Smoke, black, white, and blue

Despite its being Good Friday, the Professor and I spent the morning at our place of dentention in a series of meetings. Sometime after two, we excused ourselves on grounds of Religion: himself went to the service at the Cathedral while I did my biannual Aberdeen shop for two or three things I can’t get elsewhere. We were sort of expecting the Commemoration to take an hour, which it didn’t, basically because the Cathedral, a building of no mean proportions, was packed to the rafters. I therefore spent some forty-five minutes watching through a window from a sort of vestibule where baby buggies and so forth are parked. This spectatorial position was oddly moving – it intensified the sheer theatricality of the Good Friday rituals, which I must look up to check the details, but I know for sure they are very ancient. The other thing which became increasingly obvious through the window (Veneration of the Cross sets the entire congregation on the move) is the extraordinary, indeed moving, miscellaneity of a Catholic congregation in a big city. The North of Scotland is not a preferred destination for most immigrants, for obvious reasons. Yet in this crowd, there were black, white and asian faces, children, teenagers, yobs, tarts, lawyers, tweedy ladies, the visibly poor and the probably mad, the smug, the affluent, and the manifestly ill. The schools were off, but Aberdeen was business as usual; the ladies in the store overalls and the men in suits had taken an hour off work.
Well. After all that, and a slalom through a big-city Tesco, we got home towards six: as we came over the brow of the hill on our unmade farm track, a dense, blue column of smoke was clearly identifiable within our shelter belt of trees. ‘Either they are smoking salmon’, I said, ‘or someone has set fire to the house.’ Approaching without undue apprehension therefore, we pulled up into a scenario of barely containable triumph. Or even ‘Triumph! Triumph! Triumph!’ like that very silly moment in The Magic Flute. A task force consisting of the Apparational Gamekeeper, Dr Biswell and the Real World Consultant had, in the course of the day, successfully parted our local distillery from a barrel and some bits of obselete barrel – for free!—worked out the logistics of, and established, a smokehouse, and hot-smoked some salmon. This is absolutely perfect, of course, old barrels are made of oak, and marinaded in sherry and whisky, so all the flavour imparted have much to recommend them. As a result, the initial salmon enterprise was brought off to such effect that the forces in question began pining for new worlds to conquer; they therefore zoomed off to Turriff and bought a leg of mutton, and smoked some garlic, and when I heard that Miss Cat had made herself scarce I. was not in the least surprised. After the cries of congratulation &c we started getting into the spirit of the thing, and proceeded to smoke some duck legs with jerk seasoning, and some peppers. What can you not smoke, indeed? – But sadly we will have to return to Macduff Distilleries for another barrel before we do. The current barrel caught fire — fortunately, after the RWC had prudently removed the leg of lamb to the Rayburn. It was very merry at the other end of the garden, a bit like something in the corner of a Hammer Horror film of a Dennis Wheatley, but the Gamekeeper and I poured a bucket of water over it, and kicked it over so it woudn’t go on acting as a chimney … but all the same, the brave barrel is I think, foutu. However, a principle has been established. A great deal of pyromanaical expertise has been brought to bear, and the result is quite wonderful.

2 Responses to “Smoke, black, white, and blue”

  1. The Man From Maryport Says:

    This is absolutely fascinating, but I’d like to know more - could Dr Biswell & the Real World Consultant be persuaded to reveal the secrets of smoke-house building, chip production & just what it is they do with the horsehoe?

  2. Janey Says:

    Take one barrel. Nail two slats to the lid to act as a handle. Excavate a hole to one side of where it’s going to supply updraught, with a suitably sized bit of wood to use as a damper. Cut old whisky barrels into chips with a sharp axe, start fire, put barrel over it, when it’s going nicely slosh in a bit of water, hang things off some species of grid arrangement at the top of the barrel, controlling the progress of the fire by use of your damper and/or the bung. This is basically a story about *hot* smoking, due to the youthful enthusiasm of the Apparitional Gamekeeper - a large bit of salmon was done to a turn in eight minutes. The horseshoe enters into a *cold* smoking story: you make a pile of oak sawdust at the bottom of your barrel, and elsewhere, you heat a horseshoe to red-hot. Place horseshoe on sawdust, slosh on water &c., thus creating a smouldering fire not an actual blaze. We’ll try this some other time.

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