Whole Leaf Tobacco

Making Latakia at Home

deluxestogie

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If any of you have forsythia in your yard, then you likely accumulate a lot of pruned stems every year.


Forsythia.

The other day, without the name of the 18th century botanist, William Forsyth on the tip of my tongue, I couldn't for the life of me remember the name of that prolific, yellow-blossomed hedge that chronically overgrows against the front of my house. As the very long stems weep over, and eventually touch the ground, they root, causing the plant to invade adjacent ground. In an effort to remember it's name, I Googled "hedge yellow blossom".

Oh yeah, "forsythia". To my surprise, I saw links to forsythia's "medicinal" properties. Apparently the berries are used in Chinese traditional medicine. That could mean that the wood is potentially toxic. So I was forced to do extensive searches for its properties. It turns out that the berries, when consumed, can have the effect of slightly inhibiting blood clotting, but is not nearly as potent an inhibition as that of aspirin. Along the way, I discovered that forsythia contains a number of terpenoids. That is the group of chemicals that give all of my "Latakia" woods their distinctive aromas.

So I tested it by combustion. It's aroma is not unpleasant, and does offer a mildly appropriate scent for use as a smoking wood for Latakia. So it's on my list. And clippings of the plant are truly abundant.

Bob
 

Charly

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Good to know ! And I am happy because I have some forsythia in my garden :)
Next time I prune them I will save them !!

By the way, I wonder : do you have to dry the wood before you use it for smoking ? or is it better to use "fresh" wood to make densier/heavier smoke ?
 

deluxestogie

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My guess (only a guess) is that the dry wood will provide a more intense aroma in its smoke. Sometimes, at least with some other herbs, a moist stem still smells like the leaf, which is often not the desired aroma. You'll just have to test it. The forsythia that I tested was pruned about 7 months ago.

Bob
 

GreenDragon

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May I suggest two other woods for the list to experiment with for the background "smokey" flavor?

Alder - the most neutral, non-BBQ smelling hardwood smoke I've yet encountered. Might be a good choice as your main smoke component.
Pinion - a "hardwood" pine that has a very pleasant, slightly piney smoke that is no where as intense as eastern soft pines (Loblolly, long needle, etc.).
 

deluxestogie

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An archaeology news item this morning caught my attention. It's about the ancient perfume industry (~5000 years ago! to the present) in Cyprus. While I'm not interested in perfume, native, aromatic herbs of Cyprus may offer a clue about the random fragrances from "scrap" cuttings likely used in manufacturing Latakia there.

"What appears to have distinguished the Cypriot fragrances was the quality of the rich olive oil in which the ancient perfumers captured the musky scent of indigenous oak moss, citrusy bergamot and labdanum or rockrose."

Rock Rose (Cistus ladanifer or Cistus creticus):
"Labdanum... The raw resin is usually extracted by boiling the leaves and twigs.
Labdanum's odour is variously described as amber, animalic, sweet, fruity, woody, ambergris, dry musk, or leathery."

"Vigorous dense upright shrub reaching 5 to 6 feet tall and slightly narrower than wide with sticky slender lance-shaped dark green leaves that are grayish on the undersides and fragrant in the heat of summer. This species holds the largest flowers of the genus and is considered by some the most beautiful. Each flower is solitary but measures 3 to 4 inches in diameter with bright white petals with a bold red spot at the base, which gives rise to the common name."


Rock Rose

Bergamot (Citrus bergamia):
Also known as "sour orange".


Bergamot

Oak Moss (Evernia prunastri):
"Evernia prunastri, also known as oakmoss, is a species of lichen. It can be found in many mountainous temperate forests throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including parts of France, Portugal, Spain, North America, and much of Central Europe. Oakmoss grows primarily on the trunk and branches of oak trees, but is also commonly found on the bark of other deciduous trees and conifers such as fir and pine. The thalli of oakmoss are short (3–4 cm in length) and bushy, and grow together on bark to form large clumps. Oakmoss thallus is flat and strap-like. They are also highly branched, resembling the form of deer antlers. The colour of oakmoss ranges from green to a greenish-white when dry, and dark olive-green to yellow-green when wet. The texture of the thalli are rough when dry and rubbery when wet."


Oak Moss lichen

The olive oil is definitely a NO for Latakia. Probably also bergamot is not in the Latakia smoke, since I have never noted a citrus aroma. But the other two, Rock Rose and Oak Moss seem like candidates.

I believe I've seen oak moss growing on nearby trees. I'll have to check. Rock Rose (Cistus ladanifer) is available for sale in nurseries on the US west coast (throughout California, Oregon, Washington) and British Columbia, when ordered through San Marcos Growers in Santa Barbara.

Bob
 

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Good to see you found some new species to try!
I hope you will find something interesting.
 

deluxestogie

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Bay Leaf! For some reason, I never tested it. It is good, but not great. No evil vapors there. This is the whole Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) found in spice racks, and used for flavoring stews, etc. And...it is native to the Mediterranean basin.


Laurus nobilis

The California Bay Tree leaf (Umbellularia californica) is probably also suitable. Indian Bay Leaf (Cinnamomum tamala), available in Asian grocery stores is NOT suitable, since it imparts a strong cinnamon aroma.

