Before refrigeration and later on when freezing were invented, smoking, salting, prickling, and sun drying preserved food.
In sunny countries the preferred and logical method was drying. In salt-rich regions necessity dictated the use of this excellent preservative, and in northern countries lacking sunshine, housewives had to resort to smoking. Salt was available and used to create an ambient environment to continue with smoking.
Even today in many communities, people like to smoke meat or fish using wood, although new technologies exist using liquid smoke and pother methods.
None of the new techniques impart the delicious and deep smoke flavor.
People of antiquity covered fish or meat in sea salt and dried it over an open fire or exposed it to sunshine to prevent spoilage.
Pioneers stored hams in chimneys or smoky attics. The tannins in wood smoke create a dry, tightly sealed surface, and increase acidity, both of which help preserve the food.
Pathogenic bacteria in the presence of oxygen, moisture, low acidity and ambient temperatures spoil food.
Scandinavian countries including Poland, Germany, the Netherlands and Baltic Republics, are masters of smoking.
There are two methods of smoking; cold and hot. Cold smoked foods, like salmon and bacon look “raw” and have a soft texture with a mild taste. Hot smoked foods look brown, with a shiny, hard surface and in all cases are ready to eat. (Ham, double-smoked bacon, turkey, chicken, sausages are hot smoked in North America).
Eastern Canadians enjoy a long smoking tradition. Here, Scottish settlers smoked herring, salmon, and other seafood using hot smoking techniques still used today.
Toronto and Montreal have several fine “smokers” specializing in salmon, and many other foods.
On the west coast, the first nations are well known for their salmon candy and their unique smoking techniques still practiced today.
If you are fond of oysters but cannot bring yourself to eat a life creature, you can always buy smoked oysters.
In Toronto for smoked ham and sausages call Vienna Meat Market
416 759 4481 and for fish Central Fish 416 763 1151.