aunt betty wrote:The old smoke-houses had a separate fire-house so you didn't burn down the one with all your meat in it. I always thought that was the correct set-up. My grandparents had a smoke-house and I made a ham or two in it.
My grandparents had a smoke house at the farm, and up until about 2002 (when I lived there) I still used it, but when I left, my mother and step-dad tore it down. Idiots. That thing was extremely well seasoned, had been used since 1898, continuously. It was about 10'x14', with an 8' ceiling and open rafters. The vent was a ridge vent on the south facing side (to kkeep the north wind from blowing directly in in the fall and winter, when most of the smoking
was being done). Had a dirt floor. The fire was built right in the middle, in a brick "oven" about 2 feet wide and 2 feet high. Looked almost like a small bread oven. My pop-pop kept his big salt box in there, so after the brine, he put it in the salt box for a few weeks, and it took on the smoky flavor that the salt had taken on over the years. He usually raised 10-12 hogs a year for slaughter, and I remember the hog slaughter days well. All the neighbors came, bringing the big cast iron kettles with a tractor for scalding, rendering all the lard, and cooking down the heads and scraps to make scrapple. When I finally got to help and hang out with the grown up men I really felt like I had "made it". One of my great-uncles would ask me to hold his pipe for him while he was helping butcher, and then I was really standing tall!
After the butchering the meat would get divvied up, and then our share would go in the brine barrels and the bacon would go in the salt box. Man, it smelled good in that smoke house.
He always used hickory, which was readily available in the woods. He'd let the fire burn for almost two days before even pulling the meat and hanging it. He claimed it was "to dry the wood out and season the air" (meaning the smokehouse itself) Up until I moved, you could turn over a shovelful of dirt, and it would smell just like bacon. Like I said, I used it from time to time for a whole ham or a side of bacon, but it was a bit of a waste to fire up that whole thing for just a couple cuts of meat.
I'm done my trip down memory lane now. Thanks.