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Using pruning thinnings for smoking?  RSS feed

 
Wes Hunter
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I'm in the process of pruning our handful of fruit trees--a couple pears, couple peaches, sour cherry, and an apple--and am looking for a good use for the bits that are removed.

My first thought was to sell them in bundles as wood for smoking/barbecuing.  Thickness ranges roughly from pencil-sized to fat sidewalk chalk.  I figured I'd cut them into 6-8" lengths, bundle them up in quarter- to half-pound packages, and offer them at a buck or two each.

Anybody tried this--either using them in this manner or selling them?  Advice?  Or do you have a better recommendation for how to market the wood?
 
William Bronson
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We feed our apple and pear trimmings to our bunnies. After they strip all the bark we chop them into 1" chunks and use them to smoke meat.
So yeah, I think you are onto something!
 
Craig Dobbson
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I've often cut small twigs from my apple trees in order to smoke meat.  It works quite well with fresh cuttings as long as they are chopped up into even sized pieces.  Dried wood is not as flavorful as fresh cut, but still quite nice.  The only trouble with dried wood is that it's more difficult to cut into pieces if you need to make it fit into a particular smoker box.  If you had an easy way to chip the material into even sized pieces, you might have an easier time selling it.  When I have large limbs that I've needed to remove, I'll use a chop saw with a sawdust collector to chop the branches into 1/8th inch disks.  I mix the disks with the sawdust and use that in the smoker as well.  It smolders really well all on it's own, but you may need to soak it for a bit if your smoker runs hot.   Good luck

 
 
David Livingston
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Apple-wood smoked cheddar is a premium product in the UK
 
Wes Hunter
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Thanks for the replies.  I found another forum dedicated entirely to smoking meats, where a similar question had been asked, but that quickly devolved into a discussion regarding the pros and cons of soaking wood before smoking it.

I've still got wood piled up from last year, but I'm concerned it'll be too dry to be of use.  Maybe if I suggest folks soak it first, to prevent it burning too hot?
 
Bill Erickson
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I like Craig's suggestion of chipping it up. As a test for your market, go with the cut lengths and the chipped up stuff and see what your market decides?

Most folks who are experienced with a smoker learn what their unit prefers for wet or dry wood chunks/chips. My Little Chief likes moist but not wet chips/dust, while smoking in the grill it is better with wet chunks. As you likely found on that other forum, folks can argue this stuff 'til the cows come home and then keep on way past milking time.
 
Stewart Lundy
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Great idea. I agree that chipping it would be advisable. Organic fruitwood chips for smoking? Yes please.

Not directly related to your enterprise, but I once visited a winery in Italy (Salcheto) that produces carbon-neutral bottles of wine and they save all their prunings, not for smoking, but to heat their cellar in winter.
 
raven ranson
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This is a great idea.

Some people like chips, others chunks.

I have a charcoal BBQ with a fire box on the side that I use for bacon and other smoking.  I build a fire with charcoal, add the wood chunks and then shut down the air so that there is enough to keep it smouldering but not burning.  My chunks are from branches 1 inch or wider and roughly 1 to 4 inches long. 

Some people like fresh wood.  Other people say it needs to be at least a year old or it imparts an unpleasant flavour into the meat. 

I like the flavour of fresh wood, especially apple, but I find the older wood smolders nicer and longer.

I've never tried soaking the wood.  I understand this is to prevent it from flaring up, but I haven't had this problem.  Maybe it's needed for an electric smoker? 

My Little Chief likes moist but not wet chips/dust


That reminds me, someone gave me a Little Chief smoker, but the electrics are gone on it.  I'm off to start a thread asking how I can repair it. 
 
E Cochran
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I think it's a great idea if you can find the right market.

We always use aged wood that we soak for smoking. Until I read this thread I didn't even realize you could use green wood. Duh. Of course our fruit wood trimmings go to our goats and rabbits. They especially love the apple so we smoke mainly with pecan wood. I have buckets and buckets of the stuff.
 
Craig Dobbson
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E Cochran wrote:I think it's a great idea if you can find the right market.

We always use aged wood that we soak for smoking. Until I read this thread I didn't even realize you could use green wood. Duh. Of course our fruit wood trimmings go to our goats and rabbits. They especially love the apple so we smoke mainly with pecan wood. I have buckets and buckets of the stuff.


I used to feed apple wood branches to my rabbits.  They eat all the green bark off and leave a nice clean stick ready to use in the smoker.  If you find a way to keep the wood from hitting the bottom of the cage, it'll stay pretty clean. It works really well in the growers' cage.  Eight growing fryers will strip a 1/2 inch thick, 2foot long stick in about a minute and a half. Give it a rinse (to wash the rabbit spit off )   and head to the chop saw to make apple biscuits for the smoker. 

