In the long, three-celled wooden structure that stood here between ca. 1790 and 1809, Jefferson combined two of what he considered "indispensable" elements of a Virginia plantation, the "smoke house" and "dairy." His unusual design placed "two meat-houses" with a "passage between" for a dairy under one roof. Enslaved men and women cut, salted, and cured the meat in the smokehouses; the women made cream and butter in the dairy. Jefferson's daughter Martha Randolph, like other plantation mistresses in Virginia, often supervised these activities; in 1791, she visited the "smoke house and fowls" and saw "the meat cut out." The smokehouse and dairy moved to the newly completed dependencies under the South Terrace in 1809.
m. a house 43 1/2 f. by 16. f. of wood, the floors of earth, used as a smoke house for meat, and a dairy.
Thomas Jefferson, 1796
In December 1799, Jefferson asked his overseer to "have necessary attention paid to the meat." John, an enslaved carpenter, shepherd, and gardener, was to cut up the pork and beef. Ursula Granger, a laundress and pastry-cook who "unites trust & skill" was to "salt it and see that it is properly cured and managed." The cured meat was intended for overseers, enslaved people, Jefferson's household. and sometimes free white artisans.
Pork and cornmeal were the staples of the slave diet across Virginia. The weekly ration for an adult at Monticello was a peck (8 quarts) of cornmeal and a half-pound to a pound of pork. In 1811, Jefferson's household consumed about as many hogs as did 115 slaves. Overseers' wages often included pork, beef, cornmeal, and flour.
Lock and Key
Jefferson specified that "the smoaking & other attentions to the meat must be very exact" and that the cured beef and pork be kept under lock and key. Thefts still persisted. Martha Randolph reported to her father in 1798, "your smoke house was under mined and seventeen pieces of meat taken out."