Black Ham - Part IV - Smoking

Continuing the story of the Black Ham, the previous post is here:
Black Ham - Part III - Washing and Drying

The Black Ham's now been smoked. I was going to smoke it for 72 hours, but a rethink, because of it's size and the weather have meant that it's been over oak smoke for a total of about 28 hours.

Black Ham

It seems to be quite dry, I guess that the air is dry because of the cold weather and that this has quickened the drying process. However, I'll still give it a few days in the fridge, loosely wrapped, to dry further and to allow the cure to fully equalise. That is, to allow the cure to spread evenly throughout the meat.

The next part is:

Part V - Cooking and the Finished Ham...



Black Ham - Part III - Washing and Drying

Continuing the story of the Black Ham, the previous post is here:
Black Ham - Part II - Calculating the Cure

The ham has now been in the brine for 10 days per kilogram of meat, a total of 23 days.

It's been rinsed in cold water and is now sitting in the fridge waiting for the surface to dry out before it is smoked.

Black Ham

The next part is:

Part IV - Smoking...



Sausage and Curing Equipment and Supplies Updated

I originally posted about this subject in 2007, so perhaps it's time for an update.

A certain amount of equipment is needed to make sausage and to cure safely, I've listed a few suppliers here. Listing by me does not mean that I recommend any particular product, or business listed.

Sausage Making

Mincers
These can be either hand or electric mincers. Many people already own a mixer, with a mincing attachment such as the Kenwood Chef. These are fine for small scale sausage making.

Stand alone mixers are available from a number of suppliers. At the budget end of the market, this one from Northern Tool receives good reviews. Northern tool also stock larger machines and Weschenfender's sell a variety of sizes of quality machines.

Stuffers
You can stuff sausage skins (casings) by hand with a funnel, but I wouldn't fancy it myself! It's better to use either an adapter for your mincer or a special sausage stuffer.

Attachments for standard sized mincers are available from Sausagemaking.org and attachments are available for the Kenwood Chef, either from ebay, or a Kenwood spares supplier. They come complete with the mincer for newer models. Check with your Kenwood stockist as the tubes do not fit some older machines. Personally, I find it hard to use the sausage stuffers on mincers, on the other hand, I know people who use nothing else, so the choice is yours – this is certainly the cheaper option.

I use a dedicated sausage stuffer, these are available from the suppliers listed below and start at about £70. Northern Tool and Sausagemaking.org have excellent budget offerings with Sausagemaking.org also offering some excellent larger machines at reasonable prices. Weschenfender's carry a large range of quality machines. My own stuffer is from Biltongbox.com.

Scales
Accurate scales are useful for measuring small quantities of spices/herbs. I would recommend that you buy some as they allow you to repeat recipes easily. Scales, accurate to a tenth of a gram, or even one hundredth, are available quite cheaply online. There's usually some on ebay or a quick 'Google' for 'pocket digital scales', will show many other suppliers.

Sausage Skins (Casings)
These are usually sold by the hank (about 100 yards), or half-hank, and are preserved in salt. They can be bought 'pre-spooled' – that is to say they come on rods ready for soaking and threading onto your sausage stuffer rather than in a big bundle. Casings can be natural or artificial. Natural hogs' (pigs') and sheeps' casings are used for fresh sausages and need soaking in water before use. Ask the supplier for details of the preparation required for their casings. Artificial casings generally don't need soaking.

Weschenfelder's are specialists in the preparation of casings producing thousands of miles of casings each year. Other online suppliers include Sausagemaking.org and sausage-casings.co.uk. Larger quantities are available from Scobies and Weschenfelder's.

Sausage mixes, rusks and sundry items
A large range of ready made sausage mixes, rusk, emulsifiers and preservatives are available from Sausagemaking.org, Weschenfelder's, and for larger amounts, Scobies.

