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Smoked Ducks and Geese

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
Some years back there was a market in Eagle Lake, Texas, that would brine and smoke wild ducks and geese. The process took around seven days, and he told me he
"cold smoked" them.

When you picked up the birds, they were in a netting. I gave many of them for presents around the holidays, and they were always very popular items at parties. We served them with various condiments like jezebel sauce and so forth on crackers or bread. They had a somewhat salty taste and a texture not unlike ham.

I know absolutely nothing about "cold smoking", but it seems as if there could be some health concerns. We never had a problem with these birds, and after the season we would sometimes get the market to smoke domestic ducks. We froze them and shipped them all over the country.

Is anyone on here familiar with the cold smoking process? I am getting ready to break in a Weber Smokey Mountain, and I wonder if that can be used.

Thanks in advance for any help. It appears a lot of you are know your way around smokers.

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post #2 of 28
MaryB and BDL, among others stand out in my mind as the smoking gurus. However I can help by pointing you in the right direction, a quick search gave me these threads: http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/recip...d-smoking.html http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/food-...d-smoking.html

http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/food-...age-bacon.html
http://www.cheftalk.com/forums/recip...gar-sauce.html

there where a lot to choose from but I am sure this will be a good start.
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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post #3 of 28
"Cold" smoking is kind of a misnomer, since it actually maintains a constant temperature above the danger zone -- that's how barbeque is done. It does cook foods, just very low and veeeeeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrrrrry slow.

Hot smoking, otoh, uses higher temperatures and shorter times. That's what I do in my stovetop smoker, which operates at the equivalent of an oven at 375ºF.
"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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"Notorious stickler" -- The New York Times, January 4, 2004
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post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
I am not a novice at smoking ribs, brisket, pork butts, chicken, and most game. As I write this, I have just wrapped two racks of spare ribs, trimmed St. Louis style, in a butter, honey, and brown sugar slather. I smoked them for 3 hours at 225 degrees in an offset cooker, and will cook in foil for another hour at the same temperature.

What I am inquiring about is a technique that I am totally in the dark about - cold smoking. I also have a Big Chief smoker that cooks at a low temperature, but the food that comes out of there needs to then be cooked at a higher temperature for the most part, according to the smoker instructions.

The ducks and geese I got from the market in Eagle Lake required no further preparation. They prepared literally hundreds of ducks and geese annually, and shipped them frozen. We found the waterfowl to be best served at room temperature. It was not unlike a mild country ham in taste, and many people commented it tasted like ham. I assume that was a result of the brining, and then the smoking.

Everything I have read thus far indicates that the game needs to be cooked further after the slow smoking. What is the process used in curing country ham? I know I reheat country ham when I prepare it, but is it necessary?
post #5 of 28
"Cold Smoking" is a specific type of smoking done between 80F and 100F give or take a little. In any case, it's well inside the "danger zone" which is between 40F and 140F. Think of it this way, if it's hot enough to melt cheese -- it's not "cold smoking."

There are ways to make a pit run cold, ice for instance. However, if cold smoking is something you're going to do more than a couple of times a year, it's generally better to rig some sort of "smoke house" where there's a long run between the fire box and the smoke chamber, allowing the smoke to cool before it gets to the food.

Cold smoking doesn't actually "cook" anything, but can help with the curing process. Things which can be eaten near raw, salmon for instance, are fine cold smoked. But things which cannot, are not cooked by cold smoking, bacon by way of example.

What your friends did to the game birds, I can't say for sure. They either cooked the birds after smoking them; or, more likely, smoking was just one part of a long, dry cure, including a long hang in cool (but not freezing), dry air; and a chemical cure, like Prague powder, as well. In other words, those birds were like ham, because they were made in much the same way.

Safety aside, brining and cold smoking are not enough to "cook," but only to flavor.

FYI: Defining barbecue into tight categories is difficult. Owning a smoker is gives you an automatic Anarchist card in your wallet. So, consider these as categories as very roughly drawn. "Low and Slow" is typically done between 215F (i.e., above boiling) and 250F. Anything hotter is called "hot smoking," hot roasting" or hot baking."

You can cook at 140F to 200F, sort of. But it's not a good idea. On the one hand, it's sort of a sous-vide. On the other the low temperature range brings some safety issues -- too much time in the danger zone. You'll find "pitmasters" on barbecue forums who do barbecue at around 200F on the basis that they've never been sick -- yet.

