Appalachian Food Thankful November

Thankful November – Smokehouses

Collage of 2021 photos

“The smokehouse was a necessity in our lives. Father cured and stored hams, shoulders, and side meat in the smoke house. He rubbed the fresh meat with salt or put it in a brine for several weeks before smoking. Then he hung the meat in the smokehouse and built a fire underneath. He always used hickory or maple for curing; the smoke curled up and around the pieces of meat every day for a week or two. When curing was finished Father rubbed the pieces with pepper, wrapped or sewed them in muslin, and hung them up on hooks in the ceiling joists until needed.

Another method of curing hams was handed down through Father’s family from the time our ancestors came into Kentucky from Virginia and North Carolina. Father mixed about eight quarts of salt, sixteen tablespoons of black pepper, and sixteen tablespoons of white sugar. He rubbed this mixture into each ham, being careful to put it thick in the crevices around the shank bone. He then wrapped each ham in brown paper, put it in a flour sack, and hung it with the shank end up. A cured and aged ham will be moldy and crusty—and looks anything but appetizing. Father aged his hams for at least a year and never more than two. The time-tested method of telling a good ham is to plunge an ice pick straight to the bone, then sniff the pick. If it was a clean, cured-pork odor, the ham will be a good one.

Hams are either sliced and fried (and served with red-eye gravy), or they are baked.”

—Sidney Saylor Farr “More Than Moonshine Appalachian Recipes and Recollections”


Today’s Thankful November giveaway is a used copy of “More Than Moonshine Appalachian Recipes and Recollections.” To be entered in the giveaway leave a comment on this post. *Giveaway ends November 26, 2021.

Last night’s video: Making Cornmeal in Appalachia.

Tipper

Subscribe for FREE and get a daily dose of Appalachia in your inbox

You Might Also Like

53 Comments

  • Reply
    Tammye R.
    November 23, 2021 at 10:48 pm

    Tipper I just got my copy of More Than Moonshine yesterday, it’s got some good stuff in it! Besides the recipes it’s a good read on its own. I agree with you about cornbread sometimes you just get a cravin for it. I’m makin your ginger cookies tomorrow to have when my daughter gets home for Thanksgiving, one of the many things I’m thankful for. Hope your family has wonderful Thanksgiving.

  • Reply
    Mary W.
    November 23, 2021 at 5:41 am

    Great post! I grew up and currently live in NY state, no smokehouses here. But I have eaten meats that were smoked in them. Nothing beats the taste. Our next door neighbors have a smoker and occasionally give us some bacon from it. I have read that book by Sidney Farr and loved it. It would be wonderful to own a copy. Thanks for the opportunity.

  • Reply
    Jan Hutchinson
    November 23, 2021 at 1:07 am

    I fondly remember hams being cured in our smokehouse! My Dad and Mother did that job. I never heard them complain about it, so I figured they enjoyed doing it. They always sold some to a doctor in town every year when the hams were cured. He always seemed happy to get them. We had lots of other meat, as Mother canned ribs and sausage patties, already fried, and ready to heat up. She could have had competition with Bob Evans! She grew hot pepper, sage, and everything to season the pepper just right! (It was long before we had a freezer)! She also canned ribs…almost falling off the bone! They were delicious, too!

  • Reply
    Ron Bass
    November 22, 2021 at 9:24 pm

    Growing up we killed 5-6 hogs each year. It was a 3 day affair, 1 to get everything ready 1 to kill and process the hogs and 1 to clean everything up and take to a neighbor. All the neighbors would help each other. We salt cured and smoked ours.
    I love country ham, eggs, grits, biscuits and hot black coffee. It don’t git no better.

  • Reply
    Barbara Parker
    November 22, 2021 at 8:51 pm

    I don’t know anything about curing and smoking hams but I sure do have some good memories of eating breakfast at Grandma’s and Grandpa’s house. The kitchen had two doors on opposite sides of the kitchen and Grandpa would open both doors and let the cold air blow through the room. That would wake us up and make us look forward to that hot cup of Luzianne coffee and breakfasts that were fit for a king which included hot buttermilk biscuits, fried ham, sorghum syrup and the best gravy I’ve ever eaten. They knew the ways to make life good and interesting and how to teach the ways of life living in the Appalachian Mountains. I’m thankful for this Thankful November and that I’ve got many sweet memories of my dearly departed loved ones from long ago. God is so good to us all, both then and now.

