With the trees nearly bare and the falling leaves slowly giving way to gently falling flakes, it is nearly past time to preserve the fruits of this year's harvest. My wife does her part to ensure home grown goodness through the coming cold months by canning as much as she can in the too short weekends. Her and the kids love making applesauce, salsa, and relish. Grandma adds to the pantry apricot jelly, pear butter, more salsa, and zucchini breads. Mason jars quickly fill the shelves. The dehydrator hums as it produces apple chips and other dried fruits and veggies. My contribution, and a new sort of fall hobby, is jerky and smoked meats.
Years ago a family friend spoke of an idea to build a true smokehouse, something reminiscent of days gone by. It would be an old shed, a larger structure, with an outside smoke source, a firepit of sorts. The idea never made it out of the dreaming stages, but his tales of jerky and turkey legs slowly smoked to perfection caught my interest. I experimented with liquid smoke, dry rubs and wood chips before putting the meat in the wife's dehydrator. Nothing ever turned out just right and recipes never made it out of the experimental phase. And so I ordered up a real smoker.
The Bradley electric smokehouse arrived last year and found a home on the back deck. It simplifies the whole process by automatically feeding little pressed wood discs into the smoke chamber. There is a control for low heat also and a digital thermometer reading. Just set the heat timer, the degrees (up to 300) and the smoke duration and the smoker is ready. There are six racks to hold plenty of meat. I can usually make about five steaks worth of jerky at one time. The wood discs come in a wide range of flavors to match any type of meat or taste. This is the easiest, most convenient way of making jerky (or smoking fish or ribs) I have found. And the chimney to control the amount of smoke lets out tendrils of smoke during the process to fill the nearby air with tantalizing smells of campfire and BBQ.
At the end of the day, there is jerky and mason jars full of homemade offerings. For me, the best part is sharing all these creations with friends and family. We all try to make enough to not only get us through the winter but also to share. There is no better feeling than the satisfied grins on the faces of all those enjoying the product of our farm and our work.