Whole Leaf Tobacco

Small batch fire curing in the city?

WBcutter

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I am trying to make chewing tobacco/snus in the northern U.S. (Minnesota). I have 5 plants, growing well. What is a good small-scale method to fire-cure? In the city, I live in a space where I could keep a smoker device going, low-level, on the concrete behind my apartment. I also have place in the country, but I my time there is more limited. I am not looking for a fancy product, just trying to make a simple, non-sweet chewing tobacco.

Other curing methods call for high humidity, which we don't have here. And if we do (basements) the temp is really low. Also, I want to avoid sweet chewing tobacco. The variety I am growing is Ahus.
 

Brown Thumb

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I did mime in a electric smoker and a grill smoker.
I have no clue of what I used for wood anymore.
The results were pretty close tho.
 

deluxestogie

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If you'll be starting the fire cure with green leaf, I would suggest the smoker at your apartment (to keep a closer eye on it). The leaf needs to be alive while it initially color cures, so keep the temp in the smoker very low (say 100ºF) until the leaf has at least yellowed. After that (maybe a week?), you can allow the fire to get hotter. The higher the temp, the darker the tobacco will get. The limit is to keep the temp below the flash point of tobacco.

When I fire cured some varieties several years ago, I maintained a pan of water between the coals and the tobacco, until it had fully yellowed.

If you have the hardware for a smoker (vented smoking box, etc.) then just do the smoking with the wood of your choice. I found apple wood to be nice. Hickory reminds me of barbecue, but is still an enjoyable aroma. In my setup, I built a tiny fire of charcoal briquettes, and place the smoking wood sticks or pieces inside a sealed foil pack that had been punctured with a fork a few times.

In commercial fire-cure barns, low fires are made in the sand of the floor, from oak slabs and mounded sawdust.

Take pictures, and let us know how it works out.

EDIT: The duration of the fire-cure may be in the range of several weeks.

Bob
 

deluxestogie

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So those are outdoor smokers that someone would get at a big box store?
It can be. The least expensive way to go is to use an existing barbecue grill, and create a smoking chamber with a galvanized trash can. Just drill some holes in the bottom to admit smoke, and rig something that fits beneath the closed trash can lid for hanging leaf. Or you can use a wire basket for the leaf. I've used the trash can method, resting on top of a Brinkman smoker. I've also used a wire basket inside just the Brinkman.

An example of the setup is in a thread on making Latakia, but the contraption is the same for ordinary fire-curing: http://fairtradetobacco.com/threads/5016-Making-Latakia-at-Home

Bob
 

WBcutter

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Great information! I could sell myself on investing in a smoker (for meat and tobacco!), but don't know much about them. Would a propane unit work OK (considering it's for city use)? I don't want to spend a ton of money, but I don't have any skill in jury-rigging electronic stuff for automatic detection of temp and humidity. But I think we could also get away with a fire-burning, charcoal unit here.

Shoppers: Does anyone have a recommendation for smokers that allow a person to control the temperature?
 

deluxestogie

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You don't really need a controller. With a simple smoker, you just build a tiny fire, and allow it to expend itself. Repeat whenever your are there to do it. Keep the fire small. Using this approach, you won't have a continuous cure, but a series of mini-cures that all add up.

Bob
 

WBcutter

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This is cool! Unfortunately, it will be best to use after I retire the f**k out of the city. How long does it take? If I "sort of dry" my leaves in the apartment, can I take a bunch to the country and get them ready to hand during a week vacation?

Recall, I am trying to make chewing tobacco, so I am not looking for anything too perfect.
 

WBcutter

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To the Forum: Sorry for my ignorance of forums. I have been replying to 2 experts, and it's hard to tell which reply goes with which. But this is the info I was looking for!
 

Knucklehead

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To the Forum: Sorry for my ignorance of forums. I have been replying to 2 experts, and it's hard to tell which reply goes with which. But this is the info I was looking for!
On the post you want to reply to, click the "Reply with Quote" button. The original post will appear with your reply.
 

Jitterbugdude

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Don't fire your whole batch in case something goes wrong. Alida (aka Ahus) makes a nice pipe tobacco as well as dip/snus with the leaf just being air cured.
 

Knucklehead

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Other curing methods call for high humidity, which we don't have here. And if we do (basements) the temp is really low. Also, I want to avoid sweet chewing tobacco. The variety I am growing is Ahus.
You could also build an indoor curing chamber. It can be used to air cure your tobacco, and also used to kiln your cured tobacco. Kilning is a method of speed aging your tobacco in one month. Fresh cured tobacco can taste pretty raw and naturally aging the leaf can take at least a year. Some of us have built kilns to speed age the tobacco, and some of us use those kilns to air cure. To air cure in the chamber, a crock pot can be used as a heat source and supplies the higher humidity. For air curing, set the temp for 90F and humidity around 70%. For kilning the cured leaf, take the temp up to 125.
Curing chambers/kilns can be found here: http://fairtradetobacco.com/forums/35-Fermenting
 

WBcutter

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I went with pile-curing, given my small yield. Haven't processed the dried leaves into chewing tobacco yet. Will post the pictures in the appropriate form, if I can figure out which one (otherwise, I'll be back).
 
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