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Cajun country is too far south to cure hams before they spoil in the warm winters. Hogs are butchered for bacon, ground for sausage, and cut into small pieces for tasso. Tasso (TA-so) is a small spiced, smoke cured piece of pork. It is not eaten as is but is diced and added to a wide range of dishes. It adds spice and a mild smoky flavor.

2 pounds pork shoulder

Prepare the dry rub (recipe follows). Trim the meat of visible fat. Cut the meat into 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick pieces.

Apply the dry rub, coating all sides.

Wrap the meat in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 days to allow the seasoning to penetrate.

Unwrap the meat, spread it out on a plate, and return it to the refrigerator uncovered for 1 to 2 additional days, turning occasionally to dry its surface. Prepare the smoker for low heat and 3 hours of moderate smoke. If using a water smoker, remove the water pan. Place the meat in the smoker and cook until done (approximately 2 to 3 hours). I normally make tasso along with other smoked meats.

The object is to dry the meat. Pecan or hickory woods would be used in Louisiana. Drying is more efficient on cold, dry days during the winter. True tasso is smoke cured, but the tasso produced by this recipe is cooked and must be refrigerated or frozen.

Dry Rub

1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper

1 teaspoon cayenne

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Combine all ingredients in a 3 inch bowl and stir to thoroughly mix.

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