Rabbits are awesome at so much stuff!
 
Wes Hunter
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Craig Dobbelyu wrote:I used to feed apple wood branches to my rabbits.  They eat all the green bark off and leave a nice clean stick ready to use in the smoker.  If you find a way to keep the wood from hitting the bottom of the cage, it'll stay pretty clean. It works really well in the growers' cage.  Eight growing fryers will strip a 1/2 inch thick, 2foot long stick in about a minute and a half. Give it a rinse (to wash the rabbit spit off )   and head to the chop saw to make apple biscuits for the smoker. 

Rabbits are awesome at so much stuff!


A tangent, perhaps, but another potential use for branches and twigs: in the past I have just left piles of prunings lying around, and have noticed that our resident wild bunnies feast on them.  Makes me wonder if this might not be an easy way to deter them from debarking apple tree saplings one is trying to establish.  If there is ample wood lying around, easy to find and plentiful, might the rabbits not be more likely to gorge themselves thereupon and thus be less likely to find and girdle the scattered living trees?
 
Craig Dobbson
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Wes Hunter wrote:

A tangent, perhaps, but another potential use for branches and twigs: in the past I have just left piles of prunings lying around, and have noticed that our resident wild bunnies feast on them.  Makes me wonder if this might not be an easy way to deter them from debarking apple tree saplings one is trying to establish.  If there is ample wood lying around, easy to find and plentiful, might the rabbits not be more likely to gorge themselves thereupon and thus be less likely to find and girdle the scattered living trees?


It's a good thought.  I've had brush piles scattered around my land and also have hundreds of wild apple trees that pop up here and there.  I don't do anything to save the trees and I never really find any totally girdled so there might be some correlation.  I also have a very healthy guardian dog that marks territory like a champ.  No more coyotes, rabbits, rats, foxes or fisher cats hanging around anymore, so the only predators for mice, moles and voles are owls, and other birds of prey.  They must be effective because I don't see many rodent footprints in the snow... except for near the brush piles.  but that's ok. 

I think that your right, in that the rodents probably prefer things other than apple bark, but when times are lean, it's just what's next on the menu.  I'm cautious about ensuring a balance between enough food to keep rodents off of trees and too much food that you end up with rodent population explosions.  In the latter case, when food sources crash, every tree will suffer the wrath of a hungry rodent.  I'm also a fan of allowing trees to produce multiple trunks.  I consider them insurance policies against rough winters and hungry voles.  Also, having multiple trunks helps work against the borers and deer that also love apple trees. 


 
Erwin Decoene
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Berry leaves such as Cassis and Strawberry are ingrediënts of my favorite teas.
Occasionally i use autumn flowers of our appletrees in tea. Very nice taste.

I don't know whether can use apple cuttings/twigs for tea ? If you know, please share.


Charcoal and wood of fruit and nuttrees are most favored by professional BBQ-cooks over here. They pay for regular supplies.

 
Erica Wisner
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Apple and pear are rose-family, both useful for smoking. 
Not sure if they're close enough to blackberry/raspberry/rose to be safe in tea, some sites describe the leaves as toxic to pets.  That whole rose family has edible flowers, astringent medicinal properties, but there is enough variety that I'd do my homework.

Nut-woods are also popular - hickory, pecan, chestnut.
Alder gets used too. 

Cherry burns different, does anybody have experience smoking with cherry wood and especially cherry bark? 
Or with other 'prunus' relatives (apricot, plum, peach)?
Reason I ask is cherry bark makes these pitch pockets, could cause off flavors like the pine pitch pockets do.  (almost nobody uses pine or conifers to smoke food, unless they are aiming for ink, tar, or turpentine flavors)

Ernie confirms the gum in the cherry bark makes bad flavors; that might be one to let the bunnies work on before running in the smoker.

The other thing you can do, of course, is use the trimmings to make more trees. 
I've tried rooting the trimmings with willow-water (once willows are rooting they make a weak rooting hormone).  Or practice grafting with them. 
We sometimes have scion-wood swaps in late winter for people who want to graft in our area; they are kept in plastic bags or wrappers, in the fridge, until later in spring when the sap starts moving.
Pencil-thickness, with 3 or more buds, is a good size for grafting. 
I did some crappy practice video with my favorite local grafter (no sound really, but you can see his modified crown graft if you poke around on my very tiny YouTube channel:  [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQ_HdNWU9Zg)[/youtube]

Some kinds of orchard twigs are OK for making wattle fences and stuff too.  Not formal basketry, but wreaths, swags, oddball little nests or windbreaks, that kind of stuff.
 
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