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Using Pine, Spruce or Fir

Discussion in 'Woods for Smoking' started by ak1, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I'm curious. Normally one does not want to use any of the above woods to smoke with. But lately I've been reading through a german cookbook, and it claims that Black Forest ham is smoked using spruce, and the bacon is smoked with pine. Also, I've read that in parts of Germany, Bratwurst is smoked over pine cones!?

    What gives? Is our concept of usable smoking woods wrong?
  2. SFLsmkr1

    SFLsmkr1 Legendary Pitmaster Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member ★ Lifetime Premier ★

    I have read that to. Maybe its because the local woods used are more plentiful? I know growing up in the hills of S, Calif, Pine, Fur and sap laden trees and bushes but off a major amount of creosote and sap smoke when burnt.

    I stick to hardwoods.
  3. I was tought how to make schinken by a German friend of mine who had his own deli he came from the Black Forest area and what we used for cold smoking was a combination (2 to 1) of soft woods and hard woods (sawdust/course)

  4. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    In a word, no. What you are looking at is a tradition of smoking heavily cured meats with small amounts of pine and/or fir, not cooking raw meat over a live fire.
  5. venture

    venture Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    Let us know?

    I won't go there!

    Good luck and good smoking.
  6. pineywoods

    pineywoods SMF Hall of Fame Pitmaster Staff Member Administrator Group Lead OTBS Member OTBS Admin SMF Premier Member

    I've burnt enough pine to know that I'd never use it to cook anything I intend to eat. We burn it outside in a fire pit sometimes and  when we have trees cut I have a lot of pine debris to clean up and burn and between the sap and pitch black smoke there's no way I'd stick it in a smoker
  7. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Different pine here same issue too much oil,got a turpentine smell. We have pine forrests of imported pine same deal ,in a word NO. Pine cones great fire starters but thats about it.
  8. pops6927

    pops6927 Smoking Guru Staff Member Moderator Group Lead OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    Dad would bring back pine cones from camp and make decorations for the store from them, spray paint them white and red and green, etc and make table centerpieces to sell; his brother was a woodworker and would get some from him and make colorful houses and scenes and sell them at the store also.

    For some odd reason Dad got it in his head he'd smoke a partial batch of hams with corn cobs and pine cones for Christmas time, thinking it would add a "festive aroma" to them.  It added pitch and soot instead; we ended up having to trim 8 hams up, taking almost ½ inch off all the surfaces and bone them out for ham loaves... luckily he never did that again and stuck to arts and crafts for pine cones, and not trying to smoke with them, lol!
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
  9. ak1

    ak1 Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    Interesting replies by all. Thank you.

    I'm wondering, is the different types of pine an issue? Perhaps a "northern" species would be more suitable.

    As I look at the responses, I see Pops from Texas, Moikel from Australia, Pineywoods from Florida and Venture from California. All places that are much warmer than Germany is. And much warmer than where I'm from in Canada. I wonder if even the same species of wood from a different climate would behave differently.
  10. cliffcarter

    cliffcarter Master of the Pit Group Lead OTBS Member

    And I live at approximately the same N latitude as the Black Forest and there is no way I would use eastern white pine or any of the other conifers that grow in Maine as cooking or smoking wood.
  11. Germans also like throwing caraway seeds into everything, plus they also used juniper berries for smoking too,  I have read that using pine will impart a more bitter taste to your sausage.

    If your interested, try it on a small batch, it would be a good thing to document with pics and such so others could learn from your experience!

    good luck with what ever you decide

  12. Caraway seeds was not a big thing at the smokehouse where I worked for five years, juniper berries as well as garlic and onion peelings was quite often added to the sawdust pile. I have never noticed any bitter taste/flavour to the end product nor has there been any report back from my clients

    I will make enquirers to what the composition of the softwoods (sawdust) next week as I just ordered 50 bags as needed when I worked there, the hardwood blend was birch, maple and beach

    This is Chorizo and English bacon that came out of the smokehouse on Friday using the 2 to 1 combination of sawdust

  13. moikel

    moikel Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I am sort of at a disadvantage because I  live on a big island in the South Pacific its hard to compare somethings from down here. Our native pines have a whole bunch of uses some aren t true pines just got called that by British settlers .But nobody I  know would use what we call pine on a BBQ except as starter . What we call cyprus pine is yellow & knoty ,termite resistant used as floor boards, 2x4 ,we used to cut it as corner posts on the farm for fences. But never for the BBQ to cook your lunch,it was always gum.

    We know have European  pine plantations & that great by product the pine mushroom ,lactobacillus delizisoa but nobody   smokes with the pine.
  14. I think there might be a difference in the effect of using it for cold smoking, and for hot smoking. I havent had a problem with using fir sawdust while cold-smoking (making Black Forest ham) even while smoking for several days straight...but when hot smoking with pine and fir I get the nasty taste. I'm not sure the reason why this is, but from my experience, this is the case.

    I plan on doing a couple of black forest hams this winter. I have a friend who is a huge hunter, and (get this)...he is a VEGETARIAN! I don't understand why he would kill an animal and not eat it...but it leaves me plenty of venison and wild boar. I plan on using the boars that he gets this year to make some real German hams. I will post lots or pictures when this all goes down!
  15. This is very interesting to me, Here in WY almost all the few trees we have are pines.  A lot of lodgepole pine.  I know the native americans used it and sage to smoke their buffalo and other game.  They also smoked the hides to make them pliable with it.  When I burn it in the fireplace i have not noticed a lot of creosote build up, and not much black smoke from outdoor fires.  I have some, and may try a little bit for an expirement soon.  Thanks, Steve
  16. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    I grew up in Eastern NC where pines are plentiful. In fact that are several different sub-species of pines. Every one of them that I ever encountered contains a great deal of gum as Moikel said. In fact, in the colonial period of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, NC produced a very large amount of 'naval stores' which was pine tar and turpentine used by the British military and merchant fleets. It was produced by burning large amounts of pine and smothering the fire at some point to deprive it of oxygen and control heat to keep the desired product from burning away.

