker) invited me to his house for a Q.
after checking out his smoker i had a hunch what the problem was. the door to the smoking chamber on my smoker is defective. the air leak was making it impossible for me to control the temp. i put some big chunks of wood on top of the smoker door and it solved the problem.
that was a like a week or so ago. now i'm trying to make up for lost time! LOL!