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Monday, November 18, 2013

Smoking on the Prairie

Smoker Loaded with Jerky, Salt & Garlic
Well, I’ve already ‘outed’ myself as a rabid Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. . .I might as well come completely clean on all fronts. Prepare yourself for this shocker! I smoke. Rampantly, unabashedly. . .and every single thing I can get my hands on!

Betcha didn’t think you’d ever learn that about ME, now didja? The truth is, I’ve smoked from a very young age. . .all my family were smokers, so it was just a natural progression for me: diapers, walking, talking, then smoking! We’re referring to smoking foods here, of course! (you probably already figured that out, though, right?!)

It was harder, back then, to do it properly, but I started small and worked my way up. I didn’t gravitate toward the harder, more complex items, which were trickier to prepare and took much longer to smoke. I stuck with things you could quickly season and slap in the smoker for a relatively short period of time. I think my first attempt was venison jerky. Or maybe trout fillets. I don’t remember, but I was certainly hooked!

The smell of smoking food is undeniably enticing, especially on crisp fall mornings when the air is pure and clear and clean. My uncles often had their large shed smokers in full operation for most of autumn as they preserved the deer, antelope, elk, trout, and huge king salmon they harvested on plentiful hunting and fishing trips. I loved to help with preparing the brines and dry rubs, and the slicing and arranging of the meats on racks. I loved to help with the canning of the finished slabs of smoked salmon and thick stew cuts of beef as well as the vacuum packing of game jerky and delicate trout fillets. Hundreds of pounds of meat went through my Aunt’s fall kitchen and I loved every single protein-packed second of it. It was a wonderful family time full of laughter and gorgeous food and togetherness.

Most of that generation of hunters and fishermen are gone now, but I still smoke wild caught meats as much as possible and even resort to store-bought on occasion (catching a great sale on salmon or beef can mean a pantry full of flavorful smoked meats for use in winter!). But I have branched out considerably since then, smoking things my grandparents would never have thought to . . .salt and garlic are two biggies, but I have also smoked cheese and cream (which make the most AMAZING smoked mashed potatoes!!), and my own bacon and sausages, etc. The possibilities are endless and the results are unbelievable.

I shouldn’t find it surprising, then, that one of my most ‘re-pinned’ pins on my Pinterest boards are ones that have to do with building your own smokehouse, such as this one from DIY Guides, for example. Folks love the process, love the results, and are finding out that smoking is no longer merely a way to make jerky (though OH! the flavor of homemade jerky!!). Endless delicious possibilities await.

So, go on. Start smoking. I promise I won’t tell your mother!


  1. My husband smokes. And when he fires up the smoker, he always makes sure there is something on every rack so that the smoker is full. Two of my favorites (besides salmon) are turkey and eggs. If we are home on Thanksgiving he smokes a whole turkey for dinner. It's much better the next day, but sure is yummy fresh out of the smoker. And I always hard boil some eggs for the smoker when he decides to smoke.

    1. Oh, then you understand my obsession! I, too, try to keep every rack filled. If there is even the tiniest vacant space, I tuck in a bit of sea or kosher salt or a head of garlic! DIVINE!! I am with you, too, on the smoked turkey thing. . .it is just so yummy. I have never tried eggs, though. . .I am not an egg person, but I live with five rabid egg-eaters, so this is definitely going to happen! Do you smoke them with shells on or off? Tonight I am making smoked mashed potatoes, so have to find room to squeeze in cream this afternoon. . oh, my mouth is watering! :)

    2. I peel the eggs. That way all the yummy smokeyness soaks into the whites.

  2. Thanks, Heather! I am definitely going to be trying this! I thought the shells needed to come off, but wasn't sure. I don't peel heads of garlic, but, though eggshells are porous, they are also a lot thicker! I love having something else I can chuck in thesmoker!! :)


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