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Smokehouse

"Virginia Ladies value themselves on the goodness of their bacon." –George Washington letter to the Marquis de Lafayette, June 8, 1786.

Martha Washington carefully supervised the preparation of the hams and bacon that were eaten by the Washingtons and their guests. Of all the food produced at Mount Vernon, Martha was especially proud of her hams.

After slaughtering and butchering the hogs in December and January, the Mount Vernon slaves smoked the meat over a fire pit to preserve it for the coming year. The meat was smoked, aged, and stored in the smokehouse.

Occasionally a thief would break into the smokehouse and steal a ham. However, the most notable ham theft happened in broad daylight, right off the Washingtons' dining room table. The thief was a hound named Vulcan, who made a running pass at the table and dashed out the door with the savory prize clenched between his teeth. A chase ensued, and the ham was recovered; but, of course, nobody wanted to eat it after that. Although Martha was furious, George Washington delighted in recounting the incident to guests.