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Tobacco: Drying/Curing Techniques?

 
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Hi, folks.

Anybody here grow tobacco?  Any tips for drying/curing?  I've grown it successfully here in Northern Minnesota for a few years now but have had mixed results with my drying and curing methods.  Typically, I pick individual leaves off the plant that have given up the ghost for the season and turned yellow-ish.  Then, I sweat/lightly ferment these leaves in a loosely closed bread bag until they've turned brown and leathery.  This takes a couple days to a week.  Then I just dry the brown leaves until they're of the consistency you'd expect to find from store-bought pouch tobacco (dry but not overly so).

The major issue I'm running into is that during that light ferment/sweating process, I occasionally lose more than a little bit of my leaves to surface mold.  I've tried just bundling and drying my leaves like most of the information I've read online indicates but I feel like I get a marginal finished product.

Just curious if folks have any tried and true methods for handling homegrown tobacco.  Thanks!
 
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its hung upside down in sheltered dry place that has ventilation
 
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Location: New Brunswick, Canada
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I worked tobacco a couple of seasons many years ago.  The first year I hung kiln (hanged the sticks with the leaves in the kiln) and the second year I primed (picked the leaves) on a farm that had the newer bulk kilns.  In the older kilns the tobacco leaves were stitched together by the butts on the top of a stick that fit into cut slots inside the kiln.  The kiln would then be fired periodically to keep the temp up to get the leaves to dry and cure in about a week.  I don't know if I've ever smelled anything as wonderful as opening up a kiln of freshly cured tobacco.  

I don't know the temps or cycles they used to dry and cure, but you can probably find that.  The leaves were dripping wet in the mornings until about 10, so they were wet when hung.  They may have only fired the burners the first day or so to dry them off.  The kilns certainly got hot enough on their own.  They'd climb to over 120 just from the sun so I think you could replicate it well enough with a curing box if you wanted.  I'd probably start with Bruce's suggestion and maybe build a small curing box to try them side by side.  I think you'd want good ventilation (maybe something you can vary) but I don't think you want too much airflow as you don't want to dry it too much.  The tobacco we unloaded still had some moisture and didn't crumble.

I can't smoke cigarettes as I'm allergic to the smoke, but I can, and do, smoke the very, very occasional cigar.  I'm sure that's due to the chemicals in the cigarettes.  

Good luck with it.  Let us know what you find works best.
 
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