If you were to hear the words “smoking” and “curing” would they mean much to you?
Too many times have these wonderful terms confused and perhaps instilled fear in the mind. “Sure, why would I need to cure or smoke anything, anyway?” some may ask, or “that sounds a bit too complex to me! No thanks!”
Contrary to popular belief, these great skills are actually not as complicated as you may think and it’s in fact very easy to smoke your own salmon, or even your own butter.
Chef Jack O’Keefe was in with us today, and as our resident smoking (food!) expert, he ran through the entire process of turning simple food into smoked delights.
Why is Jack an expert, you may ask? Well, as it turns out, he’ll actually be soon opening his very own smokehouse in North Cork. Give him a tweet if you’d like to hear more about that!
Without giving too many of Jack’s smokehouse secrets away, smoking is the process of flavouring, cooking, or preserving food by exposing it to smoke from burning or smouldering material (most often wood).
Curing is also a way of preserving food but with salt and sugar. Before mass refrigeration, smoking and curing were crucial to preserving food for longer periods of time.
First off, with beautiful ingredients in front of him, including quail, duck, pheasant, salmon and trout, Jack set about creating a brine and cure for the ingredients.
The brine is similar to a marination in which meat or poultry is soaked in a brine (a mixture of water and a lot of salt) before cooking. It adds moisture and helps the curing process. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to a few days.
Heating up our trusty Weber barbecues, Jack, assisted by tutor Cormac got to work on hot and cold smoking the fresh ingredients (including butter and cheese we might add).
Soon our barbecue area was filled with the glorious scents of herbs and wood chips. “You just give it a gentle, smoky kiss!” Jack said of the smoking technique and we have to agree – that’s all it needs.
Cracking on with the day, Jack finished things off with Baba Ghanoush (a levantine dish of roasted aubergine mixed with onions, tomatoes, olive oil) and gorgeously smoked chicken.
And guess what? The students got to take everything home! A perfect end to what was not only a great demonstration of how easy it is to smoke and cure at home, but also a whole lot of fun too.
If you’re interested in learning more about our Smoking and Curing Workshop, have a look at more of the course details on our website here. You’ll be the envy of all our friends.