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After a dodgy start with the local airport (Stansted) thinking they had a disaster and the neighbours about to call the fire brigade, I have now tamed my adapted cheap cold smoker and we are all friends again! Moral of the story....don’t pay peanuts for equipment because by the time you have altered it, bought thermostats, heaters, non Micky mouse smoke generators and an air pump, you will have paid more than if you had gone out and bought a good piece of kit. Never mind, I have learnt a lot on the way and may I say, mostly thanks is due to you lot of gurus who have been so generous with your advice and who didn’t laugh too loudly at my ignorance. Cold smoking is, as I have found out, a totally different game to hot smoking which I had done for years, often on the river bank. Anyhow.....Smoked salmon hailed  by family and friends as great and now the same for gravilax. I think I will stick to non nitrate preserving/ smoking so would appreciate some suggestions as to where to go to now.(don’t spoil it, you have been so kind so far!)

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It is great that you have mastered the beast.:thumb1:

We may sometimes raise our eyebrows in private but that does not help anyone to progress. A smoker is a very personal thing and good results can be obtained with most pieces of kit given the right amount of TLC.

With regards to Nitrate free preserving, did you mean NitrIte free too?

Most foods, like veg, herbs, spices and cheeses, can be safely cured Nitrate/Nitrite free and also most fish. You must remember though most fresh foods cured this way must still be treated as if they were fresh, and in most cases this still means chilling/freezing and eaten fairly quickly. Curing that involves significant drying of foods will extend the shelf life (e.g. smoked salmon) and the greater the dehydration the longer the shelf life (e.g. Jerky and Biltong).

When it comes to curing things like bacon then you can cure it simply using salt, however the amount of salt required for extending shelf life is high (>5%) and the resulting food may be unpalatable. You can cure bacon using lower salt contents however the end result should still be handled as if it were still fresh meat. You will not get the traditional "bacon" flavour without using Nitrite and you will not get the same protection against botulinum toxin production and lipid rancidification (I may have just made that word up... protection from the fats from becoming rancid).

I can understand why people do want to avoid using Nitrates/Nitrites however, like most things in life, it is a balance. Nitrate has been used for centuries and it makes food safer to eat over a longer period of time. Also, when you look at the underlying statistics and the way the studies have been reviewed (avoiding the headline use of articles that use %changes on very low initial figures to exaggerate their point of view), then the effect of added Nitrates/Nitrites in food has little real effect on most peoples Nitrate/Nitrite intake in the UK. Having said that though, it is a lifestyle choice whether you avoid foods cured with Nitrate/Nitrite and one you will not hear me criticise.

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