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Jan 20 11 10:00 PM

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One of the things I'd like to put in this year is a proper smokehouse.

I used to do a lot of this years ago as I was quite the fisherman and would often catch far more than I could consume, and it was practical to salt and smoke it all, which then was pretty much a staple. Bummer to live on smoked trout(or duck, as we're getting too. . .) but hard curing or brining of meats is a completely viable way of preserving for long term storage and in many cases one creates a value added product in the process. I've kept hard cured bacons in salt on my boats for over a year with only an improvement in flavor. So, I'm considering building a smoke house as sausage and all that is likely to be part of the picture. I used to make a lot of salami similar to the hard italian varieties and it's practical to do and relatively inexpensive if the infrastructure is there, and lasts pretty much indefinitely without refrigeration. I plan to do that with duck meat as I used to make a lot of duck jerky and that was pretty fine stuff. I really doubt anyone would turn their noses up at a quality duck salami.

Anyway, I'm curious if others would find the use of the smokehouse valuable also, as it could be rented out more or less like a cold locker or whathave you. Large units are more effective than hokey little ones, but if I'm going to build a big one, I'd like to know I could fill it. Right now, probably not. The unit at least in the "transition" moment will be propane fired and will run on a thermostat and a clock. If the world goes to hell and I've nothing to do but throw sticks in it that's another future, but right now I'm thinking about the next couple of years.

So, who's interested? I don't mind offering some guidance.

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#2 [url]

Jan 20 11 11:50 PM

Thanks! But I'm really thinking along the lines of something that will process a couple of thousand pounds at a run, as it's much more efficient and can allow for the longer run times that hard cures require.

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#3 [url]

Jan 21 11 12:59 PM

And where are you going to get a couple thousand pounds at a time?!!!  Average slaughter weight on a cow is about 600 - 700 pounds so you'd need three to four cows at a time.  That would need a chill room to hang them in as well.  Although generally beef gets hung longer than most meats, I think, so if you were doing pigs you might be able to skip the chill room.  I haven't a clue how many fish or pigs would be necessary for several thousand pounds worth.  And then where and how would you store it all?  Annebell isn't gonna be able to eat that much!  At that scale you've pretty much gone from home consumption to commercial scale and if you are doing a commercial sort of operation, then you run afoul of Dept. of Health regulations.  

Any time one is being "sustainable" there is a certain level of scale involved.  It might be more efficient to turn out a whole lot of whatever one is doing (hence commercial food production) however for one's own self-sufficiency it can be too expensive to be too big unless one can sell the excess.  Kinda like many new chicken owners who get way too many chickens to start with.  A flock of a half dozen or less is entirely sustainable on things such as kitchen scraps and bugs, but once it gets over that amount then imported feed has to be factored in.  If you are going to be running a smoker with several thousand pounds of meat in it at any one time, how are you gonna feed that quantity of flesh until it's time to slaughter and smoke it?

Now, if you want to build a commercial smoker, that's an entirely different kettle of fish and at that quantity, that sounds about where you are headed.  I'm not sure how long you'd be able to run it before someone would take official notice so getting a building permit for a commercial kitchen would probably be in your best interests on this one.

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#4 [url]

Jan 21 11 10:59 PM

No problems. Let's put it in context of sustainable living. We have no refrigeration. Few off grid people will.  A refrigeration system run sustainably off of solar would cost thousands of dollars in terms of capital costs and for very little results. There are better solutions, and those who have proven workable over centuries. Hard cured meats are that solution. For myself, I down at least 4 big pigs a year, not much worth eating but run through a kitchen aid  mill with salt, garlic, and cheap Parmesan cheese suddenly becomes a uncorruptable substance resembling Gallo Salami. Without the smokehouse they're only worth compost. We here could eat 500 lbs of that a year easily, as that's a protein source that could very nicely go into breakfast, lunch, and dinner--and eliminates or utilizes a pig problem that gets into the taro production cashflow. We have now within walking distance 7 members of the forum who could do the same, and have similar pig problems. That's only Fern Forest, and if we expand Eden Roc we could go to 12. That's tons of pig sausage and can utilize a proper smoker of about an 8 by 8 footprint running on the ohia sawdust that I've got a lot of. I'm assuming all of us might see a couple of 200 hundred pound pigs a year. That's not unreasonable, and we might enjoy a community smokehouse.

It only makes sense, and I'm anticipating scale. Last year I measured output by the pound. This year it will be by the hundredweight. Next year it will be by the ton. Sustainability requires more than feeding yourself, it requires feeding the tax man, a mortgage if you've got it, and all the other expenses you might have in a manner that doesn't destroy the world you live in. It's not just gardening.

I think this will be the year we discover that.

