When it comes to smoked meat, 'No can beat 'em'
|||Alan Wong and his crew find Culinary insights|
By Wanda A. Adams
Advertiser Food Editor
By Wanda A. Adams
HONOKA'A, HAWAI'I ISLAND — "The Pig Man" — so reads Alvin Jardine's business card, which shows a heavily tusked wild boar.
Jardine, who lives in Mountain View, drove down the hill a couple of weeks ago to give chef Alan Wong and his staff a lesson in smoking meat on the grounds of Hamakua Springs Country Farm. He smokes hundreds of pounds a year: wild boar he hunts, but also pigs he raises, beef, pork sausage, fish, even mutton.
His smoker is a metal shed raised off the ground on cement blocks, allowing free air flow to the 'ohi'a and ironwood fire below. A metal cap shields the fire from contact with the fat that drips from the meat during smoking. Metal rods suspended between the walls of the shed hold ropes of pipikaula and shoyu-marinated pork. Long coils of Portuguese-style sausage are entwined around sticks of hard, strong strawberry guava wood. Just for fun, his friend farm manager Kimo Pa throws in some jalapenos and some whole tomatoes.
While the meat smokes, Jardine talks story. His helpers had been using a commercial sausage stuffer. But, he said, "in the olden days, we used a cow horn jus' like a funnel, eh? You push 'em through with a stick and you make a little groove in the horn where you can tie the casing on. Work good."
Jardine, who hunts as often as he can, helps to "seed" his own smoking material with the practice called laho'ole — catching a young wild pig and castrating it, then releasing it back into the wild. "When you castrate a boar, they don't travel with the herd, they don't go too far, they get more fat, the meat is not so tough. That's the best for sausage," he said.
Jardine recalled that at one time, pipikaula — Hawaiian-style jerky — was just beef and salt; today, shoyu and other marinade ingredients are used before the meat is dried or smoked. But then, cowboys would skin and gut the beef, chop it into pieces, bones and all, and layer the meat in a crock with salt, brining it for 15 days. The meat would then be well washed and layered with salt again. "Ho, da t'ing last forevah!"
Smoking was another way to extend the shelf life of meat, said Jardine, who began hunting when he was just 7 or 8 years old, with his grandfather, a mountain man whose job was finding water for the plantations, and who often spent a month at a time without coming down to their home in Ka'u.
Before he smokes meat, he brines it. For a plastic tub the size of a laundry basket, Jardine uses 4 gallons of water and adds Hawaiian salt to taste (he literally tastes the water; it should be salty but not off-puttingly so). If he's smoking wild game, he adds 1 cup of baking soda to reduce the gamey flavors. The meat marinates for an hour. Then it's rinsed and immersed again in a flavoring marinade. Again, if the meat is tough — wild boar or range-raised beef — he'll add one peeled, mashed green papaya to the mixture to tenderize it. The marinade might be red wine, garlic and lots of chili pepper for pipikaula, or shoyu, sugar, Hawaiian salt and lots of garlic for smoked pork. The Pas flavored the sausage with paprika, lots and lots of garlic, chilies and Hawaiian salt.
The 100 pounds of meat Jardine and the Pas prepared for the Wong party took four hours to smoke.
Jardine absolutely loves "smoke meat." He loves it with red beans and rice, in Portuguese bean soup, fried with soy beans for pupu, in scrambled eggs or just sliced, fried and scattered over hot, steamed rice. "Ho! No can beat 'em."
Reach Wanda A. Adams at email@example.com.