Appalachian Food

Pickling More than Cucumbers

Pickles in a crock

To many a mountain woman who grew up at a time when the kitchen stove occupied most of her 16-hour-long day, pickling is a heap sight more than just preparing cucumbers.

“It’s most everything,” said Mrs. Tennie Priscilla Cloer. “It’s meats and fruits and vegetables.”

Aunt Tennie, 92, and spry as a Dominiquer pullet, has been pickling things all her life.

“I came along at a time you had to plan ahead for the long, cold winter months when the food came mainly from the cellar.” she recalled. “You pickled and preserved all sorts of things.”

At such times she and her sisters of the woodburning kitchen stove would draw from their storehouses of inherited recipes that dealt with the pickling and preserving of all varieties of meats, fruits and vegetables.

“We pickled beets and beans and corn, watermelon rind and tomatoes and kraut, cherries and apples and peaches.” she said. “And we pickled hog meat. Made what you call souse meat. I still pickle most of these things. Pickle them as they come from my garden. you know. I haven’t missed putting in a garden and filling my cellar in 74 years. I don’t reckon there’s been a year that I’ve canned less than 500 jars of foodstuffs. So far this year I’ve put up 350 cans. I’ve still got three or four dozen cans of chow and relish to do. And I’ve got beans and corn yet to pickle.”

As she sat on the back porch in a split-bottomed straight chair, her hands busied themselves with stripping the shucks from freshly picked corn for pickling.

“I’m going to pickle this corn with some beans,” she said. “I always pickle some together. I use a churn jar for it. I’ve already pickled some beans separately. And I’ll do some corn by itself too. Pickling’s a lot different now from what it was back when I was coming on. Back then we didn’t have glass jars. We did our pickling in two-gallon and three-gallon stone jars and put beeswax paper over them as a cover. I was 18 years old before I ever saw a glass jar. The first ones were half gallon jars and very thin. Later they got out a green glass jar and it was better, didn’t break so easily. As a child, I remember my mother used 30-gallon cider barrels to pickle her beans and kraut and corn in. She had one barrel full of beans, one full of kraut, and one full of corn. It was enough to last the family over the winter.

—John Parris – “Pickling’s More’n Cucumbers”


The article by Parris reminds me Pap said they too pickled all sorts of things when he was a boy for winter consumption.

Along with other foodstuffs his mother and grandmother picked wild grapes and pickled them in crocks. Pap did not have fond memories of the pickled grapes and said he sure was glad when times got better and there was no need to make nor serve pickled grapes.

Tipper

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14 Comments

  • Reply
    Melinda
    July 7, 2020 at 1:39 pm

    My husband remembered his mother canning green peppers (mangos?) filled w/a a shredded cabbage mixture…don’t know if they were what Peter Pipper picked’ or not pickled… The family liked souse, too but not as much as their favorite Scrapple.

  • Reply
    Becky Hale
    July 7, 2020 at 8:11 am

    i remember mom and granny pickling stuff when i was little but i absolutely can’t stand anything pickled…not even kraut and pickles….i do my share of canning though..just don’t like anything pickled…

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 6, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    And I just saw your 2009 blog post about how to pickle crocks of corn and beans – now I’m all set to try it, if I have enough beans and corn to spare this year. Thanks again, Tipper, and everybody who left comments with details about ways to do it 🙂

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 6, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    Tipper,
    I usually get those Greer Canned Peaches at Ingles because they’re riper. But Laura sent me some Dole peaches that were sliced and nice and Yellow, she knows how I like Peach Cobblers. I had never seen any in a plastic jar before. Both my girls take good care of their daddy, since this Covid-19 came from Overseas. At my age, I can’t get this stuff cause we got too much Heart-Trouble in our Family and strokes and all. …Ken

  • Reply
    Quinn
    July 6, 2020 at 6:27 pm

    I’ve seen big pickle barrels of cucumber dill pickles, but I’m trying to imagine a 30-gallon barrel of pickled beans or corn. My gosh, that’s a lot of pickled vegetable. And I wonder how you’d keep it from spoiling once you opened the lid of the crock and started dipping out from it. Was the brine just so strong nothing could grow in it? I worry about losing power for only one reason: my little chest freezer full of vegetables from my garden. I don’t have a pressure canner, but maybe I should try to do some pickling this year. Food for thought, Tipper, thanks!

