Here in the middle of the map, “putting food by” has been both necessity and end-of-the-garden ritual. Author Willa Cather never forgot the rows of brightly colored, preserved foods in the hometown kitchens of Red Cloud, Nebraska. Two children in My Antonia show off the shelves of glass jars: “They said nothing, but, glancing at me, traced on the glasses with their finger-tips the outline of the cherries and strawberries and crabapples within, trying by a blissful expression of countenance to give me some idea of the deliciousness.”
In the modern prairie kitchen, small-batch canning is enjoying a renaissance, partly because people want to know exactly what’s in their food. And partly because, more than ever, we have inventive ways to use delicious artisan canned goods.
Tim and Laura Tuohy of Kansas City Canning Co. in the East Bottoms favor “a modern approach to the craft of food preservation,” they say. No boring canned tomatoes for them. It’s “Go big or go home,” at least flavor-wise.
The Tuohys have resurrected the shrub—a tart bottled beverage from 17th-century England—but with contemporary tastes including Meyer lemon and lavender, smoked spiced pear, and blood-orange ginger, perfect for a gin or vodka cocktail. The vintage relish tray could make a comeback with their Sriracha-pickled green beans, charred and pickled Shishito peppers, or pickled balsamic grapes. Preserves such as their clementine-thyme marmalade not only can be slathered on a pork tenderloin before roasting, but can also be layered in a cake or served with a farmhouse cheese board.
Whether you preserve foods yourself or purchase them locally, opening a bottle or jar of deliciousness can ping “Life is good.”