Before the invention of refrigeration and canning and before new methods of feeding enabled farmers to over-winter large numbers of animals, it was necessary to find effective methods of preserving meat and fish.
The two main methods used were salting and smoking. Both methods are in fact ways of drying food.
After salting or curing meat, meat needs to be further dried for long term storage. Smoking is an effective way of doing this. Smoking also adds a variety of different flavours.
Ham, bacon, chicken, cheese, trout, salmon, herring and mackerel are all suitable for smoking.
At one time after curing the meat would simply have been hung up in the large farmhouse chimney. This was an inexact process. To avoid too high a temperature the items being smoked could only be smoked over a smouldering fire never hotter than 32 degrees Centigrade.
Smoking is now carried out in special smokehouses where non-resinous wood such as oak, beech and hornbeam shavings are used. Flavourings such as thyme, sage or heather can be added to the wood. Small "smokehouses" for home use can be bought or made.
Smoked salmon, smoked trout, smoked chicken, oysters and even smoked cheeses are some of the smoked products which can be enjoyed today.
Smoking, although no longer a necessity for preservation still produces many sought after, gourmet food items.