Building a Curing Chamber

Our friend JB from Ireland is building herself a baccy leaf curing chamber. She is going to use an old chest freezer. That is an excellent idea because such cabinets are internally insulated in the walls. She got the idea from this site:

[Damn it! The site is refusing to paste again. I’ll have to copy by hand]

fairtradetobacco.com/threads/1094-deluxestogie-s-Trash-Can-Cozy-Flue-cure-Chamber

The guy created a curing chamber using a metal dustbin and a crock pot. For those ignorant (as I was until a few days ago), a crock pot is an electrical pot about the same size as a big saucepan. It has a heater element much the same as an electric kettle. Of course, they come in simple and complex designs. The simplest just create low-level heat without thermostatic control. The casing is metal, but there is a ceramic pot inside, which is a heat store once it has warmed up. The idea is that any food placed inside is cooked very slowly, so that a person could set the machine in motion and go to work and find the food cooked when he returns home several hours later. They are said to be perfectly safe.

He also needed a thermometer and a thermostat. The thermometer needed a hole to be drilled in the side of the dustbin and had a probe inside the bin. The thermostat however measure only the temperature of the metal bin because the one he had did not have a probe. Or perhaps he did not want a probe. He also had to insulate the bin.

Whatever …. His set up seems to me to be unnecessarily complicated.

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I had a good think. JB from Ireland has simplified by using the insulated chest freezer and by having a thermostat with a probe. She bought it from Ebay.

Now….. It just so happens that I have several sheets of white chipboard which came from a discarded wardrobe in the garage. I have enough to make a box about 4′ x 18″ x 18″. The chipboard is about 1″ thick which should be enough to provide sufficient insulation in itself. I intend to make a hinged flap at the bottom of one side of the box  to enable insertion of the crock pot and the cables. I also intend to cut out a rectangle in the same side to insert a glass window. I have ordered a crock pot and a thermostat (which includes a separate probe) from Ebay. Total cost, just over £30 (the cost of four packets of fags?). At worst, I have a crock pot and a thermostat. The thermostat can activate from minus 50C to plus 99C, which is more than adequate (obviously, the ‘minus’ quantities are irrelevant). I don’t need a thermometer because I can hang my existing thermometer in a position where I can see it through the window (unless the window mists up, in which case I might need to get a thermometer with a probe – it does not matter because they are cheap). The top of the box will be hinged for ease of access. 

Building the box might be tricky, but I am sure that it is not beyond my carpentry skills. I am not intent upon making a work of art. 

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So why am I doing this when I have said that ‘towelling and wadding’ work? 

As regards towelling, I have every intention of continuing with it. Green leaves will become a lovely yellow colour after about five days. However, a few will turn brown and ‘sweat’ (ferment). You might say that those leaves are ‘overdone’, but they still get shredded and chopped and go into the storage box. At the end of the season, all the produce will be dumped into a big container and be blended together anyway. 

As regards wadding, there is a problem. The leaves most certainly ferment (sweat, and become very sticky), but controlling the processes is almost impossible. Having said that, provided that the stuff is given time (several months) for all the chemical processes to expend themselves, you finish up with a quality stuff which is strong and is nicely blend-able with lighter tobaccos. That was my experience last year. I have been reluctant to change methods.

But I cannot resist the urge to amuse myself in the pursuit of my (comparatively) new hobby (which has replaced golf). My plan, in the  first instance, is to take a group of green leaves and follow the temperature/humidity/timing guide in the above link. But then I will experiment with towelled, yellow leaves and see what happens. 

But there is another consideration, and this is also part of the equation as to what the end produce will be. This consideration is soil type. My soil is black, carboniferous soil, which is not ideal for the ‘Golden Virginia’ type of plant. This year, I have used seeds from last year’s plants. I intend to allow at least one plant to go to seed this year, and use those seeds next year. Those seeds should be more robust climatically than the ‘sissy South’ seeds whence they originated. Certainly, despite the slug and snail attacks of spring, the plants are doing very, very well. I have today bought several canes to support the plants because of the high winds. That is my first job tomorrow.  

 

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