Saturday, July 30, 2016

Making Homemade Tasso

      One of the delicacies I stocked up on while in Louisiana last winter was Tasso, a specialty chunk bacon-like meat seasoned and smoked by Cajuns that is used in many dishes such as Gumbo, Jambalaya, Grits, nearly anything that strikes your fancy.  It adds a mild sweet & smoky, seasoned flavor to any dish.  Unfortunately I only bought 2 pounds which doesn't last long if you love to cook Cajun as I do.  So, after a bit of research as well as calling the folks at Poche's in Breaux Bridge, LA I decided to try my hand at making my own homemade Tasso. 
      Tasso is made from Pork Shoulder or Butt, which is the fore shoulder of a pig.  I purchased two 'butts' in the 4 pound range. 

      Then it is just a matter of trimming the pork of excess fat and cutting into manageable pieces of your desired size.  I cut mine into sliced chunk pieces of about 1/2 to pound.  Remember.....dried, smoked meat will shrink. 

For my total of 4 pounds of pork the seasoning recipes includes:
3 TB  salt
3 TB cayenne pepper
1 TB freshly ground black pepper
1 TB white pepper
1 TB paprika
1 TB cinnamon
1 TB garlic powder or granulated garlic

After mixing all the dry ingredients I rub the pork liberally with this and place on a tray.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least overnight.  Preferably several days; I did mine for a week. 

Prepare the smoker by firing it up adding several pieces of seasoned wood (I used cherry) to build a bed of coals and establishing a temperature of about 225 degrees in the main chamber.  I will place the pork in the vertical stack #2 chamber which maintains about 100 degree lower temps. 

I use an Oklahoma Joes Wood Pit Smoker I have had for 23 years.  High quality welded iron, dependable, and cooks like a dream.  A very large horizontal main chamber that will hold 2 large turkeys, several briskets, or several racks of ribs at once.  The 20" vertical #2 chamber has several shelves that cook about 100 degrees cooler.   I use this chamber for smoking fish or hanging larger chunks of venison or pork.  Low and slow smoke.  You can drape the pork over rods or lay flat on grills.  I laid mine flat on the racks, turning occasionally. 

Maintain the smoker temp at 150 degrees for the first 2 hours and then 185 degrees for the final 2 hours.  I found that putting the Tasso in the vertical chamber during the first two hours and finishing up the final two hours at higher heat in the horizontal chamber worked well.  When finished the Tasso will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 10 days and it also freezes very well for those future winter meals. 

Gumbo, grits, jambalaya and many we come! 

"Somewhere lives a bad Cajun Cook, just as somewhere must live one last ivory billed woodpecker.  For me I don't expect to encounter either one" 
                                                                 William Least Heat-Moon

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