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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

March 11, 2006
Jackie Clay
Jackie Clay answers questions on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Click Here to learn how to Ask Jackie a question.

Buckwheat yeast pancake recipe

Hi Jackie,

I am looking for a good yeast based buckwheat pancake recipe. My father use to make a good buckwheat pancake when I was a child about 60 years ago but he is now passed on and the recipe had went with him. He would never let anyone know what his recipe was. I know it tasted Oh so good as a child with 9 brothers and sisters for him to try to feed. This was our daily breakfast and I would love to taste them or something like they again before it is my time to go. Sure hope you can help. Thank you very much.

Wendell Jones.

Here's your buckwheat yeast pancake recipe;

Dissolve 1 tsp dry yeast in just enough warm water to make a thin paste. Add 1 tsp sugar and 4 c warm water. Add ½ tsp salt and enough buckwheat flour to make a medium thin batter. Cover and let stand in a warm place over night. In the morning, add 2 Tbsp molasses and stir down the risen batter. Spoon onto a hot, lightly greased griddle and bake. Gently turn when the bottom is golden brown. Bake on the other side and enjoy!! — Jackie

Pressure canner

Hi Jackie!

I love your column; it's the first thing I read when BHM shows up at the house. My boyfriend and I fight over the magazine as to who gets to read it first!

Last year we finally purchased our home in the country. We have a house, a huge old New England barn and about 6 acres. I have already ordered my garden seeds and can't wait to turn the ground over. Baby chicks will be here in April! I have a few questions: First, the people who lived there before us had a large garden. The spot they picked for the garden is the best spot to put it, therefore I want to use it also. Is there anything I need to do to the area before planting, just in case they had any soil born diseases? I don't think they did, as she was really into canning, etc. but you just never know. Second, I need to purchase a pressure canner and was wondering if I should just go ahead and pick the 30 quart one? I'm not into doing a few quarts at a time; I want to can a bunch at once, so I can get onto other things around the farm! Would you recommend the All American pressure canner? Or is there a better one on the market? I don't mind paying for it as long as it is the best. Also, what's the best place for me to buy jars/lids/rings in bulk so I can get a better price? Is there somewhere I can order online?

It's so nice to see your homestead coming together. I'm sorry about your loss of Bob; you and David seem to be handling it so well. Keep writing for us!

Marti Young
Huntington, Massachusetts

If it were me, I'd just work some well rotted compost or manure into the existing garden plot as early as the soil can be worked this spring and get to gardening. There is always a chance of some type of soil borne soil disease or other condition, such as nematodes, that may be present in the soil, but usually not. In one year of gardening you will be able to spot these problems and take care of them. There is no "shotgun" method to fix all garden soil problems. It would depend on what you might be up against. There are organic methods of treating any soil problem you could possibly encounter. None are expensive or hard to work with. My advice would be to just make the soil fertile and take care of it and you'll probably have a GREAT garden!!

Again, if it were me, I'd go ahead and buy the larger canner. I, too, am into getting my canning done as fast as possible and not dinking around with small batches. I have an All American, and also a smaller Presto that I got at a yard sale. But my workhorse is a huge canner which was originally a hospital autoclave, which I bought brand new in the box at a State Hospital 30 years ago. It's canned thousands and thousands of jars of food for me, and is still goring strong. It takes nine quart and 22 pints at one time, double layered, but weighs a ton!

I haven't found a super site to buy jars and lids, online or otherwise. Some places are a bit cheaper, but when you add shipping and handling, it brings the price right back up to what you can buy them for at discount stores. I have bought my lids during fall close-out sales and early spring prices at the local Dollar Store for 90 cents a box or less. I've gotten most of my jars for free from friends, neighbors and ads in local shoppers from folks who have quit canning or have inherited jars and rings from a relative who has passed away. I've also bought many at auctions for $1 a box or yard sales for around the same price. Remember that rings can be used over and over and over again, so you don't need rings for each and every new lid you buy. A couple of dozen regular and large mouth rings is really all you need.

Good homesteading!!! — Jackie

Creamed beef

I really love creamed beef (veteran) and wonder if there is a safe way to freeze or can it. I make a lot at a time since I am the only one who enjoys it (single dad). I would like a quick way to reheat and enjoy it, without all the fuss making it. Thanks for your help.

