We’re quite proud to have the original smokehouse still intact at Frog Hollow Farm. Pennsylvania has the Alleghenies and the Poconos, both extensions of the Appalachian Mountains, reminiscent of many parts of Germany. Many of Germanic descent settled in this region for that reason. Their diets reflected this ethnicity, in which people tended to have a preference for pork (and many still do).
Because pork is a fatty meat, it doesn’t keep as long as some leaner meats do. Without refrigeration—which was nearly 200 years in the future when our farm was built—that was a problem. As an alternative meat preservation option, smokehouses were frequently integral buildings on working farms here. Other meats may benefit from the flavor of smoking, and smoking is a typical method of meat and cheese preservation, but pork almost required it before refrigeration.
Our smokehouse remains in its original location on the property, next to a large, square concrete pad with slightly inclined surfaces and a short curb around the edges. This is the abattoir or slaughter pad, where food animals were butchered.
Meat from these animals was hung over a fire of hickory chips, corn cobs, maple or perhaps deadfall wood from one of the many fruit trees in our orchard. It just depended on the particular flavor the farmer sought, or—more often—on what was available at the time.
Whatever wild game the farmer might have been able to shoot, such as rabbit and venison, joined the domestically raised pork and beef in the smokehouse. Because a functional smokehouse could take some work and expense to build, not everyone had one. It’s likely that the original farmer here at Frog Hollow also smoked meat for his neighbors and nearby stores and taverns. This would have been a way to earn a bit of rare cash, or was compensated in barter goods such as sugar, shoes, and imported goods not available locally.