One for the Road: Building a Travel-Humidor

I travel a lot and far too often I ran out of Cigars somewhere far away without any decent cigar shops in the vicinity.
At that point I decided to build myself a decent travel humidor.
It needed to be sturdy, absolutely airtight and the cigars shouldn’t bump around too much.
I got myself a nice handgun-transportcase and took out most of the foam rubber, leaving just a bit of padding on all sides.

From building my large humidor I still had a lot of Cedro cutoffs left. Perfect for a small humidor like this one.

First of all I built a box that serves as a frame for the complete interior.

I then fitted everything in.
For moisturising I use two large 72% Boveda Pads. As the case is completely airtight these will last a few months before needing to be exchanged.
Also, I drilled holes into all the trays to ensure sufficient air circulation inside the Humidor.
Finally, the hygrometer was built into the lid so you can always see it immediately when you open the humidor.

And now for the really decadent part.
This humidor fits exactly into the cooler-holder on golf carts. So now I can always have my humidor with me on the golf course, perfectly located for easy access.

Storage Space: Building a large Humidor

Like just about every other aficionado, I came to a point where my Humidor was too small for all those cigars I had.
A good cigar is like a good red wine: the aroma improves with age. Unfortunately, aging cigars means that you need a lot of storage space for cigars you won’t smoke for at least another four or five years.

I therefore needed a new humidor but I didn’t find anything on the market that would suit my requirements:
– large
– interior made of cedro, at least 5mm strong
– computerized moisturising-system
– low maintenance

Since what I wanted didn’t exist, I decided to build my own.
As a basis for my humidor I bought a large cabinet made of oak.
It has a large compartment with a glass door at the top.
Below there is a drawer which holds the moisturising system.
Finally at the bottom there is a smaller compartment with a wooden door. This is great for storing all that other stuff like ashtrays, lighters, spare trays, etc.

The cabinet as it was delivered. Still quite bare but with a lot of potential

For the moisturising system and the cedro I went to Marc AndrĂ© in Stuttgart. He’s THE specialist for humidors in Europe.
Check out his website www.humidorbau.de
Not only does he built great humidors but he also supplies high quality components, wood, etc. if you want to build your own.
After a long chat with him, I bought a large quantity of 8mm Cedro from him and his “Huminator Medium” moisturising system.
This system is fully computerised, it has an external display and it holds up to eight litres of distilled water which is enough to keep the humidor running for up to eight months without need a refill of water
Great for people like me who travel a lot, sometimes for months and don’t want to come back just to find the humidor dry and all those well aged Cubans dried out and without any taste.
The selection of the right wood is fundamental for your humidor.
Cedro or Spanish Cedar as it’s called is the only wood suitable for a good humidor. The name “Spanish Cedar” is misleading. When the spaniards arrived in Central America they found this tree that reminded them of the Cedar tree they new from the Mediterranean.
The wood is totally different though. Not only does it have a different colour but it also has an extremely bitter taste. Also, Cedro and Tobacco react when put together. For some unknown reason, Cedro has a positive influence on the chemical processes that take place in a cigar when it ages.
Unfortunately the cheap (and sometimes also expensive) humidors that are available on the market often only have a very thin layer of Cedro, sometimes as thin as a tenth of a millimetre.
This is understandable as Cedro is very expensive, probably the most expensive part of the humidor, so manufacturers try to maximize their profits by using as little as possible.
This very thin layer of Cedro is normally glued onto some cheaper wood.
Again, not good. In order to ensure an even relative humidity in the humidor, the wood serves as a moisture-reservoir. That’s also why a new humidor needs to run empty (i.e. without cigars) for some time until the wood has absorbed enough moisture, allowing it to buffer moisture.
In my case with 8mm Cedro this meant that I had to run in the humidor for nearly one month until the relative humidity was stable.
First of all I glued Cedro onto the inside of the humidor, weighing it down to ensure that it stuck nicel to the oakwood of the cabinet.

The drawer wasn’t quite deep enough so I had to create an aluminium frame to hold the moisturiser.

I carefully drilled some holes and then sawed out the area where the display unit was to be mounted.

Finally, the moisturiser was built into the frame. and the display unit was glued in.
Fits perfectly.

