Readers will remember me posting this pic:
In that pic of a couple of days ago, I have ‘wadded’ a couple of leaves of Whole Leaf Tobacco which I bought for experimental purposes. I was seeking to know whether or not the leaf had simply been yellowed or had been fermented. After two days of wadding, I abandoned the experiment. I was not getting the familiar sweet smell and the leaves were not getting sticky. I therefore concluded that the leaves had, in fact, fermented (been ‘cured’). However, the experiment had interesting consequences. Look at this pic:
The leaf on the left is one that was not wadded. The leaf on the right was. Also, there was considerable shrinkage.
I do not know what to make of it. As I said, there was no change in smell and there was no stickiness to the touch (although the leaves stuck to each other somewhat). Nor was there much evaporation inside the sealed container. Another consideration is that, when I dried out the browned leaf, it became very brittle.
A number of questions arise:
Is the seller curing the leaf at home in a home-made chamber, or is he buying it in bulk?
Is the curing process curtailed at some point (eg. when the leaf goes yellow), and is that the reason that the leaves are still quite large
Why has the leaf turned dark brown merely because it has been wadded and put into a sealed container for two days?
Does the change of colour matter in itself?
Does the change of colour mean that the material in the leaf has become more concentrated (ie. Carbon, Nicotine and Sugars etc form a greater part of the material as water and gases evaporate)?
Does this have any implications for the towelling/wadding method?
Only the last point really matters.
I think that it does. It may well be that the leaves ought not to be towelled for very long. Maybe a couple of days would suffice, before wadding. But not all the leaves proceed at the same pace! But we must bear in mind that using the towelling/wadding method is intended to speed up the process of curing, and that it works.
This next year, there are a number of possible experiments which can be performed. Acet’s method of wadding green leaves and putting them into a sealed plastic bag and hanging the bag in a warm place has merit. J Brown’s method of using her aga works to turn the leaves a uniform yellow. Rose, of course, uses her towelling and warm window ledge method. Sun drying has also been suggested.
For myself, I intend the following:
If any part of a towelled leaf starts to ‘sweat’ and turns dark brown, I shall say that it is cured and cut it off and put it into a container. When a leaf or part of a leaf turns yellow and the rest of the leaf is pale green, I shall assume that those parts can be wadded. If part of a leaf stays stubbornly dark green I’ll cut it off and put it with other green leaves.
Is this getting too complicated? You may think so, but remember that the whole procedure cost nothing other than your time. By all means, build curing chambers and kilns if you wish, and spend money on heaters and humidifiers and fans. That is your decision.
For myself, only wild horses will drag me away from the wadding method of curing. The sickly sweet smell of the tobacco which results is both awful and lovely. I am smoking, at this moment, one of my creations. It is about half bland whole leaf stuff and half my own stuff, which has been re-moistened and sweetened with orange peel.
The taste is divine.
I am perfectly happy to use the bland whole leaf stuff as a ‘cutter’ to reduce the intensity of my home grown, and that is another reason that I abandoned the experiment of wadding whole leaf.
But I have some ‘making’ to do………..