Sweet pickle wins blue ribbon

Published 8:38 am Wednesday, July 1, 2009

WAKEFIELD—The only time Jackie O’Berry ever entered a cooking competition, she submitted two items.

Imagine her surprise when each earned a blue ribbon.

On a whim, O’Berry entered her pound cake and her homemade sweet cucumber pickle in the Franklin-Southampton County Fair in 1996.

When the judging was over, and the retired bank teller walked away with the top prize in each category, she was elated.

“I’d had a lot of compliments on both the cake and the pickle,” she said. “And I knew they were good. But I was not expecting this.”

O’Berry should not have been surprised. She has been cooking since she was 8 and is still going strong.

In fact, she is known throughout the community as the one to call for a special dish, or even with a cooking question.

“She knows more about cooking than anyone I know,” said one friend.

The mother of one daughter and a grandson, O’Berry grew up on a farm where she learned to cook hearty, old-fashioned meals for the farm hands.

“We had to have meals that would “stick to the ribs,” she said with a smile. “Basically we’d have a big lunch, meat, vegetables and always, homemade biscuits.

She grinned. “One of the few things I haven’t cooked much would be homemade rolls — but (not bragging) I can make a biscuit that will melt in your mouth.

Although O’Berry learned what she calls the basics from her mom, Grace Pittman, she was fortunate enough to continue her cooking education when she got married. “My mother-in-law, Alma O’Berry, was a caterer.

“Oh I just loved working with her,” O’Berry said.

“She also owned a florist, so actually, we did it all. We’d do the decorating and then cater the meal.

“We did wedding receptions, any and all kinds of parties, luncheons, things like that. That’s also where I learned to cook in quantity.”

Sadly both O’Berry’s mother-in-law and mother have passed away, but their cooking techniques live on. O’Berry and her husband, John D., also do some catering.

“People call me to do showers and wedding receptions, and then sometimes they’ll ask me to do a fruit basket or a dish for a special occasion.”

O’Berry is involved in just about every organization in town where food is served — a senior citizens group called the Sunshine Seniors, the Wakefield Foundation and her church.

She and her husband even traveled to Tennessee to help at the wedding reception of one of her friends recently.

“Since I retired I have been doing more,” she said. “But I enjoy it so much — I’m hoping business will pick up eve more.

Name: Jacqueline Pittman O’Berry

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired bank teller

Favorite food: Seafood

Least favorite food: Okra

What is the first thing you remember cooking? Hash brown potatoes when I was about 8 or 10. I have two sisters, but I was the daughter who was always in the kitchen learning from Mama. I loved it.

What has been your worst cooking experience? I made a pot of soup once that scorched so badly I had to throw it out. I learned then to never leave anything on the stove unattended.

One ingredient you can’t cook without and why: Salt. It gives everything a better flavor. Even substitute salt is better than no salt at all.

What is the most important thing you have learned about cooking? You must concentrate on what you’re doing. Don’t start cooking something, then leave to do something else. It never works.

Who is the best cook you have ever known and why? I have two — my mother, Grace Pittman, and my mother-in-law, Alma O’Berry. From my mother, I learned the basics, like how to cook the meat and potatoes, but from my mother-in-law, I picked up some of the more delicate things. She was a caterer, and after my husband, John D., and I got married, I used to help her in her business. They were both great cooks, and I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from them.

If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be? Steak, cooked on the grill by my husband.

Jackie o’berry’s blue ribbon pound cake Ingredients

1 stick of butter

1 stick of margarine

½ cup Crisco shortening

3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups sugar

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

1 cup milk

5 large eggs

1 tsp. almond flavoring

1 ½ tsp. butter nut flavoring


Cream butter, margarine and shortening, then add sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one.

Add flavorings. Sift together salt, baking powder and flour two times. Add flour, alternating with milk and ending with flour. Pour into floured and greased tube pan.

Put into cold oven and bake at 300 degrees for one hour and 50 minutes. Do not open oven until time is up.

Leave cake in pan and let cool for about five minutes before turning out on rack to let cool for 15 to 20 minutes.

Place cake on cake plate and cover with clear plastic wrap to seal.

Cake will keep for two to three weeks if kept in cool place. Cake also freezes well.