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My Cold smoking journey.

Discussion in 'UK Smokers' started by baz senior, Jan 3, 2016.

  1. Myself and a near neighbour sort of started smoking some years ago, but never got any acceptable results to speak of. It all began when my mate got hols of a big fresh water Eel, and decided to have a go at smoking it. He built a tepee with wooden poles and a biscuit tin underneath on a small fire. This tasted awesome, I cannot abide jellied Eel, in fact some seagulls I threw it to just looked at me in disgust and refused it. But this was just delicious.

    Since then we went down building the filing cabinet version, firstly with the little square smoke generator, then building more elaborate air pump powered ones. These didn't work, the smoke flow through them was almost none existent, and what food came out of it was wholly inedible. The problem was that the smoke condensed and turned to creosote, all over the food and just dripped out of the cabinet. This was scrapped and the filing cabinet system totally binned.
    After this I carried on on my own mostly. I have spent countless hours on the net, bought various books and finally last year had another go based on my own ideas.

    I modified a large wooden box I had made some years previous, and lined it out with new plywood, as the interior had been varnished, I didn't want that contaminating anything. It didn't take too much doing, and was soon ready.

    Then we come to the sticky subject of smoke generation. I have dismantled and binned the old stuff, so I decided to go down a different route. I made my own version of the AMPS. ( I have no intention of breaching copyright here, I have made it solely for my own use.) I did this as I couldn't afford one and I can squirrel way bits that might come in handy. Some perforated stainless mesh and I made into my own version of an AMPS. It was made purely on visual and with what material I had. I have to admit, I was really impressed with it, it ran for twenty five hours on one load of oak sawdust.

    So what do we do first. I have always wanted to make my own smoked salmon. I have read many recipes for this, but the one that kept making the most sense and had the most recommended posts was Bob Ballantyne's on this forum.

    So off to Costco and thirty quid of salmon later there I am ready to commit. I followed the recipe to the letter and the result is way better than anything I have produced before, in fact I'll go so far to say it's the first truly edible result. It is a bit too salty for me, but that is something I'll have to have a look at. I have used the #1 cure, this is to help with the cure and prevent any contamination affecting the product. It recommends 48 hours in the cure stage, I don't know if shortening this will have implications with the #1 cure, as this takes time to break down to harmless salts. I might increase the desalination time, but this could also remove the salt content from the fish and then leave it exposed to contamination.

    That said I am really pleased with the way the cold smoker has performed and I have also smoked Garlic and cheese in it with outstanding results. (Outstanding for me at any rate.)

    I am really hooked on this now and will continue to evolve my technique and recipes. Here's some pictures for your comment, I welcome anything good or bad.

    Here's wishing you all a Happy New Year.


    The first smoke generator

    The second one built onto the filing cabinet.

    First attempt with the wooden box smoker.

  2. Here's some more of what has been going on.

    My Cold smoker box, and the UDS on Christmas Day. The UDS was on the go with a Rib of Beef and a Gammon I picked up for a bargain from local supermarket.

    Rib of Beef


    Sliced Salmon

    Vac packed Salmon

    Wooky Hole Cheddar 28.12.15

    More Cheapo Extra Mature Cheddar and Clive's Salmon.
  3. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Nice looking units you have there.  I can see you may be producing some of your own problems.  You have some nice smoke generators that obviously put out different types of smoke. Now all you have to do is to learn how to best use each one for each individual product. Many attempt to use the same smoke delivery system regardless if they are hot or cold smoking. There is quite a difference between the two and once realized the better product you will be producing.

    Cold smoking will introduce a whole new world of smoked products to you. Were most run into trouble is getting an acrid or bitter taste on there product. This is normally attributed to smoke being directly applied within the product chamber. This type of application will work in walk in type smoke houses but, not many have them anymore. To eliminate this we want to clean the smoke before it enters the product chamber. This can easily be done utilizing an external fire box and piping the smoke to your product. The creosote is greatly reduced by adhering to the walls of the firebox and pipe going to the product chamber.

    We can help with this if you are interested.

  4. Thanks for your reply Mr T. I have read your threads recently about having a remote firebox and this would certainly make sense. At the moment the weather is all over the place, we have had almost constant rain for a month, but the temps have been around an average of 50F. That brings with it the humidity being on the high side.
    That said the cheese turned out so good, I went out and got another four packs. They are now in the fridge drying out and I'll have a look at them tomorrow.

    I am back to work tomorrow, so the smoker will have to go away for a bit.