  • Reply
    OkieJammer
    November 22, 2021 at 7:04 pm

    Ohhh. Timely post, as I want to be able to cure and smoke meats. I remember the smokehouse on the old place, swaying in the wind – a little left of center by the time I came along. My Mom said the boards on the walls would taste good, cause they had 100 years of smoke in ’em. Our curing was probably similar to your recipe,, but we called them Arkansas Country Hams. Mm. Mm.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    November 22, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    Makes me picture our old smokehouse. I remember everything about it. I remember where dad would hang the 2 hams so they would cure.He cured them with salt. We raised our own hogs. It was a big treat to get to have a piece of country ham and biscuits and gravy and eggs for breakfast. I would love this book.

  • Reply
    Nate
    November 22, 2021 at 6:24 pm

    Can’t get any real smoked meats these days. All is that smoke flavor from a bottle. I recall as a young man helping a neighbor with his Hog Killing. My payment—-Smoked sausage. He always used natural casing and mixed one domestic hog with a wild one (caught and fed corn 3-6 weeks to remove wild taste of acorns) heads were given to an old woman down the road who made hog head cheese. I can still recall this as he was a war vet and couldn’t pull the trigger to kill them and that chore fell to me or a young guy that lived near by. He had a smoke house behind my home and his barn/corn crib and I can almost still get a whiff of it on a still summer night.

  • Reply
    Jackie
    November 22, 2021 at 3:32 pm

    Dad tried a sugar cure method once but reverted back to the salt cure method. We had a ‘smokehouse’ but never used smoke – just the salt. After we got electricity and a freezer he gave up that type of preservation.

    Last year I dehydrated figs and didn’t really care for them as much as the fresh ones. Recently we pulled them out, rehydrated them and made fig preserves. My wife told a friend about it and he gave her a bag of dehydrated peaches for peach preserves. We made them and plan to see what we can do with the dehydrated apples next.

  • Reply
    Mary C
    November 22, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    I do remember what my parents called “an old Kentucky Ham”. It had a distinctive flavor that was loved by those who grew up with it. As a child my parents would occasionally be sent one from Ky to Texas. Dad was quite particular about how he sliced and served it. It is a flavor i remember well.

  • Reply
    Philip
    November 22, 2021 at 1:05 pm

    Sounds like another interesting book to add to my book wishlist. I like reading about the old timers and their way of life. I can remember my grandpa killing hogs and curing the meat when I was younger, I wish I could go back to those days but I’m thankful for the memories I have.

  • Reply
    Lori Hughes
    November 22, 2021 at 12:52 pm

    Wow!!!! Now that is a book I’d love to own!!! We started curing our own meat last winter and I’d love to try new recipes and methods. Thank you so much, Tipper for sharing!

  • Reply
    Robert
    November 22, 2021 at 12:40 pm

    Another thankful November day. Thank YOU, Tipper.

    We lived in town. My Pa would buy corned hams when he could find them. We didn’t do them ourselves. He would salt and pepper the corned hams and slather them with blackstrap molasses and put them in a muslin sack and hang them in the attic above the kitchen. He would do that in November or December depending on hog killing weather. The hams would hang there until Thanksgiving the following year.

    My mother would soak a county cured ham, in an oblong, enameled roasting pan, for a day and overnight. The next day she would pour out the water and wash the ham down good. She would then make a thick, rough dough ‘saddle’ that she would place on the inner side of the ham and place it, with that side up, back in the roasting pan. She would cook it until she deemed it done, but I don’t recall her measure for finding it so.

    I DO LOVE me some country ham.

  • Reply
    Paula Rhodarmer
    November 22, 2021 at 12:18 pm

    There was a smokehouse on my husband’s property when we married and it had been well used. There was another smoke house on the property of a little country store we owned for a while. I remember my husband salt curing hams in that building and I often went with him to attend to the meat. It’s been years, but the memories of the sights and smells are still with me.

