By Janice Willis-Barnett
This year she has already put up 500 jars of green beans, tomatoes, jellies, cucumber pickles, and pickled beans and corn. And she is 82 years old. This is June Ayers, still known for the good taste and high quality of all her canned goods. Some folks absolutely declare that her pickled beans and corn are the best you will ever eat.
The morning I called about sharing June’s recipe in this column, she said she had a run of pickled beans and corn ready to be packed into jars. I asked her if I could use the recipe she shared for a feature I did for The Erwin Record some years ago, and she said, “Why sure, go right ahead.”So please know you are blessed by June’s generosity.
June prefers half runners for pickling because they’re a firmer bean. After stringing and breaking the beans, she washes and cooks them for about 30 minutes before setting them aside to cool. She shucks and cleans her corn, boils it, and sets it aside to cool before she cuts it off the cob. Once the corn and beans are cooked and cooled, June mixes them together in a large pan before she begins putting them in her 8-gallon crock.
“I put about a handful of salt in the bottom of the crock,” June explains. “Then I take a gallon of the beans and corn I’ve mixed together and pack it down in the crock real good. And I put me another handful of salt over that. And then I layer another gallon of beans and corn over that, add salt, and pack it down and just keep going like that till the crock is full.”
Next, June covers the beans and corn with fresh spring or well water. No chlorine. “Then I put a clean, white cloth over the beans and corn,” June explained. “And I put a clean plate on top of the white cloth and weight it down with a clean stone. Then I tie a white cloth over the top of the crock and lay a screen on top of that and let the beans and corn set for at least nine days.”
When June takes the beans and corn out, she washes the mixture in nonchlorinated spring water. “Then I drain them, fill my jars, and shake them down real good. Don’t pack them real tight. Then I fill them up with spring water. Leave an inch of head space in the jars. Boil my can lids in hot water. Tighten lids and put jars in a water bath, bring to a boil, and cook for 25 minutes.” June cautions that it is important to use canning and pickling salt rather than iodized table salt. She prefers pickling on the new of the moon with signs in the heart.
June has no booth at the Apple Festival. She sells from her home in Erwin.