Oklahoma Joe’s Offset Smoker

Like many other things I have been meaning to build an offset smoker for so long, have collected many bits and bobs in readiness but never got around to it.

When I saw ASDA selling of the highly reccomended Oklahoma Joe for the price of a cheap tin replica I jumped at the chance. It was delivered two days later and having watched a few Youtube videos of suggested modifications it was put together with all joints sealed with black high temperature silicone sealant (from Screwfix).

Today was the day to ‘cure’ the beast in readiness for cooking. The book suggest two hours but we will give it an eight hour burn just to be sure.

Our new Oklahoma Joe Offset Smoker
Our new Oklahoma Joe’s Offset Smoker

It will be a good way to learn more about the differences between the flavours that our www.WoodChunks.co.uk impart.

The first item out of the smoker is our home grown garlic. Two hours at 225f on mixed hardwood  wood chunks left the garlic bulbs perfectly finished and flavoured.

Home smoked garlic
Home smoked garlic

I think Joe and I are going to get along just fine!

 

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Preparing Oak and Rosemary

Not a chore I particularly like as I am not a big fan of having my fingers so close to a bandsaw blade but it has to be done; preparing heartwood wood chunks.

Making Oak Wood Chunks
Making Oak Wood Chunks

The oak is first cut into rings on the bandsaw and then chopped into pieces using an axe. The pieces are then air dried to approx 20% moisture which is ideal for using for smoking food by placing the chunks on top of a charcoal bed. (Our branchwood chunks by contrast are generally used without any charcoal). Both heartwood and branchwood wood chunks are sold on our www.WoodChunks.co.uk website.

Today we also sent out a pack of our Rosemary ‘wood’ which is used by a restaurant customer.

Fresh cut rosemary sticks
Fresh cut rosemary sticks

The wood stalks are taken from three year old rosemary plants and are used for both the rub and generating flavoured smoke. The leaves are stripped to use fresh or dried but the oil rich stem wood is used as a flavouring on top of charcoal barbecue briquettes in a smoker.

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Wood smoking revelations

We have a new Customer.

Stuart from Southport is a new customer. Stuart has specific requirements for his 10 hour smoked brisket and he came to see if we could meet his needs. The answer is of course ‘yes’ but that isn’t what prompts this post.

Talking to Stuart made me realise that I don’t think we have ever had the same request twice… every smoker seems to have their very own ‘ideal’ as to how their wood is presented:

Logs
Split logs
Full branch logs
Chunks – bark on
Chunks – bark off
Branch chunks with brash
Branch chunks without brash
Wood Chips
Single species sawdust

Hazel wood chunks in trays for drying
Home grown Hazel wood chunks in trays for drying

Perm any of the above with the ideal length of wood which obviously varies with each smoker and then perm all the above with the degree to which it has been seasoned; Fresh cut, partially seasoned or fully seasoned.

Placing wood chunks on top of charcoal
Placing wood chunks on top of charcoal

That’s the wood sorted then. Next is how it is used… hot smoke, cold smoke, 100% selected species, chunks/chips on charcoal, mixed hardwood chunks with selected species added at half time, one burn, multiple burns, top up burn, soaked or burned dry etc etc etc.

This isn’t a problem but it was a bit of a revelation in that it became obvious that we cannot stock all permutations!

Whilst we will continue to carry stock of our most popular wood smoking chunks and chips, rather than feel guilty about never having their ‘perfect’ woods immediately to hand, what this we can do is to note our customer preferences and advise them on an individual basis when woods arise that match their criteria.

A split crate of Cherry and Oak logs
A split crate of Cherry and Oak logs

Hence, here is a crate of logs for Stuart. Half of the crate is made up of Cherry logs and the other half is Oak logs. Both are only partially seasoned and they have been cut to 10″ long i.e. Exactly what Stuart asked for.

Thank you Stuart. Your order has probably helped me more than you!

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Growing Firewood – 2017 Update

February 2017

Our annual update on the progress of our firewood growing trials. All have made very good progress but the Eucalyptus seems to be doing the best at the year 3 point. The hybrid willow would normally be harvested now and it is a perfect size for making wood chunks.

August 2017

I’m beginning to notice quite a few of the ‘year 4’ hybrid willow starting to fail at the stool union with branches starting to  ‘lie down’ in just the same way as mature willow trees often do.  This was not anticipated (there haven’t been any storms or strong winds) but it does perhaps explain why ‘year 3’ is the target for harvesting commercial hybrid willow plantations for biomass woodchip. The purpose of this trial plot was to extend the cycle to six years to see if firewood logs could be produced.

 

Hybrid Willow - Problems at the stool
Hybrid Willow – Problems at the stool
Hybrid Willow - Branches lying down
Hybrid Willow – Branches lying down

The fallen branches have been harvested and the stools have been tidied up; all with a very old and dull Silky. It was noted that some of the remaining branches are now getting beyond tackling with a handsaw and will require the chainsaw.

Hybrid Willow - Tidying up the stool
Hybrid Willow – Tidying up the stool

Not a bad haul from just half of one stool but I am beginning to think that the ideal point may well be at the the three year point when everything can be cut with a silky and sent straight through the branch logger for wood chunks. (Once thoroughly dried out, willow wood chunks make exceptional ‘charcoal’ fuel for wood fired pizza ovens).

