not an everyday gift from the lake

After many many hours over the past 3 years of putting in our time on Lake Monroe, finally a 16″ crappie!

We had read and heard the tall tales of big fish lurking within the water, but had yet to actually find them. Time and again we would track the schools, watch water temperatures, follow the calendar (including when the Red Bud trees bloom) and always seemed to find smaller fish ranging from 3-6″. Definitely no complaints, and many were great for bringing home to cook, but we were waiting for the big one.

Almost all of our fishing is catch and release, to allow for continued growth and not deplete the waters we fish. This catch though is being saved and will proudly be on display at home. #crappie #lakemonroe

crappie

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bring on the smoke

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Bruce designed this based on a variety of factors and ideas, seen from other wood smokers. He wanted one that used only wood, no charcoal/gas/electric heating, and also large enough to smoke a variety of items.

Ours took a couple of weekends, working on and off, to pour the cement base, lay the block foundation, assemble the stove and attach into the foundation, then build the house and add the roof. The stove barrel and hardware for it and the door all came from eBay but the rest we purchased locally at Menards. This is a labor of love for us, we did it all and are incredibly happy with how it turned out!

The barrel has been seasoned to remove all manufacturing paint on the interior, as well as burn off as much exterior paint (it has been repainted with high temp stove paint). The initial seasoning of the barrel also allowed for the inside of the smoke house to be smoked, allowing the pine car-siding to be dried.

The inside of our smoker uses untreated pine for the studs, walls and roof. We opted for an inexpensive metal roof to cover the top, and found a dryer vent for the stack (must less expensive than a regular stove cap).

Our first try at smoking was a challenging one, smoked cheese, using hickory. We used Kroger brand sharp cheddar, swiss and mozzarella blocks. Heated the stove to get a bed of coals and the dampered it down to start the smoke. Bruce kept the temperature at about 100 degrees on the lower rack, and the cheese smoked for about 2 hours.

I am very happy with the results, especially for this being our first attempt! We didn’t melt it, turning the inside into a gooey mess, and smoking it for 2 hours gave it a good flavor. The softer cheeses were harder to keep from softening more and slightly cooking, even at a low temp. The mozzarella took it the worst, though we anticipated this too. The swiss came out great as did the sharp cheddar.

Next time we do cheese we’ll likely shorten the smoking time, and I hope to try other cheddar varieties, plus a Gouda.