Specialist Ingredients in smaller quantities for the home sausage maker
It's hard to find some ingredients in the UK that are used in certain types of sausage, in quantities suitable for the home sausage maker. These include:

  • Supaphos - Phosphate cutter blend used to bind water. Small amounts can be bought from Sausagemaking.org
  • Supapres - Sodium metabisulphite used to increase shelf life of fresh sausage. Small amounts can be bought from Sausagemaking.org
  • Dried Blood - Used in Black Pudding. Weschenfelder's sell dried pigs' blood and also a black pudding making kit. Sausagemaking.org also have a black pudding kit.
  • Tapioca flour/starch - Used in Low Fat Sausage. Stocked by most Chinese supermarkets or online from Wing Yip and others.
  • Dextrose - Used to give good browning to a sausage skin. Dextrose is the food industry name for what is sold in many chemists shops as powdered glucose.
  • Large Natural Casings - Used for salami, luncheon meats, black pudding etc. See entry for sausage skins/casing above.
  • Large Artificial Casings - Used for salami and luncheon meats. Two sizes of fibrous casings are available individually from Sausagemaking.org. Scobies sell some of their range in 'smaller' size packages. However, these are still larger than the average home producer requires and don't include the larger casings for items such as Mortadella. For other sizes, for the time being, it's a case of looking to the US for supplies.
  • Artificial casings for black puddings - Sold online by ebay shop TruNet Packaging.
  • Soya Protien Isolate - Used to bind fat in cooked sausage and luncheon meat, or as an 'extender' in fresh sausage. Smaller amounts can be bought from Holland and Barrett. But make sure that you don't buy the chocolate or strawberry one! For larger quantities it's back to Scobies.

Cured Meat and Air Dried Sausage

Curing Salts

  • Cure #1, also known as Prague Powder - This cure contains Sodium Nitrite mixed with salt. It acts very quickly to protect the meat, unlike Saltpetre which has to convert from a Nitrate salt to a Nitrite, by reacting with bacteria in the meat, before it starts it's job. Sodium nitrite is often coloured pink so that it is not mistaken for anything else. The cure from Sausagemaking.org contains 5.88% nitrite and is not coloured. The British and EU rules on curing levels restrict the amounts of nitrites to 150 parts per million in most products. The USA rules include details of how the levels of nitrites can be calculated.
  • Cure #2, also known as Prague Powder II - This is a cure containing both Sodium Nitrite and Sodium Nitrate it is used in long term curing of air dried products.
  • Saltpetre - Saltpetre is Potassium Nitrate and is used in traditional curing. Modern curers still use it in products that are cured or matured for long periods.

All of these cures are available from Sausagemaking.org.

All in one cures

There's a large number of ready-made cures available for specific types of product and also for general curing. These are available from Weschenfelder's and Sausagemaking.org. Larger amount of these cures can be purchased from Scobies.

Sodium ascorbate
This is a vitamin C salt that is used in small quantities as a cure accelerator. It also adds to the safety of cured meats that will be fried at high temperatures. Sodium ascorbate is available from health supplement suppliers such as J G Supplements. It can also often be bought on ebay.

Lactic Bacteria Culture
This is used to make air dried sausage safe. Sausagemaking.org are now selling a range of Hansen's sausage cultures and Bessastart is available from Weschenfelder's. Both require storage in a freezer.

Mould Culture
Used to make promote the development of good moulds on salami. Penicillium Nalgiovense is now available to the home producer from Sausagemaking.org. A similar strain, Penicillium Candidum, can also be used and is available from Goat Nutrition Limited and Ascott. It requires storage in a freezer.

Curing and Smoking Equipment

Meat Injector
Specialist meat injectors are available from Weschenfender's. In view of the the cost of these, many home curers use a Marinade Injector instead, they can be bought from from Hot Smoked, For Food Smokers, MacsBBQ or Thebbq.co.uk, and many other sources.

Temperature Control
Digital Thermostats can be used to adapt a fridge into an air drying chamber. They are sold by Forttex. They are also available from a number of suppliers on ebay.

