Simply Necessity?: Agency and Aesthetics in Southern Home Canning

Pearl White of Oklahoma standing in front of her prize-winning canning exhibit at the national 4-H canning exhibit contest sponsored by Kerr Glass Mfg. Corp., Sand Springs, Oklahoma, 1931, 4-H Projects and Demonstrations, Home Economics (UA023.008.100), Special Collections Research Center, NCSU Libraries.

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Simply Necessity?: Agency and Aesthetics in Southern Home Canning

by Danille Elise Christensen
Southern Cultures, Vol. 21, No. 1: Food

"'That's all I wants to do . . . to find something to can. I can stay in the kitchen from morning 'til night canning—'if I can find something to can, and have the jars, and the tops—'good tops, and lids. I loves to can.'"

In a 2008 ethnographic celebration of American county fairs, Drake Hokanson and Carol Kratz pointed to pigs, quilts, and dirty pickup trucks as surefire signs of rural culture. Jars of colorful award-winning preserves also affirmed the vibrant life beyond urban centers: after all, the authors asked, “Who in the city makes jelly?” Indeed, jars of sweet potato butter, corncob jelly, pickled ramps, and peach-pecan preserves proclaim country pride in venues across the South today. They crowd the shelves of the Museum of Appalachia store in Clinton, Tennessee, and balance in stacks at the Western North Carolina Farmers’ Market in Asheville. Farther east, in South Carolina’s Lowcountry, the Charleston Farmers’ Market offers downtown visitors half-pints of muscadine-apple jam from Grace’s Kitchen, and a repurposed gas station off the Charleston Highway stocks condiments like sweet tea jelly (from Rina’s Kitchen) alongside local barbecue sauces and plates of fresh pie.

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