Mark Jozwik
Newington, CT

You can freeze all the "s---- on a shingle" that you want. It doesn't can well, because the milk seems to want to take on a curdled appearance. All you have to do is to multiply your recipe, then eat what you want and cool the rest. Then dip out however much you want in a batch, into a zip-lock plastic freezer bag. Work out as much air as you can, then close the bag. Freeze flat on a cookie sheet in the freezer, then you can stack the frozen bags nice and neatly in a freezer basket. When you want to warm it up, you can just open a bag and either nuke it or gently heat it in a saucepan on your stove top. — Jackie

Storing butter

I have been told you can spoon into a pint jar, room temperature butter, within 1 inch of the top, wipe the rim clean, put on a new canning lid with a ring and seal it with a Food Saver with a canning jar attachment or Deni Jar Vac. It removes all the air and seals the jar and you can store the jar on the shelf for years and it remains good and safe. Any experience with this or other ways to keep butter on the shelf not the freezer? What happens to bacteria that can grow? This has created quite a controversy around here. Your help would be appreciated. Many thanks.

Barbara Layton
St. Mesa, Arizona

No, I haven't heard the Deni Jar Vac or Food Saver method of keeping butter fresh in a jar. In the old days, folks often just kept their butter covered by a light salt-water brine in a crock, in a cool place in their pantry. As butter contains acid (lactic acid), it is not bothered by "deadly bacteria". If it goes bad it becomes rancid or possibly moldy if enough water and whey has not been extracted during the butter making process.

When we lived in a really remote mountain homestead, we made fresh butter during the fall, then as freezing weather came on, we'd pack it into sterile wide mouthed jars, seal them and pack the jars into an insulated cooler on the north side of the house. This butter would keep frozen all winter, and we'd take out a jar, as needed, and thaw it for use. Of course in the spring and summer, I make butter every week, when possible. Fresh is always best! — Jackie

Canning potatoes with onions

I was wondering about canning potatoes with onions. I've canned vegetable soup (which includes potatoes and onions) in a pressure canner and it gave me the idea of canning only potatoes and onions the same way, wondering if it would be an easy way to open the bottle, drain them, and fry them up. Most recipes about potatoes talk about boiling the potatoes first before canning them. (I haven't been able to find anything about adding onions to them). With my vegetable soup I just add all the vegetables, barley, and spices in a bottle and fill it up with boiling water and pressure can it for 45 minutes (without prior cooking). It turns into a quick delicious nutritious meal. Hopefully potatoes with onions can be processed the same way.

Also, I was wondering if you have ever tried canning a double decker pint bottles in a big canner with a rack in between, so you can get twice as many bottle done. Is this effective and safe?

Thank you,

Julie Ann Gale
Umatilla, Oregon

Yes, you may can potatoes and onions together. I raw pack potatoes and chunks of onions, add a teaspoonful of salt to the jar, then pour boiling water to cover the vegetables to within half an inch of the top of the jar. If you pre-cook the potatoes, they will get mushy on processing.

Dice or thickly slice the potatoes and onion slices or chunks and add the salt and boiling water. Seal the jars. Process at 10 pounds (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet; consult your canning manual for instructions for adjusting your pressure to your altitude if necessary) for 45 minutes for pints or 55 minutes for quarts.

Yes, I double decker can jars all the time. It is definitely effective and safe. I have a wire rack that used to be a round grill rack (Dollar Store), which I lay on top of the rings of the bottom layer. The top layer of jars are placed for maximum steam circulation among the jars, with a top jar resting over two part-jars below. It makes super short work of a day's canning! — Jackie

Weeds

We plant a vegetable garden. We have a weed that has spread in our garden and is now in our pasture. It is covered with stickers. The plant is green with green leaves. Even the young tiny plants have stickers. Very painful when trying to pick lettuce, or weed by hand. Any idea what this weed is and a way to control it? It comes back every year. My husband plows the garden each spring.

lawschapel at aol.com

You know, in New Mexico, we had a weed that I'll bet is the same as your little devil. (For the life of me, I can't remember its name though!). Yes, you can get rid of it. I did. Have your husband plow or till the garden as shallowly as possible; deep plowing exposes many more weed seeds to the sun and facilitates germination. Then, as soon as you're garden is planted, walk it each and every day, searching out these wicked spike babies. I watered in the evening and picked weeds in the morning when the soil was still moist and the weeds pulled easily. (They DO have a strong tap root.) I used leather gloves, as even little, they were wicked to bare hands. The larger plants I had missed, I pulled with a wide pair of pliers, grasping the stem down at soil level. You can also help boost a plant out of the ground with a strong bladed knife.