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    July 6, 2020 at 2:59 pm

    My Granny pickled some, canned, some, froze some, and dried some…. her very hot green tomato ”catsup ”(she called it ) was made in a crock, oh it was hot. Souse my Grandaddy bought at the old Market House though I never acquired a taste for it, he ate it on crackers. 🙂 My favorite pickled item is pickled beets , she’d pickle the small sized beets whole and boy I could eat a whole jar of those things. 🙂 She did watermelon rinds also.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    July 6, 2020 at 9:36 am

    Pickled grapes? Ain’t that what wine is?

  • Reply
    Shirl
    July 6, 2020 at 9:00 am

    When I used to make the fourteen hour drive from up north to visit my parents, I timed the trip so the little store an hour from home would be open. The owner was an older lady who made pickled food and sold it right on the counter. Her pickled corn was delicious. I couldn’t wait to stop at her store and buy everybody an ear of corn right out of the churn. To my disappointment, the health department made her stop selling food to the public years ago. That was the last time I ate pickled corn on the cob. Mom loved to make what she called mixed pickles that included corn, beans, cabbage, onions and a little bit of everything else from her garden.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 6, 2020 at 8:22 am

    For some reason, we only did kraut and cucumber pickles. I’m guessing that was because by the 1950’s it was not really necessary to prepare for winter as much as had been common. Your blog has helped me see I was a child just about when the old ways had been mostly replaced. Home gardens and canning were still common then but have become less so in my lifetime. You can drive a lot if miles of country road now and see few gardens.

  • Reply
    Sanford McKinney Jr
    July 6, 2020 at 8:04 am

    It is evident that Mrs. Tennie Priscilla Cloer is no stranger to hard work. Reminds me of my Dear Mom and Dad.
    It was the life they knew from the time they could remember until their deaths. They were blessed with good health and love of family.

  • Reply
    Margie Goldstein
    July 6, 2020 at 7:38 am

    I am tired just thinking about all that pickling! Lol. Weren’t people in days past self reliant, more content, seemed happier and yet they worked hard every day without complaining! Look at the modern life span from eating garbage food massively processed and robbed of most nutritional value. We are dying fatter and younger and sicker than EVER before. It’s nothing for these folks of country life to live a century. Now we are old and dying at 65. It’s a shame is what it is. I wish for a time I never knew when people truly cared about each other and not possessions and STUFF. The older I get, simpler is better and I know it!

    • Reply
      aw griff
      July 6, 2020 at 1:08 pm

      I couldn’t agree more.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 6, 2020 at 7:10 am

    My grandmother canned hundreds of jars like that. A good portion of them were things she pickled. When her canning jars were all full she would put up one more crock of something till all her crocks were full and saved them in the crock. The things she kept in the crock were the things they ate first, since they didn’t have an air tight seal.
    I know very little about canning meat but I know she did can meat too.
    It was a different time and a very different way of life and values. I simpler way of life in many ways and a hands on kind of life style.
    As a child when I spent the night with my grandparents the hardest thing for me to get used to was going to bed at dark and getting up with daylight. They had grown up without electricity and were long accustomed to going to bed at dark and up at sunrise.

  • Reply
    Jim K
    July 6, 2020 at 6:27 am

    I’m afraid more people will regret in the coming year not doing more pickling and canning. All we do anymore are cucumbers and chow chow. My friend (in her mid 80s) recently bought store brand sausage on sale, cooked it and canned it. When I ask her why she didn’t just put in the freezer, she let me know her jars didn’t depend on electricity.

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