Skull Gang Foraging Club: Smoked

Categorised as GENERAL.

Every week the Skull Gang Foraging Club go on a loose adventure in the pursuit of home made culinary satisfaction. This week they build a smoker and smoke some mackerel.

The town I grew up in had a psych ward, 6 pubs, a mill, and a pound shop called ‘King Kong Sales’. They sold so much good shit – fart bombs, water pistols, and those creepy little troll dolls that were all the rage back in the 90s. Now I can’t imagine life without a selection of 14 different types of wire brush, or a hologram of Mary that turns into Jesus when viewed from a certain angle. The other thing I can no longer live without is a smoker.

We have been talking about building a smoker for quite some time. We spend evenings listing items we could smoke if we had one.

  • Brisket
  • Fish
  • Garlic
  • Cheese
  • Sausage
  • Pig

Scandinavians know a thing or two about smoking. They realise that everything tastes better smoked. I wanted to turn the garden shed into a smoking paradise, like they would in Scandinavia. But apparently the shed is off limits. Everyone kept talking about how they stored bedding, tools, dogs and other useless shit in there, or about how someone might call the fire brigade if they saw smoke billowing from our garden shed. Pussies.

The pound shop was our compromise. From my extensive knowledge of the itinerary we knew they sold aluminium bins, those big ones with lids. Actually, most bins are sold with lids nowadays, or should be. Anyway, these ones had been converted to act as incinerators. There were holes in the bottom to increase airflow, and little chimneys in the lids. As we were going to cut the bottom out to fit over a pot, and possibly channel the cooling smoke off into another reservoir for cold smoking (cheese, garlic, certain types of fish), this was perfect. I also bought a hairbrush, some zip-ties, and a box of those things wrapped in rolling paper that you throw at the ground and then they explode (Chinese firecrackers or some shit). I really like pound shops.

All you really need for a smoker is a chamber to trap smoke and store the item to be smoked. You could make one out of a cardboard box. We probably will for the cold smoker. The beauty of a galvanised bin is that it helps with storing heat, as well as being un-catch-on-fire-able. The smoking chips need to be exposed to heat, but not flame. You just want them to smoulder. We used a large stockpot on a cheap camp stove. The hole we cut from the bottom of the bin was just small enough to rest on the rim of the pot, but still caught all the smoke. We used another pot to block the chimney in the lid.

For our first run we decided to smoke some mackerel. Anything bigger and we would have to wait too long. To secure the fish in the smoker we decided to hang them. We punched 8 holes in the upper half of the bin with a nail, about level with the handles, then threaded wire through and pulled it tight. This way we could both hang fish, and rest a circular grill on the wire for anything larger. We used the left over wire to fashion hooks.

The fish needed very little preparation. They were crusted with cracked black pepper and some good sea salt. We were going to rely on the smoke, and the fish itself, for flavour. The woodchips were soaked for an hour then drained. This encourages them to smoulder, rather than burn. We used a thermometer from a BBQ to monitor the temperature, but you don’t need to.

The fish took 20 minutes at full smoke. We lost some into the pan as the flesh softened. It may be a better idea to sit them on a grill rather than hang them.

Either way, they were ace. I can’t wait to smoke everything.


Samuel Davis

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