  • Reply
    Diana Keiser
    November 22, 2021 at 11:41 am

    We have so much to learn from out ancestors! I remember Mom talking about canning the meat with lots of fat.

  • Reply
    Donna Brewton
    November 22, 2021 at 10:57 am

    This would be an awesome book to have and read leisurely and enjoy. Please enter my name.
    My immediate family did not have a smokehouse but I recall in the 1960’s visiting an aunt and uncle in Lewiston, Idaho. who did have. a smokehouse At the back of the backyard was a refrigerator my uncle had converted into a salmon smoker. The very best “salmon experience” for a Texas girl. Loved smoked salmon ever since.
    Interesting reading about pork smoking.

  • Reply
    Richard
    November 22, 2021 at 10:31 am

    How did he keep critters and bugs off them?

    • Reply
      Tipper
      November 26, 2021 at 12:06 pm

      Richard- Hanging them helped keep rodents away and wrapping them protected them from insects 🙂

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    November 22, 2021 at 10:26 am

    Tipper–I’ve got the Farr book, so don’t bother including my name for the drawing, but I would note that in my view it is one of the best of the regional cookbooks focusing on the Southern Appalachians. In fact, in the annotated bibliography to my forthcoming book from the University of Georgia Press, “Fishing for Chickens: A Smokies Food Memoir, a work that falls in this general subject niche, here’s what I say about it:

    “A minor classic by an individual who was well to the forefront of Appalachian studies and the upsurge in interest in the region, this book is part anecdote, part recipes, and all pure pleasure. It has some gaps–there is little information on fish and game, for example–and the author’s roots lie in Kentucky rather than the Smokies. But the book has the clarion clear bell of authority ringing from every page. Farr was a woman who truly had ‘been there and done that’ as far as the contents go, and I rejoice in the fact that they show she is unabashedly proud of her roots. Also useful, although it is an autobiography rather than a cookbook, is her “My Appalachia: A Memoir” (2007). Appreciable portions of that book’s coverage deal with food lore. Highly recommended.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Toni
    November 22, 2021 at 10:17 am

    I’ve always been interested in the curing process. This book sounds both educational and interesting.

  • Reply
    Sharon Cole
    November 22, 2021 at 10:11 am

    Enjoyed this story. I grew up in the city and we bought our ham at the grocery store. I appreciate you sharing the old ways! The day I was born in 1950, my dad was helping someone kill hogs! My Mother told me that story for many years. Would love to read this book. Take care and God bless!

  • Reply
    Marilyn Reed
    November 22, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Nothing tastes better than a good cured ham!

  • Reply
    William Dotson
    November 22, 2021 at 9:51 am

    Dad used to kill 8 hogs every year, one for each member of the family, after they had cured he would slice a piece off one of them while they had hung for so long and he would eat the slice raw to tell if they were cured to his taste and if they were we would hang them in muslin bags that Mom had made them hang them back up to go through the summer sweat as they called it back then.I have most of the things to process all the other parts of the hogs such as the sausage and lard, Mom always made head cheese. Dad always said he used all to say he used all parts of the hog except the squeal.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    November 22, 2021 at 9:41 am

    The thought that comes to mind is ‘handcrafted food’. That could very fairly be said as well about home canned. Just the amount of time, care and labor involved is a crafting process, especially that aged ham! Related is the idea of ‘a labor of love’. When I grow the garden and my wife cans the green beans, the corn and the tomatoes, I like to anticipate holiday meals with the kids home and the home-grown and love-prepared being on the table. The much-better-than-average taste compared to mass produced and the appreciation that goes with it is a priceless blessing to be devoutly thankful for. I’m sure that is what kept, and still keeps, some doing the home curing and smoking.

    It reminds me of something I read once. A boy had complained, “Nobody has said they loved me this livelong day.” His mother said, “Yes they have. I heard your sister tell you ‘Don’t eat too fast.'” Shelves full of canning jars or a smokehouse full of meat says a lot more than just ‘Yum’.

  • Reply
    dee
    November 22, 2021 at 9:14 am

    My Daddy’s family cured their hams with salt and hung them in the smokehouse too. I remember my Daddy talking about hog killing time and how they processed the hog. He loved that red-eye gravy over his Mother’s biscuits. I would enjoy reading that book.