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#5 [url]

Jan 21 11 11:29 PM

We are already off grid with a refrigerator, it's not that hard.  I'm not sure if the scheduling of all these pigs is going to work unless the smoke house is sort of continuously going.  Hmm, I suppose it's not like a ceramic kiln where everything goes in, gets fired and is done and comes out, huh?  If there's enough pigs and if the smokehouse can sort of be kept continuously simmering, it might work.

Still, would a smaller portable smoke house work?  Then you wouldn't need to get everyone organized with bringing their pigs in at the same time.  If you had a batch of smaller ones, if you had more pigs, you'd just fire up more smokehouses.  Most of the ones I see are about 3' x 3' or maybe as big as 4' x 4' and anywhere from six to eight feet tall.  Those are from the pig hunter folks who always seem to have something smoking in it.

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#7 [url]

Jan 22 11 11:40 AM

Here's some background info that may clarify the project and why a large unit makes a lot of sense. It's important to understand that I'm talking about traditional hard cured products that won't require refrigeration after they are processed. Hot smoked meats will, as we see locally mostly. I think a lot of us are in a situation where if we could drop off 50 lbs of homemade bacon, plunk it on a shelf in the community smokehouse and pick it up in 6 weeks or so could find that all of a sudden small scale animal husbandry would make sustainable and financial sense. I plan to build a unit for smoked, candied ducks and one large enough to handle ice if needed and scale for our local group is no big deal. It's a huge value add to farm products. One takes cheap meat and turns it into a 10 to 15 dollar a pound treat, and wild pigs suddenly become an asset. Catch them, worm them, fatten them up. Bingo!

Here's a link as to the process. I used to carry hard cured bacons on my boats and they'd easily last a year, and as far as I'm concerned the flavor only improved.

http://pine3.info/Curing.htm

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#8 [url]

Jan 23 11 2:41 AM

I just catch the pigs after avocado season and then freeze them in big chunks and make various sausage from them and keep the sausage in the refrigerator.  More easy, but if there were a smokehouse available and it wasn't too costly, I'd consider having a few hams smoked.

You can grow the black pepper and many of the other spices for the cure.  Probably you could evaporate seawater for the salt or swap salt for smoking with folks who live near the ocean.  The cheapest blackstrap molasses I've seen has been from Azure Standard, it might be worth getting in several gallons from there since it's a lot cheaper than any local source that I know of.

How healthy is eating smoked and cured meats?  In small quantities it probably isn't a problem, but does it affect blood pressure and such if it is eaten in large quantities?  All that salt, ya know.

Small kid time there was a community freeze house.  You could take your stuff down to the ice locker and they'd give you a wire basket with a locking top.  You'd put your frozen packages in the basket - ours was mostly beef from my uncle's farm - and they would keep them frozen at a small monthly fee.  I don't know if you'd be able to do that sort of thing, but a community chill room and community freezer would be a handy thing to have.

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#9 [url]

Jan 27 11 11:57 AM

That sounds like a great idea to grow the peppercorns. Sounds like a cash crop to me!

Seems like there is a lot of interest in the smoke house. I'll see if I can accelerate my schedule a little bit on that. Maybe someone can hunt up a good deal on bulk salt? We'll need hundreds of pounds, of course. Maybe that's a Costco thing. It's pretty cheap. The Morton "Sugar Cure" stuff is easy too, and has nitrites in the mix which make for a more reliable product. That's mostly what I've always used for my bag sausage. Hair nets are great for bags.

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#10 [url]

Jan 27 11 12:31 PM

I've seen Brazillian pepper trees growing like crazy in Kalapana. I understand the roasted fruit is used by some as a peppercorn. The tree is a terrible invasive though. Just don't drop any on your place!

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#11 [url]

Jan 27 11 6:04 PM

I have used salt that is made for soft water systems but I don't think you can find any over here. Is is cheap about $3 per 50 lbs last time I got any.

Bill

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#13 [url]

Oct 7 11 1:50 AM

Jay did you ever build your smoker? I've seen community wood fired ovens that "pipe" smoke from the oven to a large smoke box beside the oven. It creates a "cold smoke" and your able to fire bread/pizza in the oven when it's very hot, then put baked dishes or bread fruit/taro/potato in as the oven cools, once it's below 250' degrees then you can dry tomato or other veg. as it stays hot for some time is build well and insulated. This is an efficient use of fuel and can be fired once a week, or more if needed, and feed several families per firing and preserve veg/meats by drying and smoking. 

Also if you're in need of salt, I'm on the West side of the Big Island, lot's of sun & dry weather. I have some smaller scale production of sea salt going now, and plan to increase to share abundance and trade. You get about 3-4oz of good quality salt from a gallon of sea water or if I keep my pans full and producing I get a couple pounds in a week easily. Let me know, I'm happy to share.

