22 September, 2006

Building a Cold Smoker: The summer sausage episode part 2

Dear Gentle Readers:

Sorry I have not updated you sooner. Didn't realize the summer sausage would become such a cliffhanger; a regular who shot J.R., huh? For all of you writing in clamoring for closure, I'll give you the short answer so that you can get back to work translating German or whatever it is you do between instant messages, everything turned out very nice. As for the long answer, well....

If August is the Fairest of Months, then September (October too) is the shank of the year. It is the beginning of the season for the art world, school, tv and, oh yes, OSU football. The garden is still plump with tomatoes, squash and eggplant, but the weather is starting to nip. It is simply a beautiful time I feel best enjoyed by sitting around a table with friends and family enjoying something good. To that end I have been cooking like crazy and I have a bunch of episodes ready to go. Future updates may include: Chorizo in the morning, My First Pate, Bacon Madness, and Jerry's Kielbasa. But as we are here on the last day of summer let's finish what we started.

The summer sausage episode part duex.

So we left off last time with sausages hanging to dry in the refrigerator. The recipe called for ten hours or drying, it ended up being two days. So after a couple of days I finally had time to set up the cold smoker.

3. The Rig

I didn't do a whole lot of research on this design, I needed to get the smoke out of my Weber smoker and into my other grill and reduce the smoke temp to under 100F. Me and the boys made a trip to Menard's.

We picked up a galvanized roof vent thingy and some aluminum dryer vent. I fashioned the roof vent to fit into the fire door access on the smoker. I secured it with toggle bolts.

Next I attached the dryer vent tubing. I first tried foil tape, but learned quickly that the adhesive fails at temperature. Some drywall screws solved that problem. Time to get the rig smokin.

4. The smoke

The cold smoke temperature stayed around 90F. I let it go about 4 hours then I hot smoked the sausages to an internal temp of 150F. To raise the temp I simply moved the meat. The hot smoking took about an hour.

For the fire I started with a little charcoal then used split hickory. Since I kept a small fire, I had to tend to it a lot. I suppose you could use the wood chunks that Weber makes but I would trim off the bark first.

So why cold smoke? For smoke you need fire, fire cooks things, so if you want to put a lot of smoke on something without overcooking it, cool the smoke. One of the concerns in holding meat in the 100F zone is that bacteria can thrive; the meat must be cured.

After the cold smoke, the sausages did not look much different but after the hot smoke..Now that looks like sausage.

special thanks to the boys for providing the risers.

5. The finish

So anyway the thuringer and the summer sausage were among the featured attractions for an office party S put together. The German guy from the Dubai office said he had never had thuringer cured and cooked like this but he thought it was good. The guy from the international sales department wanted to know what made the summer sausage spicy, I wasn't sure..Maybe the combination of pepper and the smoke? I had forgotten that I had put in a secret ingredient.

Secret ingredient.

As I mentioned in the previous post (I know, so long ago you forgot) The ingredients for both sausages are virtually identical except one is beef the other pork. Additionally, The pork thuringer had whole peppercorns while the summer sausage had no pepper at all. The spicy flavor came from ground mustard. In the thuringer I used plain old Coleman's mustard powder, but for the summer sausage, I ground up whole black mustard seeds (see photo). I picked it up at the Spice House. I think the mustard made a made the difference. While S thought both sausages were good, I thought the summer sausage was way better. The thuringer seemed rather one dimensional. The fermento was very interesting, both sausages had that salami "tang."

As for cold smoking, it idefinitely worth the trouble. I recently used the rig to smoke bacon and kielbasa. I'll have to do some research to maybe simply the process. A lot of cold smokers use hickory sawdust to create the smoke, maybe that's next. In the mean time I will try to keep you up to date on the state of the sausage in a more timely manner. As fall brings in the cool weather it is time to work on dry curing salami and maybe some guanciale.


P.S. Update on the Prickly Pear Episode: After a month in the basement we had a syrupy tart purple liquid which no one bothered to mix into margaritas. To drink it straight it was peppery, then floral, then a sweetart pucker followed by a hot breath that went through your throat out your shoulders then tingled down your back. Needless to say the entire liter was drunk in one night (the office party). All that was left was several plastic cocktail cups half full of maserated fruit. I said the fruit was too seedy to be eaten(like giant raspberries with seeds the size of Mini Chiclets) but once you start chasing the prickly pear, I guess you have to find out for yourself.