Long before we started homesteading, I wanted to build a smokehouse. I love the taste of smoked meat and often thought why not make this on my own rather than pay big bucks for someone else to do it? As a child, I would read books about the early American pioneers and how they would preserve their meats. A smoke house was an essential tool for those early settlers.
These were before the days of refrigeration and chemical preservatives. All they had was smoke and salt and a natural source for nitrates. AND, that’s all they needed.
So as we continued to built our off-grid homestead, a smokehouse was one of the projects that we just needed to have if we were going to save and preserve meats for any length of time. Right now we are canning a lot of meat. But what happens if canning jars and tools can no longer be found? How would we preserve our fall deer harvest or livestock butcherings?
Not only that, but cured and smoked meats taste wonderful.
I was watching a video recently of a number of chefs preparing a ham prosciutto. It’s a simple process really and it can be done with lots of different types of meats. We have lots of goat and sheep farmers nearby and deer in our area so there will be many opportunities this winter to prepare 1 or 2 prosciutto. The problem is that a true prosciutto hangs for a year and I’m not sure Jaimie is going to be ok with 1 or 2 deer hind quarters hanging around that long in the house. But, we’ll keep you posted on that.
Today, most meat is preserved with chemicals. Back in the days of old, people would add saltpeter to their meats for curing. It kept the meat guarded from certain bacteria like botulism that salt will not kill. Saltpeter is also called potassium nitrate. When nitrates come into contact with certain bacteria, they will convert into nitrite. During that conversion process, not only are potentially harmful bacteria not allowed to multiply, but it also makes changes to the protein structure of the meat and that my friends is what produces an amazing flavor that is hard to beat anywhere.
Today, most meat cures throw in nitrites right from the start to make sure to eliminate any of those harmful bacteria mentioned above. However, by adding in the nitrite, you miss the conversion that you would have had if you would have added nitrates and allowed the natural conversion into nitrites. Thus some of the amazing flavor is robbed from the experience.
Since the middle ages, people have discovered that you can use some plant material to get the same effect as saltpeter. Many plants are high in nitrates and celery is one of them. We harvested our own celery this year in order to use it with our meat curing and preservation.
Our smokehouse is fitted with 3 shelves for smoking meats and salts. We also have 3 hooks for hanging meats as well. Because it’s a cold smoker, its a great way to preserve cured meats for long term storage without refrigeration.
The video below will give you some great ideas on how you too can build your own smokehouse. Imagine being able to create that amazing smoked flavor without having to pay someone else to do it.
Stay tuned for a lot more articles on our smokehouse and videos too showing how we use it!