Last weekend for High Seas weekend, we demonstrated several techniques used in preserving food. These techniques included smoking meats and salts. We also demonstrated how to make flavored extracts, oils, salts and sugars. All of these things can be used to create lovely handmade gifts for the holidays.
Smoking Meats and Salts:
Buy wood chips (found in the same location as the charcoal briquettes) and soak them overnight in water. Once done, place the soaked wood chips in the bottom of the pot or tray. Now, I strongly recommend that this is not done indoors, as it will create a lot of smoke, but on an outdoor grill or bonfire. If on a grill, use a double rack system and place the tray with the wood chips on the lower rack and the meat or salt on the upper rack and close the lid. If using a bonfire, place the chips at the bottom of the cast iron pot and place the meat on top of the chips or the salt in a tray on top of the chips and place the lid on the pot. The heat will cause the chips to smoke and will smoke the meat or salt. The meat should cook this way for 2-3 hours and the salt will take 6-8 hours. Make sure that you break up the salt every two hours so that they are evenly flavored.
Flavored Salts and Sugars:
This is a fairly easy process. You will need a ceramic dish, we used ramekins. Place a layer of salt or sugar at the bottom of the dish. Sweet things should be applied to the sugar (nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, clove, citrus zest, or cinnamon) and savory things would be applied to the salt (garlic, rosemary, chilies, etc.) Place the chosen flavor on top of the bottom layer of salt or sugar and begin layering. Place the dish in a low heat area so the flavor infuses with the salt or sugar. Salt requires a higher heat (200 degrees) for an hour and sugar requires a lower heat (100 – 150 degrees) for two hours. Place in an airtight container and serve as needed.
Like the sugars, extracts are easy to make. Finding a sweet spice (nutmeg, ginger, vanilla, clove, citrus zest, or cinnamon) and placing it into a clean bottle that can be sealed. Add a strong flavorless liquor such as Everclear or Vodka and seal shut. The longer it sits with occasional shaking, the stronger the extract will become.
Flavored Oils & Vinegars
Follows the same principles as the extracts, but vinegar or olive oil is used with savory herbs such as rosemary, basil, thyme, or peppers; I recommend heating the vinegar or oil and adding fresh herbs to the mix, simmering it, and then bottling it. The acids will keep longer than the oils. Keep the oils in the refrigerator for use.