If you religiously weed in this way for two years, you should only have to keep an eagle eye out for any stray newcomers. — Jackie

Making butter

This is my first visit with you; and I love your website; will be subscribing shortly.

I make butter from fresh cow's milk. With the milk at 60 degrees, I put a quart in the blender, run it on high (will try low next time, thank you) for 90 seconds and I have anywhere from 4 to 6 oz butter already to work. I would love to get a higher ratio.

Also, I read in a magazine about keeping butter at room temp. without getting rancid. Keep the air out; keep it submerged in water. BINGO; it works for me. I just pour off the water and I have good butter ready to use; then fill container with cold tap water and a lid. Any comments on this?

Blessings to you;

Janet Collar
Utica, PA

To get a higher ration, you'll have to use whole cream, skimmed off day old or older milk; the more cream, the more butter! And, yes, low speed on your blender will not only make less of a mess, but will yield more butter as some will be spun back into the buttermilk.

In the old days, folks used to keep butter submerged in a crock of salted water, in a cool pantry or basement. I always say if it works for you, and it is safe, GO FOR IT! Butter will not grow "deadly bacteria" because it is high acid (lactic acid). — Jackie

Mormon canneries

Jackie, I noticed a post about Mormon canneries. I've heard of these. And now I'm getting ready to move onto a sailboat for at least a year. I'd love to learn more about them, find out where they are/how they work...and if non-Mormons are typically allowed at the canneries. Do you know any of this information?

Thanks!

Susanna

Mormons have practiced emergency preparedness for years and do a great job of it, too! You would have to check with your nearest Church-run cannery or ask a friend who is a Latterday Saint. I'm sure you could participate if you would like. (Of course, as with everything, there are always hard-nosed leaders who have their own ideas.) Ask around. — Jackie

Grain mill

Do you know where to get a decent quality hand-powered grain mill that doesn't cost an arm & a leg? Stacey Hartman

Yes, I do know where you can buy a cheap hand-powered grain mill. Mine came from EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS and cost a little less than $50 (on sale). They also have a lot of other preparedness stuff, including dehydrated foods and emergency supplies. Their address is 653 N. 1500 West, Orem, UT 84057 or www.BePrepared.com. — Jackie

Citron

I use candied citron in a Christmas bread. A lady in town grew her own citron and then candied it. It was perfect for the bread. I am not able to find anything about the citron plant, how it is grown and then how it is preserved for use in the bread. Can you help me?

Dorothy Nielsen

Citron is a type of melon, which is grown for its candied peel. You use this peel in your Christmas bread and many other baked goods. It is grown like a muskmelon. You can buy seeds at Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.com

This rind is sliced thin and simmered with a thick sugar syrup till tender, then dehydrated until it is sticky-dry. — Jackie

Canning baked beans

I want to can baked beans, but not from the dried version. I use the canned pork and beans and add extra stuff. My son wants me to can some for him as he can't make it taste the way I fix them. How long do I can them and do I use hot water bath or a pressure cooker? We are not high altitude.

Shirley Willard
2willards at kalama.com

Yes, you can home can canned pork and beans. I've done it when I bought #10 cans of pork and beans from a discontinued warehouse for $1 a can! Basically, just mix up your recipe of beans in a large pot and simmer them until thoroughly hot. Then ladle them out into your clean jars and seal. You MUST USE A PRESSURE CANNER. A water bath canner is not safe to process any vegetable or meat in. You will process them at 10 pounds pressure, pints for 1 hour and twenty minutes and quarts for 1 hour and 35 minutes. — Jackie

Spoiled preserves

If something is canned properly, how long will it last before spoiling? Taking into account that the seal is never broken or the jar does not get damaged. I have a friend, her mother (a pack rat) has canned food from who knows when, 20+ yrs and they are wanting to throw it out. So we are just curious how long it could last.

