By CRISTIN REECE
You wouldn’t recognize Alderbranch resident Kathryn Naismith as an artist in the traditional sense of the profession — but one bite of her homemade peach jelly and her artistic talents are readily apparent. Plus, she’s got the ribbons to prove it.
She took home the Premiere Adult Exhibitor and the tri-colored Best in Show award this year after entering several samples of her home-grown, home-canned products in the Culinary Arts-Adult division of the East Texas State Fair’s Creative Arts competition.
The retired librarian’s journey into the culinary arts started modestly. Having learned how to garden and can from her mother, she said she always wanted to enter some of her delicacies in a competition and when her husband, Thomas, enthusiastically agreed she entered her first East Texas State Fair canning competition in 2008 — and she’s entered (and ribboned) in every one since. She’s also ribboned in recent Montalba Fall and Hot Pepper festivals.
“Well, we live out in the country, and when you live out in the country you have to have a garden,” she explained with a laugh. “And when you have a garden, of course you have to put some of it up!”
The Naismiths grow and can a variety of local fruits and veggies and Kathryn uses those to make her canned goods, which include pickles, relishes of all kinds and lots of jellies.
“I use a lot of them for gifts and things,” Kathryn said.
Thomas interjected, “We eat a lot of ’em, too!”
Both Naismiths admit they never are without a good supply of her peach jelly, the couple’s perennial favorite.
“We didn’t have much of a fruit crop this year,” she said. “So I didn’t do as many of those as I normally do this year. But I did several batches of some of the relishes. And I can pickles as long as I keep getting cucumbers out of the garden.”
This year, too, Kathryn said she canned some new items, like the beets the couple were presented by the Parkers in Elkhart and grapes they picked from the Taylors’ pasture.
“I like to experiment with new recipes, especially if we get lots of something,” she said. “I’ll try to find several recipes for that item to try to use it up and offer some variety, too.”
In fact, it was one of her new items — the squash relish — that won her the Best in Show ribbon.
“I was so surprised to win — if it were a cow, I’d be a grand champion,” she said with a laugh. “I was really going for the Premier Exhibitor award but this was just the icing on the cake!”
Thomas added, “Everyone is so proud of her.”
The Naismiths have lived in the Palestine area for 40 years. Prior to that, the couple lived in La Rue, Texas, in Henderson County. Living in such close knit communities for so long, Kathryn confessed she’d like to join, or maybe even help start, a local canning club, especially after recently helping teach a neighbor how to make pickles
“I really do wish we had a club or something like that,” she said. “I think (canning) is getting to be a lost art and that’s really a shame.”