by David Cecelski
This week I found the prettiest homemade preserves at a produce stand in Jones County. The stand is on US 41, three miles west of the county seat, Trenton. The artist behind the preserves is a charming, 59-year-old woman named Brenda Avery. She’s been running the stand for 15 years, mostly selling fruits and vegetables grown by her husband, a diesel mechanic who tends a 7 or 8- acre garden on the side.
The produce stand’s shelves were a wonder to behold. On an aisle in the midst of the fresh produce, Ms. Avery had arranged dozens of jars of her homemade hot pepper vinegar, yellow squash pickles, and three kinds of cucumber pickles—bread and butter, kosher dill, and old-fashioned sweet.
Bright red jars of tomatoes stood next to freshly canned green beans. Below them, jars of homemade sauerkraut and canned new potatoes were the color of wildflower honey. Dark brown bottles of sugar cane syrup were there, too, a rare treat in these parts. She got them from a friend who grows sugar cane and makes his own syrup in Florida.
Ms. Avery told me that she has lived in Jones County for 30 years, but she first learned the art of preserving from her grandmother in Marianna, Florida. “My grandmother preserved everything—garden stuff, but also beef, chicken, fish, everything,” she told me. “When we wanted something to eat, we went into the pantry.”
Next up, she said, are pickled beets. Later in the summer, she’ll be preserving figs, pears, and “anything else I can put in a jar.” She added: “Legally, I mean.”
The prettiest sight at Ms. Avery’s produce stand was her canned peaches. She found the fresh peaches on a trip through South Carolina. She had two shelves full and they were just beautiful in the afternoon light.