    I used pine sometimes in fireplaces and certainly used a lot of it in outdoor fires. One thing I learned when using it for firewood was to debark it and let it dry for at least two seasons in a well ventilated stack. This took a great deal of the gum and creosote away from the wood. (I learned that from a forestry professor at NC State). Knowing how meticulous Germans are known to be (at least in my experience), it would not surprise me to find that the pine and fir they use for smoking has been in some way conditioned before it is ever allowed in the presence of meat.

  17. Before I

    got into smoking meats, I did a quite a bi9t of cooking / Grilling over an open campfire. I had cooked a small beef roast over the fire and it came out great. The next time I tried to do a rotisserie whole chicken, Not knowing anybetter, I used wood from my campfire wood supply.The chicken came out so sooty and nasty that it wasn't fit to eat. At that time i didn't know why it was so nasty. Now I do know. I had used spruce and douglas fir wood in my fire and all that dang creasote and pitch is what made my chicken nasty. I have a lot of Alder growing on my property, and since I have been reading all the good tips and advice on SMF, I only use the green Alder to cook with and now my chicken, roast and even grilled hamburgers taste so much better.Now i have 2 wood piles, 1 for alser and cooking and 1 for plain campfires Rich
  18. ari7

    ari7 Newbie


    I am from Perlacher Forst (no "e") district of München (you know as Munich,) Germany.  This is the capital of Bayern, the most southeastern state near the Czech Republic and Austria.  I spent a lot of time as a child in Schwarzwald (known to you as the Black Forest).  We went there picking wild blueberries and mushrooms.  The high-bush blueberry was introduced to Schwarzwald from the Americas in the 1930s.  Schwarzwald is in the south in the other southern state of Germany, Baden-Württemberberg.  It neighbors Die Schweiz (Switzerland) and France. 

    Germany has 60 percent coniferous (evergreen) and 40 percent deciduous forests (trees which part their leafs in autumn).  The coniferous trees found in southern Germany are mostly Spruce.  Spruce constitutes 28 percent of the total forest in Germany, followed by Pine 23 percent, Beech trees 15 percent, and Oak trees 10 percent, with 24 percent being a mix of others like Fir, Willow, Popular, and old Redwoods.  The trees in the northern part of Germany are mostly small Pine.  The cooking styles, foods, and even types of clothing are very different in each region. 

    People think of Dirndl dresses and lederhosen as being typically Germany.  They are not, this is specifically Bayerisher (what you call Bavarian) where I am from.  Next door in Baden-Württemberg the traditional dress is very different. (See attached photograph)  Both in Bayern and Baden-Württemberg it is very common to use Spruce cones to cook meat, however, it is only with Spruce cones, not pine, fir, etc.  If one uses wet cones, they will produce a lot of carbon smoke and water vapor.  The water vapor makes the carbon clings to food.  Thus, cones are gather months in advance and stored in large burlap bags, then dried before using. Cones are stacked high and lit until the are white.  Then they are spread evenly to fill the bottom of the cooking pit.  Generally, a lot of cones are used, compared to the amount of charcoal in the USA and Canada.  Cones are not added by wise people, while food is cooking.  The hot bed is prepared, then cooking is done on cones, now turned to coals, which simmer down and slowly burn out.  The smoking part occurs before the cones turn white, so there is an art to doing this.  There is some benzopyrene produced, but most of it is volatile and emitted in the initial phase before the coals are ready for cooking.  Cooking is mostly done in an open metal container, on Welded Steel Bar Grate, which has ventilation.  Unlike Pine, Spruce imparts very little flavor to the process.  Additionally, meat is only cooked until it is done.  In Northern America it seems to be common to cook foods on very higher temperatures until there is black showing on some, or at some barbecues I attended, all over the meat.  Meat cooked in Germany on Spruce coals is at a much lower temperature and the meat is not served if it is blackened.  The black part contains the majority of proteins, which under high-heat convert these chemicals to those containing carcinogens.  So, from this perspective, it is healthier to cook on Spruce cones, though Germans also eat far too much red meat.

    The other comment I saw concerned Juniper berries.  They are eaten, but not too often and mostly only from Juniperus Communis.  There are many types of Juniper trees, all which have berries, but some like Juniperus Sabina are toxic.  Thus, one should be careful about eating Juniper berries. 

    It is common in Bayern, Bohemia, and Moravia to eat cumin on potatoes which resemble Caraway, and Caraway on breads and Sourkraut. The seed spices Cumin, Dill, Anise, Fennel, and Caraway are all closely related members of the Parsley family (Apiaceae), and are widely used in Central and Eastern Europe cuisines along with some spices mostly unknown in the Americas like Fenugreek and Bärlauch, witch I believe is called Buckrams in American English.  It makes an incredible soup, but only in April or early May to serve with those BBQ brats and cool, not cold Hefeweizen.

    BhoMT likes this.
  19. BhoMT

    BhoMT Newbie