Smokehouse Cherokee men and women were industrious, taking their duties of family life responsibly. One duty is to make sure your family has adequate and safe food. Food preservation has always challenged people. Oxygen is the catalyst for spoilage. For plant foods, moisture also aids in decay. Early people soon discovered that dried plants could retain their flavors and nutrition if thoroughly dried, and then later reconstituted with water during cooking (dried beans, dried corn, dried squash, dried herbs, nuts, and seeds). Crackers, and thin dried breads, defy the ravages of time as long as they are kept dry. Only the thinnest of meats could be air-dried before spoiling. People discovered that meat packed in salt would last. The process of pickling (using vinegar) also preserves perishable foods. The use of a spring house (where cool water in the form of a spring erupted from the earth) would lengthen the freshness of food, serving as a refrigerator for milk and other perishables. Eventually it was realized that large chunks of smoked meat endured. A smokehouse was a common outbuilding on a farm a century ago. The process of smoking meats needs to be lengthy, occurring over a period of days, allowing the smoke to penetrate the meat as well as seal the surface of the meat. The process works best if a small structure is built to keep the smoke contained, and thus concentrated. The fire is kept low, directly on the ground, or in a kettle, and unseasoned wood is used to create smoke. People discovered that the meat would take on the taste of whatever wood was used, and learned that hickory provided a savory taste to meat. Before the Civil War, the process of canning was developed. By creating a vacuum seal after expelling oxygen, foods would have an extended life. Tin cans were used, but glass jars were popular for home canners because the jar could be used repeatedly as long as a new rubber seal was inserted each time. There was much daily labor in past times.