Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Tutorial: how to smoke: tea, hot, cold

On Sunday we learnt to smoke in three different ways, taught by @Zia_Mays, Secret Garden Club tutor. A photo tutorial follows:
Tea Smoking:
This is possibly the easiest method for first timers, using the least specialist equipment.
Use equal parts loose leaf tea, sugar, rice. Approximately 75g of each will tea smoke 4 trout fillets and some tomatoes.
An old saucepan with tightly fitting steamer basket and lid.
Or you can buy a special smoker pan.
Make your tea mix
Put the tea/rice/sugar mixture in some tin foil (folded over a few times) in the bottom of your saucepan.
Place the food (here we have trout and tomatoes) onto the steamer basket. Put on the lid. I marinated the trout in a whisky/sugar/salt solution for an hour inspired by the recipe in Annabel Langbein's book The Free Range Cook.
After 10 to 15 minutes your food will be delicately tea smoked. Slightly roast the tomatoes for five minutes prior to tea smoking. I flaked the tea smoked trout into a salad of watercress and avocado with a lemon and olive oil dressing. Delicious!
Hot Smoking:
This is a little more complicated equipment wise but still very portable, quick and easy.
Hot smoker (cheap and fairly cheap)
Methylated spirits
Clean wood chips (no chainsaw oil) or sawdust

We hot smoked tofu, lemons, corn on the cob, peppers, garlic, pumpkin slices and apples.
Soak your woodchips in water for fifteen minutes.

On this model of smoker, place the woodchips on the bottom layer.
Cover with metal disks
Put the methylated spirits into the two wells designated for this purpose. This section of the hot smoker will be placed over the bottom layer with the wood chips.
Light the meths!
Place the grill over the top and grab your marinated food.
Place the food on the grill. You can see it has started to smoke.
Replace the lid. Wait for about half an hour.
You can see here, half an hour later, that the food has that characteristic smokey look and flavour. 
Smoked pumpkin slices and chilli peppers from @Zia_Mays garden.
Marinate the tofu in a mix of olive and sesame oil, soy sauce and maple syrup for one hour. This makes some of the most beautiful tender tofu you will ever have tasted.
I also smoked apples, cored and filled with Drambuie and brown sugar(or whatever grain alcohol you have to hand). I smoked lemons too to make a smoked cocktail of lemonade and vodka.

Recipe for smoked vodka and lemonade:
Smoke half a dozen lemons cut in half.
Squeeze into a jug via a sieve, pushing through all the pulp and liquid possible.
Add sugar and fizzy water to taste.
Add ice and vodka to taste.

Cold Smoking:
Now this is the holy grail of smoking, in which you can smoke your own salmon. This needs patience and a small amount of equipment. Now for a quick home version use what @Zia_Mays developed, described below. It worked very well, but it's for a one off. For beginners, food writer Tim Hayward recommends this baby placed in a metal filing cabinet. If you really get into it, buy one of these mothers.
Wood chips (we had hickory)
A cheap soldering iron which hasn't been used. It must not have any solder on it.
Some easy open tin cans.
A barbecue with a lid.
Cured salmon side with skin on.
Block of cheddar
Garlic bulbs

First of all cure the salmon by mixing half and half sugar and salt (gros sel) with aromatics such as fennel seeds, juniper berries, dill, whatever you feel like. I also sprinkled vodka over the salmon as well as pickled cherries. Pile this mix along the length of the salmon side both underneath and on top. Weigh it down and after 12 hours, drain off the liquid, scraping the sugar/salt mix to one side. Turn over the fish and cover once more, underneath and on top with the curing mixture. Weigh it down again. After another 12 hours your fish is cured. You will be able to feel that it's stiff.
Fill your tin cans with wood chips. Each can lasts about 1.5 hours. You need 12 hours at least to smoke a salmon side. 
We made a hole in the top of the can to wedge the soldering iron through. The soldering iron will have a gentle heat which will cause the wood chips to smoulder slowly.
Place the soldering iron in the tin can at the bottom of your barbecue.
Place the salmon, garlic and cheese on tin foil on top of the barbecue grill. We've also place a temperature gage in there to make sure that the temperature never goes above 100ºF. This is why it's called cold smoking, you want enough heat to smoke it but not raise the temperature so that the food actually cooks.
You can see it is smoking well here. The hickory chips impart an amazing taste to the salmon. A side of salmon needs to be smoked for approximately 12 hours. The smoked cheese also works wonderfully well. I made smoked cheese and smoked garlic toasties for Sunday's workshop participants.
Hickory smoked salmon with my home made dill pickles.
@Zia_Mays teaching the smoking class on Sunday. For more Secret Garden Club, keep an eye on this blog and my events tab above. Next one: 21st of December: 'How to plant garlic and onions on the coldest day' £45 for workshop and garlicky onion tea by MsMarmitelover.


  1. Great post showing how simple and delicious smoked food can be.
    To make cold smoking even easier, I use a cold smoke generator as here, it allows you to cold smoke for 10 hours without worrying
    Keep Smoking

  2. A soldering iron. Genius! I am so trying this when I have a free moment. Next year then.

    Never added rice before. Makes sense though.

    Thought from the other day - what would tobacco smoked salmon be like? Also thought of trying smoked avocado - would it be any good? Still working on the avo comp.....

  3. This is a great post - I'm bookmarking it for future reference - I would love to try smoking things but never realised it could be so simple. I thought it was a lengthier process.

    I wish I lived in London so that I could go to one of your events.

  4. New ideas all the time - such an inspiration! I'm not great for making these kind of things though but it is interesting to read about and see! xxx

  5. I want to thank you for this post. This information was very helpful.Please keep up the good work and I look forward to more of your great posts!tekken


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