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Build a simple smokehouse.

Several readers have asked for information on smokehouses. One was Valerie Cowan, Brookings, Oregon, who writes, "My husband is a commercial fisherman and brings home lots of fish, but I'm not happy with the performance of our Little Chief. It's electric, anyway."

A smokehouse is a simple affair. It's nothing more than a small building (size dependent upon your needs), usually of brick or stone, with a place on the floor for a small fire, shelves or racks or hooks for the products to be smoked, and vents at the top that can be opened or closed to regulate the temperature and amount of smoke.

If you don't want to build a real smokehouse - at least not until you get some experience with smoking - here's an alternative. The general instructions will also help in designing a full-scale smokehouse.

All you need is a piece of metal a few feet square (3-1/2'x 3-1/2'is good), a 1" x 10" board 10-12 feet long, and a wooden barrel with both ends removed. Since wooden barrels are scarce today, use your imagination, creativity, and what you have available: a metal drum, an old refrigerator, a small structure made from scrap wood, whatever.

Dig a hole about two feet deep and roughly three feet across (a size partly determined by the size of the piece of metal you have on hand or can scrounge.) This is your fire pit.

Leading away from this hole, dig a trench about 6-inches wide and deep and 10-12 feet long. Set your smoker over the end of this trench.

Set a flat stone (or a piece of metal) over the trench so it covers at least a foot of it at the fire pit end. Cover the rest of the trench with the 1 x 10 board.

Cover the stone and board with a little soil (mostly to seal the edges) and bank up soil around the smoke chamber.

When you're ready to do the smoking, start a fire in the pit. The wood used is a matter of personal choice and what's available: apple and hickory are standards in some places, as are alder and mesquite in others. Avoid softwoods such as pine and balsam, but maple, birch, oak and others are acceptable. Three sticks of hickory about nine inches in diameter should be enough to do the job.

When the fire is going, bank it with sawdust or wood chips, place the metal cover over the fire, and seal that with soil. Hang the meat, fish, cheese or whatever in the smoke chamber and close it up.

An hour or so later you'll want to check both the temperature and the smoke density. With this arrangement, temperature shouldn't be a problem, except perhaps with certain sausages where temperatures are critical. Recipes for these should provide the specifics. Adjustments can be made by opening or closing openings in the smoke chamber.

To use a refrigerator or freezer as a smokehouse, remove the compressor and works, cut a hole in the bottom, and insert a stovepipe between the hole and the smoke trench. No stovepipe? Use tin cans with both ends removed.

Do not lay meat on galvanized racks: use stainless steel or hooks.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Countryside Publications Ltd.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 1993
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