    • Reply
      "Miss" Gina
      November 22, 2021 at 10:55 am

      I remember as a child going to my Grandpa’s smoke house and looking through the cracks between the logs. I would be able to smell the smoke and see the hams and sausage hanging above a little smoking wood pile placed so carefully. It is a wonderful memory. I would love to read the book.

  • Reply
    David M Dennis
    November 22, 2021 at 9:14 am

    Ahh, that post brings back many memories of my Grandparents smokehouse in Tennessee. I strongly remember the hanging meats and that heavenly, smoky smell. Thans for sharing!

  • Reply
    Marilyn
    November 22, 2021 at 9:11 am

    Oh my! I remember those crusty and moldy hams. We soaked the hams in water to get rid of some of the saltiness, but oh, they were so delicious! In my mind, I can still smell the smokiness from the smoke house.

  • Reply
    Surretha
    November 22, 2021 at 9:08 am

    I enjoy the readings that you share from this book. They remind me of when I was growing up and the priceless self-sufficient skills that I learned from my grandparents and parents.

  • Reply
    Denise R
    November 22, 2021 at 9:06 am

    How I love cured hams!!! As a girl I was lucky enough to try one when my dad, who worked at RCA at the time, was one of the purchasing agents there. All of the sales reps would send him all kinds of food or educational toys when they found out he was a single dad raising 2 girls. I would love to win this cookbook!! Trying new recipes for different regions the country is something we love to do!!

  • Reply
    Shirl
    November 22, 2021 at 9:00 am

    Dad killed a hog every fall. He hung some of the meat in the smokehouse to cure but I doubt any of it lasted a year. I don’t recall ever eating country ham when I was growing up.

  • Reply
    Wanda Robertson
    November 22, 2021 at 8:46 am

    To this day, I can remember the smell of the smokehouse when the hams were curing!

  • Reply
    Greg Church
    November 22, 2021 at 8:34 am

    Even after 40 plus years of not being used as a smokehouse, my pap and nannies smokehouse on the home place retains the smell of cured ham.

  • Reply
    Patricia A Small
    November 22, 2021 at 8:19 am

    My granddaddy had a smokehouse he raised hogs and cured them. I wish I had paid more attention to how he did it. I love cookbooks and would love this one!

  • Reply
    Walter Sloan
    November 22, 2021 at 8:13 am

    A great way to prepare a delicious country ham, salt cured, is to fill a lard stand with water and place the ham in the stand and bring to a rolling boil for 45 minutes. Remove the lard stand from the stove, place the lid on tightly and wrap in a quilt. Leave covered for 24 hours. Uncover the lard stand and ham, drain off the water and place the ham in a pan or platter. It will be fall off the bone tender, less salty and ready to serve.

  • Reply
    Angela J Short
    November 22, 2021 at 7:48 am

    I’m sure this book would be very interesting. I’d like to read it. Enjoy your day. angielovesgary2 atgmail dotcom

  • Reply
    Kathy Gautier
    November 22, 2021 at 7:43 am

    Oh, now I am all misty……Reading this bring back memories of “hog killing day” and stuffing sausage, cooking out lard and cracklins, and curing the hams and shoulders. My grandparents also had a smoke house and we did the same process to smoke and then salt down the hams and shoulders. We would take the tenderloin in and fry it up and make homemade buttermilk biscuits and have a delicious lunch. Oh my, those were the days! Thanks for the memories.

    • Reply
      Danilee Varner
      November 22, 2021 at 8:37 am

      I enjoy all of your stories! The cornmeal one was especially nice….wish we lived close enough to stop by and buy some.
      Happy Thanksgiving

  • Reply
    Tony
    November 22, 2021 at 7:40 am

    I’d love a copy of the book, I always enjoy these old time ways, I still cure and smoke my hams and bacon. I’m fortunate that I learned these ways before the ones that knew passed on. Most all my knowledge of the old ways came from those older folks while I was growing up. Today, where I live, it seems they younger don’t care to learn them. I have a library of books on the old ways, just hope they are kept and read one day. Being self sufficient is very satisfying…

  • Reply
    Diane Kelbaugh
    November 22, 2021 at 7:34 am

    We are so spoiled by our modern conveniences these days! To think about a moldy, crusted ham hanging from the rafters for a year is something else! This sounds like a great recipe book. I like when books like this include stories about the foods. I know I’ve heard you mention this book many times on your channel. Thank you for the opportunity to win a copy.