Hybrid Willow - Harvested branches
Hybrid Willow – Harvested branches

The pollarded ash is looking good with the regrowth just 1.5 years old. These trees were pollarded rather than coppiced as they are there to provide a canopy over where free range hens roam, giving them some shelter and protection from aerial predators.

Pollarded Ash Tree
Pollarded Ash Tree

 

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New range of smokehouse wood chips added

Our little Wood Chunks website has been selling our home grown wood for some time now to the point where our regular customers kindly bring samples of their fare which is very much appreciated (hint, hint) .

Food smoking is an art and from my experience, each ‘artist’ likes to understandably select the materials that they have found gives the best results for them.

Smoking meat, sausages and garlic with flavoured woodsmoke
Smoking meat, sausages and garlic with flavoured woodsmoke

Some want small wood chips, others want large lumps or even big logs. Then there is the debate about whether the bark should be on or off and the difference branchwood or heartwood makes to the flavour of the food.

To supplement our home produced wood chunks we have today added a range of wood chips which come in 2ltr re-sealable packs.

Graded to a size between 6mm and 12mm chip size, Apple, Alder, Cherry and Oak chips are now in stock.

Alder, Apple, Cherry and Oak wood chips now in stock
Alder, Apple, Cherry and Oak wood chips now in stock

Along with all our speciality wood chunks they are available to collect (by appointment – we don’t have a shop) from Hesketh Bank (PR4 6) in West Lancashire but these packs are especially suitable for mail order so it will be interesting to see how this develops.

For more info please visit www.WoodChunks/woodchips.html

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Our first homemade wood fired pizza

Yesterday we finally got around to making our very first homemade pizza in the wood fire oven.

Liam made 1kg of pizza dough and a delicious (secret recipe) tomato sauce and so our first pizza trials began.

The oven was lit with some dry brash and a few sticks to warm it up before it was given a heaped load of mixed hardwood wood chunks available from www.woodchunks.co.uk

The wood chunks worked very well and got it up to a steady 300 degrees Centigrade in short order. They quickly turned to glowing embers but, unlike big logs, they were much more maneuverable inside the oven and could be banked up around the edges with ease.

The oven temperature was much more stable than I expected and it was not as difficult to assess and adjust than I had expected.

Our pizza oven loaded with wood chunks
Our pizza oven loaded with wood chunks

The base on the first pizza was too thick but that was easily rectified and we quickly got some first class results.

Our first wood fired home made pizza
Our first wood fired home made pizza

We still need to work on a stand and get a proper prep table sorted out as I don’t think an old cupboard door balanced on the forklift will meet all the hygiene standards.

Makeshift pizza oven stand and prep table.
Makeshift pizza oven stand and prep table.

With the small bit of left over dough we made a few mini ‘soup loaves’ in tiny bread tins. Lovely!

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Growing SRC willow for firewood

For some years now we have been growing a variety of traditional basket making willow for use as wreath bases, twig wreaths and wreath decorations with any leftovers and offcuts being used as fuel for use in wood boilers. Nothing at all goes to waste.

We spotted a number of websites proclaiming hybrid willow and poplar to be a rapid source of wood fuel with some astounding claims on the potential harvest so we decided to conduct our own trial.

Willow SRC in third year of growth
Willow SRC in third year of growth

We to try a commercial hybrid willow which is planted as Short Rotation Coppice (SRC) for biomass production. It has taken about 6 years to get enough plants propagated to establish a meaningful crop on the different soil types around the place and whilst there will be a another couple of years needed to complete the planting plan, the initial plants are now in production phase. The first patch is now into its third year of growth so if it was to be used for biomass it would be harvested this coming winter.

SRC Willow 3rd year of growth
SRC Willow 3rd year of growth

The stems are long and straight with the average diameter being around 50mm at 1m height. If harvested this winter and left to season, the crop would already be ideal for use as wood boiler and wood fired pizza oven fuel but we intend to leave this until at least 6 years to see if the firewood logs claimed by the sellers of the hybrid plants are attained and produced in any quantity.

The photo below is of a row of established SRC willow which was harvested in February 2015. The 5 months of growth is now at a height of around 2.5 meters (8ft),

Row of 1 year old SRC willow
Row of 1 year old SRC willow

Our processed willow is sold through a variety of channels depending on what it is made into:

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BBQ Champ early warning

bbq-champ-logo
‘BBQ Champ’ starting soon on ITV

The trailers have been on TV for a while now pushing Myleene Klass hosting “BBQ Champ”, a brand new five part ITV series for the Summer where a team of ten contenders compete against each other to become the first BBQ Champ. “Each week, our contenders will prove themselves in challenges that will sort the BBQ champs from the BBQ chumps.” says the PR but what has this to do with Rustical.co.uk ?

Well before it has even started we have noticed a surge in orders for Wood Chunks; the small lumps of wood burnt in smokers to flavour meats, fish, cheese and vegetables.

It might well be co-incidence but a little bird has told me today that the format of the show will include smokers as well as BBQs.

Unfortunately there is not that much that can be done about our stock levels as it takes such a long time to season the wood chunks.

We might get a few new customers off the back of the show but, when it is gone, its gone.

See www.WoodChunks.co.uk for more info.

wood-chunks-bbq-champ
Seasoned wood chunks for use in a Smoker

 

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