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An Email thank you from Dave Lea following our smoking day on 28th July 2012... I've highlighted my favourite bits, but it's all worth reading!

Hi Jo/Georgina,

Many thanks for your warm welcome and hospitality on the recent Saturday course – it was very enjoyable indeed. Smoked produce has always been a favourite of mine and the idea of me actually taking up the art of smoking has been knocking around in one form or another for over 20 years now!

Dave Lea next to Smoky GeorginaBack in my early twenties (I'm in my early forties now) - I had a fair bit of time on my hands and took up fly fishing for a few years. The result of going fishing a couple of times a week meant the quantity of fish in the freezer began to grow and I wanted to see if I could utilise some of the fish and smoke them. I also used to have access to many types of “game” meats, so again – the idea of subtly smoking them was very appealing.

I bought a bankside hot smoker called a "Brooks" which was about half the size of the Snowbee smoker you demonstrated on Saturday. The smoker came with instructions and smoke dust and I proceeded to try my first smoke - I only put a tablespoon of dust inside as recommended, placed the various grills and shields in place – then placed a whole trout on top – sealed it up and lighted the meths. Some time later the trout came out cooked to perfection. Then the taste test – oh my word, I could only relate it to the term you used for the sacrificial pheasant bacon on Saturday - “bonfire taste” – but even then I think that would have been too kind a description – it was acrid and horrible (even with the skin removed) and went in the bin.

A few weeks later I tried again, less dust again and horrible results yet again. A week later and I was down to a teaspoon full of dust and even the very subtle smoke was still horrible, infact all three smokes give me a sore throat !!! Shortly after this I went to a local trout fishery who were doing a charity event and they smoked some trout for us as part of the charity day. I can only assume they were using the same setup as myself, as there were very few home smoking products on the market back then
and again the results were poor. The smoker went back in the cupboard and
has sat there ever since.

I hadn't totally lost interest in smoking though and its during the last twenty years that the internet has become a daily part of most peoples lives - so it was through the various internet searches (that returned smoking tips from the USA, Europe and the UK) that I first found Smoky Jo's. To be fair to yourselves, with the combination of your blog and your more recent facebook page, you probably have the most concise and interesting selection of smoking articles on the web for the UK and Europe (if not globally). So I have followed your website for a fair while now, but kept thinking, "I must do this course some time".

I bought your book recently and have been experimenting a little with a Weber style round grill - placing wet chips on the coals and have been getting reasonable success on my own - but still wanted to see it first hand. So that's how I ended up on the course and even though I'd already read your very easy to follow book and played around with smoking a little myself, I'm so glad I made the decision to come up - the
various foods you demonstrated were cooked to perfection, the smoking was subtle and tasty - no sore throats here, thumbs up all round ! To see how the produce "should end up" has really given me a goal to work towards with my own smoking. The whole day also made me see how much of a difference the preparation process made in terms of brining and cold smoking the foods (before hot smoking or grilling). So to summarise, much was learnt and I have taken away a lot of positive things to try in the future !

Just going back to the first part of this message - the "Brooks smoker" - it's only because of the growth of forums and message boards I recently found a number of people posting "don't use the dust that comes with the smoker as its acrid" - doh!

One of the key things Jo made us appreciate was the quality of the dust and chips that you use - if only Smoky Jo's had done courses twenty years ago......I wouldn't have give up!

Many thanks again both, I'll be sure to keep in touch and keep my eye on the
blog and the facebook page.

Kind Regards