Whole Leaf Tobacco

Alternative Curing Method (?)

mr1992

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Hey there,

I've had some problems with curing in the past; generally, I don't have an area which I can control for temperature and humidity, which means that it's like tossing a coin for how stuff turns out. The last two seasons (2014 and 2017, took a break for a year and one year I had abysmally ) that turned out fine, however, I've lost about 70-80% of my crop each time (got to hang my tobacco in various barns, some caught mould, some didn't; in others, the baccy didn't colour cure at all so I had a loss in quality there that only caught up after years of storage).

So, this year I've resolved to do it properly and addressed all my failures of the last years; weather got in the way a bit in the form of drought (southern Germany was baked really), which led to the interesting result of my rustica thinking it was cigar tobacco and growing massively whilst my cigar tobacco thought it was rustica and basically grew to the same size (~1.30m/4.27ft). Be that as it may, so far I've been drying my tobacco in the cellar in which I also store my tobacco, a former bathroom with drywalls in which the leafs age and dry rather nicely, it's just not big enough to hang all the leaves. Right now, the cigar tobacco (Pereg, Havanna, and Corojo) hang in bundles and turn yellow and brown rather quickly; the rustica I stalk-harvested for it never shows any signs of being ready to harvest and is this way slowly losing its color (and STILL GROWING SUCKERS - you're supposed to be dead!). That said, I know I can't leave it this way since it's only a matter of time till it's gone furry like a bear, but I'm hesitant to put it somewhere where I can't control the temperature and humidity like I can down there since in this heat it'll simply get crisp in a day.

Hence, the approach I've thought of was to take semi colour-cured leaves with some yellow in them and ferment them already the way I did last time; I've made them damp, stacked a bunch together, took a wet cloth and rolled them together into a tight bundle; I added more force by tying it with string. The bundle I placed in a mason jar and put it into a box with a heating cable set to 52°C/125.6°F, shuffling the leaves every 2-3 days. Last time I did this, I also added some not-so-well cured leaves that still had yellow in them and whose middle rib was not yet dried out either; I couldn't find a difference to the other leaves. The temperature doesn't allow mould to form and the mason jar is to contain the moisture.

My question therefore is: Will this work with still mostly yellow (no more green) leaves? Will there be any loss in quality of the leaf? I think I'd only do this to the primed cigar leaves that I've got, the stalk-harvested rustica is doing just fine. I don't have the financial means to build a shed or anything else either, so it's a matter of doing it this way, risking badly-cured leaves that'll undergo this process later on anyway to save what can be saved, or perhaps with a later batch once the weather turns more rainy, mould. The barns I could potentially cure my baccy in are either the place I did last time which caught mould, one where it turned out okay which was too small, or a wild card over bales of straw which is in all likelihood pretty damn dry but mould-free. All of them are at least a 15 minute drive away, though.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this :)
 

ChinaVoodoo

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Hi, welcome to the forum. I encourage you to post a thread in the section called Introduce Yourself.

There is a lot to process in your question, and I'm sorry if I don't address it all, or misunderstood anything.

I think the most essential point I have to make, for now, is that if the leaves are mostly yellow, (no green), you can dry them right out, immediately, in any location. Once the ribs are dry, you can bring it back up to case and start the aging process. No offense, but I feel like you've made it more complicated than it needs to be.
 

deluxestogie

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Welcome to the forum. Feel free to introduce yourself in the Introduce Yourself section.

It sounds like you have made several good efforts. For all but white-stem burley, once the leaf has yellowed, it is safe for it to dry out completely (die). So moving the yellowed leaf into your current heat wave is not a problem. Even though the full color-curing process has not completed at the yellow stage, it will continue again as soon as there is moisture and adequate temperature. Since you plan to kiln the leaf regardless, you can just begin that with the yellow leaf. I'm sure that will impact the final product, but in what way and to what extent, I can't answer. But dead, dry, yellow leaf will color to brown when the conditions allow it.

If you enter your general location (I assume it is Germany) into your profile, that will appear alongside each of your posts, and be helpful to those members answering questions related to growing and curing.

Photos of your current situation with your leaf would be helpful. Photos of the result of doing what you propose would be welcome information.

Bob
 

mr1992

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Thanks a lot for your responses, I've actually been on this forum for a year or so, I was active on a couple of other forums which have since closed down, must've forgotten to introduce myself here, which I shall remedy shortly! :p

What I was addressing particularly is not fully dried but yellowed leaf that has not yet turned dry, sorry, I wasn't specific enough there. I've started fermenting leafs that were not fully dried last year and couldn't find them anymore when I took them out eventually, i.e. no visual difference; I'm wondering what would happen if that were to happen to a bunch of leaves, whether I'd find a difference there or not - normally, leaves are to dry over a long period of time (~3 months is the norm around here), so I wonder how much the quality of the leaves will suffer. I'm also afraid that my current curing conditions will simply invite mould in no time otherwise; I'll take some pictures tomorrow and post them on here. I've had issues with too little flavour which I assume were due to too many plants in too small a field and harvesting mistakes, I'd hate to have the same thing happen again for other reasons.
 

deluxestogie

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The more ripe leaf is when you prime it or harvest it, the closer to full flavor you'll get. I wait for at least a tip of yellow to show, prior to priming. I'm not aware of any member of this forum attempting to cure tobacco in the manner that you propose. But my intuition is that it will not matter much in the end--if the lamina have fully yellowed before starting this. You won't be smoking stems, so their color is not an issue. But fat, succulent, green stems may behave oddly in the kiln. You eventually have to dry and shrink the stems.