In my experience, the whole temperature range between 100F to 220F is a waste. There's nothing gained from trying to cook "low and slow" below a temperature of 225F. Otherwise, you might as well "cold smoke," and accept the limitations.

You can't "cook" at temperatures below 140F, at least not in the meaningful sense of the word.

BDL
post #6 of 28
"Cold" smoking process is just like the barbeque process, like maintaining costant temp above tihs danger zone. so there. cook it just like a barbeque
post #7 of 28
Senator Moynihan observed, Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

The "'Cold smoking process" does NOT maintain temperatures anywhere nearly "above [the] danger zone." It is not barbeque, nor is it "just like barbeque." It is cold smoking.

It's a definitional thing, there are no regional variations, and it's not subject to individual interpretation.

If it helps, herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrres wiki:

Smokehouse temperatures for cold smoking should be maintained below 100 °F (38 °C). In this temperature range, foods take on a rich, smokey flavor, develop a deep mahogany color, and tend to retain a relatively moist texture. They are not cooked as a result of the smoking process, however.

Maybe I shouldn't have used Wiki, since the rest of the "smoking" article is so amazingly idiosyncratic.

Alton Brown, not necessarily typical for him, is more mainstream on the subject:

Now technically there are two different kinds of food smoking: there's cold smoking and hot smoking.

Cold smoking involves exposing the food to a relatively low temperature of smoke, usually about 100 degrees, for days or even weeks. Now this requires either a large smoke house or a smoke chamber that's got an external fire box so that the smoke can cool off as it moves through the duct work. Now foods that are cold smoked are preserved by dehydration and the smoke itself but they are not cooked, okay? [Emphasis added]
Hope it did help,
BDL
post #8 of 28
Sorry, HomeMadeCook, but that's not quite correct. Better read BDL's post for the straight skinny.

"Low & slow" as used to make barbecue is a hot-smoke method that actually cooks the food.

Cold smoking is not a cooking process. Instead it is done for one of two reasons:

1. To provide a smoke flavor to food that will otherwise be cooked.
2. To cure the food, which is actually a salting/brining process---which is, ultimately, a drying process.

When I cold smoke I work at between 90-115F in order to smoke-cure foods. As BDL notes, the reason OldPro's waterfowl tasted vaguely like ham is because it was first cured with either a brine or a dry cure, a process which can take anything from a couple of days to a week. The birds were then allowed to air dry until a pellicle formed. And then they were smoked.

Cold smoking can take several weeks to accomplish. Old timers, with private smoke houses, often just left the food in the smokehouse until it was needed. Once it's finished, however, refrigeration is not needed---anymore than it would be with a country ham or properly cured bacon. The same is not true of food that is smoke-cooked.

Cold smoking is always done with an off-set fire box, and the smoke is ducted to the smoking chamber, allowing it to cool before getting there.

Here are examples of brines & cures that work well with waterfowl, particularly geese:

Sweet Pickle Brine

5 gallons water
5 lbs coarse salt
1 lb white sugar
1 oz saltpeter
6 cloves grushed garlic
4 oz pickling spices

Dry Cure for Meat

5 lb coarse salt
1 lb white sugar
1 oz saltpeter
2 tbls garlic powder
2 tbls onions powder
Small pkg mixed whole pickling spices

OldPro: From your description, I would guess they used a sugar cure. That would help keep the flesh soft and chewy, like ham, and not require cooking or soaking before use. Such as the way you served it.

I gave up brining in favor of dry cures, so don't have a formula for a good sugar brine. If you'd like to try it with a dry cure, however, either use the above one, or try:

10-15 lbs coarse salt
6 lbs brown sugar
8 oz ground black pepper
2 oz cayenne
1/2 oz (approx) rubbed sage
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #9 of 28
There was an episode of Good Eats where Alton cures and cold smokes a pork belly. His "smoker" was fabricated from a set of three gym lockers where the first held the fire, the third the food and the middle one for cooling the smoke. I think the episode was titled 'Scrap Iron Chef'

I really like cold smoked fish, I'm going to have to try it this summer. All the smoking I've done so far has been above the 225F mark.

mjb.
Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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Food nourishes my body.  Cooking nourishes my soul.
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post #10 of 28
Just to shine a scientific perspective on the safety issue guys; there is an issue; but not too much in the aspect of food-poisoning bacteria:

Smoke contains many different anti-microbial compounts; which will generally kill most microbes on the surface of the meat HOWEVER it also contains some fairly nasty carcenogens known as PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons). They're produced from any organic coumpound that is burnt (eg. Wood), and serve a strong risk of cancer (but what doesn't, right?!)