The top compartment that holds the cigars is constructed completely of Cedro and made to hold trays that I bought from a cigar shop.
If you look closely you can also see that the boards don’t go right to the back. There is a 5cm gap between the back wall and the boards.
Also, there are holes drilled into the bottom board.
All this serves for air-circulation. The moisturiser will blow air up at the back. This goes right up to the top where it then gets sucked down again through the holes.
The moisture-sensor is mounted below the top board on the side, outside the airstream. This way it will always measure the correct relative humidity inside the humidor.
The moisturising system will start blowing moist air up at the back of the humidor when the relative humidity drops below 69%. Once it goes over 72% it will stop adding moisture.
Plus, every ten minutes it will blow non-moisturised air for a duration of two minutes. This way the air circulates in the humidor, preventing mould from developing.

Also an indirect lighting system was installed using LEDs
This humidor holds up to 1.200 cigars, enough to last me for some time.

When it was finally finished I celebrated with a good bottle of red wine and a nice Cuban cigar.

Making Arrangements: Plating

Many chefs cook brilliantly. Their food is tasty and perfect. For lack of time or simply because they concentrate only on the taste, the presentation of their food often has room for improvement.
People eat with their eyes. Creative plating enhances both the taste and the look of the food. If something looks good, we all tend to have a more positive attitude towards it, thus already thinking it tastes good before it’s even touched our tongue.
A very simple example will underline this.
Both pictures show the same food, prepared by the same chef at the same time and served on the same plate.
The meal is pork belly with sweetpotato-dumplings and a tomato salsa.
This picture shows the food simply served on a square plate.
The pork belly is cut and placed in a semi-symmetric fashion.
Next to the meat there are three dumplings, topped by the tomato salsa.
Looks ok but not really fancy.

The second picture shows the same meal.
It’s far less than in the first picture of course, but if you prepare a six-course meal, portions need to be smaller.
This time the tomato salsa was placed at the bottom. On top of this came a slice of dumpling, finally to be topped by a piece of pork belly.
Much more appealing, isn’t it?
But not only that. It actually also tastes better.
The food is arranged in such a way that you can scoop up each of these stacks with your fork and eat it in one single bite. This means that you have all components in your mouth in exactly the right quantity.
Eating from the first plate on the other hand, you’ll have problems getting all three components into your mouth in quantities which are balanced in such a way that none of them is too dominant.
As you can see from this example, giving some thought to arranging the food on the plate can actually have a great impact on the taste itself.

Taking some time to create a proper presentation will take your cooking to a completely new level if you do it right.
I’ll be writing a few blog-posts on this topic in future.

A Great Helper: The Spoon Measure

The spoon measure is one of these simple tools of which you didn’t know you needed them until you got one.

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Once you have one, you’ll constantly be using it and ask yourself how you coped before.
OK, I may be exaggerating here but just a little bit. đŸ™‚
The use for this tool is very simple.
There are a lot of recipes that don’t give you the weight for components or spices you add, but rather use “one tablespoon, 1/2 teaspooon”, etc. as a measure.
Now how much is actually a tablespoon? How do you measure 1/2 teaspoon?
This is where the spoon measure comes in.
It’s a cheap tool but really comes in handy.

Seriously Overrated: The Juicer

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I think one of the most overrated tools in the kitchen is the juicer.
If you own one, how often do you really use it? And what do you do with it?
Mine (which you see on the photo) is now over one year old and I’ve used it maybe two or three times.
All I use it for is juicing tomatoes. I haven’t used it for anything else yet.
When I bought it I thought “Wow, a juicer! I’m going to do so many cool things with it.”
After using it for the first time, when I had to clean it, which was a hassle and really time consuming, I though “Wow, what a freaking lot of work, just for a few juiced tomatoes.”.
In the end, I didn’t even find any recipes where I needed so much fresh juice that it was worthwhile using it.
In 99% of the cases, I find it easier just cutting stuff up and straining it through a cloth. This takes a bit of time and is quite a lot of work but in the end still less time consuming than having to clean a juicer.
For juicing tomatoes though, it’s brilliant.
A lot of my recipes from the Molecular Cuisine contain tomato-water.
Even though tomatoes are red, tomato-water is actually yellow, at least of you manage to get out all the meat, skin, etc. This really works best with a juicer.
The yellow tomato-water has a very intensive tomato-flavor.
You can easily turn it into a foam with Lecithin, make tomato gummi-bears using Agar Agar, create tomato spheres, etc.
That’s another story though. But anyway, that’s the only use I’ve found for my Juicer so far.
If you have any other uses, please leave a comment.