Pork was the principal meat of the time, so smokehouses were common in Cades Cove, and other areas throughout the Smokies. Smokehouses were the way for the early settlers would cook the meat for meals.
Using the Smokehouse in Cades Cove
It was customary in the Smokies to fatten the hogs on abundant chestnuts found in huge chestnut groves once common in Cades Cove. The farmers actually took their hogs to a chestnut grove and left them there, running loose. They did not worry about the hogs wandering off as they would not leave the feast of chestnuts found on the ground. After weeks of gorging on the chestnuts, hogs were brought back to the barn and put in the stall where they were “topped off” with corn for a few weeks.
Once a year, in the fall, when the weather got cold enough in Cades Cove to process the hogs before spoilage occurred, the farmers would have a “hog killin.” As families tended to be large in the Smoky Mountains, it was not uncommon for a family to kill up to 10 hogs at a time. Though barbaric, “hog killins” were thought to be necessary for survival. Once killed, the pork was spiced and smoked over a slow fire. The pork was made into hams, jowl, bacon, hogshead cheese, sausage and more. It was kept in the smokehouse until it was used for meals.
Of course, pork was not the only meat in Cades Cove. They would also eat bear, deer, turkey and other animals. All of it was stored at the smokehouse until it was needed.