Smoked Pork Hocks & Chops (Charcutepalooza, Hot Smoking)

For a few years now I've really been trying to get back to my "roots." I love age old crafts that seem to really have been lost. I've tried for my family to live more sustainably, and really it's a work in progress. (We're not hopping off of the grid just yet.) I want us to take step back in time and really live a somewhat simple life that is rich with family tradition. I've been canning my own produce, making my own bread, home brewing my own mead, wine and beer, and I've even dabbled in cheese making. We've been, well I've been really making an effort to cook as much as I can from scratch. As a family we do try and be as resourceful as possible. Recently I came across charcutepalooza and just could not look away. Twelve months of Meat? I'm in! Seriously you had me at meat. Charcutepalooza is a year long meat fest where bloggers will participate and post about each monthly challenge. I'm a bit late to the game as I've missed January's Duck Prosciutto, February's Salt Cure, and yes even March's Brining. The event for April is Hot smoking, and smoking hot it is.

Meat plays a very important role in my house. Although we do not eat meat every night, its something that we choose not to do without. I used to be hit or miss but since I've had my kids, something just went off inside me. I love meat, crave meat and possibly my biggest pet peeve is overcooked meat. If I order my burger moo-ing I want it to moo. I'm not the ass that sends my food back, but if its overcooked you can count me as officially devistated. (we all know what happens to food once it goes back into that kitchen... don't irritate the people who make your food)  

With all of that said my family has a unique closeness with nature, and the animals around us. My kids know what foods have a face, and its great because they know not to take each meal for granted. I feel as time's gone on we've completely disassociated meat with the fact that an animal had to give its life in order for us to appreciate the meal. It's a distinct barrier that separates us from where our food comes from. People, myself included are pretty squeemish about the what-nots and the details of offing the animals. The boneless-skinless generation is among us and most people don't care to think beyond the fact that the meat in the case is nicely packaged and ready to eat. It's like a Christmas present, you don't ask where it comes from you just open it. 

I have a bit of a fascination with nose to tail eating, April Bloomfield is  a wet dream. I think about doing a lot of things but rarely do I actually follow through. Eating funny bits is on that list of things I've been meaning to do. I really think its something I should need to try my hand at. I want to really embrace the beasts I'm eating. They died so that I can eat them, the casual waste of animals really upsets me. Many meat eaters say they appreciate and know where their food comes from but do they really? I'm frankly still kind of terrified of certain things, and I find myself going Ew! That looks like a foot....oh wait it is a foot. Ew! So not only am I embracing the meat-fest, I'm setting out to really look a bit more closely for tidbits, offal and general meaty greatness. For the Charcutepalooza Hot Smoke challenge I brined and smoked pork hocks and bone-in chops. I'd thought about doing a shoulder, but I've had about enough with my hillbilly smoker. I don't really feel like struggling with it for a 4-8  hour cooking process. The legs fall off, theres no handles...really it's very tragic and I'm lucky to still have my eyebrows. I've made the very best pulled pork, this time I wanted to embrace my pig parts. Its not only unique but by purchasing weird bits as well as something that was on special it was extremely affordable. 

Smoked Pork Hocks & Chops-
The brine is reminiscent of the brine I use when making sauerbraten and venison roasts only I used sugar and salt instead of a huge amount of vinegar. I soaked pork hocks and chops overnight and the next morning patted them dry and rubbed them with a brown sugar and Chinese five spice powder. Let them hangout a bit longer and then smoked away! Delicious does not even begin to describe it. Sweet, spicy, smoky and porky, oh my! 

Left: My caldron, this helped provide steam. I had a little ice laying around so I just tossed in chunks as it evaporated.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup salt
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon whole cloves
15 whole allspice
1 cup cider vinegar
4 cups water
pepper, chili flakes

1 1/2 pounds pork hock (they were cut into about 1 1/2" thick pieces)
1 1/2 pounds bone in pork chops

Brown Sugar & Five spice Rub-
3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon chinese five spice 
pinch cayenne pepper

To prepare the brine-
Bring water and spices to a boil. (you can add the vinegar too, it wont hurt anything however I leave it out so that the solution cools down faster.) Once the water is hot whisk together until salt and sugar is dissolved. Add vinegar and ice. Allow to cool. Add pork to the brine and soak 8 hours or overnight. 

Remove pork and rinse it off. Combine spice rub ingredients in a bowl. Stir to combine. Pat dry pork and rub all surfaces of the pork thoroughly with spice rub. (If you are using more pork you may need to make more rub) Place on a cooling rack or paper towels. Allow to rest 2-4 hours. 

Prepare Your smoker/grill-
I used a charcoal grill. You will want to get the charcoal going, and soak your wood chips if your using any. Follow manufacturers directions or of course refer to Charcuterie for troubleshooting. Ideally you will want to Maintain 200-300 degree temperature for 2-4 hours. The pork chops will vary in time according to how thick or thin your chops are. Around 1 1/2 hours for chops, at least 2 hours for the hock steaks. For whole trotters you can expect to smoke them at least 4 hours. Rotate and flip half way through the process. (If you find that fat is dripping and causing too much smoke and burning you will want to come up with a drip pan to catch the grease.)

The Pork hock was so delicious, the chewy skin was tough but intensely flavorful. 

My set-up was as follows.
charcoal on one side with a cast iron caldron tucked into the charcoal. You will want some sort of little vessel to hold water. This provides steam to help the meat smoke. I happen to have a little bit of snow and ice on hand so I just tossed in an ice block if it evaporated. 
1 grate placed over the caldron and charcoal, on top of that I placed a sturdy cast iron griddle. This is the surface I used to place the meat. 

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