Appalachian Food

Making Pickled Corn

jars of pickled corn

Decades ago, families throughout the Southern Appalachians would salt-pickle barrels of corn on the cob. Ernest Parker of Gilmer County, Georgia, remembered that “They started doing that somewhere around the early thirties, when the Great Depression came on. They’d brine-pickle barrels of whole ears of corn just like they pickled kraut and beans.”

Bonnie’s Pickled Corn

Armload of fresh corn (12 to 15 ears)
1 cup of salt

In fall pull armload of corn from stalk. Shuck the ears, removing damaged ends and silks. In a large pot, cook until done. Cut corn off cob into a large pan. Add the salt, and stir well. Put into clean, sterile quart jars. Fill jars with boiling water. Seal and store in cool place or put into crock and store in cool place.

—”Smokehouse Ham, Spoon Bread & Scuppernong Wine” by Joseph E. Dabney

I had big plans of visiting Papaw Tony this summer and videoing him making his world class pickled beans and corn but never got it done.

The other day I had a few ears of corn that needed to be eaten and I made some jars of pickled corn with them.

Back in 2009 when I shared Papaw Tony’s recipe for pickled beans and corn William Murphy left this comment:

“I remember well my grannies pickled beans and corn. For those that don’t have a large crock, here is a simple ball jar recipe. Boil corn for five minutes. Drop in tub of ice water for five minutes. Cut off cob and pack in pint Ball or Mason jars. I like the wide mouth jars for this. Add one teaspoon of pickling salt per pint right on top of the corn. (use two teaspoons of salt if you are using some of the newer hybrid sweet varieties of corn). Pour hot water into each jar of corn until just about to run over the top of the jar. All corn must be covered with water. Add canning ring and lid but just screw down loosely snug. Place under kitchen counter for 9-14 days on top of a cloth towel. The jars will work off and emit some water. At the end of the 9-14 day period, take lids off jars and wipe down top of jars and lids to remove any residues that would prevent sealing. Reapply lids hand tight and place in water bath canner for 15-20 minutes. Let cool and lids should seal. Redo any jars whose lids do not seal. This method works very well for corn, beans, Okra, green tomatoes, or a combination of the above.”

Williams recipe is very similar to Bonnie’s Pickled Corn from the cookbook. I have used his recipe several times over the years and it always turns out great.

Last night’s video: Hankering After, Hard Feelings, and Happy Juice in Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    Candi R.
    September 30, 2021 at 6:47 pm

    This, now past, summer I made some sour corn following the inspiration of another commentor from an old post about pickled corn and It was difficult narrowing down the perfect ratio for brine but found this to my family’s liking. I blanched the shucked corn, cooled it in ice water, cut off the kernels, packed kernels in mason jars, made a brine of about 2.5 tablespoons of pickling salt to 1 quart of spring water, covered corn with brine and used a brine filled baggie as a weight, covered loosely with a plastic lid, cleaned up over spilt brine or harmless mold daily, and stored in the fridge 5 days later. It turned out fabulous after working off for five days in half gallon jars. We’re down to our last half gallon jar in the fridge and now look to investing in some pickling weights for my next souring experiment. Also, my toddlers and I over indulged ourselves on the delicious creamy cut cobs that were still warm from blanching. Wonderful memories were made.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    September 27, 2021 at 10:07 pm

    I pickled some corn last summer. It “worked off” just fine and I put it in the refrigerator intending to eat it before it went bad. Today’s topic reminded me of it so I decided to throw it in the compost. It looked good so I decided to taste just a little bit before I tossed it. It tasted as good as it did when I put it in there. Should I eat it? It doesn’t have any off smell or nothing growing in it. It has the texture of fresh cut corn. It is a little salt but I can rinse it before I eat it. What would you do?
    “Worked off” is a phrase I don’t hear much any more. It harkens back to my home brew days. Well not “my” home brew but my neighbor Luther’s. I was 13 or 14 years old, not old enough to drink but he only gave me a healthy sample every now and then.
    I looked in the Dictionary of Southern Appalachian English and it agrees with me. Are you familiar with “working off” in regards to fermentation of foods and beverages?

    • Reply
      September 28, 2021 at 8:36 am

      Ed-I love the phrase working off and have heard it my whole life 🙂 I think I’d eat the corn!

  • Reply
    Lizzy M
    September 27, 2021 at 11:58 am

    I live in Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania Dutch country. While not exactly the same, I definitely see the theme of frugal cooking with good ingredients. I just bought corn in a vinegar pickle brine. I’ll have to try the above.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 27, 2021 at 9:11 am

    I somehow missed the pickled corn. I think it would be accurate to say my family was not big pickle eaters of whatever kind. We had some kraut, bread and butter and chow-chow as I recall but they weren’t prominent in recipes, just side dressing.

    I wish I knew when home canning got started and what the changes were that made it practical. I think there must have been a period of overlap of home canning with smoke and salt curing as well as plain drying but canning gradually became the most common. It is kinda like the story of the crosscut saw. As best I know there was no one time or place where the crosscut was “invented”. Seems it just kinda grew to be until it just was. About that, at the Western Heritage Oklahoma City there is a room with something like 1200 or so examples of early “barbed wire”. That great number ultimately narrowed down to just the one we now know best.

  • Reply
    Margie G
    September 27, 2021 at 8:39 am

    I think your corn you put up looks wonderfully preserved! I learn a lot from you, Tipper. I remember canned corn as a child and how all mommy’s jars looked so shiny, beautiful and colorful all up on the shelves under our porch! It was like the store except WAYYYYY BETTER!!!! If you have a few tomatoes (but not enough to can,) blanch the skins off and toss them in a freezer bag to be enjoyed in a soup or dish at a later time. You’ll be glad you did! Tipper, it’s almost time for you to share a canning jar display photo of this year’s Pressley garden bounty!!! Mine is nowhere like yours, but I’m proud of my stuff in jars. It’s pretty and a few folks have commented so I’m thrilled. The time has come to tell big Ag to leave our foods alone and stop “science” that turns our foods to GMO. It’s really bad and corn has taken the fatal blow.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 27, 2021 at 8:09 am

    My grandmother used to make what they called chowchow. It was wonderful! It was green beans, cut corn, and chopped cabbage. She salted it down and put it in a crock for a couple of weeks or so. She was always careful of the signs when pickling. She preferred to pickle when the signs were in the heart. No woman who was menstruating was allowed near the crock. She also always added a few pods od hot pepper to it as well. It was wonderful!
    I’ve tried a few times to make it but it just never soured for me so I gave up trying. I assumed there was something in my body chemistry that it didn’t like!

  • Reply
    September 27, 2021 at 7:38 am

    I love all pickled foods. No that’s not true for I don’t love pickled pig’s feet like dad did. I don’t make or eat as much pickled corn or kraut like I used to because my wife and I had to cut back on salt.

  • Reply
    September 27, 2021 at 6:53 am

    I’ve never made pickled corn, but it sure sounds good. Thank you for sharing!

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