CrunchDaddy Popcorn is produced in Maryland… not exactly the BBQ capital of the U.S., but we can hang with the best of them and proudly do.
It was during a recent all-day smoking session that the discussion turned to what makes for great, authentic smoked BBQ flavor. In this case, these two 10-lb pork butts (below) were being smoked lovingly and gently for 11 hours by using hickory wood chips in the Brinkmann smoker. It’s the kind of BBQ aroma that will drive the neighbors nuts, so be prepared for guests!
(For the record… The smoked pork shown here is not charred, not burned, but rather displaying the highly coveted “bark” that comes naturally from proper smoking… Slightly crisp with a smoked jerky-like quality on the outside… Hungry yet?)
My guests were surprised to learn that not all “smoked” food items are truly smoked, but rather artificially flavored… and this practice is much more common than most people know. Sadly, products like liquid smoke and smoke flavored powders are mass produced and sold in huge quantities to the restaurant and food production industries. Despite the claims of authenticity and purity from the manufacturers of these flavorings, they taste awful. Liquid smoke is so bad that it made the Health Magazine’s list of “18 Most Sickening Food Ingredients.”
When it came time to develop a recipe for our Smokey Cheddar Crunch, we knew that the smokey taste had to be authentic… but we also knew that we couldn’t actually “smoke” the popcorn nor the Cabot white cheddar cheese that we use… and using a liquid or powdered “smoke” flavoring was simply out of the question.
Our solution was found in the naturally smokey taste of Spanish smoked Paprika, known in Spain as “Pimentón de la Vera.” This magical spice is created by smoking the small, freshly-harvested red chiles over oak wood fires for 1-2 weeks and then milling them finely on stone wheels. The result is a highly prized spice that is indispensable to Spanish cooking as well as to the making of our Smokey Cheddar Crunch!
The lesson here is to take great care in the ingredients that you choose as well as the products that you purchase at the market. Read the labels on your favorite seasonings, BBQ sauces and other “smokey” flavored items. Skip anything that contains “smoke flavoring” and invest the time and love that it takes to make your smoked BBQ experience as tasty and rewarding as possible. You’ll be THRILLED with the results!