My dad was one of three boys growing up on my grandfather's farm. He raised his own beef, hogs, chickens, turkeys, etc., and had a horsedrawn meatwagon that he'd fill up in the morning and draw around the neighboring towns, selling his meats from it. The boys had to help prepare the meats before school every morning, learning meatcutting from him, plus smoke the hams, bacons, shoulders, turkeys and so on too on the farm in a brick and wood smokehouse they used. It got them through the Depression, only to have a fire in the main barn destroy much of the livestock and the whole cutting area. Grandpa got his real estate license and became a realtor during the post WWII boom, giving up farming altogether.
However, my dad, after the war, came home to purchase the local general store on the GI Bill; he'd interned as a meatcutter and meat manager before the war for A&P throughout the north country. He'd heard of a concept in California someone started and wanted to do it in upstate NY; a store where the customer grabbed a handbasket and actually picked up the groceries themselves vs. the standard general store way of taking their list and filling it. He went to get groceries for his newfangled store and the wholesaler wouldn't extend him standard 30 day credit, said... "..You'll be outta business in 15 days with that crazy fool idea! Cash up front or no goods! No one's gonna want to git their own supplies!" Well, he borrowed the money from his dad and started his store plus put in a full meat counter. He knew, however, he needed 'a hook' to be different from the other two general stores in town, something that would get people to shop with him and his new 'self service' idea. His dad suggested he smoke some hams and bacons; no one had their own smoked meats in town and remembered how well they sold off his meat truck from the farm. He experimented and tried different brining processes, facing the same problems we have with no-cure spots (he learned how to pump the hams), over salted, undersmoked, etc. until he got the process right. All the farmers shelled their corn so there was an abundance of corn cobs; he had them trucked to the grist mill and got them ground and used those for his smoking (and right up to the 80's when the store was sold!).
I was born into the family and growing up, remembered many a snowy, cold morning waking up to a roomful of smoke (the chimney was next to our window and would blow into our rooms upstairs - even though the windows were closed, they were single pane with loose caulking!). Us kids worked in the store and helped with the meatcounter, unpacking and putting down bellies (350lbs in 2 - 55 gal. barrells at a time) and pickling hams, putting stockinette on them to hang in the smokehouses, smoking and cooking them, 36 at a time, brining and smoking turkeys, chickens, beef tongues, pork loins, dried beef, just about anything that oinked or moooed or cackled!
I moved on from my dad's store (my brother stayed there to help run the place as they grew elderly) to meatcutting in chain stores, moving up to meat manager, district supervisor, etc., then hurt my back and had to have operations, etc. and couldn't do it any more. I went into retail with RadioShack and moved to Texas, content to grill and start making fresh sausages for the family. Then, a few years ago, we were at Cabela's and they had their electric smoker on sale so my wife got it for me for Christmas. It was like going back 30 years! I resurrected old recipes from my feeble memories and haven't stopped since!
Now, I'm intent on showing my two sons the crafts I've learned over a lifetime so they can carry on after I'm gone, plus share any knowledge or skills with others on here to help perpetuate our crafts also! My oldest has gotten very involved, and my youngest is showing interest, coming over this past weekend to watch us do some smoked sausages, helping to bone out pork butts, etc., watching the grinding and stuffing operations, wanting to help! (they're 35 and 30).
Some pics -
Dad's Store in Adams Center, NY:
His drip cooler with some hams and bacons:
"Blah Blah Blah... great, now you've told your story.. git up and feed me!" - my trusty companion who gets all the scraps and bad experiments - PJ the Wonder Dog!