When man first realised the benefits of smoking, an entirely new sect of food preservation and flavouring suddenly hit the gastronomic world, little did primitive man know just how important the discovery was…he was probably still excited over the invention of the wheel.
None the less, early man was clearly partial to a smoky flavour; otherwise the discipline wouldn’t have survived (although the use of smoke in preserving was way more important). How could bacon ever be as good without a little smoke blown up its backside? The Scottish economy would suffer without it’s most famous export- both of the above are products of cold smoking, but what of hot smoking? A small hot smoker may cook a couple of trout to perfection in 10-15 minutes but it isn’t a tool for preservation. This useful bit of kit is great for cooking meat and fish to scoff immediately, but what else can you do with it?
Having picked up some Danish smoked salt at Whole foods a couple of months back, I was consistently overwhelmed by the seductive whiff whenever I opened the lid to the jar. I assumed it was a product of cold smoking, it probably is…but just to make sure I decided to get a pack of Maldon flaked salt and see if hot smoking could achieve the same results.
I decided to throw in a few bulbs of garlic (another product of cold smoking) and some black peppercorns to see how well they stood up to the hot smoker. I didn’t expect groundbreaking results, I was simply curious to see the effects of hot smoking on something other than a flaccid trout.
Once the sawdust was strewn across the base, I placed a few bay leaves in to add a touch of aromatics. Unfortunately I had run out of meths, so I used the next best thing: barbecue lighter gel, which doesn’t burn the same and smells like burning plastic…hopefully the neighbours wouldn’t think the house was on fire.
After 10 minutes of furious smokery, the gel had burnt off and I took a peek to see what devastation the hot smoking had caused. Despite the garlic being coated with droplets of what I could only describe as liquid tar (?), the bulbs had a sweet, smoky smell to them- they could be very useful in the future, I did try one and despite the aroma, the garlic had lost none of its raw power!
As for the peppercorns…there really isn’t much to say.
The salt was a different story all together, a complete success! Maldon do make smoked salt, which I have purchased once before, mine was no different. My homemade smoked salt had it’s first outing seasoning a bowl of freshly cooked prawns, it was almost as if the prawns themselves had had the treatment.
So, as experiments go, partial success! I think the smoker will be a valuable addition to life in the woods- there will most certainly be plenty of fish in need of a good smoke. Perhaps its time to build a cold smoker and start playing around- any tips on building a homemade version would be greatly appreciated…