How to Build a Smoking Closet and Smoke a Brisket, 1871

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By Jules Gouffé

Think metal smokers are something new? This ingenious one probably cooked as well as our fancy smokers of today. Note that this process takes twenty-two days to preserve the brisket like jerky, which is then rehydrated for use. If making this dish in a modern smoker, twenty pounds of brisket would take between fourteen and eighteen hours. Be sure to substitute salt for the saltpetre. Jules Gouffé was the chef of the Paris Jockey Club, and my nickname for him is the “Pitmaster of Paris.”

Have a wooden closet made 3 feet in breadth and depth and 5 feet high. The closet should be provided with a close-fitting door and lock and lined throughout with thin sheet iron. A hole 3 inches in diameter should be made in the bottom of the closet to admit the flue of the portable stove. Towards the top of the closet, fix four iron rods, with moveable hooks to hang the meat upon. The smoking closet will require a stand 1 feet high, to allow room for the stove underneath. The stove should be of strong sheet iron 18 inches square and 5 inches deep (with a row of holes round the top to facilitate combustion), and provided with a close fitting cover terminating in a short flue 3 inches in diameter to fit the hole in the bottom of the closet in such a way as to prevent any escape of smoke; Fit another flue in the top of the closet to carry off the superfluous smoke into a chimney or the open air. This smoking-closet will be found much preferable to the old-fashioned way of smoking in a chimney.
For smoking the brisket, put some live charcoal or incandescent wood in the stove, cover it with a layer of sawdust 1 inch thick, put there on: 4 bay leaves, an equal quantity of thyme, and 20 juniper berries.
Take 20 lbs. of brisket of beef, remove the bones and tendons; pound 1/2 oz. of saltpetre in a mortar, mix it with 3/4 oz. of Lisbon sugar and rub it well into the meat.
Prepare a pickle by boiling sufficient bay-salt in a quantity of water, until it registers 18° on the saccharometer [hydrometer]; let the pickle get cold; place the beef in a large pan and cover it with the pickle; the following morning, drain the beef, rub in the same quantity of sugar and saltpetre as above, and put it back in the pickle.
Repeat this process for four days, after which, let the meat remain in the pickle for ten days longer, being careful to turn it daily; then drain the beef, tie it with string and hang it in the smoking closet.
The meat must be left to smoke for eight days, the fire being well kept up and the herbs renewed every other day. When wanted, boil the salted and smoked beef in water, until the trussing needle enters easily; drain the meat, press it, and, when cold, trim and put it on a dish garnished with parsley. Meat jelly may be substituted for the parsley; in that case the meat should be glazed.

From The Book of Preserves by Jules Gouffé. London: Samson Low, Son, and Marston, 1871.