Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Look at this lovely playground for meat-lovers! There is a firepit, big enough to enjoy sitting around and roasting a few hotdogs or marshmallows over. But this firepit has a higher purpose....a conduit from the left side channels the smoke to a tower-shaped smokehouse, and residual heat also fires the bake oven behind the black metal door. The whole thing is completed by a nice wood storage area, and topped by a handy and handsome work surface. This looks like it took a lot of time, and involves masonry skills we at Seven Trees haven't perfected yet. So we're looking at simpler smokehouse designs to keep us busy until we can build one like this.
The basic principal of cold-smoking (hot-smoking involves direct heat and higher temperatures) is to generate smoke far enough away from the food being smoked that it flavors the meat without cooking it. Moving the smoke from fire to smokehouse is usually managed by making the fire lower than the smoker and having an opening at the top to draw air. A smoker can be as simple as a metal drum with top & bottom removed, a covered trench in the ground, and a campfire.
Why smoke food? Here's the opinion of one aficionado:

Smoking offers many improvements for meat. Besides enhancing the taste and look, it also increases its longevity, and helps preserve the meat by slowing down the spoilage of fat and growth of bacteria. Smoking meat longer leads to more water loss, and results in a saltier and drier product, which naturally increases its shelf life. Man discovered that in addition to salting and curing meat with nitrates, smoking was a very effective tool in preserving meats..
The advantages of smoking meat are numerous. Smoking:
Kills certain bacteria and slows down the growth of others
Prevents fats from developing a rancid taste
Extends shelf life of the product
Improves the taste and flavor
Changes the color; they shine and simply look better
Smoked fish develops a beautiful golden color. The meat on the outside becomes a light brown, red, or almost black depending on the type of wood used, heating temperatures, and total time smoking. Originally, curing and smoking was used solely for preservation purposes; today it’s done for the love of its flavor.

For a more technical treatise on the art of smoked meatses, check out this online publication Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation
from National Center for Home Food, University of Georgia.
Here's an above-ground, all-metal smokehouse set up. There are lots of pictures and inspiration at this website, including a a smoker made from a trench and tree stump that has been in use for 20 years.

Here's the one we're thinking about building. You can see the designers took the easy way out and built theirs to use a propane burner as the "fire".
But the size and shape of it, not to mention easy construction, make it a winner. It will be simple to add whatever height "foundation" we need to get the right angle for channeling smoke, but we need to decide just where it will go so we can build a new firepit in the right place.

Here's the smokehouse in action. Reason enough to get a weaner pig next spring! The plans for this smoker, plus pictures, instructions, ideas, recipes, etc. are here - Build Your Own Smokehouse courtesy of the
Connecticut State Department of Agriculture.
Until we get our own smokehouse though, we'll keep enjoying the tasty efforts of our favorite butcher, Silvana Meats. If you're in the area, definitely stop in and peruse their wares. So far everything we've tried has been wonderful (they also do the slaughter/butcher for Hemlock Highlands).


Jannette said...

That wooden smoke house looks great. I like the metal bars on top - my favorite is smoked fish, and one can hang the whole fish up on a hook and fit a bunch in there :) And BACON ...

Seven Trees said...

I want to try smoking beef like they did for Martinmass. I suppose it won't be as succulent as bacon, ham or salmon, but I'll give it a shot.

I bet smoked tongue is good...

CedarMoon said...

Oh that first one is neat. Makes me drool w/envy. Smoked fish would be my first choice to try.

Seven Trees said...

Hey Cedar!
Glad to see you ;)
Fish is actually expensive in the PNW. It used to be salmon was a cheap & easy way to fill a freezer, back when I was a kid. Now the rivers are empty and stores charge more than beef prices!

We're pondering a leaner (not meaner) new forum this summer....a little chat, but heavy on the garden/farming/hands-on stuff. We'll keep you posted.

Hoopajoops, LTD said...

Hoopajoops here,

I just found a species of bug that might be useful for your chickens!


The black soldier fly is a little grub that turns into an adult fly with no mouth. They compost all kinds of noxious stuff that normally doesn't go into a bin (meat, cheese, dog poop) quite happily, and you can harvest a bucket full of them after an established colony has been created by putting some coffee grounds in a bucket with holes in the bottom and wait a half hour for them to surface. Chickens love them.