    I'll have to think of a way to connect a remote firebox to the main smoker, the thing is that I don't want it at height. Always something eh.
  5. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Place your firebox below your product chamber so the smoke can travel upwards. Also while you are thinking about it, the longer the run, the cleaner and cooler your smoke will be.

    Keep me up to date. May have to ring my bell by PM.

  6. smokin monkey

    smokin monkey Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

  7. Thanks Smokin Monkey, It's been a while. I wanted to put some rub on the Beef without over powering it's superb flavour. So I came up with this.

    2 tsp of mustard powder
    2 tsp of garlic granules or powder
    1 tsp of Rosemary
    1 tsp of Thyme
    1 tsp demerara sugar
    1/2 tsp of All spice
    1/2tsp of fresh ground black pepper.

    Now Mrs Baz hates mustard with a passion, but she didn't pick up on this, it cooks out the heat but leaves the savory flavour there.

    I am nearly there with the salmon, I have the right cure, firmness and texture, but it's a tad salty for my palate. I don't like salt, I prefer pepper, where the wife is the other way, she hates pepper and loves salt.

    Thanks again Mr T. Thumbs Up
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
  8. wade

    wade Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Hi Baz

    The smoking cabinets looks great. It is good to see that they are being put to good use too. If the cheese was smoked on Christmas Day I hope you have not been tempted to eat it yet [​IMG]

    The salmon looks good and I have some general suggestions and can maybe help with the saltiness.

    You mentioned that you followed the instructions to the letter. I am sure that this method works well for bbally but in my view is unnecessarily complicated and some of the steps are actually going against what you are trying to achieve as an end result. After reading through it, here are a few tweaks that you could try.

    Firstly you do not need the curing salt. When making traditional smoked cold smoked salmon you are already using two other methods of bacteria control - increasing the levels of salt and removing moisture. Cold smoked salmon is treated as a "fresh" product and should be kept refrigerated and eaten within 10 days if it isn't frozen. It therefore does not require the nitrite for botulinum control. In this instance the use of Nitrite as well is not necessary - though it will not do any harm if you do. 

    The standing in such concentrated iced brine will certainly help to make it more salty than it needs to be. You could simply leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours to chill. This will add no additional salt and will also not result in the salmon taking on any additional water - after all one of the main things that you are trying to achieve here is to reduce the moisture content of the fish by 15-18%. I know that he adds a desalination step later on but it is better to only add the required amount of salt to begin with rather than then to try to remove the excess at the end.

    It is difficult to tell from the photo but did you use Kosher salt - or another coarse grain salt? Any coarse grain salt is fine - I use coarse grain sea salt. If you use a fine grain salt (like table salt) then the end product will be saltier.

    The saltiness is also being increased by allowing the salmon to cure whilst laying on a bed of salt. This is fine if you are only curing for ~3 hours but not for 48 hours. With this step we are trying to remove a significant amount of moisture from the fish and so it is better if it can drain away. Dredge the fish in the salt/sugar mix as instructed but then lay it on a wire rack while it cures. This process only really needs to be for 24 hours. You will find that by doing this much less salt will be absorbed.

    If you salt for less than the 48 hours then you will need to smoke for longer in order to remove the required amount of moisture. He salts for 48 hours and then smokes for 4 hours. I salt for 24 hours and then smoke for 24 hours. With my method you will have a less salty end product but it will probably be smokier.

    I use two wire racks for my cure - but a single wire rack over a roasting pan would be fine.

    As the water is removed the resulting brine will stays below the salmon and will not in contact with it.

    After curing 8 sides of salmon 1.6 litres of brine was produced.

    Orange and lemon zest is good but you could also try adding fresh chopped dill or tarragon instead.

    Some people press their salmon and others don't. I don't.

    If you control the salt going in you do not need the desalination step. After going to all of the trouble of removing water with the salt and sugar you do not want to add any back by then bathing it in more water.

    When you next try the salmon please let us know how you get on. [​IMG]

    I hope this helps

    Last edited: Jan 3, 2016
    baz senior likes this.
  9. Hi Baz.  You have been holding out on us.  You have building skills buddy.  Nice looking smokers.  Food looks GREAT!

    baz senior likes this.
  10. Thanks guys.
    Thank you for the detailed reply Wade, I really appreciate it, you make some good points that I will try next time. I have found that all salt is not created equal, using the concentrations required to make a certain percentage of solution can only be guaranteed by using a salinometer. I used PDV salt which is as fine as table salt, but doesn't have the added stuff such as anti caking agents,
    It makes sense that finer grains expose a greater surface area, and would add more quickly to excessive saltiness.
    It's all a bit of a steep learning curve, but this is the first time I have produced something even close to edible, in fact although I don't like the salty side to it, I have had people who have said they like it.

