Having spent 18 months manoeuvring to get on this fermentation workshop run by Kevan Palmer at the Coldsmoking HQ I managed to get myself on this food smoking day run by proprietor Turan T. Turan in a matter of weeks.
Now I always thought that cold smoking needed a smoke source, pipe and smoking cabinet but the after the fermentation workshop had finished Turan told me that due to an ingenious smoke generator it is possible to use one enclosed 'container' such as this one available from their shop...More than just a cardboard box.
This piqued my interest and I knew I could make the next smoking day without checking...And blow me down if I didn't get the last spot in March! I came away from the fermentation workshop with copious notes and looking at the smoking day content I expected more of the same.
Everyone started to arrive very quickly after me and we started promptly with a quick introduction both of the course, each other and summary of the course.
And so the food part. We were shown a previously vacuumed brined chicken (equalisation brining actually) and indeed a previously prepped shoulder of pork (the preparation of both was necessary to fit the finished results into the day) and both smokers that we would be using of the day. The smaller one in the above right hand picture is a commercially produced cardboard ProQ smoker...
And this larger one was a homemade one which even had a window so we could all see the action.
This 'slow fuse' cold smoke generator is the game changer for me as it only burns a little dust at any one time, a bit like a gunpowder fuse trail in a cartoon.
A short while later there was some attendee food preparation to do. This cheese board had Edam, Camembert, Blue Stilton, Goat, Feta (with the brine towelled off) and two Cheddars.
I was getting a brew at the rear when the gloves came round and missed a pair but it gave me the chance to get some shots. we also had bell peppers, sun dried tomato, olives, chick peas, eggs and regular peppers trayed up too. Oil doesn't hinder smoke and Turan suggested saving any that products come in to put the smoked versions back into if desired.
I was particularly interested in the smoked salmon part of the day as the smoking process seems like alchemy, turning a rather plain fish into something special. Turan runs a full salmon day but still took us through the basics. It develops a pellicle (protein membrane) once seasoned which helps the smoke adhere. The lady in the background is his wife Alison who did a sterling job supporting the day.
It was then time to go outside to load all the goodies into their various receptacles. The smoke generators can be lit with a tea light placed in a small receptacle but it's more fun to use a gas burner.
The larger generator went in with the cheese, salmon, regular peppers and eggs and despite it's size it was noticeable just how understated the smoke was, it was similar to an incense stick.
The smaller ProQ smoker was then set up for loading the olives, bell peppers, more egss and cheese into. It is a simple yet ingenious design and I wouldn't have thought for one moment pre-course that cold smoking was possible in one small container.
The two smoke generators were half loaded with Oak and Cherry to 90% with a 10% topping of Beech which, with it's fairly neutral smoke, helps to smooth out the stronger base dust. The smaller one had the Cherry/ Beech mix in.
The larger one had the flaps taped down to retain the smoke but also the wind was blowing a hoolie on the day (apparently the windiest it's been on this particular workshop). Once set up a temperature probe was inserted as the internal temperature must not exceed 30 degrees...No chance on a March day and it never even reached the mid-teens.
With the cold smoking under way Turan turned to the hot smoker. This one broke down into sections and the next stage was to light some quality charcoal and lob it in the base, along with a couple or so long lasting Weber briquettes which are superior quality to run of the mill ones. we learnt that they are usually made of compressed coal dust .
On went the first section in which there is a bowl like water reservoir which helps to control the internal heat.
The pre-cooked pork had been covered in greaseproof to make sure that the double layered tin foil doesn't stick.
This was then loaded onto the first grill and the second layer was then duly added.
Finally the drained pre-cooked chicken was lined up to go in.
The domed lid was placed on and some sturdy looking blocks of Oak were then added to smoke away slowly but surely.
Finally a temperature probe was added to check the internal and the internal food temperature...
...A probe that could be viewed via a handset from indoors.
We had a session smelling different wood smokes and analysing their properties. Everything from Whisky Oak to Manuka. A very useful exercise which was made more than a little bit challenging by the windy conditions. See Turan talking British Bake-off winner Nadiya through the various aromas here.
With the less than pleasant weather conditions coming back inside was always nice but this time there was the smell of dinner (not lunch, dinner) which for me was pea and pancetta and buttered baguette, one of two soups to chose from in the morning and expertly made by Alison.
After a rather cordial break we were done with dinner and re-started by seeing how to smoke oven roasted and seasoned nuts. They had the briefest of smokes in an impromptu indoor smoker with a vegetable steamer used to keep them in one place.
The nuts were passed around and being attacked as the homemade indoor hot smoker was set going again with two trout. The camera linked to the overhead screen was handy for not only seeing what was going on but for getting shots of stuff too. Interestingly trout isn't brined but other fish like Salmon and Mackeral are.
We left the trout inside hot smoking and then had an outside demonstration of how unpredictable wood shavings (as opposed to wood dust) are for food use and how arresting flames (using a plant pot in this instance) makes the shavings more useable and helps send smoke and not heat up the pipe. we also briefly covered the use of wood chips which need more of an airflow.
We piled back in as the fish were a few minutes from being done. Again the TV screen was useful to see them clearly. Turan removed the meat using two forks and like the nuts the fish got passed around for the eager attendees to try. My late grandfather was a Trout magnet when he went fly fishing and as a result I'm not over keen on it but smoking them is a game changer in terms of subtle flavour enhancement.
Just before heading back out to see how the goodies outside where doing we were talked through some technical smoke data and properties. Everything in moderation I guess.
The nuts and the fish (and indeed soup) that we had earlier were the start of the cornucopia of smoked delights coming our way. To the hot smoker we went. just look at the difference in colour of the chicken.
The smoked chicken just slid off the carcass, hence the lack of any knives and forks in the above picture.
And as we devoured the chicken Turan prepped, well pulled the pork apart and we had it with a homemade barbecue sauce and pimped up shop brought apple sauce.
The cold smokers were next on the list. The cool conditions meant that the internal temperature hardly changed the whole time it was being used. note that they have moved from the table to the floor, this was because of, almost predictably, the wind threatening to remove both from their higher position.
The trays the food was on started to be passed out to waiting hands like some magic trick as it just seemed to keep coming.
The smoked food was placed on the table and then attention turned to the smoked salmon which Turan was about to prepare.
The technique employed is called de-slicing which starts at the tail end and the slice is angled backwards as shown with a slight change of angle at the end of the cut to avoid the stronger brown meat.
A little of all of the foods were placed on an attractive Olive wood tray for an arty picture.
And here is the tray being held by the individual who had steered a successful day despite the horrendous wind doing it's best to disrupt proceedings.
In case you wondered the smoked Salmon was fantastic with a subtle smoky flavour. We all got given a plastic sealable box to take a selection home if we wanted with the brief of 'Please don't leave any' ringing in our ears. It was a delight displaying the contents of my container on a plate and talking my family through it as we tried the food.
There was a small segment for folk to make any purchases (a cardboard smoker, the smaller sized smoke generator and some wood chips for me) and we all got given a classy looking folder with everything from smoking instructions to how to build a smoker contained inside. we are also going to be emailed a list of further information too.
The promised further information email duly arrived and this is some, but not all, of the printable information available through the link. Coupled to this Turan has a discount with another company on offer to attendees.
Like the fermentation workshop I'd advise taking notes because there's always going to be little snippets that aren't in the folder, like how to smoke things like butter and water (yes really).