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.