Fred hanna 2010-02-19 21:27:44
You may remember some time ago I posted a report on baking Virginia
issue just mailed out. If you do not get the PIPE COLLECTOR, you are
missing out on the best $12 that one can spend in our hobby. At least
that is my opinion fwiw. In that earlier post I called the method
220/220. That has changed, as not all tins can withstand 220 degrees.
Anyway, I am posting the latest article here as an update to my earlier
piece on baking Virginia. I still would love to hear experiments that
any of you might have done with whatever blends. Right now, at this
moment, I am baking Freiborg & Treyer Virginia Cut Plug and Special
Brown Flake. Should be interesting. Flake baking is such fun. Here you
NOTES FROM THE TOBACCO BAKERY
Tired of all that tang, sharpness, and harshness in a new, nonaged
Virginia? I am offering a way to counteract it to a significant degree,
without any claims of this being a substitute for good old fashioned
cellaring and aging.
Being a long admirer of English mixtures for over 30 years, I prefer
blends to be smooth, complex, and perhaps a bit spicy. Thus, I find the
flavor of most new Virginia tobaccos, to be all too often sharp,
irritating, and annoying. Although the tang often settles down and
mellows out midway through the bowl, I sometimes lack the patience to
get that far. To me, some of the so called “matured” Virginias are
anything but mature, displaying all the manners of a rude and defiant
adolescent. But a thoroughly and sufficiently aged Virginia tobacco
provides one of the finest gustatory experiences on earth.
My goal has been to discover Virginias that deliver that great flavor
without the rash, uncouth, unmannerly qualities of Virginias that lack
the true maturity that comes with age. Thus, I have cellared a modest
collection of aged Virginias to provide me with that incomparable
flavor whenever my passion for this great tobacco is aroused. Smoking a
great, well aged Virginia is a magical and altogether remarkable
experience, reminiscent of a fine red Burgundy from the Cotes de Nuits.
Unfortunately, 10+ year old tins of Virginia can be expensive, and
while not as expensive as some of their English style brethren, they
can be costly nonetheless. So I have been brainstorming over the past
several years, trying to come up with a way to reduce that tangy, harsh
flavor, even though I knew I would not stop buying the well aged tins.
More to the point, I was looking for a way to achieve a “stoving”
effect that would mellow and enrich the flavor of the tobacco with
little effort on my part. I believe I have found a way.
Over the past five months, I have been experimenting with a different
tobacco treatment to improve the flavor of young, sharp, excessively
tangy Virginias. It is a simple solution that does not require crock
pots, mason jars, or blending. It may not be new, as it is likely that
someone has tried this at one time or another, but I have never spoken
to anyone who has tried it. So I did the early experimenting alone and
then consulted with others for their perspectives. I call this
technique “tin baking” or “tobacco baking” or simply
Results so far have been exciting, but I am still experimenting. At
this point, what I can report are three definite changes in the
tobacco. Generally, the process makes the tobacco (1) smoother, richer,
and more mellow to the taste, (2) darker in color, and (3) more intense
in terms of the aroma, with an added “stewed fruit” overtone. If
the tobacco you bake happens to be your favorite, the process may not
make it “better,” but from what I have heard from friends and
fellow experimenters, it will still taste great, but different. Here’s
what I have been doing. It’s quite simple, really. BUT TRY THIS AT YOUR
I take the ENTIRE TIN, UNOPENED and STILL SEALED, of a Virginia
tobacco, REMOVE THE PLASTIC TOP, and place it in the oven at a
temperature of 200 degrees, for five or six hours. DO NOT REMOVE THE
PAPER LABEL as this temperature is not hot enough to cause the paper to
ignite. I have a specific notation for this process which I write on
the tin after the cooking, describing the temp and time with a slash
mark separating them. For example, if I bake a tin at 200 degrees for 5
hours, I write on the tin, 200/300. This indicates the tin was cooked
at 200 degrees for 300 minutes, or five hours. The temperature is the
first number, followed by the number of minutes of cooking.
While baking, the taller tins, (e.g., Rattray’s or 100g McClelland)
will swell and expand at the lid, and to some degree at the bottom, but
they seem to reduce to normal size, or nearly so, after cooling. When
cooking at a temperature that exceeds the boiling point, say at
220/140, the tin sometimes can expand and swell so much that it never
completely returns to normal size.
Be careful with McClelland tins if you are cooking at or beyond 212
degrees (that is, above boiling point). Some will pop open with a loud
“plunk/woosh” sort of sound, and spill their contents all over the
bottom of the oven, filling the house with a roasted tobacco odor. I
have found that, while this result is rather amusing to me, my wife
does not see this as humorous. After having had several experiences
with exploding tins, I cook the McClelland tins at around 200/300, or
some variation thereof, below the boiling point. With some Rattray
tins, Pease tins, or the short McClelland tins, 220/140 seems to work
fine. Generally, however, I recommend 200/300 as a starting point for
experimenting with all tobaccos.
