Grit Blogs > Country at Heart

Grandma's Old-Fashioned Smokehouse

"Smokehouse" may be a strange name for a building, and, perhaps other families called theirs something else, but that's what we called ours. I'll explain later. And by the way, the smokehouse wasn't a place where you went to smoke cigarettes nor to roll tobacco for them. Nor was it a place where smoke "signals" were set off. City folks, unless they lived in the "old country," haven't the faintest idea what a smokehouse is.

At this particular junction that I'm referring to (late sixties), my Grandmother did have electricity but no deep-freezer. When I was growing up, some country people did not have electricity, thus, no refrigerator to preserve food. Most didn't have deep freezers to store food forever as we do today. Well, my Grandmother did have a refrigerator, and she also had a smokehouse. To my knowledge, country people don't use smokehouses today.
The Smokehouse was used for items that housewives didn't want to keep in the house, and actually, it was considered a food pantry or the equivalent of a personal food bank. It was dark (no electrical lighting) and even in summer, it was fairly cool. Someone, perhaps my uncle, built this one-room house about fifty feet behind Grandmother's house. For convenience, it couldn't be that far away, because in the wintertime, she made lots of trips there to retrieve whatever she had canned during the summer months.
Actually, there were two uses for a smokehouse. Whenever the men slaughtered and "dressed" (prepared) hogs, they hung the slabs (portions) of meat with hooks and wire attached to them from the ceiling of the smokehouse. Secondly, they had some kind of method of "curing" the meat by adding salt and/or sugar and then putting a bucket inside with smothered coals of maybe hickory wood. This is how the meat was "smoked." I'm not too sure, but I think this process was also used as a preservative, but I know it was used for flavoring the meat. You've heard of "smoked" turkey. Well, we had "smoked" hog.
Throughout the summer and fall, my Grandmother canned fruits, vegetables. and different kinds of meats, sealed tightly in jars. This house was the final, temporary "holding cell" for whatever we would feast on during the winter months. So, now you know what a smokehouse is and that it was not a place where we went to smoke.