Pickled Corn: Appalachian Treat of Yesteryear

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Photo courtesy of Ashlyak.
Photo courtesy of Ashlyak.

These days, folks in Appalachia can enjoy tomatoes, beef, apples, pork, and corn year round without giving any thought as to the arduous task of food preservation.  The idea of eating only foods that are “in season” has all but been lost to modern Americans and as a result, so too have many of our old time recipes which were the result of necessity more so than taste.

More than a century ago, corn was one of the main ingredients of any Appalachian diet, as one outsider who moved to the region complained, “Corn was the staple crop—in fact, the only crop of most farmers. Some rye was raised along the creek, and a little oats, but our settlement grew no wheat—there was no mill that could grind it.”

Not only was corn used to fatten farm animals through snowy winters, but it also helped sustain the mountain families who grew it on the sides of mountains and in valley ditches.

One of the favorite preservation methods of maize was “pickled corn” and it became an Appalachian specialty from the North to the South.

The recipe for pickled corn was rather simple and appeared in a 1918 edition of Everywomans Canning Book, by Mrs. Mary Catherine Hughes:

Pickled Corn:

Blanch corn on the cob in boiling water for three minutes. Plunge into cold water and cut from the cob. Pack into a small stone crock and add one cup of salt to every nine cups of corn. Mix thoroughly. Put plate on top of corn and hold down with a heavy weight. After a few days brine from the corn should form over the rim of the plate. If not, add brine made from one half cup of salt to one quart of cold water. Pour into the crock to cover the plate.

To Use:

Take out the amount of corn needed, putting the plate in place again. Rinse in cold water. Cover corn with plenty of water and bring to the boil. Then pour off the water. Repeat this process. Drain through a colander and put in the oven to dry out. It is now ready to serve. Add milk butter or butter substitute and seasoning.

These days pickled corn is but a faint memory for many, but in some parts of Appalachia, it is still a late-fall and winter treat.

Do you like Appalachian History? Then you would love Appalachian Magazine’s Mountain Voice: A Collection of Memories, Histories, and Tall Tales of Appalachia!  Click here to check out the book on Amazon!

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