I’ve been disappointed many times before, but this was supposed to be The One.
On the 15th March the message came through loud and clear: ‘SMOKE SOMETHING’ was the command from Charcutepalooza HQ. Just the challenge I’ve been waiting for.
Cue imagination overdrive: MacGyver projects, playing around with electric hot plates and tinfoil, building stuff, making things. Experimenting with fire and smoke. Conducting detailed research into types of wood and which foods to pair them with. The world was my Oyster… hey! smoked Oysters… now there’s an idea. Or not. I’m not sure anymore.
Alas it was not to be!
Schedules got mussed up and time slipped away. Distractions occurred on an unprecedented scale. A bout of chronic Insomnia stole far too many hours from my life and sent me delirious with the torment. It all went wrong.
Not horribly wrong, just wrong enough for the niggle of dissatisfaction to burrow a hole inside me and nestle down comfortably for a prolonged stay.
So now, instead of a fabulous flowerpot smoker that looks amazing and does unspeakably good things to food using combustion and its by-products all I have is a large terracotta pot collecting dust and rainwater in the garden.
And instead of a delicate salmon side smoked over alder wood, or smoked almonds with mesquite, or smoked mackerel, or any of the things I dreamed of all I have is a pile of over salted carbonised ham hocks. A very sorry situation indeed.
When I realised my fantastical plan wasn’t going to come together in time I decided to smoke some ham hocks in our kettle BBQ. I put the meat in its cure, but left it in for too long, forgetting that I was going away for a few days. As a result the hocks absorbed far too much salt.
On the day I smoked them I spent hours and hours looking for wood chips and by the time I got home and lit the fire I was running late for an evening dinner party. I decided to just leave the hocks in the kettle smoker, telling myself they’d be OK (that would be the brain crushing insomnia speaking) but to my horror I came home ’round midnight to four completely incinerated pig ankles.
They were totally encrusted with a layer of carbon, which I had to chip off with a blunt knife. Underneath this black blanket was enough meat to salvage but the salt was overwhelming.
And so, I am sad to say that my grand plans for smoking have gone up in smoke – or not, as the case may be – and I hope that I will soon be able to rectify this matter with a post on flowerpot smoked Salmon or mackerel very soon.
In the meantime here’s how I tried to resurrect the charred remains of my smoked hocks – by making a terrine. I chopped up the meat and soaked it in water to try and reduce the salt, which seemed to work quite well. I was quite pleased that the meat did taste smoked as opposed to barbecued. It was a relative success, but me and Smoke have unfinished business.
I found a recipe I liked the look of on the interweb which includes a recipe for a lovely beetroot and apple relish to be served alongside the terrine. Here is the recipe for the relish and the original recipe for the terrine if you are using uncooked hocks – here is my version, adapted for hot smoked ham hocks.
A terrine must be made at least the day before eating, so that it has time to set. It’s not really the kind of thing you’d make every day, but is something nice to make on a lazy Saturday, to take to a picnic the next day. I liked the idea of playing with different flavours in the jelly – hence the apple juice.
makes around 6 servings as a starter
200ml clear apple juice and a squeeze of lemon juice
OR 200ml homemade stock reduced from 1litre.
2 gelatine leaves
600g of shredded smoked ham hock meat
3-4 sprigs of thyme
4 t grain mustard
3 T finely chopped parsley
Make up the gelatine according to the instruction on the box using the apple and lemon juice (or stock) and leave to cool.
Mix the meat with the thyme, mustard and parsley and in a bowl, finally adding the gelatine liquid. No need to add salt, as the hock is already well seasoned.
Press the mixture into a terrine or loaf tin, or any suitable bowl or ramekin.
Cover and leave it in the fridge for a couple of days to set.
To serve the terrine turn it out onto a plate and serve with the relish and some good bread. The addition of some nice Cheddar, a salad of some sort and a cool glass of cider or ale would complete this dish of most satisfying vittles