Truth be told, I find entertaining based around anything that involves fire and smoke some of the best entertaining you can do! Fire and smoke bring out a certain deep-seeded nostalgia in people that we seldom get to relive in our day to day routines and a wood-fired oven accomplishes that perfectly. In this segment, we’re in beautiful Barcelona, Spain where the trees are just starting to turn green, the mimosa’s in full bloom and the temperature is just perfect for an early spring smoking party.
With the help of some close friends and using the Fornetto, I decided to smoke a 6 kilo (13 pound) ham. In preparation, I first glazed it with orange, cloves, tamarind and maple syrup before smoking it for three hours. The results were amazing!
Smoking is not a typical practice in the south of Europe as meats and fish are fresh year round. As Europe has become border-free and cultures are mixing, smoked foods are becoming more and more available in the south and tastes are developing for what the North has enjoyed for millennia!
Smoking has always been more prevalent in Northern European countries as it was once used as a way to preserve meats and fish for the long winter months. That being said however, smoked food is being adopted by Southern Europeans as it becomes a more common practice and the Iberian pork of Spain CANNOT be beat!
As the guests anticipate the first bite, the Fornetto Oven cools in the background, waiting for its next assignment!
My dear friend David, originally from Mexico, carves any roast like a pro!
The line-up begins and the crowd looks pleased!
Smoking is a technique that dates back to the time of primitive hunters. After having returned home from a hunt, the men would hang the meat to dry in the caves or simple huts that they lived in.
As these dwellings had no source of ventilation and would become extremely smoky, these early hunters quickly learnt that the meat that hung close to the fire and smoke both tasted better and were better preserved than the meat that was simply hung up to dry.
Every good roast, smoked or not, needs a side or two. Scroll further for great side ideas!
Any fresh cruciferous vegetables work well in this recipe. Broccoli, cauliflower, kale or Brussels’ sprouts to name a few.
Super cheesy brocoli, cauliflower and kale casserole with bread crumb and Grana Padano cheese topping. This casserole makes a great side to any roast!
The techniques for smoking have naturally evolved over time as have the appliances, such as wood-fired ovens. Traditionally, in the Western world, farms would have a smokehouse in which large quantities of meat and fish could be smoked. In Asia, a large wok would be used to smoke tea.
These days smokers for domestic use, such as the Fornetto, are becoming more and more available. The use of different woods for smoking vary greatly from region to region as well, from fruit-tree woods such as cherry and apple to oak and alder in Europe.
The traditional use of mesquite and hickory are typically North-American whereas the use of manuka (tea tree) is predominantly used in New-Zealand for smoking fish. Interestingly enough, however, burning wood is not the only source of flavourings for smoked foods. In China, dry rice, sugar, and tea are burnt to flavour foods.
Peat moss is commonly used to smoke the barley malt to make whiskey and certain beers. Iceland boasts burning sheep dung as the flavouring of choice yet I remain reticent!
Yet another great side dish for any roast, yellow rice with cherry tomatoes.
How we prepare our foods prior to smoking has changed significantly. The original process of salting or salt-water brining before smoking pre-cures foods and readies them for storage once smoked. This technique combined with exposing the foods to long periods of smoking, up to several days, in fact, ensures proper curing. Although this approach is still widely used, there are three methods that are more commonly used at home:
- Cold smoking involves cooking the foods first and then exposing them to smoke for flavouring in a relatively cool environment, 20 to 30 °C (68 to 86 °F). This results in foods that are rich in smokey flavour yet retain their moisture. Foods that are cold-smoked must be cooked first as cold smoking does not cook or cure meats, fish or poultry, however, it is the technique that should be used for smoking cheese for an obvious reason; its low melting point. (We will examine cold smoking more closely in a future post.)
- Hot smoking requires the foods to be subjected to moderate heat, 52 to 80 °C (126 to 176 °F) as well as hot smoke which cooks the food at the same time as it’s being smoked. Hot smoking fully cooks the foods ready for consumption directly from the smoker. The moderate temperature not only cooks the food but prevents it from losing moisture and rendering its fat. This is important for foods that require a certain fat content to remain palatable, such as smoked salmon or bacon.
- Smoke roasting / baking is any technique where foods are cooked and smoked at temperatures exceeding those of hot smoking. Examples of these are barbecuing over charcoal or wood, tandoor cooking or pit roasting. Since the temperature used for this technique is quite high and cooks very quickly, this method of smoking creates foods with the least amount of smokey flavour.
Note: When smoking cured or raw meat, fish or poultry remember to always allow it to form a pellicle, a slightly tacky (not slimy) layer of protein on the surface of the food you’re smoking.
Times will vary based on if the foods are raw, have been cured or depending on if it’s meat, fish or poultry. A good rule of thumb is to do so uncovered, on a rack in the fridge overnight. Fish, for example, creates a pellicle quite quickly whereas meats and poultry take longer.
A proper pellicle on the food that’s about to be smoked is what will ensure adhesion of the smoke and will determine the amount of smoky flavour and colour it absorbs. It equally acts as a protective barrier that will ensure your food doesn’t dry out during the smoking process.
A great tip if using the Fornetto smoking chips is to allow them to soak directly in the waterproof bag. I always keep one bag humid and one dry as I like to top off the smoldering chips with fresh, dry chips for a final burst of instant smoky flavour. Click on the picture for more information on the Fornetto smoking chips.
Tip: If using wood chips, such as Fornetto brand smoking chips, remember that for optimum results, soaking them for about an hour prior to introducing them into the combustion chamber will produce a slower burn and maximum smoke.