Sunday, February 15, 2009

Smoke Therapy Part I

When our new Cabelas opened here in North Idaho the fall of 2007, I became acquainted with a piece of cooking equipment called the Bradley Smoker. I became fascinated by this innovative electric smoker that just happened to be on sale during their grand opening event. After seeing it at the store I went home and researched it on the web to find out more about it and if I could find one at a lower price. I could not find it cheaper and heard nothing but rave reviews. So, once I was able to justify my purchase, I returned to Cabelas and bought the Bradley Smoker.

My justification for this purchase was the idea that I could save us hundreds of dollars a year smoking the venison that we harvested instead of paying the meat processor to do it. We are hunting enthusiasts but in all honesty we are not venison enthusiasts. So, we liked to have our venison processed in fresh sausage, smoked sausage and jerky.....basically processed beyond recognition. On top of the regular cut and wrap fee one would have to add the cost of sausage making and smoking fees, too. Needless to say, it was pretty pricey.

Once I got the smoker home I wanted to make my own jerky. I didn't have any venison available at the time so I experimented with Pedmontese beef which is the leanest beef out there, it's leaner than buffalo! I followed a Bradley recipe for mesquite-smoked jerky but I took the directions a little too literal and ended up smoking the jerky for the entire drying process. It's one thing to over-smoke your jerky but it's another thing to over-smoke it with mesquite!

Later I tried smoking a turkey breast and smoked the crap out of that poor bird, too. This was all part of the learning curve, oh but what a long, tall curve it seemed to be. Well, I just kind of kept away from the smoker for a while except for some trout that I smoked during the summer which turned out okay.

But I saved my greatest fiasco for last! My husband was planning to be out of town for an art show during the Labor Day weekend so I planned my first attempt making smoked sausage. I ran over to Cabelas and bought myself the HiMountain summer sausage kit. I had never stuffed sausage before let alone smoked sausage.

Stuffing those big fibrous casings with my little KitchenAid stuffer took forever. Then when I smoked the sausages I followed the directions to the letter until grew impatient for how long it was taking for them to reach the desired internal temperature. It was taking all day it seemed like. So, I cranked up the temperature on the smoker....BIG mistake! They made it to temperature alright but I ended up with long brown tubes filled with dry meat floating in a lake of fat and water. The poor things had to be lanced like a festering sore! They were horrible!

I put the cover on the Bradley and pretended it didn't exist for almost three months. The feeling of defeat was depressing. Cooking is a source of pride for me and I was producing things from my smoker that were barely fit to feed to the dog...if I had one to feed it to.

But it wasn't the smokers fault, I just needed some guidance which was to come in the form of a forum.

To be continued....

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