Thanks

Kerri
lionksm at aol.com

I really don't know, Kerri. I personally, have pie cherries that are thirty years old, which are a bit faded in color, but taste great in pies. And I have canned pickles that are twenty years old, beef that is twenty one years old, and all are still good. I'm sure the nutritional value declines some during long storage. Usually what happens is that the rings and lids rust out, breaking the seal and the food goes bad. The only trouble is that some "old timers" and "new timers, too!" use unsafe canning practices, such as canning meats, poultry and vegetables with a water bath canner instead of using a pressure canner. THAT would definitely pose a health threat. If you KNOW that those jars were processed correctly, the jar seals remain good (firmly indented in the center), the food looks and smells okay, it probably is good. Fruits, jams, preserves and pickles would definitely be safe, provided the seal is good and they look and smell okay.

At the very least, save the canning jars and rings! You can easily wash out the jars and save up to $8 a dozen!!! — Jackie

When to slaughter cows

My brother has a Black Angus farm in Florida. He is letting me take my pick of cows to be butchered for my own use. Is there a better time of the month to have the cow slaughtered?

My old Polish neighbor always said she could tell when the cow was butchered on the wrong phase of the moon, the meat would shrink. I want to get the most for my money since this is an expensive move on my part. Please let me know soon. I plan on having this done in January if possible.

I did enjoy your article on Slaughtering & Butchering.

Thanks again in advance.

Doreen
DLSSavanah at aol.com

You know, Doreen, I have friends who swear by the moon; gardening, canning and butchering. To tell the truth, I can't say that I've seen any difference at all. I would say that whenever it is convenient for you to have the meat, go for it. When I must butcher and can a very large animal, such as a moose, elk or steer, I butcher during the fall-winter, when the temperature is below freezing, so that the animal will keep, hanging in a tree, while I cut it up and process the meat. We do not have electricity, so we can't just take the carcass to a meat processing plant and bring home nice, neat white paper wrapped packages to put in the freezer. But as to the phase of the moon….. I don't think it matters. — Jackie

Bathing jelly

I have a really stupid question. I am making jelly for the first time I my life and the recipe says process for five minutes in a boiling water bath!!

What does that mean, power bowling water over the sealed jars and let sit for five minutes, or process in a pot of boiling water for five minutes.

Sorry for the stupid question I have never made jelly before and did not know who to ask!!!

Pam Seekings

There IS no "stupid" question! To process your jelly for five minutes in a boiling water bath means that after you fill your jars, wipe the rim clean and tighten the ring down on the lid, you place them in a large kettle of boiling water, deep enough to cover the jars by at least an inch, then put the lid on the kettle and continue heating. You count your processing time from the time the kettle comes back to a full boil. (When you put the jars in, the water cools down a bit and it takes a few minutes before it will boil again.) Be sure to have a wire rack or a folded kitchen towel on the bottom of the kettle so that the jars don't sit on the bottom. That may cause the bottom of some jars to break. — Jackie

Canned goods

Here is a question I've wondered about--

How can you tell if canned goods are good to eat?

Now, the standard advice I've always heard is, if it looks good and it smells good, it's probably good. However, I've also heard that if you don't pressure can low-acid foods, they can still have bacteria that you can't smell or see, that can potentially make you very sick or kill you.

So, if someone gives you a jar of corn relish, or canned green beans . . .how do you know if it's good? (Or is there no way to know?)

Thanks for taking the time to respond!

Talitha

Yes, if a canned food looks good, the jar's seal is good (indented in the center), and the food smells good, chances are very good that it is good to eat. But, it's also true that low-acid food, such as vegetables and meat must be processed in a pressure canner to be safe to eat. Now if someone gives you pickles, jam, jelly, corn relish, fruit or tomatoes, it is safe (all acid foods).

If their gift is sweet corn, canned meat or poultry, green beans or carrots, thank them heartily and discreetly ask if they use a pressure canner when they can. Make it the "I don't know much about canning" type question instead of a cross-examination. If they don't know or won't tell you, let it pass. Then bury the contents of the jar in your compost pile. Later thank them for the nice gift and ask if they'd like the jar back. No sense of making enemies. — Jackie




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