The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

smoking venison on a chimney top

Chimney smoker
I've become interested in preserved meat since my offgrid house's fridge is small, runs on propane, and has no freezer, which makes storing meat difficult. Also, experiencing delicious jamón in Spain gives a whole new appreciation for cured meat.

Venison ham

When Anna gave me a whole venison ham, this was a perfect opportunity to experiment with smoking meat. Rather than build a smokehouse or a smoker, I simply used my chimney. So the fire that's keeping me warm and warming bathwater is at the same time adding delicious flavor to my meat.

Smoking meat in a chimney

Meat has surely been smoked on chimney tops for ages, and this page shows how that can be refined into smoke boxes attached to the chimney, and so on. Since my house is built into a hill, it's easy to get up on the roof, so the chimney top is good enough for me.

Venison steaks

The whole ham was a bit large to fit, and I worried I could lose it down the chimney, so I butchered it into individual steaks.

Three venison marinades

One was marinated in salt, one in soy sauce, and one "control" was left alone.

Smoked venison after four hours

After the first smoking (4 hours), the meat was still quite rare, springy to the touch. At the top of the chimney, the smoke is at most warm, not hot. It only cooks the outside of the meat, and as the fire is dampened down, it becomes a true cold smoker. Even after this first smoke, the venison had a delightfully smokey flavor.

Venison smoked for 8 hours

The second smoking (4 more hours) and third (12 more) firmed the meat up, but did not cook its interior any more. Instead, it seems to be losing moisture, and shrinking slightly. I could continue smoking the venison indefinitely.

Venison sandwich

My favorite flavor is the salted smoked venison. It makes a terrific antipasto and also a good sandwich. The soy sauce flavor adds perhaps too much complexity on top of the smokiness. The unmarinated meat is my least favorite by itself, but I liked small scraps that were smoked for 5 hours, and then cooked in a stew. They turned out to taste and feel much like sausage.


A word on wood -- I used my regular firewood, which is probably mostly maple, and I smelled the smoke and made sure I liked its quality before hanging any meat. It would surely not work as well with pine or soft woods. I'd like to try with some apple wood, and try adding some herbs to the fire too. I'm also going to try to smoke some cheese; the trick will be to keep the smoke consistently cool.

Venison kabob

Joey Hess is Anna's brother and technical advisor (paid in venison.)  He's a household name in the Linux world and is the primary person behind Branchable, the software that runs this blog.  In his non-technical time, he likes to camp, hike, play board games, and fly kites. (And he probably does lots of other things that Anna's not aware of.)

This post is part of our Venison lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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your blog is awesome! Love the hunting/meat thing. I am hoping to escape back to a homestead in the Shenandoah Valley soon. Smoking venison is the best way I have found to prepare venison - bar none - after 30 years of shooting and butchering those tasty critters. The best marinade I have ever come up with is teryaki sauce, brown sugar, and yellow mustard. Mix to taste, cut the meat into whatever serving size you want (the more surface area you have, the faster it cooks, and has more smoke flavor), soak it for a few days, and smoke it! I use an electric smoker that has a water pan, so it is "hot" smoke. It cooks pretty fast, and it is better on the medium to rare side (IMHO). Keep on getting it!
Comment by riverducker Sun Jan 1 20:17:42 2012
I can't take credit for the awesome meat smoking --- that's my brother's idea. I'm still itching to try it myself! Actually, I want to look into how to marinate and smoke to make something that tastes like ham.
Comment by anna Mon Jan 2 10:58:54 2012

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