June 18th, 2012
Marek the Butcher made a fresh batch of Klobásy Sausages this weekend and we experimented with smoking them. Traditionally food was smoked to make it last longer before refrigerators were invented. Our aim here wasn’t to produce dried, cured sausages, instead, what we wanted was to enhance them with a smokey flavour.
Having looked up quite a few smoking methods, all of them recommend that you cure meat or sausages first. Warm, smokey, humid conditions are perfect for the development of botulism which can kill you. Two common cures for making sausages are Prague Powder and Morton Tender Quick - both contain salt, sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite. Salt is a preserving agent and sodium nitrate and nitrite prevent the growth of botulism. The instructions for use should be followed closely – only a few grammes are added to the sausage mixture per kilo of meat. When curing a large piece of meat, like a ham, it’s brined (soaked) in a salt solution with the addition of salt peter or sodium nitrate and nitrite.
The good way of creating smoke for a home smoker is to burn sawdust. If you try this at home do make sure you are using sawdust from a tree that gives a nice tasting smoke and one that does not contain any preservatives. Some woods can make meat taste of paint stripper (pine) – see here for some good recommendations.
Sausages should be air dried or they can be smoke dried at a low temperature (below
37º C) before the proper smoking process commences.
We used a barbecue with a lid and air vents to draw the smoke through. The apple wood chips are in the aluminium parcel on the right (the parcel was full of holes to let the smoke out). The ideal way to light the sawdust or chips is to use a blowtorch. When the sawdust starts to produce lots of smoke, put the lid on, but do make sure that any vents are open or the sawdust will stop burning. A large handful of sawdust or chips will burn for an hour or two as long as air is allowed to circulate.
The smoker should be kept at a constant temperature of 71 – 73º C. You can smoke sausages for several hours, but too much smokey flavour will overwhelm everything else and ruin the taste. Sausages should be removed and are officially done, when they reach an internal temperature of 67º C. We thought that one hour of smoke was enough, so at that point we increased the temperature until the inside of the sausage was 67º C. Do use a meat thermometer to check. If you are going to fry grill or barbecue the sausages straight after smoking, don’t worry about this last temperature bit – they’ll get to that temperature during cooking.
Finally we cooked up a smoked and unsmoked klobásy for a taste test. The smoked sausage was definitely the winner without reservation. The smoke tasted good and it seemed to enhance the other flavours. One hour of smoking was about right – if the sausage had tasted any smokier it would have been too much.
For further info on smoking and curing see here: