Smoke Houses

View from SW

Smoke House, Hoffman Farm, Shaw Island

Tall and narrow ‘houses’ were built to smoke meat on farms.  In the days prior to refrigeration, salting or smoking were some of the few ways to preserve meat.  In the smoking process, it was important to have a low heat fire with as much smoke as possible, thereby ensuring that the meat did not cook; overheating could result in the meat getting too soft or fried, with the fats blocking absorption of the smoke.  On the other extreme, because butchering was usually done in the fall or winter, it was also important to keep the meat from freezing, because smoke does not penetrate frozen meat.

In order for the smoke to rise from the ground up around the meat, houses were generally small in plan (from 4 foot square to 6’ by 8’) and tall (8 to 12 feet).  Smoke houses usually had only one, short (as little as 3 or 4 feet high) entrance located in the gable end.  Typically, the structure was a simple frame, with vertical wood siding and a gable wood shingle roof; several racks or wire mesh shelves were located on the interior for holding the meat.

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