I have been asked what is the proper cooling period for cooked tins,
before opening the tin. Greg Pease once said that a tobacco will
continue to change for several days after stoving. This may well be
true, and Greg no doubt knows what he is talking about. However, with
my limited knowledge and experience I cannot say for sure. What little
experience I do have, shows that the flavors are fine regardless of how
long I wait to open them. For example, I have opened the latest version
of McCranie’s Red Ribbon within an hour, and after a week, of
cooking. Both tasted great. BEFORE SMOKING THE TOBACCO HOWEVER, I
USUALLY WAIT A DAY OR TWO AFTER OPENING THE TIN.
THE FLAT TINS of Virginia are a slightly different story. Tins such as
Escudo and Solani 633 DO POP THEIR SEAL WHILE BAKING but the result is
still positive. Surprisingly, the tobacco inside does not dry out or
become “roasted” or burnt, and its moisture seems to be largely
retained. Here again, I recommend cooking these at 200/300 as well.
After cooling for a few hours, I remove the tobac from the baked flat
tin and place it in a separate container.
THE RESULTS? As I said earlier, this process seems to change the
tobacco in such a way as to, like stoving, make the tobac more dark in
color. Cooking also makes the tobacco smoke more mellow, smooth, and
sometimes more sweet. If you try it yourself, you will also see how the
aroma of the tobacco is highly affected, positively, in my opinion, but
not always better. Many experienced pipe smoking friends who have
smoked tins thus treated agree that it improves many young Virginias,
and produces interesting variations in any case. You will not be
surprised to learn that tin baking, or cooking, is now a frequent topic
of conversation among members of our Chesapeake Pipe Club.
Is tin baking the same as stoving? H***, I don’t know but I suppose so.
Actually, I don’t know what the h*** I am doing. But I do know that I
will be doing tin baking regularly for certain tobaccos. Try 200/300
with a tangy, sharp 2003 or 2004 McClelland Christmas Cheer and see how
it mellows, darkens, and behaves more like a matured Virginia. I found
that 200/300 makes the current version of McCranie’s Red Ribbon smoke
downright heavenly–smooth, rich, sweet, and creamy. I love the older
Red Ribbon tobacco aged, but the baking method gives the new version an
entirely new dimension that I like just as much. And with McClelland
Virginias, the wine/vinegar aroma that some souls do not like, reduces
significantly, just as it does with aging. This method at 220/140 made
a tin of Rattray’s Marlin Flake smell like oatmeal raisin cookies (must
be some topping they put on it), but the topping seemed to meld nicely
with the tobacco, which took a different, though not necessarily
Escudo is distinctly improved by this method, in my opinion. In the
opinion of some other Escudo fans, 200/300 merely produces an excellent
variation. The “wheels” or “curlies” reduce in size, turn much
darker, and, to my taste, the smoke becomes more substantial, rich, and
tasty. A friend, who is an Escudo fan, baked Escudo at 180/360 and
raved about the improvement, calling it “the best” and
“wonderful.” In the case of Solani 633, the tobacco takes on a
noticeably creamy flavor at 220/140, and is much more smooth. Several
pipe smokers have tried this with GLP Haddo’s Delight and reported
positive results. I found that at 220/140 Haddo’s takes on a highly
pleasant, subdued sweetness that was not previously present in the
The added sweetness could be due to the heat breaking down the natural
starches in the tobacco leaf, freeing the glucose molecules that make
up the starch itself. Just as cooking mellows and sweetens carrots,
onions, and garlic, it may be that a similar process is occurring with
baking tobacco. Having said that, please understand that this is pure
speculation as I really do not know.
I have not tried this method with aromatics and probably will not. As
for English tobaccos, I have baked a few but am not ready to report on
those at this time. Meanwhile, my experimentation, and fun, continues.
ALLOW ME TO REPEAT THAT TIN BAKING IS NOT MEANT TO BE A SUBSTITUTE FOR
THE AGING PROCESS, but it sure does seem to make some Virginias much
more smokable in the near term. Like I said before, try this at your
own risk. I would interested in hearing from anyone who tries tin
baking and wants to share their experiences and impressions.
Rad davis 2010-02-19 21:28:08
It was a pleasure seeing you at Chicago! I’ve got some more Haddo’s in the
oven as I type! (200/300)
As you know, I had great results when I first tried your 220/220 method.
I’m happy to see that you’re refining your baking techniques.
Rita 2010-02-19 21:28:25
Interesting…. Thanks for the update. What’s the best way to bake bulks?
