I'm sorry I left off with a compilation of my smoking disasters but there is a happy ending to this story. One problem that I often suffer from is an inability to see the forests from the trees. I get so wrapped up in the little things I fail to see the big picture and this is why I wasn't "getting it" when it came to smoking meat. The beauty of the Bradley Smoker is the control it provides for both the temperature and the amount of smoke to apply. But I wasn't separating out those two concepts in my mind. I was just cranking up the heat and smokin' the crap out of everything I put in it.
When my husband and I both harvested deer in November of 2008 we removed the tenderloins and back straps from both deer and had the processor package boneless roast that I could cut jerky from and the rest was ground with 15% beef suet. Even though I was far from mastering the art of smoking we were not going to spend the money to have the deer made into our favorite treats including our very favorite smoked jalapeno cheddar sausage. This is a favorite of most our local deer hunting friends. Our neighbors had an entire deer processed just into this sausage and it was about $250 to do it.
It was my mission to convert all of this beautiful venison into wonderful things to eat. We purchased casings from Cabelas and I searched online to find a jalapeno cheddar recipe for venison. I also went back to the official Bradley Smoker site for more information and noticed they had a forum for Bradley customers. I found one recipe online that looked good but it was for an oven application not a smoker. I wasn't sure how to use this recipe with my smoker so I posted the recipe on the Bradley forum and asked for help converting this to a smoker recipe.
I was amazed at the help I received. I have tried some forums on different areas of interest in the past and never liked the feeling I got from some of its members. Always felt like their goal was to "set you straight" more than to help and guide the newby. Not so at the Bradley Smoker Forum. These were the nicest, most helpful group of folks in the world. They gave me exact step by step instructions seasoned with tips and encouragement. I even learned you don't need to have the smoke going the entire time of the process!
I followed their directions and came out with jalapeno cheddar sausage that rivaled the stuff from the processor and this was my first try! I posted pics of the results on the forum and received the greatest compliments. I know this may sound funny but that was it for me, I was hooked on smoking and the forum from that moment on. How can you beat having a new hobby that helps feed the family and a circle of friends that are as excited about it as you are. I never thought I'd be taking before and after pictures of sausage and jerky but now it's just another fun part of it. Greg will even ask me "Did you get a picture of these?" before he tastes something that just came out of the smoker.
Now I'm either smoking or sometimes canning something nearly every weekend during these colder months. Being a substitute teacher can be tough at times and I find it so therapeutic to be planning and looking forward to what's going to be put into the smoker or canner that up coming weekend. Also, I'm branching out into making fresh sausage which we used to pay the processor to make for us and the breakfast sausage we make from our venison is actually better than the sausage we had them make for us.