Heather Audrisch Haywood doesn’t do anything half way.
I met her last year when we worked together on public relations for Goodwill Industries of Arkansas. One morning, I walked into our suite, my dress clinging to me like child with separation issues. I kept pulling at my hem and finally asked Heather if she had any static guard. Of course, she did.
I spritzed a dainty bit, which helped not at all. Heather gave me the drollest look and said, “Girl. That will NOT cut it. Come here.”
And she yanked my skirt away from my legs and sprayed a healthy dose of static guard ALL around. “Well,” I said as she capped the bottle. “We’re friends now.”
Taking care of business isn’t the only thing Heather and I have in common. We both come from Arkansas farm families and grew up “puttin’ up” vegetables and fruits from gardens, truck patches, fields and orchards our families have. Heather’s paternal grandparent had a peach orchard in Union County, and her Grandmother Audrisch, who operated a café there, made a peach pickle with Indian peaches from her husband’s trees. She also picked blackberries, taking Heather with her, and made jam from their haul. Her maternal grandparents always had a garden, and Heather remembers having to shell peas before she could go to the pool in the summers.
“We canned everything,” she said. “After I was grown, I continued that tradition by making my own jam and preserves as gifts for neighbors and coworkers. That lead me to entering the Arkansas County Fair last year, and it was a hoot. I plan to do it again this fall.”
Heather, who lives with her husband Ken and black Labrador retriever River in Stuttgart, took home seven first place ribbons for her entries in the county fair: one each for her blueberry, cherry, blackberry and plum jam and preserves and one for best in show.
“I loved every minute of it,” she said. “I plan to go back this year to defend my title, and I’m already thinking of what I’ll enter.”
The secret to Heather’s winning recipe is freezing fresh fruit in the summer. “When I make jams and preserves in the fall, the flavor is more robust, and it doesn’t seem to foam as much when you cook it.”
She has even become somewhat of a legend among her friends and family members as they reserve her preserves for special occasions.
“I’ve had people tell me that they save my preserves for Christmas morning,” she said. “It’s become a part of their tradition, and I’m proud they think what I’ve made is special enough to save for the people they love most. That’s what I like about canning and preserving food. It brings together family and tradition, and you know exactly what’s inside and what you’re feeding your loved ones. More and more people are coming back to canning, and the process and equipment has much improved from the time I did it as a kid. I would encourage anyone to try it.”
In addition to jam and preserves, Heather makes homemade mustard and is experimenting with homemade body lotion using only organic ingredients. If that weren’t enough, Heather says that if you return her jars, she’ll refill it for you.
KD Reep is a writer, public relations practitioner and aspiring author in Little Rock. She owns Flywrite Communications Inc., a marketing communications agency in Mabelvale. She is a six-time recipient of the Public Relations Society of America’s Prism award and has been published statewide as well as in the Arkansas Times, Inviting Arkansas, Savvy Magazine, Bourbon & Boots, Arkansas Money & Politics, Delta Farm Press and Rice Farmer magazine, among others.