Smoking has long used been used from the British Isles all they way to
China. Smoking was also used by the American Indian, but they had no pigs,
and in general they didn't have the salt for proper curing. Dry smoked,
uncured buffalo just isn't going to be same.
By our current methods, meat is almost never just smoked. It is first cured with salt. Using a dry process, a very small amount of potassium or sodium nitrate (saltpeter) is added to the salt to enhance flavor, produce an attractive color and protect the meat from bacteria. Using a wet process, an even smaller amounts of sodium or potassium nitrite is used for the same purpose.Bacon
Perhaps the most popular and flavorful cured pork product is bacon - salt cured and usually smoked pork belly, Many favor it with an almost religious devotion. There is also Back Bacon, called "bacon" in the British Isles and much of Canada, and called "Canadian bacon" here. It is more like a bland ham than like real bacon and is not worthy of religious devotion, but is sometimes an acceptable breakfast ingredient if not overcooked. There are other kinds as well, including Chinese and Hungarian bacon, so bacon is a large subject so it has its own Bacon page.
Ham is properly a pig's hind leg, but the term is also sometimes used for
cured shoulder. It may be fresh, but is most often cured in salt brine and
may then be smoked. Hams are cured throughout most of the world, including
China, but excepting Israel and the Muslim regions. Hams are a major subject
and have their own Hams page.
Smoked Ham Hocks
These are available in the refrigerated cases of most well stocked markets
as they are still much favored in the American South. They take a fair amount
of cooking to be edible and are often used as a flavoring ingredient in
soups and stews. Personally I like to boil them up, then refrigerate them
and use them as snacks, cutting off a piece now and then. Find more detail
and cooking information see our
Ham Hocks page.
Smoked Pork Loin
This is a common recipe ingredient. It is much milder than the other smoked
products on this page, lightly cured and lightly smoked. It has fairly good
refrigerated shelf life and will be found in the refrigerated cases of
well stocked meat departments. It is made from the loin, which is where
pork chops come from, so the meat has a relatively mild flavor itself. This
makes for an ingredient that will provide some smoked meat flavor but not
overwhelm a recipe. The photo specimens were 5 inches by 5 inches and 1/2
inch thick. Note that these slices are bone-in, whereas the very similar
Canadian bacon would be without bones.
Smoked Pork Tongues
These tongues had both good firm texture and excellent flavor for use as
sliced snacks. They were 6 inches long and weighed 4.2 ounces each.
These were purchased at a large multi-ethnic market in Los Angeles for
US 2015 $5.79 / pound. Made by Mama Vickey's Foods in North Hollywood,
California. Ingred: Pork tongue, salt, cure #1.
Smoked Pork Ribs
You want flavor? We have flavor, right here. The photo specimen is from one
end of a slice of pork side about 3-3/4 inches wide and 2-1/2 inches thick.
The whole piece was about 14 inches long and cut from the spare ribs part
of the pig. The slice includes the ribs, bacon layer and skin. It's bacon
cured and strongly smoked. Roasted it is awesome. Roasting method right here:
Smoked Pork Ribs, Roasted.
Cured Pork Tenderloin
This cut is found on the inside side of the loin and often processed as
a separate part. While the uncured tenderloin is mild in flavor, this
product is meant as a snack item, so the cure is quite distinct and it
ends up tasting similar to a fairly strongly flavored ham. The photo
specimen was 10 inches long, 2-1/2 inches across the big end, and weighed
14-1/8 ounces. Cured with water, garlic, salt, sugar, sodium nitrite.
Smoked Pig Tails
These are available in the refrigerated deli cases of well stocked markets,
particularly those serving European or American Southeast communities.
Properly made they have very good flavor and will be appreciated by people
who enjoy gnawing on things. It's best to slice the skin into bite size
squares before starting to gnaw. Tails actually have a fair amount of meat
Smoked Neck Bones
Unlike pig tails, these are not good for gnawing on. They have plenty of
meat but no skin, and the meat is almost impossible to get at until cooked
so well if falls off the bones. These are an excellent ingredient for
flavoring soups and stews. When simmered for 2-1/2 hours or so, the meat
can easily be picked off, returned to the pot, and the bones discarded.
These can be found in the refrigerated deli cases of well stocked markets,
particularly those serving an American Southeast community.