Sausages have been around for at least centuries and more probably millennia when early humans are thought to have made a basic type of sausage using roasted intestine and stomach; leaving a bit to be desired as far as I’m concerned!
The sausages that we know of today can be traced at least as far back as ancient Greece where a written mention of sausages can be attributed to Homer in his work “The Odyssey”.
The above picture shows fresh sausages that being hot-smoked in the Fornetto. The process is long and slow, this is what ensures a full-bodied and robust smokey flavour. The lower the temperature in the oven and the longer the food you’re smoking is exposed to the smoke, the better. I’ll explain the full technique for hot-smoking below.
These are my fresh sausages (we will explore making fresh sausages shortly in another blog). For the moment, buy sausages that are mild (otherwise known as sweet) as you don’t want the spices they may contain clashing with the smokey flavour you’re wanting the oven to impart.
As I’ve mentioned, the key to hot-smoking anything properly in the oven is the temperature and the amount of time you allow your food to be exposed to the smoke. Let’s first take a look at how to smoke in the Fornetto using the smoker box and our wood chips.
There’s a lot of controversy over soaking your wood chips or not. In my opinion, it does make a difference but not for the reasons you may think. The truth of the matter is that dry wood doesn’t absorb much water except a very small amount over the surface. When you think of an oak wine barrel, the very same barrel the Fornetto chips are made of, wine is not seeping through the wood. The reality is that wood does not absorb water rapidly.
That being said, there’s a very good reason that I soak my chips before placing them in the smoker box. Fornetto’s wood chips are made from oak barrels that have contained three different types of liquids; red wine, cognac and muscatel. By soaking them prior to using them, the surfaces that contained those liquids lightly rehydrate. Once they are placed in the smoker box and put into the combustion chamber, the liquid evaporates before the wood burns. The water that evaporates contains the aroma of red wine, for example, that will flavour your food before the smoke even begins. You’ll want to soak your smoking chips for 20 minutes or so. In my opinion, anything over the 20 minute mark really won’t make much of a difference except you risk leaching the flavour out of the chips and pouring it down the drain! Click here for more information about the Fornetto smoking chips!
Add the moistened chips to the smoker box. Be sure to remove the smoker box before lighting the fire in the combustion chamber. This is really just for convenience at this point as there’s no problem with filling the smoker box while it’s hot however, this way it’s out of the way when lighting the fire.
You’ll want to fill the smoker box to about 3/4’s of the way full. Don’t over fill the box as you don’t want to smother the chips but rather encourage them to smoke. In order for them to smoke properly, they need oxygen.
Place the lid back over the box and wearing your protective gloves, hook the smoker box back onto the door of the combustion chamber and latch shut. Make sure that the smoker slider is open and that the flue is in the “smoke” position. The smoking chips will burn for about an hour or so. If you are going to hot-smoke for longer than an hour (as is the case in this post), be sure to soak your next batch in time to replace the spent chips.
Once the chips are exhausted, if you still want to continue hot-smoking remove the smoker box to a heat/fire resistant surface that you’ve placed close by and allow to cool with the lid off until it’s manageable. Use both hands for removal. When removing the smoker box, practice EXTREME CAUTION AND DILIGENCE as it becomes EXCEPTIONALLY HOT and can easily burn your hands. Keep out of the reach of small children.
Once cool enough to handle, pour the charcoal chips out of the smoker box and onto a piece of aluminium foil for easy disposal. Repeat the process from the beginning if you wish to continue smoking.
As I mentioned earlier, the temperature is key when hot-smoking. High temperatures cook too quickly and won’t allow the smoke sufficient time to impart its flavour. I practice the traditional hot-smoking technique of smoking at around 70C (160F) for a long period; 3 hours and longer depending on the size of what you’re cooking. Smoking at a temperature exceeding 85C (185F) defeats the objective of hot-smoking and converts it to smoke-roasting which in itself is another technique that melts fat and evaporates water too quickly; this would cause our sausages to shrink and split. What we want with hot-smoking is to partially replace the water content of the sausages slowly with their natural fats and to allow them to absorb the smoke flavour gradually. Hot-smoking is a slow cooking method that cooks meats thoroughly over a long period of time at a low temperature. If you’re cooking two levels of sausages, it’s important to switch the racks during the cooking process to allow both levels to cook evenly.
When the sausage has cooked on one side, remove the rack from the oven and flip the sausages over to allow them to brown on the flip side. You’ll notice that I use parchment paper. The reason for this is that I don’t want the skin on the sausage to stick to the rack which would tear on removal resulting in the loss of its juices. When the sausages have browned on both sides (about 3-4 hours at 70C (160F)) remove them from the oven.
The sausages can be enjoyed warm directly from the oven or they make great sandwiches and will keep in the fridge for about 4 days, if they even last that long!
Enjoy them with my homemade old-style grainy mustard and a cold beer. Easy to make and a delicious accompaniment to any smoked sausage. Click here for my homemade mustard recipe.