Ballymaloe Day 63: Hitting the books

My surfboard hit the water and I pulled my arms through the waves to bring me forward into the ocean. The sun was shining down and all was clear – it was the perfect scene.

Sadly the above paragraph is a complete lie – if only my day was as tranquil and exciting as that! Today I had just one thing on the mind: studying.

Leaving a paper trail throughout the house, I’ve split my study topics in various sections with days for each topic (by the way, this sounds far more organised than it actually is).

Funnily enough I actually enjoy reading through the notes, I just wish that we had more weekly continuous assessment rather than one at the very end – brings back memories of the Leaving Cert.

So instead of boring you with how I broke down my time, here’s a refreshment course in what I studied today – hopefully you’ll find it somewhat interesting!

Smoking Food (really worth checking out)

Smoking helps inhibit the growth of moulds in a food but doesn’t fully preserve food – the ingredients you need to smoke have to be either salted or brined first.

It’s really easy to smoke food at home too – all you need is a metal container and a wire rack inside of it that can take heat underneath (a biscuit tin with a wirerack works wonders).

Hot Smoking

  • The smoking takes place inside the main chamber and needs to be at a temperature no lower than 55 degrees Celsius – you may even have to boost it to 82 degrees Celsius for smoking chicken.
  • Food is partially or fully cooked when hot smoked.
  • Keeps less than cold smoked.

Cold Smoking

  • Smoke is outside the main chamber and is allowed to cool as it passes over the food.
  • Cures the food slowly but doesn’t cook it.
  • Takes place by 10 – 30 degrees Celsius but ideally between 24 – 27 degrees Celsius.
  • To determine whether your food if properly smoked it should have a good, rich colour, firm texture but pliable to the touch.
  • It takes considerably longer than hot smoking.

Wood for smoking

  • It must be a hardwood from deciduous trees (trees that lose their leaves in winter), things like pine would give an odd flavour. Applewood is a solid choice!
  • Do not use painted or treated wood.

Curing (meat)

Salt draws out moisture and preserves meat.

Dry-Cure

  • Entails rubbing good salt liberally onto meat.
  • Salt can draw 26% of its weight in water
  • Things like Prosciutto takes about 7 – 10 months to mature (Prosciutto is also the generic name for Italian dry-cured meat while Serrano is the generic name in Spain for dry-cured and air-dried ham).

Wet-Cure

  • Soaking meat in a salted solution (salted water without spices)
  • Your brine is salty enough when a fresh eggs floats on top.
  • Cures meat much faster than dry-cure.
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