  • Reply
    Becky
    November 22, 2021 at 7:28 am

    definitely would enjoy a copy of this…never heard of the second method he used and wonder how it even came about way back when…

  • Reply
    Margie G
    November 22, 2021 at 7:16 am

    All that talk about smoking meats and country hams got my taste buds twanging early this morning!!! I think a smoke house would be a dandy thing indeed if I had pork on the hoof! Now guys (mostly) like a smoker with their grill. I know of fellers who brag about their meat smoking abilities amongst each other- sharing their wood chips, rubs, and time in the smoker. Each is convinced he smokes the best meat and who am I to argue???? Lol. I honestly think men feel a sense of pride providing meat for the family just like a woman takes pride in her canned fruits and vegetables. It’s just natural…

  • Reply
    Cathy Sparks
    November 22, 2021 at 7:13 am

    Ummm, what I’d give for a slice of country ham fried for breakfast with some eggs and biscuits and gravy. Haven’t had any for many years.

  • Reply
    Nancy Johnson
    November 22, 2021 at 7:10 am

    I really enjoyed this post. Makes me want to try some!

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    November 22, 2021 at 7:07 am

    The process of curing and smoking ham and bacon has always interested me. Every year, just before Christmas, I buy a country ham. We really enjoy it with biscuits and gravy.

  • Reply
    Sandra henderson
    November 22, 2021 at 7:06 am

    My husband was from eastern n.c. And when living in s.e. Ga, he’d order country ham or buy a whole one this time of year when available down that way. He also liked liver mush, which I’d never heard of. So, now that I’ve been living in Franklin and bryson city for 9 years since he passed, I now understand more. I love seeing old smoke houses. It’s a real art to make all that charcutcherie and now it’s gourmet…back then, it was daily fare and life.

    This book sounds so interesting.

  • Reply
    Roger Greene
    November 22, 2021 at 6:56 am

    Dad used the salt cured method described in the second paragraph.

    One other interesting side note is that when we built the “smokehouse” (called that although we didn’t use smoke) I was just a kid. While helping Dad lay the flooring I lost a medicine bottle full of buffalo nickels that I foolishly put in my pocket that morning. The “smokehouse” is now a storage building. Everytime I am working around it I look for my bottle of nickels. I suspect they are under the floor, and that two inch thick white oak floor, just a few inches above the ground, is as solid today as it was 60 years ago. I suspect it will outlast me and leave a treasure for someone to find in the future.

  • Reply
    Martha D Justice
    November 22, 2021 at 6:42 am

    Loving hearing about the old ways ❤

  • Reply
    Wandena
    November 22, 2021 at 6:38 am

    I remember my grandpa’s smoke house. Good things were hung on those ceiling joists. This post also reminds me of hog killing day which was the day after Thanksgiving if it was cold enough.

  • Reply
    Janette Auditor
    November 22, 2021 at 6:37 am

    I have always had a real curiosity about curing meat. Whether it be smoking or salting, it has always made me wish I could have someone show me how to do it well. This book sounds great! Thank you Tipper for bringing it to my attention.

    • Reply
      Jessica Ferguson
      November 23, 2021 at 11:56 pm

      Love your blog and YouTube channel!

  • Reply
    Vann Helms
    November 22, 2021 at 6:37 am

    Daddy always kept a “Country Ham” in the icebox, ready to be carved for breakfast, even after we moved to
    Miami in the late Fifties. He had an uncle east of Charlotte who always saved him a ham. After he passed at 87, his last ham was passed to my brother, who insisted it be hung in the pantry. It tasted just as good….

  • Reply
    Kimberly Moore
    November 22, 2021 at 6:35 am

    Not before familiar with the curing process, I CAN tell you that as a kid growing up in Southern Virginia my favourite food was homemade biscuits (with the barest touch of mustard) and salt cured ham inside. My mouth waters now….

  • Leave a Reply