On day 21 of curing I decided it was a good day to smoke our venison loin. The meat is first washed then allowed to dry in the breeze forming a pellicle, or shiny skin on the surface. This will result in a beautiful even color in the finished product and prevent sooting and smudging.
A fire is prepared in our mini-smokehouse. This has always been intended as a temporary arrangement, but it really does work well for smaller quantities of meat. The smoking compartment is a square metal box with a hole cut in the bottom to admit the smoke. I really don’t know what it was originally for. David made holes in the sides about half-way down and inserted rebar rods to hold up the expanded metal rack. All of it was salvaged material.
The firebox is an old sink out of a pop-op camper. It’s buried to ground level about 8 feet downhill from the smoking box. A trench connects the firebox and the smoking box. The hole in the bottom of the smoking box is positioned over the high end of the trench. A piece of sheet iron is placed over the trench and any gaps along the sides covered with soil. Once the firebox has a good bed of coals I place a few hunks of smoking wood and cover it with a piece of scrap metal.
I usually start it with coals from the woodstove and add a few sticks of cedar to get it going. In the above picture I have added a few pieces of oak. Oak and pecan are our preferred smoking woods and for this project I’ll be smoking the first day with oak and with pecan on the second.
The loin along with several hunks of 4 month old goat milk cheddar are placed in the smoker and initially I smoke with a light smoke and the smokebox uncovered. As smoking progresses I’ll cover the box with a piece of burlap. The meat smoked for 3-4 hours both days. It’s important to keep an eye on temperature. I maintain less than 90 degrees for cold smoking.
Judging when to quit smoking just takes practice and experience. I look for a nice, even color and visible shrinkage of the pieces of loin.
The meat prepared this way will keep at un-air-conditioned room temperature for months, though it will continue to dry and harden. If any mold forms on the surface it can be removed simply with a little vinegar or a quick scrub with some salt. The meat won’t be hurt. We enjoy the smoked loin and cheese sliced thin on whole wheat crackers or homemade bread with beer or wine. It can also be used in recipes calling for dried or chipped beef or as a savory addition to casseroles or salads. It rarely lasts long enough around here to worry about recipes.