Humidity Control
Digital Hygrostats are also available from Forttex.

Smokers
There are a number of suppliers of smokers in the UK, two of the most popular are:

  • Bradley - One of the most popular small smokers, the Bradley is available from numerous UK suppliers including Sausagemaking.org and Weschenfelder's. The Bradley can be used to both hot and (with adaption) cold smoke. The only downside are the running costs which are high in comparison with some other systems.
  • ProQ CSG - An ingenious Cold Smoke Generator that takes all of the hassle out of cold smoking. One of my favourite pieces of equipment. To buy, or for details of the product, and stockists, see MacsBBQ website.

Smoking Woods - Buying bulk supplies of smoking woods can save a lot of money. Ashwood Smoking Chips in Kettering sell a good range. However, their wood dust may not be suitable for use in the ProQ CSG following a change in the specification made by their supplier.

Smoker Thermometer - Monitors both the smoker and meat temperature remotely. The Maverick ET-73 monitors both the oven temperature and the internal temperature of what you're smoking and sends the results by wireless to a separate receiver. It's now available in the UK from Smoking BBQ and MacsBBQ.

Further information and advice

There is no better place for further information on all aspects of curing and sausage making than the forums at sausagemaking.org.



Black Ham - Part II - Calculating the Cure

Continuing the story of how a cure is formulated, the first half is here:
Black Ham - Part I - Getting the Information

In the first part, I've done a little digging to find the ingredients I'm going to use for my Black Ham, decided the method I'm going to use, and explained how I'll calculate it. What I've still got to do is decide how much of each ingredient I want in my ham and what type of curing salt to use. Some of these are just a matter of taste, such as herbs, spices and sugar. Others, such as the salt will be partially governed by the amount needed to make a safe cure, and partially by taste. The level of curing salt will be fixed at, "The minimum amount needed to ensure that the meat is safe". But firstly I've got to decide what type of curing salt I want to use.

Click here, there's more to read...



Black Ham - Part I - Getting the Information

I've been asked a few times how I devise a recipe for a cure, so I thought I'd try to get some of the thought processes down in writing. This one's just for other curing anoraks out there! It's inevitably somewhat technical and may be boring to some. You have been warned! This particular ham is a work in progress, and as things are rarely 'spot on' at the first attempt, I don't suggest that anyone makes this recipe until at least I can report back on the finished article. But, for better or worse, here's the sort of process my befuddled twisted mind goes through:

What springs to mind if I mention Emmet? Is it a Cornish tourist, or maybe the neighbour of Hyacinth Bouquet in the famous sit-com? Well, to any foodie or meat curer it won't be either; it'll be the makers of the justifiably famous Suffolk Black Ham, Emmett's of Peasenhall. They've been making ham for over 150 years. Whilst there are other black hams, including the famous Bradenham from Wiltshire, Shropshire Black Ham, and a less well known one from Derbyshire, Emmett's seems to have become the one people talk about - at least, that is, if you move in circles that spend their time talking about ham! It's featured in the press, and often rolled out on Delia's TV programmes at Christmas.

Click here, there's more to read...



It Makes Me Hungry!



Street Market Chefs

I was looking forward to seeing Leicester Market on television in Street Market Chefs on Tuesday; but oh, what a let down. Whilst it was great to see Sallie Hooper, whom I have corresponded with on and off, and Dave Clarke from Leicestershire Cheese Company, getting some of the recognition his great cheese deserves, the rest of the programme was banal to say the least.

Although it didn't claim to be a programme about local food, given the superb variety of produce available in the county, was it really necessary for two of the four dishes to feature trout - with at least one of the two not even from Leicestershire? And hey, wouldn't it have been great if we had been told the provenance of the beef, chicken and bacon. Come to that, given that the show claims to be, "celebrating fresh, seasonal produce", why were peas and broad beans the vegetables featured?

