How to Cure Tobacco. Tobacco is from the Nicotiania genus and is native to the American continent. The dried leaves were smoked by Native Americans before the arrival of the Europeans. Tobacco quickly became popular with Europeans and was one of the crops that drove the colonization of North America. Tobacco may be smoked, chewed, dipped or snuffed, but all of these methods require the leaves to be cured.
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Age the tobacco leaves by allowing them to dry. This process allows the carotenoids in the leaf to oxidize and degrade, producing a smoother more aromatic flavor. There are primarily four methods to accomplish the aging of tobacco: air-curing, fire-curing, flue-curing and sun-curing.
Air-cure tobacco by hanging the leaves in a ventilated barn until they have no sugar remaining. This usually occurs by the time they have turned a light to medium brown.
Fire-cure tobacco by setting it out on racks over a wood-fueled fire. This method is used mostly for pipe blend tobacco because the type of wood used for the fire influences the flavor.
Flue-cure tobacco by hanging it in a closed barn. Pipes from radiators or some other source supply controlled heat to the leaves until the starch is converted to sugar and the leaves turn yellow-orange.
Sun-cure tobacco by setting it on racks in the sun for between 12 and 30 days. This method is similar to flue-curing and will produce a sweeter tobacco.