Smoking is one of the ancient ways of preserving and preparing food (and very tasty food!) For future use. And in autonomous survival, the ability to smoke meat will be more than useful.
Smoked meat and smoking at home
The smoking method allows you to safely preserve the meat for a long time, moreover – with its aroma and all the nutrients. Therefore, during the post-apocalypse, for example, smoked and ready-to-cut ham will become a convenient and tasty meal.
This centuries-old tradition requires almost no equipment, so you can deal with it as easily as our ancestors. In addition, many foods can be smoked. And although not all of them will be with a long shelf life, they will certainly be fragrant.
Why smoke meat at all?
Smoked products are generally very tasty. And if done correctly, they can be stored for months or even years.
Another interesting aspect of smoking is that this cooking method is beneficial because it does not destroy nutrients, unlike some other methods.
I also recommend smoking because it is easy. And if you spend a little money and buy a smokehouse, it will further simplify the task. But you can build it yourself – from old steel barrels, animal skins or other materials that create an enclosed space. A friend of mine, for example, built a good smokehouse from a discarded refrigerator.
Taste and aroma
In a world where spices will disappear or be very expensive, smoking is a great way to add flavor to food. Not all types of smoking have a preservative effect, but each of them will definitely help to diversify the diet. You are only limited by your imagination.
Smoked cheese and hard-boiled eggs are a great example of how you can add new flavor to familiar foods.
You can also smoke dried fruits or vegetables by placing them on the wire rack inside your smoker. Smoked chili peppers or herbs will add a unique flavor to your stews or soups.
Also, do not forget that fish smoking is one of the oldest and time-honored traditions in every fishing community.
Have you ever smoked jerky? Maybe it’s time to start experimenting.
Preservation and conservation
The main advantage of smoking is that it prevents bacteria from multiplying.
First, the smoke creates a “bloom” on the meat, binding and penetrating the outer layers. This kills germs and prevents them from growing further.
Secondly, this type of heat treatment helps to dehydrate the meat. Microorganisms that spoil food need moisture, and the drier the substance, the less bacteria can multiply in it.
If your goal is long-term storage, the meat must be prepared first. To do this, you need to rub it with salt (you can use regular salt, nitrate, as well as nitrite), sprinkling it liberally on each piece.
The resulting product should always be stored in a cool, dry place out of the reach of pests.
Food poisoning can occur if hygiene is not observed. It can also happen if you used meat from an infected animal. So be sure to sanitize all surfaces, equipment and tools. And make sure the meat you intend to cook is of good quality. From slaughter to food, every step needs to be taken responsibly and food safety must be respected.
Direct smoking process
This method exposes the meat to heat and smoke. This should be done in a controlled environment where you can determine the temperature and the amount of smoke. Hot smoking is carried out at a temperature of 52 to 80 ° C. The exposure period is from 1 to 24 hours.
If you exceed 85 ° C, your food may become completely dehydrated and inedible.
Most products after the hot smoking process can be re-cooked, but in some cases, such as smoked ham, this is not necessary. You can eat it right away.
Cold smoking is usually carried out at temperatures between 20 and 30 ° C. Before doing this, it is important to completely dry the meat. By the way, this method is ideal for flavoring nuts and cheeses.
Remember to pre-dry chicken, fish or beef. Then smoke it for a while, and only then cook and eat. Cold smoking usually lasts longer than hot smoking – sometimes it takes several days.
Keep in mind that this type of treatment is not a substitute for cooking. Also keep in mind that meat that has not been heated enough may contain germs and still active parasites.
Be sure to follow the cooking rules to save yourself from possible problems.
Smoking meat and possible mistakes
Amount of salt
If oversalted, the meat will become too salty and it will be almost impossible to eat it. Of course, you can consume it in small chunks, but be careful.
If not salted enough, it will be vulnerable to bacteria, and this is dangerous to your health.
Many dietary salts contain sodium nitrates and nitrites, which, of course, are useful for preventing botulism, but harmful when consumed in excess of a certain amount. What – see the recommendations of various organizations involved in health protection.
Hot smoking can burn or char the meat. So “cooler and longer” is better than “faster and hotter”. After all, burnt foods lose their nutritional value, and blackened parts are even harmful to your health.
While too high a temperature can burn your meat, too low a temperature will leave it soggy. The cooking process not only changes the nature of proteins and fats, but also destroys bacteria and parasites.
What wood to use when smoking
A simple rule of thumb is to use clean, dry wood of a species you know that will not harm your health or intestines.
For smoldering, you can use small logs of wood, you can chop them into small chocks or cut into shavings. Moisten and then place them on coals to create smoke.
The most commonly used woods are oak, hickory, maple, pecan, apple, alder, cherry and mesquito.
Which wood NOT to use
Most conifers, such as pine, give the meat a bitter taste. Also, never use chemically treated or painted wood that is moldy or decaying. After all, chemicals present in paints or processing agents can get on the meat and cause serious harm to your health.
It is also worth remembering that some tree species contain substances that can cause diarrhea or even death. So if you do not know what kind of wood you have, it is better not to take it.
Also, never use the following types: mahogany, fir, spruce, cypress, and cedar.
If in doubt about the quality of meat
Smoking meat is not the way to save it. Therefore, only use fresh meat. Meat from dead animals that have lain for some time, or spoiled meat that is already in mucus or has an unpleasant odor, cannot be smoked. Cold smoking, for example, can only make matters worse.
Before handling the product, inspect it carefully to make sure it is safe. Pay close attention to the color of the meat, fat, and the liquid that drips from them. Discolored liquid discharge, slimy or viscous, will clearly indicate that the product is not suitable for human consumption.
Don’t ignore the strange smells coming from meat and blood. If the surface appears slimy or grainy, the product is most likely spoiled.
There are a number of diseases and parasites that can be contracted from both living and dead animals. Bacteria, parasites, and even viruses can be transmitted both through handling meat and through contact with blood or other animal fluids.
Bacteria such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Shigella, and Staphylococcus aureus (just to name a few) may be present in raw meat and blood. A clean workplace and careful food preparation will reduce the risk of contracting these diseases.
Parasites such as tapeworm can enter the human body through raw or undercooked meat.
There are other diseases that, although rare, can also affect people. This list includes anthrax, cryptosporidiosis, dermatophilosis, E. coli, giardiasis, leptospirosis, listeriosis, pseudocospa, Q fever, rabies, ringworm, tuberculosis. Of course, not all contacts lead to a full-fledged disease. True, it is still worth noting that many infections occur as a result of interaction with milk, feces or various bodily fluids. So be sure to practice good hygiene when handling meat to limit interactions, and do not eat it if you are in any doubt about its safety.
Where to get meat for smoking
Despite regulations, many slaughterhouses and even supermarkets supply thousands of kilograms of contaminated meat to consumers every year.
Most cases of poisoning and disease caused by foodborne bacteria or parasites can be traced back to commercial slaughterhouses. Most often this happens unintentionally, due to someone’s oversight. Therefore, buy meat from reliable suppliers. Emphasize hygiene at all stages of meat preparation, be it hunting or slaughtering. Make sure you know the signs and symptoms of the most common animal-borne diseases.
As a rule, only healthy, vigorous and energetic animals are hunted and slaughtered, avoiding lethargic, staggering or disoriented.
Smoking is almost always a great way to prepare delicious and healthy food. Something appetizing simple and without the use of any spices.
It does take some practice, however, so it’s best to start training now.