The lack of coverage of the market itself makes you wonder why they bothered coming here in the first place, but maybe that's a good thing when just five minutes into the programme we see pile of rubbish and leaves blocking half of one of the market aisles. Who, for pity's sake, allowed that to be there in the first place, let alone be filmed

I could go on, but I'd only be reiterating what Lis Gibbs said in her piece in yesterday's Leicester Mercury. Let's hope that when Channel 5 return for episode 6 in the series they do a better job and that the City Council's Market Managers ensure that this great asset to our City is presented in its best light.



Brine Cured Meat - Immersion brine

Curing meat in brine, or immersion curing, seems to be out of favour at the moment. Dry Curing's "de rigueur". Poor old immersion cured meat; it gets the blame for the white residue that comes out of bacon when frying it - incorrectly so, in my opinion. It's phosphate, added by money-grabbing commercial producers who want to sell you water at the price of bacon, that causes the white gunge, not immersion curing. In fact, well-made immersion cured bacon can be virtually indistinguishable from it's dry cured country cousin!

So why don't I immersion cure more? The answer is simple: what appears to be the easiest way of way of curing meat is actually the most complex. With a dry cure if one piece of meat is twice the size of another, we just put twice as much cure on it. In the same situation with an injection brined piece we just inject twice as much. So logically, with brine cured meat we double the strength of the brine? Or, maybe cure the meat for twice as long? Wrong! Whilst some cures may work like that, you either need a specially formulated cure, or to be very lucky! You see, the meat doesn't absorb the brine at a steady rate during the time it's curing. It's like a thirsty child - gulping their drink quickly to start with, and then tailing off gradually until fully sated.

To many, this is not an issue. The, "I won't use cures" camp, and the, "My granddad did it this way, so will I" camp, aren't going to be at all concerned by this. For those of us in the, "We use cures as they are the only proven way to guarantee safety, but we don't want to use a gram too much" camp, it presents an issue. It's meant that until recently each piece of meat has needed a specific cure calculated for it . Or, a number of pieces of meat have had to have a cure tailor-made for them. Also, whilst it uses brines that are low in sodium nitrites (the chemical that colours the meat and makes it safe), it needs fairly long curing times. Because of this it's best for smaller pieces of meat between 1kg and 3kg. This is because 10 days per kg curing gives the least margin for error whilst keeping curing times within reason.

Larger pieces of meat can be cured at less time per kg but I'll not give details. If you need to ask me how to do it - the cures, the curing times etc. - then you aren't experienced enough to do it!

When would I use an immersion cure? Well stick around and you'll find out! I have a Black Ham curing at the moment. If I'd injected it, it would be a funny black colour throughout, not very appetising! Whereas, I can hardly dry cure it as it uses strong dark porter/stout beer along with liquid molasses for it's colour. I'll post more about it soon.



ProQ™ Eco-smoker Review - Part II

Trout smoked by Maurice

Having reviewed the ProQ™ Eco-smoker I realised that I'm probably not the best person to ask to review it. You see, I've been using the smoke generator for a while now so am quite used to it. Far better to get someone who's never used either the Eco-smoker or the generator to give their opinion.

Now it wasn't rocket science thinking of a candidate because , my long suffering foodie friend, received a smoke generator from his kids last Christmas but hasn't got around to using it. He's a busy man you see; a hard working man between the 5 or 6 meals he eats a day (given the opportunity). He can smell a darts supper at the pub from his house ¼ mile away! I jest, but no doubt I won't be laughing when he and Mrs Maurice catch up with me!

Tee-hee, with friends like me, 'e don't need many enemies do 'e!

Anyway, enough of all that, I passed the Eco-smoker over and left him to get on with it. I think that the resulting trout, pictured above, speaks for itself - it's a brilliant job. Maurice was sceptical about the construction at first - well, after all, designing things is what he does for a living - but he was soon converted. Basically, he said he had absolutely no problems with it and that, "It does what it says on the box!".

You can't say fairer than that!


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