Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Smokehouse - Old Schoolin' It!

One of the most awesome features of our new-to-us homestead is the original smokehouse in the back yard! You just can't get more much more cooler than that! If you're a homesteading buff with a side of love of the days-of-old,  like us, then you understand our excitement to revive this old relic!

Well, it wasn't very easy to put the pieces together. Luckily the smokehouse had been preserved near its original state. This is a picture of it from the real-estate listing next to the carport for size-comparison.

It has extremely thick interior walls, leaving the interior dimensions at 5'W x 6.5'L. There is an odd "slit" in the interior walls about 2-3' in and about 2' tall - two slots recessed in the concrete opposite each other. We were very confused about this feature.  

So, the other-half researched smokehouses and he learned that in the old days they smoked for preservation.  (follow me here!) When you smoke for preservation (versus flavor) you have to use a low-temperature smoke so as to not scorch the outside of the meat and form a layer that the smoke can't penetrate. The smoke has to penetrate through the whole of the meat to preserve it.  Therefore, most smokehouses were designed so that the fire was outside the building and then piped into the smokehouse. 

But we could find no holes where the smoke was piped in; no repaired-over holes, nothing! Also, the smoke does best to travel up hill, so usually the smokebox is recessed or down hill from the smokehouse itself, but the ground is all level around ours and no recessed holes where a smokebox had once been were to be found. We were boggled and stumped!

Until we visited The Farmers Museum in Cooperstown, NY. They have a smokehouse there; at this link you can read their blog about it. Their smokehouse is designed for a fire inside the smokehouse and what do you know! - their smokehouse has the same slots as ours, but with a stone divider installed in it! A-ha! Now we knew what the slots were for; to separate the fuel from the fire pit. A talk with the lady there helped us come home ready to start smokin'!!!

This is what we learned about the smoke temperature at the museum: They are successful at smoking for preservation by burning green wood and wet wood chips/corn cobs. So, they keep the temperature low by having a smoldering more than a fire. 

So, we came home and the other-half picked up a pork-shoulder and collected some old aged applewood on the property (stacked by the previous owner) with the goal of smoking for flavor (because that's easier). 

He set up the fire and got it going and once it was lowered to a temperature between 180-215 degrees F. He hung up the shoulder by wrapping it in chicken wire and stringing it up with an non-coated wire. The internal temperature of the meat needs to be around 180 degrees F to be complete. If you smoke it near the 180 end, then it will take longer to cook but have more smoke-flavor - hotter is shorter time and less smoke flavor. Pretty logical. He smoked ours for 36 hrs and the fire ranged between 180-215.                     

He says if he were smoking for preservation he would use green wood and soaked wood-chips instead of the dried wood he used this time. We will certainly be doing that, but since it will smoke for 7-10 days (24-7) we want it to be efficient so we'll probably get a hog to butcher for that purpose. It's also easier to keep the temp. down in the cold weather, so we're probably looking at late fall for this :)
As for this latest experiment - the rewards were aplenty! The pulled pork from the shoulder was amazingly delicious! Yyyyuuummm!!! Don't forget to check out our pork shoulder bacon process in a subsequent post (or click PORK SHOULDER BACON).

Delicious smoked pork from our very own old-school smokehouse! With our  homemade fresh coleslaw, homemade sauerkraut, and the fermented-style pickles you can read about on the previous two posts!

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