    I have just received a Christmas present which I will read cover to cover and back again.


    It looks a bit dated, but it also appears to be one of the go to books on the subject.

    I am looking froward to turning out a belting smoked salmon, I might have a go at meat products in the future, but one step at a time eh.

    We have a Nisbet's in Nottingham now, so I went and got a 12" slicing knife, that makes a real difference to the way to the finished article looks, it doesn't look like Freddy Kruger did it.
    Last edited: Jan 4, 2016
  11. wade

    wade Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That is an interesting looking book. I may have to get myself a copy, thanks [​IMG]

    Yes, having the right knife certainly helps. The rounded tip works well for me.

  12. Well, it certainly has everything you ever needed to know about salmon. I started to read it last night after a cursory whizz through. This guy certainly put his money where his mouth was, there's not a lot he didn't do. I think I will leave the canning side of it alone, I like the kitchen where it is.
  13. wade

    wade Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Don't be afraid of canning. I bought a pressure canner from the US a couple of years ago and it works very well - though to be honest it has been used more for cooking Christmas Puddings.
  14. Well into the book now, I can thoroughly recommend it, loads of info, history and how to.

    I think I'll take my time and try and really get a good salmon product first. I have to admit, having seen the home cured bacon thread and that looks amazing. Bacon....................hmmmm.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2016
  15. wade

    wade Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Yes it is a good read [​IMG]
  16. These are the two bits of salmon that were in the last pic of mine with the cheese. This was done differently from the first batch, which was fairly salty. I did it before seeing Wades post as well. What I did this time was I brined it for 60 mins instead of an hour, cured it the same as last time, but without the #1 powder in the mix and left it for 36 hours instead of the 48 hours as done last time. The main difference this time was it was desalinated until it didn't taste salty.
    Now, having seen how Wade has done it, I now realise I have put salt in and then taken salt out, pretty much wasting time and effort. I still smoked it for 8 hours over a mix of fruit wood and oak.
    This time it tastes spot on, the colour seems nice and uniform throughout and it's a little oily which I assume is where the flavour is. It's getting better.
    The fish was one of the whole ones, which my mate Clive got for £6 from Sainsbury's, so it worked out at £3 a side.
    Having recorded all this, I hope that I can in the future just follow a procedure and get consistently good product. It's getting there. :biggrin:

  17. mr t 59874

    mr t 59874 Master of the Pit SMF Premier Member

    Just a note. Wade has already discovered that when canning salmon the smoke flavor is intensified. Experience will have you back off a bit on the amount of smoke you apply.

  18. I have had some good advice on here and I am one to take it as well. So, today I have mainly been digging out an old glasswasher cabinet that yonks ago was a fire box for a hot smoker. This didn't work,as the sawdust kept bursting into flames and could not be left even for a minute. This got binned after a very short time.
    Having seen Wades set up I thought that this would be an ideal candidate for some modification. It as buried in brambles down the bottom of Clive's garden, (yeah, big garden), so some fighting in the shrubbery and I got it out. Time has not been kind to it, It took a while to shift out the now resident wild life.
    This was taken back round mine, stripped down and pressure washed. There was a whopping hole in the back which had been the previous connection to the old cook chamber. This now has a bit of stainless plate to cover it and make it airtight again. The base has holes in it as well, so an old parking sign has been cut to cover this. This turned out to be a royal pain, it was covered in a plastic covering which had to be removed with an angle grinder. ( The neighbours were so pleased about this :icon_rolleyes:)
    So I now have a box with a door on and the stainless pipe to connect to the main smoke chamber.

    I blame Wade! :biggrin:

    Here's where I am at.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
  19. Today I have been freezing delicate bits off to get things moved on a bit. I think it's as near finished as it can be, it just needs testing now. Unfortunately it looks like we are getting snow tonight.
    So here's where I have got to. The box that holds the smoke generator is now finished and should condense the unwanted components out of the smoke before it gets to the area where the food is placed.
    It is connected with a commercial grade drain pipe, which is capable of taking 250 degrees C, so should cope well with a bit of smoke. The smoke generator has been lifted clear of the floor of the box by 4" to allow good airflow round it.
    The smoke enters via the stainless pipe which has holes drilled in it, these will be facing downwards in operation, hopefully any other condensate will drip out and into a waiting tray.
    When not in use, it all packs away into the main wooden box.

    Thanks for all the help and advice guys, it's very much appreciated.

    wade likes this.
  20. wade

    wade Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    That is looking as if it will do the job nicely. I cannot wait to see it in action. [​IMG]