Bob
 

GreenDragon

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Bob, you have amassed quite a list of new ingredients to try. How do you plan to test them (individually or in batches of 2's and 3's)? When does the experimenting begin?
 

deluxestogie

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The only individual tests I perform are by burning them on my electric stove, in order to answer the questions:
  1. does it smell bad? (lots of those)
  2. does it smell wrong for Latakia? (e.g. hickory, oak, maple and apple smell "wrong")
  3. does it offer nice aromas that may work well with Latakia? (a bunch of those)
  4. does it shout out "Latakia"? (a rare few)
The actual making of Latakia is an extremely tedious, 6 week long process of firing the leaf at least twice a day, daily. If I wait for my newly planted herbs (like Lavender) to grow, then I can't begin until the fall. BUT when I do it, it will be a single batch with mixtures of all the various prospective smoking ingredients that I've identified. To do individual fire-curing tests, followed by all the possible combinations of as few as 8 ingredients mathematically computes to a multi-year, independently subsidized PhD project, so that just won't happen.

My assumption here is that commercial manufacture of Latakia utilizes the random scraps of brush and wood common to the immediate region, and in proportions that reflect their availability as cheap sources of smoke. I'm sure that a tiny number of potent and distinctive ingredients will dominate the finished aroma. I guess we'll see.

The more folks who give this a try with their own set of ingredients, the more informative the exercise will become. Perhaps we can do a sample collection of everyone's resulting leaf to a central location (one forum member), who can then divide it up and send a small sampling of each batch to those contributors to evaluate. For that to be most useful, the samples should be accompanied by a detailed list of smoking ingredients, as well as a summary of their smoking schedule and the rough proportions of each ingredient that they used during which portion of the 6 weeks. And the source of heat (gas, charcoal, ingredient components) may make a difference. When the taste testing is completed, then we can compile some conclusions, and post them.

If we go with this idea, then the collection and distribution will be at least a year from now (target 1 JUNE 2020), in order for the product to "rest", and in order to allow plenty of time for those interested to complete the curing. New knowledge ain't easy. Think of it as a MOOC (massive open on-line curing)

If we succeed in producing a reasonable Latakia, then we will have cracked the single remaining impediment to making all of your own pipe blending essentials.

Bob
 

GreenDragon

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Bob,

An excellent and well thought out plan. I have been thinking along similar lines as I’ve been following this thread, but was not sure of the rules/appetite of the forum for such a venture. I hesitate to call it a contest; I believe your MOOC designation is much more appropriate. I think this would be a fun challenge and would like to participate.

(In voice of iron chef translator)
So I throw out the challenge to the rest of the forum: Who else would like to join this noble quest? Who’s Latakia shall reign supreme!?!?

00AB12A5-E0C8-492F-902C-245681AD32A7.jpeg
 

deluxestogie

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Don't nobody know nobody what's gonna reign over nothin'.

In no way do I consider that this would be a contest. ["You must prepare a dessert from...sawdust, green seedless grapes and rat brain."]

A number of years ago, @Jitterbugdude organized a tasting of home-made Perique. I seem to recall about a half-dozen members sent him samples of their Perique, and in return, he distributed a portion of each Perique to those members...so that we could smell, taste and describe them, and have a better notion of the range of possibility for home-made Perique. It was a delightful study in fruitiness and pungency.

Back when I first tried making Latakia, I sent some to @Jitterbugdude, and his verdict was that it did not smell or taste "like" Latakia. It looked like it. It has improved with age, and makes an interesting, fire-cured blending component, but I still agree with JBD, that it doesn't smell or taste like Latakia.

It's about learning. Some members are not all that confident of their tobacco crafting skills, and would simply not bother trying. I would consider such a project a community effort.

If I'm still among the living a year from now, I would be happy to serve as the central shipping clerk for this.

Bob

EDIT: As with the earlier Perique tasting, the Latakia samples would be sent out with only numerical identifiers. The member names were revealed to the tasters only after they had submitted their impressions.
 

Jitterbugdude

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If you all want, I'll volunteer to be the receiving agent for the Latakia taste test. We'll have to figure out some ground rules such as the minimum quantity of "Latakia" to send. This would be based on the amount of participants but I would say at least enough for 2 bowls x # of participants. We should also agree on a blend. Something like a 20% Latakia and 80% Flue cured etc.
 

deluxestogie

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We should also agree on a blend. Something like a 20% Latakia and 80% Flue cured etc.
I would suggest distributing the Latakia straight, and allow the tasters to blend it as they wish. Since it's not a competition of which tastes "best", the only matter to ponder is the degree to which it resembles Cyprian Latakia--in the opinion of the taster.

Let's assume 6 entrants. So maybe 1 ounce of each Latakia candidate sent to you?

AND YES! It's all yours to manage. Thank you for offering.

Bob
 

GreenDragon

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If you all want, I'll volunteer to be the receiving agent for the Latakia taste test. We'll have to figure out some ground rules such as the minimum quantity of "Latakia" to send. This would be based on the amount of participants but I would say at least enough for 2 bowls x # of participants. We should also agree on a blend. Something like a 20% Latakia and 80% Flue cured etc.
Also, should be all use the same leaf or at least keep to oriental varieties?
 
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