Allow the yellow leaf to kiln until it browns fully, then start counting your kiln time as fermentation time, and allow at least 4 to 6 weeks for fermentation to complete. Once the leaf is out, it will need between a week and a few months to settle into its finished state. If it is wonderful right out of the kiln, then that's great. But expect it to need at least a week or more of rest afterwards.

Bob
 

mr1992

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Definitely sounds like something to consider; it's quite different from the approaches/views I've heard on the now-closed German forum - colour curing, or rather the slow, gradual yellowing was given massive importance in producing a good quality leaf, I can't quite recall the details but enzymatic processes were assumed to be going on there. Might be misrepresenting things. It occurred to me today what exactly it was that I was concerned about; it's "barn rot" happening as a result of pressing yellowed leafs together and exposing them to high temperatures and humidity in a closed container. From what I know, the leafs turning from green to yellow and yellow to brown emit gasses which may be higher when turning brown, and even higher than when being fermented - I should think that when they're fully dry, it ought to be alright, but when they're still moist enough, they may start to rot rather than turn brown.

Unfortunately, with the fermentation box I've built I can't keep moisture very well, hence my change to the mason jars. Those, for stated reason, I consider inappropriate for further processing the leaves. If I should use these mason jars in the process outlined in my first post, what would be your recommendation regarding the heat? I don't think 52°C/125.6°F are suited for this kind of treatment.
 

mr1992

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UPDATE:

So, I've tried to save some of the leaves that didn't turn out too well/hang too far up and didn't get enough moisture to colour-cure properly by fermenting them; previous attempts made them quite salvageable. At any rate, and as a consequence of rushing things to see how they work out, I simply moistened the now-dry leaves, rolled them up the way I described and fermented them as described above. In my hurry, I forgot to de-rib them and the consequence was, naturally, mould. I'd hoped it may have been water residue crystallising on the surface, but that doesn't look furry and limit itself to mostly the mid-rib in my experience. Luckily, it was only the lower leaves, hence the loss wasn't all that bad and the leaves otherwise would've been mulch anyway. I'm a bit concerned though since mould isn't supposed to grow at these temperatures, I reckon I wrapped them too well in the towel, thus insulating them from the heat and not bringing up temps to 50°C+/120°F+. The next ones will definitely a) receive less layers of fabric and b) be de-ribbed.
 

deluxestogie

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Your target temp of 120°F is right at the limit of vegetative mold growth. Since the temp certainly varies in any kiln, that's no guarantee of preventing mold growth. I would suggest a target temp of at least 125° F. (My setpoint is 128°F.)

Bob
 

mr1992

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Thanks for the info Bob; I had the thermostat set to 125°F-130°F, I fear though that the temperatures inside the jar may not have gone up high enough due to being wrapped in too many layers. The 120°F was a wrong estimate on my part; I'm only used to Celsius and didn't convert to Fahrenheit; we Europeans are as much at war with Fahrenheit as you guys are with Celsius (and metrics) ;-) . 50°C should've read 122°F, and I always try to stay well above that (lowest point when the heating cable I'm using powers up again is 123°F, so a very small span of temperature variation I'm allowing there; generally, the cable doesn't even reach that high, I position the sensor just above the star which gives me an average reading of about 123.44).
 

deluxestogie

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If you just write, say 33 Kelvins, it sounds easier than Where's Waldo. The more Kelvins, the easier it is. The Waldo unit always has a value of 1. We never ask someone to point out the location of one Waldo, but just Waldo.

While Lord Kelvin would be flattered, I find using just K, instead of °K to be obfuscating, and a lapse into the insider jargon of physicists. To the outsider, it's like reading a news headline such as, "West Nile now found in Valley area." But you are correct and I am wrong, especially if you are writing K on a physics exam problem.

Now, if we could only get those pesky meteorologist to stop saying, "degrees", when referring to the heat index or the wind chill.

Bob
 

mr1992

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Okay, I've increased temps a fair bit and everything ought to be fine - however, with the new tobacco, there's a similar problem, but only with the rustica - my cigar tobacco, in the same glass and similar wrapping doesn't show anything. Which made me wonder: could this be lime residue? We've got a high lime content in our tap water and I've sprayed them a fair bit to moisten them up and to have enough moisture to keep them fermenting for a couple of days without drying out. Has anyone of you ever had lime residue on fermenting leaves?
 

ChinaVoodoo

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Okay, I've increased temps a fair bit and everything ought to be fine - however, with the new tobacco, there's a similar problem, but only with the rustica - my cigar tobacco, in the same glass and similar wrapping doesn't show anything. Which made me wonder: could this be lime residue? We've got a high lime content in our tap water and I've sprayed them a fair bit to moisten them up and to have enough moisture to keep them fermenting for a couple of days without drying out. Has anyone of you ever had lime residue on fermenting leaves?
I've had crystallization of some kind coming out of mid ribs, and larger veins. I don't think it's from tap water. I think it's coming out of the leaf. It tastes like salt.
 

mr1992

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I've had crystallization of some kind coming out of mid ribs, and larger veins. I don't think it's from tap water. I think it's coming out of the leaf. It tastes like salt.
Yup, it did taste salty, so it must've been crystallisation. Chopped up some leaf and blended it with burley to see how it tastes and did't get any off flavour, quite the contrary. I'm a bit annoyed now that i threw away a batch of perfectly fine rustica leafs but better safe than sorry :p
 
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