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Smoking

Lithuanian Smoked Lasiniai and Sonine | www.myfoododyssey.com

“You can’t make everything,” Arūnas tells me when I call him in tears, upset that I’ve damaged the surface of one of my non-stick pans trying to make soap. “But I WANT to!” I cry. “I want real soap and it’s too expensive to buy. Why is it so hard to make?”

I know that I will never be able to make everything we use, nor do I really want to. It’s nice to knit a hat and gloves and I like being able to mend a hem or zip, but I don’t really have any desire to make our own clothes. And I certainly won’t be spinning wool or weaving linen. But there are some things I really want to make myself, most of them food-related.

Lithuanian Smoked Lasiniai and Sonine | www.myfoododyssey.com

Last year I successfully grew most of the vegetables we would need for winter. We are still eating them every day. We are still drinking the apple juice and wine I made. But we are still buying most of our meat, some from a local butcher (who buys pigs from local farms) and some from the supermarket. I really, really want to move away from buying supermarket meat.

For several months we have wanted to buy half a pig and a dozen or so free-range chickens directly from a farmer for the freezer. Unfortunately the freezer was full with vegetables and with the two deer we got from a hunter friend. We simply had no space. But now that we’re getting through the vegetables and venison we have freed up some space. So when one of the neighbours said they were slaughtering a pig and offered to sell us half we jumped at the chance.

Cold Smoker | www.myfoododyssey.com

It’s been three years since I processed my first pig. That was my first big animal to process by myself and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I had done a “pig in a day” course, but nothing really prepares you for doing it yourself. I was quite happy with the results but sorry I didn’t get to make sausages and smoke some of the meat.

As it happens, another neighbour recently built a cold-smoker in their back garden. Arūnas called and got permission to use it for a few days. I was excited and nervous at the same time. I’d never done it before, nor had I seen anyone do it, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I needed to dry cure the meat first (which essentially involves rubbing a salt and spice mix into the meat and letting the salt draw moisture out of the meat while infusing the meat with flavour), but I didn’t know what to put in my cure, how much to use and how long to leave it. I referred to several books but none gave me a definitive answer – you needed to rub in a small amount of cure and then test daily to see if it needed more. More what, I thought? More salt? More time? Sheesh.

Time was ticking and my meat needed to be cured or frozen, so I threw together a cure with some of my favourite spices, settled on using 30 g of cure per kilo of meat (3%) and set to work. I rubbed my cure into each piece and stacked them on a rack in a bucket in the fridge for three days. The rack keeps the meat out of the juices that are drawn from the meat during the curing process. After the three days I transferred the meat to the smoker for a further two days. Using the smoker is full-on. The fire needs to be checked at least once an hour to ensure it is smoking but not burning too strongly. There needs to be continuous gentle smoke. Not easy when there’s a storm blowing!

Anyway, I did it. I cured and smoked my own meat. And I have to tell you, it is UTTERLY delicious. Some of the smaller pieces are a tad salty at the edges, but I can live with that. The flavour from both the cure and the smoke is phenomenal. There’s a lot of it, so I have hung it up to dry and mature. I will leave it uncovered for a day or two, then I will cover each piece with muslin to protect it from dust and bugs. We buy a piece of smoked meat like this about once a week, so I know we’ll get through it in time. I am very, very happy to finally be eating my own home-smoked meat.

I’m still working on the soap.

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13 Comments Post a comment
  1. I’m very impressed you’ve tried cold smoking to preserve your pork. I’ve read a few articles about cold smoking and the advice I read was not to do it unless you are consuming virtually immediately. I don’t remember all the reasons but I think it was something to do with not being able to test the water content of the food being smoked. Non-stick pans is an interesting debate. Like yourself a good non-stick pan is great to use, but after working in restaurant kitchens earlier in my career I’ve come to the conclusion that a well seasoned cast iron pan is just as good and lasts much longer.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 15, 2017
  2. Gene Hart #

    Attended the Scottsdale AZ., Culinary Food Festival this past weekend. The winning dessert was Varskes Apkepas a luthauin cheese curds dish. It was deep fried and chocolate covered. Very good but surprised a unfamiliar dish would win first place.

    Like

    April 14, 2017
  3. I totally get you on this and I am so impressed that you managed to cure a half-pig. I’ve made bacon out of a bought pork shoulder a few times and agree with you that home cured tastes best. We don’t have a smoker, so cure it and eat it green. I have mentioned to the other half (an engineer) that a smoker would be a good idea, but so far he’s “too busy. ” I haven’t tried making soap … yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    April 12, 2017
    • Home cured is just the best, isn’t it? I’ve seen some pretty simple smoking solutions, some just using metal trash cans. I’m sure Mr Su could put something together quite easily! Arunas has also been “too busy” to make one for us. I was so happy when our neighbour built one! If if ever get to try soap please let me know how it works out!

      Liked by 1 person

      April 13, 2017
      • I will!! A friend was describing the smoker he built and I did think it might get the Big T interested, but I suspect he genuinely has too many projects on the go right now 😃

        Liked by 1 person

        April 13, 2017
      • Su, I’ve just noticed that my photos above were’t showing. I’ve fixed them now so you should be able to see the photo of the smoker the neighbours built. It might provide some inspiration. (For when he gets time, of course! 😉 )

        Like

        April 13, 2017
  4. I made soap from pig lard years ago. Scented with lavender, which always made me chuckle. As I recall it was a bit greasy but it worked. So keep trying. But I agree with Tom — get rid of those non-stick pans.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 12, 2017
    • Well, I do like my non-stick for cooking, but maybe not for soap! I will definitely try soap again when I get an appropriate vessel. I like the idea of trying natural fats like lard and milk. Looking forward to seeing how the turn out.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 13, 2017
  5. Tom, Bedford, NH #

    June,
    Be very very very careful using non stick cookware for other than cooking!!! Overheating the pan beyond 250F causes the coating to give off very toxic gasses. Some people who have inhaled the gas say they felt like they had the flue for some time. Hence this is called the “Teflon Flu”. Go to a yard/garage sale and get a cheap regular pan to cook your soap. Please check the internet about this. We don’t want to say “hey, remember June from Lithuania”?
    We wont tell your husband if you don’t. Remember to quote a famous Las Vegas saying:”what happens in Lithuania ….stays in Lithuania”
    Happy Easter,

    Tom
    Bedford, NH

    Liked by 1 person

    April 12, 2017
    • Thanks Tom! You know, I had read SO much safety stuff about the soap ingredients but none mentioned anything about Teflon! Anyway, I aired the house well and live to tell the tale. There are plenty of second-hand shops and markets here so I’m sure I’ll pick up something suitable over the summer. Happy Easter!

      Like

      April 13, 2017
  6. Susan V. #

    I am so thrilled for you. Sounds like a big project but totally worth it. I’m sure it was delicious.

    Liked by 1 person

    April 12, 2017
    • I was definitely exhausted after processing the pig and then in and out to the smoker all day for two days, but yes – it was TOTALLY worth it. We have a freezer full of beautiful local, organic meat and several months’ worth of lašiniai and šonine. I’ll probably do another half pig in the autumn.

      Liked by 1 person

      April 12, 2017

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