Taste Scene

Michael Devlin

Welcome to the smokehouse

Did I ever tell you about the time me and me brother killed a pig?

Well, the truth is, we didn’t actually do the deed, so to speak – though we were present at the time. What actually happened… We purchased a whole fattened pig and what followed the deed was a long weekend making ham, bacon, sausages (three different kinds) and pate – it was a real culinary adventure. And to say we ate a lot of pork is an understatement. I was a whole pig!

The success of the resulting processed swine was a mixed bag, though. We lost a whole ham to bacteria (it’s a long story) but the sausages were a real highlight, especially the honey and mustard. Another memorable foodie moment was the fresh pig’s liver flash-fried and served up with – what else – more bacon. It was divine.


The recent good news is, my brother Paul isn’t shying away from continuing gastronomic missions and he recently became the proud owner of a new home-made smoker.

He and his friend Rory re-claimed an old oil drum and cleaned, carved, welded, painted and seasoned and ultimately adapted the drum for the purposes of smoking and I can tell you first hand, it’s playing a blinder.

They even fitted trays, shelving and a door for added convenience.

The Carnivore 2000 (I just made that name up, but it sounds good, eh), had been working overtime all summer churning out oodles of smoked brisket, short ribs of beef, lots of spare pork ribs, sausages, lamb and even beans. At a family barbecue back in July, the C2K was the star of the show, eventually feeding  the whole clan with an immense supper of pork ribs, smoked sausages and American-style barbecued beans.

The sausages were nothing fancy, just decent quality butcher sausages but whatever the smoking did moved them onto another level. And combined with the beans, it was almost unimaginable.

Needless-to-say, the smoking of the ribs, beans and sausages took a long, long time – hours in fact. But the result was always going to be worth waiting on.

If you ever find yourself in receipt of a smoker, this is a beezer of a recipe for smoky American-style beans. It makes a lot, but the more you make, the more you will eat.


packet of dry-cure streaky bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained
1 whole bottle of tomato ketchup (500g or thereabouts)
7 heaped tbsps of muscovado sugar (light or dark, it doesn’t matter)
3 tbsps of treacle
2 tbsp of mustard powder
4 tbsps of cider vinegar
salt and pepper

The smoker is started with a portion of ordinary barbecue charcoal (2.5kg), and then after it has caught and the flames have died down, a few handfuls of beechwood chips are added.

These have been soaked for half an hour in beer for added twang and a slowness of burning.
After that, all you do is add the meat and/or beans, close and seal the door and let nature and the smoke takes their course.

Paul had a temperature gauge inside the smoker but generally, give or take a few degrees either way, it smoked at 130˚C.

Otherwise the plan is very simple.

Start off by frying the bacon and onion in a frying pan for about five minutes, before the bacon starts to crisp up. You don’t want crispy bacon in the eventual dish.

After that it’s just a matter or tipping everything into a big oven-proof casserole dish.

Mix it all up and, without a lid, bang it in the smoker.
As it smokes, take the beans out for a stir every 45 minutes or so and whilst that is happening add more wood chips for extra smoke.

If you’re doing sausages at the same time (and I heartily recommend that you do), both the
beans and the sausages will take at least three hours before they’re ready.

After that time, taste and then season the beans if necessary; it shouldn’t need much in the way of salt but give it a couple of good grinds of black pepper.

And that’s it. You’ll never look at smoke the same way again.

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