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#14 [url]

Oct 7 11 1:56 AM


Jay did you ever build your smoker? I've seen community wood fired ovens that "pipe" smoke from the oven to a large smoke box beside the oven. It creates a "cold smoke" and your able to fire bread/pizza in the oven when it's very hot, then put baked dishes or bread fruit/taro/potato in as the oven cools, once it's below 250' degrees then you can dry tomato or other veg. as it stays hot for some time if built well and insulated. This is an efficient use of fuel and can be fired once a week, or more if needed, and feed several families per firing and preserve veg/meats by drying and smoking. 

I've not built an oven myself, but the two I've cooked with where brick and concrete in a dome that where layed over earth/sand in a dome shape. Then when cured, the earth/sand was scooped out through the arch oven "mouth". The one with the smoker attached I saw was in Vermont and it was built the same way, but the smoke was piped to a hard wood box beside the oven.

Also if you're in need of salt, I'm on the West side of the Big Island, lot's of sun & dry weather. I have some smaller scale production of sea salt going now, and plan to increase to share abundance and trade. You get about 3-4oz of good quality salt from a gallon of sea water or if I keep my pans full and producing I get a couple pounds in a week easily. Let me know, I'm happy to share.

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#15 [url]

Oct 7 11 10:27 AM

Hi Chef, not yet, but it's on the schedule for the winter, I hope. Many households here made smoked meat a tradition, but there's more people all the time that complain about the odor of wood smoke and it's tough to make a go of it in some neighborhoods. Here I've got no troubles with that so it's a good service. I'd really like to make hard cured hams, ultimately.

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#17 [url]

Oct 8 11 12:07 PM

Sounds good. I think, really, as we go along those of us who have seen things coming are going to need to step up to the plate and taking on the responsibility of shouldering the lions share of critical sustainable infrastructure. I don't see institutions pulling it off.

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#18 [url]

Nov 7 11 3:13 PM

. For myself, I down at least 4 big pigs a year, not much worth eating but run through a kitchen aid  mill with salt, garlic, and cheap Parmesan cheese suddenly becomes a uncorruptable substance resembling Gallo Salami. Without the smokehouse they're only worth compost

-jaywfitz

Hi Jay,

Could you elaborate on why the pigs aren't worth eating as-is?  Almost all my reading to date has suggested that wild pigs make for great food, with the exception of the oldest, toughest, gamiest boars -- which I assumed meant we should just selectively target younger animals, leaving the oldest smartest sows and boars to continue breeding healthy stock.  I'm curious about your different take on wild pig palatability.

Our theoretical (obviously we're not even living on-island yet) "food storage" approach involves throwing feasts and giving away excess food when we have windfalls or too much meat for our small "tribe" to eat on our own before it spoils.  With some expectation that we'll wind up partaking in the good luck of others in our extended community from time to time when they bag their own pigs, etc.  Basically modelling after hunter-gatherer investment into social networks and interdependency, rather than depending on technology and aiming for strict self-reliance.

Norris
Portland, OR

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#19 [url]

Nov 7 11 4:26 PM

Norris,

I have no direct experience with pigs other than knowing a local pig hunter, so take this for what it's worth.

According to said pig hunter, it's about the pigs' diet dictated by geography. He told me the mauka (mountain) boars are gamey because of less "pickins", and the makai boars are the tastiest because they eat all those avocados, pineapples and other fruit in abundance here in lower Puna. I never tried confirming this theory firsthand so it could be bullshit. (He was kinda full of shit anyway.) 

We once sampled a batch of local sausage he made (that he claims is island-famous) but couldn't finish it, way too fatty for my taste. Again, for what it's worth...

A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions - Confucius

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#20 [url]

Nov 7 11 6:06 PM


There are some folks I know who also subscribe to the "what was it eating" question when determining which are the tastiest pigs.  They also inquire as to the gender of the pig, with sows being considered much better eating than boars.  The gender only matters on older pigs, though.

We usually decide on a pig-by-pig basis as to if the individual pig is worth eating.  Since we are more or less doing vermin eradication from our friend's gardens, occasionally there will be one which is just too small to bother with.  They don't want to let it go since it will come back and destroy their garden, yet it's hardly worth it for me to go get it and put it in the stew pot.  Sometimes they will make it into compost, sometimes they find someone closer who will take it.

We have had several which had a more gamey taste and those have usually been made into spicy sausage to hide the taste or soaked in brine to decrease the taste somewhat.  A lot of the pig hunters feed the gamey ones to their dog pack since they usually have a half dozen dogs to feed.

Smoking is a good way to preserve meat, although there is also canning.  This is the cheap turkey at the store time of year and the only time we can afford to buy turkey.  At the moment, there's eight pints ready to be put into the pressure canner.  Once it's canned, then it can sit on the shelf for quite some time and not need refrigeration.

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