Buck12ga 2010-02-19 21:29:14
This is amazing. Even I can do it!
Kurt huhn 2010-02-19 21:29:52
Fred, I read that article in The Pipe Collector with great interest. I
love the flavor of aged Virginia flakes, but “fresh” ones tend to burn
my tongue no matter how careful I am. When I have a few spare $$ I’ll
be picking up a few tins of different brands to bake.
Russ a. 2010-02-19 21:30:00
Thanks for the update. I was intrigued by this discussion earlier and now,
with your added experiences, I’m sure I will be trying it myself. Thanks
again for sharing!
Fred hanna 2010-02-19 21:30:02
Sorry. I am of no help there. I am still working on it.
Fred hanna 2010-02-19 21:30:09
Please do let me know what you cook and what you find out.
Fred hanna 2010-02-19 21:30:14
I enjoyed meeting you as well. Thanks for your feedback on what you
have been doing. Much appreciated.
Fred hanna 2010-02-19 21:30:16
As usual, Buck, in your humility and kindness, you underestimate
Richard blount 2010-02-20 00:31:04
Just a thought on bulk tobaccos. One might try vacuum packing using one of
the readily available appliances and boiling the bags for the requisite
length of time. This would give a very stable 212F and the bags are good for
that temperature. For that matter, it might work with the tins as well. I am
off to Wally World on closing this to see what they have available in the
way of boil-in bags. If anyone is travelling 21st Street in Newark, Ohio. It
will be hard to miss my little scooter defying traffic at the sidewalk.
On another subject, while I am here. I would like to thank my benefactor in
that I am now a 1792 addict. (good or bad is yet to be determined.) When my
feet get back under me, one will probably get the 212/160 treatment. In the
meantime, will experiment on some ‘el casa del cheapo-grande’ blend just to
Buddy springma 2010-02-20 00:31:29
I saw your piece in the newsletter and found it interesting and well
effective as cereal boxes once opened) under the lid. Anyone mention
tasting off-gasses in their tabaks after such a seal was cooked in the oven.
Buddy – whose knowledge of chemistry is pretty specific and has little to do
with this topic
Buddy springma 2010-02-20 00:31:53
I have a window of opportunity this evening (cool enough to have the windows
open), and am now cooking some SG 1792 Flake and some glp Cumberland.
Should be interesting.
Mythdoc 2010-02-20 00:32:05
I’ll plan to try your technique on tins of my beloved Tilbury, Haddo’s,
Rkzenrage 2010-02-20 00:33:39
I am just going to roll some up in a few layers of alum foil in what we
used to call a “hobo pack” in scouts.
See if that does it. I don’t see why not?
Perhaps try some Va’ Spice, Best Brown or La’ Red. That way I can just
do a bit (cheap).
Rickpiatt 2010-02-20 00:34:07
EXTREMELY interesting Fred, thanks for sharing. I tried Escudo years ago
and hated it primarilly because of the massive tongue bite … tomorrow I’m
running out to my local B&M to grab a tin and I’m gonna bake it as you
outlined 200/300 – heck, if it mellows this ‘baccy so that it doesn’t bite
back, I may have to buy a bunch of it and bake it all for storage!
A Question if I may … since in the baking process the tin will ‘pop open’
anyway, do you see any negative to my pre-opening the tin and taking out a
bowl’s worth so I can do a before and after test?
Thanks in advance,
D*** interesting … gotta try this for sure !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Fred hanna 2010-02-20 03:37:21
Very interesting idea, Robert. Let me know how it works for you. Please
Fred hanna 2010-02-20 03:37:23
You make some excellent points here, my friend. I have not considered
the gaseous implications, being quite ignorant (of chemistry and so
much more). I did say that it is best to wait a day or two before
smoking, after opening the tin. Please advise further on the elastomer
thing. I would be very interested in your speculations, as well as your
results after you bake some flake.
Fred hanna 2010-02-20 03:37:30
Please do let me know how they turn out!
Fred hanna 2010-02-20 03:37:43
You pose an interesting question. I just last night baked at 200/300, 3
flat tins–Orlik Golden Sliced, Freiborg & Treyer Cut Virginia Plug,
and Freiborg & Treyer Special Brown Flake. The Plug and the Sliced both
popped their seal. The Special Brown did not. I would be worried that
the tins might lose too much moisture if opened prematurely, and become
roasted and dried out. But I don’t know for sure. If you decide to try
it please let me know how it turns out.
As for Escudo, I was never a fan either until I cooked it. I will be
very interested to hear your reactions.
Rickpiatt 2010-02-20 06:40:03
Just dropped my first tin of Escudo in the oven at 2:30 this afternoon …
gonna take it out at 7:30 (300min) and per your instructions it’s cookin’ at
200 degrees Far. Can’t wait to see how it smells. I’m planning to try it
sometime mid week. Will keep ya updated. Gosh I love this! Way cool.