The main advantage to cold smoking is flavour; as the particles oxidise, they form a much more complex base; which can be hightened by wetting the outside of the meat before smoking to allow a cohesive surface for the smoke particles to adhere to.
post #11 of 28
Alton Brown, not necessarily typical for him, is more mainstream on the subject:.....

Wow! Something Alton Brown and I finally agree on 100%,
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 28
Two comments, Chris, if you don't mind.

First, the minor anti-microbial properties of smoke are all but irrelevent in cold smoking. In that process, there is safety in salt.

Given the same cut of meat, fowl, or fish, and using the same brine/cure, you can merely salt-dry the food or you can smoke-dry it. The microbial presence will be exactly the same when you're done.

Second, in re: carcinagens. That same effect, for how much it may appear, is there whether you are cold smoking or hot smoking. Smoke is smoke in that regard.

I would take minor issue with your comments about a wet surface. With hot smoking what you say is more true than not. But that's because 1. you have the food in smoke for a comparatively short time; and 2. you are concerned with getting the smoke-flavor on it as quickly as possible. With cold smoking, you do not want a wet surface. Just the opposite, you want a pelicle to form before smoking takes place. But the food is also in the smoke for a much longer period, and has time to absorb it.

One of the differences between hot and cold smoking, too, is that with hot smoking the smoke flavor is essentially on, and just below the surface. The much vaunted smoke ring that we look for pretty much defines the depth. With cold smoking the flavor enfuses the food.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 28
I know I reheat country ham when I prepare it, but is it necessary?

Missed that question originally, Old Pro.

You reheat country ham for taste, texture, and quality reasons. From a safety viewpoint there is no reason not to eat it "raw." Same is true for any cured-but-not-cooked food product. You don't, for instance, reheat lox.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #14 of 28
Chris and KY, the three of us are the sort of talmudic cooks who can niggle and quibble several aspects of cold smoking to death. For my part though, the most important thing is that at least we've established a nucleus of people who know what cold smoking is.

Still, the OP wants to know if any of us has a clue about recreating the game birds he used to get. I got nothing.

Chris's and my expertise aren't in the game area. But KY my brother, it seems up your alley. I didn't find anything on your blog, Outdoor Sports Advisor. Unique outdoor recreation articles and reviews., but also know you've got a lot of game recipes you haven't put up. Anything in the vicinity? Maybe know some sites to research?

BDL
post #15 of 28
KY may I ask if this information is from your experience or are you using a reference/source?

May I ask your reasons behind your facts?

I would think that the sulphourous compounds in the smoke would still act even though the smoke is cooled; as would the various poisonous hydrocarbons; such as the aldehydes. May I ask why you're under the impression otherwise?

Certainly agreed that salt is much more effective anti-microbial agent here.

Also certainly agreed that its the same carcinagenic effect on both hot and cold smoking, however as previously stated; cold smoking is a much longer process therefore exposed to these PAHs for much longer period (therefore accumulates more). And also the cold particles stick more (up to seven times more; Sourced; J.A. Maga).

The wet surface was a technique that I originally sourced from Harold McGee's 'On food and cooking' and he later reinforced with his book 'Wood smoke and charred wood'; I quote:

"The humidity of the air also makes a difference; smoke vapors are deposited more efficiently onto moist surfaces, so "wet" smoking has a stronger effect in a shorter time."

Although I fully respect the technique you mentioned; I'm not sure what basis you're making your claims on.

However BDL is quite right; The original question was related to the smoking process; which has been highlighted particularly well; the saltiness which seems to be an obvious effect of the curing with the brine.

...and perhaps the depth of the bird's flavour can be hightened by encouraging the activity of the protein digesting enzymes within the muscle; these are most active between 40-50 deg C; heat the birds to this temp during the cooking process and leaving it for several hours (the protein-digesting enzymes will break down the nearby proteins into flavourful amino acids; which amongst other things will develop a sense of savoury- Umami-)...

...and by not cooking too hot.
post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
I do recall that the owner of the market had a shed behind the market that he used for the smoking process. The birds were hung in netting inside the shed. He also told me that they were smoked for several days, and that the temperature was kept at less than 100 degrees.

Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
post #17 of 28
Thread Starter 
KY, I think you nailed the process he used. There was a week to 10 day turnaround on the birds. I know there was a brining process, and I know the birds went into the cooler in the netting for some period of time prior to smoking. The owner of the market was generally pretty secretive about his exact methodology. The only time I actually saw the shed was one time when I picked up some birds without calling in advance.

It sounds like this would become a more adventurous project than I envisioned when I started this thread. I've had enough projects for the time being with my kitchen renovation.
post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 
How do you apply a "dry cure"? I've applied a lot of rubs to meat, but have no experience in the meat or fish curing process. Is there a book you can recommend on this subject?
post #19 of 28
Buy curing salt, Prague powder, or some other nitrate/nitrite "cure." Mix it into a seasoned dry rub. Rub it onto your meat. In the case of poultry, try to get it under the skin. Store the meat in a cool dry place. Wait. Keep waiting. Wait some more.

I'm sorry I can't point you to a particular book, or even website. It's been a long time since I've done it, and have lost my browser bookmarks at least several times in the interim.

Bruce Aidell covers the process somewhat; but from a sausage making rather than a sportsman's perspective. At any rate, I'd look for websites and forums oriented towards cooking game and also for sausage making. Those are the constituencies who do curing and own smokehouses. There are thoussands of people who do what you want to do, sure some of them are on the net.

BDL
post #20 of 28

Pleasant interlude

oldpro...are you saying that the 'Q place in Eagle Lake is no longer open? Made the best link sausage I ever put in my mouth. All you needed was a link and a loaf of squishy white bread from the little market next door.
post #21 of 28
Thread Starter 
The place we had the birds smoked was Eagle Market. That closed many years ago. I haven't hunted in Eagle Lake in years, but there was a filling station with a smoker going full time where we got our sausage links after the hunt. Is that the place you're talking about?

When I hunted there, I ate with my two sons at every restaurant in Eagle Lake at some point after the hunt. I had two golden retrievers at the time and my boys would use them as pillows to sleep on driving home. The boys and the dogs both loved it. Great memories.
post #22 of 28
Was it set up where you entered on one side and the counter was right there (maybe 4 feet between the front wall (screened?) and the counter? Need to get out there soon and check it out. The sausage was so savory and quite juicy (a stoop over meal for sure!)
post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 
That sounds about right. It really was an old filling station before it became a cue spot.
post #24 of 28
Chris, I did read some books about smoke curing, many years ago. Most of my comments come from personal experience and interviews/observations of both home-, semi-commercial-, and commercial smoke houses and curing facilities.

Wish I knew more about Eagle Lake. The little hunting I've done in that part of the world was further south, down around Bay City, for waterfowl, and over towards Harlengin (sp?), for big game.

OldPro, it's not as adventursome as you think. You don't need a smokehouse, to do one or two birds. When you're done with the renovation let me know, and I'll teach you how to make a smoker from a trash can.

Or maybe I'll just post it at my webpage.

Rub it onto your meat. In the case of poultry, try to get it under the skin. Store the meat in a cool dry place. Wait. Keep waiting. Wait some more.

Basically that's it. Except to really cure it properly you want the protein covered with the cure, making sure to rub it in well against the bones, and forcing it into anyplace that has an airway. For instance, with birds, make sure you get the cure into the space where the legs join the body---just as with a ham you'd force it down along the bone pocket.

You want to turn the food at least once a day, redistributing the cure and adding more if needed. And it's a good idea to have the work surface at a slight angle, so that the liquid (there's a surprising amount) has a place to drain away. Commerical places do all this in huge tubs that have drains in the bottom.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #25 of 28
Thread Starter 
Bay City is only about 21 miles north of Matagorda. My house on the Colorado River is 7 miles north of the intercoastal and 14 miles from the gulf.

The dry cure process sounds more complex than brining. What advantage do you think dry curing provides over the wet method or brining?
post #26 of 28
OldPro, I'm not sure that dry cure has any particular advantage over brining.

In my case I switched to it only because it was easier, for me, to develop a feel for how long the protein had to be handled. Essentially (and this is an overstatement) it stops leaking when the cure has been fully absorbed.

I also feel---and this could be as much in the head as on the tastebuds---that dry curing results in a better flavor.

So, it's not a right/wrong or better/worse thing. It's a question of what works best for you.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #27 of 28
This book covers a lot of the basics of meat curing #71200 Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing by Rytek Kutas
post #28 of 28
note to self: add KYH to Smoking Guru list:peace:
"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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"In those days spirits were brave, the stakes were high, men were real men, women were real women, and small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri were real small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri. "
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