Long before the days of refrigeration, meats were cured and preserved on family farms in buildings called smokehouses.
Traditionally, a smokehouse is a windowless building with one door, a vent, smokestack, and of course, a stove for smoking. The building could be constructed of logs, brick, cinder blocks, or other materials that could withstand the smoking process. Many were equipped with racks to hang the meat after curing and smoking. A century ago, pork (primarily ham and bacon) and beef were the primary cuts of meat hanging in these smokehouses, however, once in a while, you could see fish. Since meat was such a valuable product as it provided meals throughout the cold winter months, there was usually a padlock on the smokehouse door.
While not a complex process, curing and preserving meat needs to be done properly to ensure the meat is preserved safely. Salt is an essential ingredient in the curing process. Usually, the meat is rubbed with coarse salt, and then it is allowed to rest. The rub and rest process, also called salt curing, is repeated several times as it works to bring moisture out of the meat. The less moisture the meat has, the longer it can be stored before being eaten. For example, beef jerky can be saved for much longer than smoked salmon as it has less moisture.
Once the curing process is complete, the smoking process can begin. Wood is the traditional way to smoke meats and it’s the process we use at Bunting’s Cedar Market. Hardwoods, such as hickory and wood from fruit trees, are popular choices. Never use softwood as it contains resins. Once you have the wood, the fire is lit and burns slowing in order to smoke the meat. Smoking will kill any bacteria in the meat by reducing its moisture content. The temperature of the heated air that accompanies the smoke, the amount of time the meat is in the smoker, and the flavors given off by the wood gives each smoked meat its unique taste and texture. When the smoking process is complete, the meat is wrapped in cloth and hung on a rack to dry and cure. Some meats, such as pork, can take a year or more to cure while other cuts of meat may only take a few months.
Bunting's Cedar Market is your friendly small-town market and gas station, with a big selection to offer! We smoke our own meats in 1930 smokehouse and use natural casing for our sausages. We also have a full line of groceries, fresh produce, and a deli with so many things to offer its hard to list them. Bunting's is the only gas station in Leelanau County that offers Rec Fuel for all your recreational needs. Call us at 231-228-7460 or follow us on Facebook for current specials.