John O’Meara writing about smoked meat…

In my family, ham and bacon are our favorite treats. We enjoy good quality smoked meats – particularly pork – and have raised our own hogs for many years.

One year, however, we hadn’t raised any hogs and when Easter came around, we bought a regular ham from the store.

But when I put it on the table, it looked more like plastic than food. My kids didn’t recognize it as ham, and left the table with stomach aches.

The truth is…store-bought ham is cured with chemicals instead of the natural hardwood smoke that has been used for centuries.

It’s not necessary to be dependent on chemicals and hogs raised in questionable conditions at best. A simple, inexpensive smoker is not difficult to construct. I have even seen people use just a tent with a sturdy tarp – a teepee sort of smoker. You can put this up and take it down as needed. It is both inexpensive and functional.

Really, any meat can be smoked. My kids and I regularly supplement our farm diet with fish we pull from local lakes. Trout, whitefish, or even perch smoke well and add variety and flavor to any meal. In a pinch, even store-bought fish would work well in an inexpensive smoker built at home.

Goose, chicken, and duck also taste good smoked.

The objective is to expose the meat to the smoke for enough hours to ensure preservation.

The key is to use hardwood – apple is often considered the best – and to expose the meat to the smoke for the correct amount of time. As an added precaution, the smoked meat should be well cooked before serving.

Although many people liked smoked meat these days because of the flavor – and the flavor is good – originally the point was to preserve food before the days of refrigeration. The smoke dehydrates meat, and phenols in the smoke act to preserve it.

Luckily, with a little ingenuity we can have both – flavor and an inexpensive way of preserving food.

My neighbor – a retired Swedish farmer whose ancestors carved my town out of raw, frozen woods – often speaks about how they always had a ham hanging in the pantry, along with bacon and other smoked treats.

The rule was that anyone in his household could take any at any time. In a way, it was less of a treat and more a sign of success and abundance for those tough Swedish farmers.

We can have that success and abundance at our fingertips too – with a simple and cheap home smoker.

P.S. Discover how you can enjoy a more laidback, authentic, independent way of life in Truth & Plenty. Sign up below to have it delivered – free of charge – to your email inbox.

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