A while back I was visiting a local Hazelnut farm and at the end of the carpark I noticed large piles of hazelnut shells. I don’t have a smoker or have actually smoked anything before, but thought the shells potentially could be a used as a good flavour for smoking. So I asked he owners nicely and they let me take some shells home.
Since I currently don’t have a smoker… yet, I wanted to try and smoke some salt on my kettle BBQ and use it in a charcuterie project – hoping that the salt would carry through and enhance the meat. Basically by smoking the salt, I wanted to give the finished product a smoky flavour without physically smoking the product.
1-2 cups course or rock salt
hazelnut shells (or whatever you have i.e. woodchips; you can buy different flavoured woodchips specifically for use in smoking at most BBQ and outdoor stores).
Note: some types of wood may produce smoke that is not very good for you, so it is probably best to do a bit of research about what you were planning on using before you start. Definitely avoid anything containing resins and bark.
Firstly, soak the hazelnut shells for a few hours or alternately overnight in a bowl of water.
Meanwhile, light your BBQ. I used the charcoal bricks, I heated them up and cooked lunch first (making good use of the BBQ and coals).
Strain the hazelnut shells.
Remove the cooking grate from the BBQ. Place several handfuls of the wet hazelnut shells over the coals to generate smoke. Smoke loves moisture, it also helps the flavour absorb into the salt.
Once you are happy with the amount of smoke being produced place the grill/grate back over the BBQ. You can keeping adding more wet hazelnut shells when needed or spray with a fine mist spray bottle spraying from time to time to keep making more smoke.
Since I hadn’t done this before, I tried smoking salt with two slightly different methods. The first was in a disposable foil BBQ tray with holes punched in the bottom which allowed for for the smoke to flow through. Spread out the salt in a thin layer and let sit in the BBQ with the lid down. I punched the holes from the underneath the tray so there were little ‘walls’ to help prevent any salt escaping. Most pieces of salt were bigger than the holes anyway, so I didn’t really have any issues with runaway salt. Coarser salt also holds the smoke flavour better than a fine grain. The larger surface are has more places for the smoke to stick to givin it a better coating, which allows for more flavour absorption.
The other method was on a mesh screen or a ‘splatter guard’. The salt was again spread out in a thin layer, the splatter guard was just sitting on top of the rack and the lid closed. The air vent holes were adjusted to a medium heat. I gave the salt a stir every 30-40 minutes to give an even coating of smoke.
I left if for around 6 hours, then I let the coals burn out completely. The salt was definitely smokey but I couldn’t tast anything particularly hazelnutty.
A close up of the smoked salt.
The colour and aroma in the finished salt was unreal. Leave the salt to completely cool down in the smoker. Store in an airtight container. Place in a grinder or mortar and pestle to break up into smaller pieces for use.