Rickpiatt 2010-02-20 09:28:06
Small update … oh my gosh does my house smell wonderful! At about 4:30ish
the tin popped – I know because all of a sudden I started to smell a sweet
raisiny-figgish smell … it’s been here all afternoon and boy is it
wonderful. In about 1/2 hour I’m shutting the oven off and then I have to
wait a few days … ugh. I want to light it up now! Sure hope this make
Escudo palatable to my whimpy tongue.
Rickpiatt 2010-02-20 09:29:39
Another tiny update … I peeked inside the ‘popped’ tin … the coins seem
very dried out to me but since I haven’t tried escudo in a long time I don’t
remember if it’s on the dry side to start with … either way it smells
fantastic and I can’t wait to try it early next week. For now, the entire
tin is stuffed in a zip lock bag and I’ll be good and leave it alone now.
(oooh, I want to light it up so bad!)
No more updates until I smoke it now
Lannes johnson 2010-02-20 09:29:44
Smoke a bowl now and compare that to the bowl smoked after you let the
Fred hanna 2010-02-20 12:51:55
Good idea, Lannes.
Rickpiatt 2010-02-20 12:53:36
I wish I could Lannes, I wish I could. I suffer with stomach problems and
today (and last night) are very uncomfortable to put it mildly … no, I may
be a couple of days before I get to it as smoking further irritates the
problem. I did open the tin again this afternoon to see how it was doing
and its bone dry – so dry I’m condisering re-hydrating it before smoking it.
The disks are nearly black with just a few light speckles scattered
throughout … oh yeah, that wonderful raisiny-figgy smell is completely
gone. I think 200/300 killed it.
Lannes johnson 2010-02-20 12:53:50
Sorry to hear about the stomach problems-bummer. I suggest that you just
smoke a bowl, when able, before doing anything like rehydrating or anything
else. I baked a batch of Cajun at 220/220 while it was in Mason jars. The
tobacco darkened considerably but it did have some aroma and had a nice
taste. I do think the original 2 year aged Cajun that Steve Williamson sent
to me was better though IMO. When in uncharted country travel slowly and
cautiously. Good luck.
Fred hanna 2010-02-20 15:38:40
Rick, sorry to hear about your stomach and failed experiment with
Escudo. But as soon as you said the aroma was moving through the house
I knew something was wrong. That is not what is supposed to happen. If
you smell the aroma of tobacco the tobacco is being ruined. The tobacco
is supposed to bake inside the tin, not roast in the open heat of the
oven. That just burns it out. Something went wrong. I don’t know what,
of course but the flat tins at 200/300 bake fine without losing
I just tried Freiborg and Treyer Virginia Cut Plut at 200/300, and it
was dark, smooth, and sweet, MUCH MUCH improved over the non baked
version. Two of us tried it and agreed on how good it was. And like
previous experience with flat tins, this flat tin still retained lots
of moisture. I don’t know what happened with your Escudo. Go figure…
Rickpiatt 2010-02-21 18:06:23
Well, I took my 200/300 Escudo and crumbled it up a bit (2 coins worth for a
full bowl on my gourd calabash). Sure enough it was as dry as a desert.
Well, I thought, ok … let’s still try it while I rehydrate the rest. I
lit it up and there was absolutely no tongue bite … I only smoked it for
about two or three minutes … it’s dgt’ing in the basement and I’ll go back
to it tomorrow night. Will report more info as soon as I have results.
Just wanted to confirm that the tobacco was totally dry as I expected it
Rickpiatt 2010-02-21 18:09:00
I just finished smoking this stoved escudo. Any hint of a bite from the
VA’s that formerly tormented my tongue is completely gone. ZERO TONGUE
BITE. Unfortunately, with the VA’s tamed the perique rises as a major
component and I hate perique. So, this tobacco is on it’s way to a friends
home already and hopefully he will enjoy it.
Did the stoving “mellow out” the VA’s? Absolutely.
Did the stoving change the flavor of the tobacco? Absolutely.
Will I try this again? Nah. Maybe I just had a loose tin, but it did dry
the heck out of it and that was frustrating.
On a side note, I believe the nicotine content is lessened from what I
remember it to be when last I smoked Escudo. Perhaps that’s just my
imagination. Remember, when this tin ‘popped’ open in the oven the tobacco
was super dried out and it makes sense to me to think the tobaccos already
partially smoked from such open heat.
I think, for me at least, that I’d rather try more tobaccos fresh from the
tin (good excuse for TAD) than trying to alter the blend to meet my palate’s
Experiment over. For me: Failure.