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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

May 12, 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.

Is pressure canning necessary?

Why is it necessary to use a pressure canner for green beans? Can’t you just use the water bath canning method for them?

Nancy
NANDESJARD at cs.com

You absolutely MUST pressure can green beans and ALL low acid foods. When you can them in a water bath canner, they do not get heated up past the boiling point and a 212 degree boiling point is insufficient to kill deadly bacteria spores. The low acid foods must be pressure canned, bringing them up to 240 degrees. This much higher temperature kills any dangerous bacterial spores present in the food so a jar of home canned green beans will not kill you!

—Jackie

Canning chicken and dumplings

I hope you can help me! I have been wanting to can my chicken and dumplin’s for some time now...but I’m still scared. I don’t want the dumplin’s to be cooked to pieces (I make the flat kind of dumplin’s).

The process I use in making them is...pressure cook the chicken for about 30 minutes (the meat falls off the bone then). While the chicken cools I mix up the dumplin’s and drop them in the boiling broth—then the cooled (just enough to handle) chicken is hand pulled and added to the pot. I usually let it cook about another 30 minutes or so. By that time some of the dumplin’s have dissolved and make a nice, thickish base. Really good soup—but a pain to freeze. Do you think it is possible to can?

Thanks for any help,

Rachel Badger
Auburn University, AL

Sure, you can home can your chicken and dumplings. Make your chicken and dumplings as you do now, and just put them into your wide mouthed hot canning jars. Fill the jars to within an inch of the top of the jars. Process pints at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 pounds pressure unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet. Then consult your canning manual for directions in matching your pressure to your altitude, if necessary.

—Jackie

Seaweed fertilizer

I read you can make your own fertilizer. However we live in Kentucky, so where can we get seaweed that is inexpensive? All the seaweed retailers I have found believe their seaweed is really gold(sea)weed. Why else would they want $180 for 25 pounds of the stuff?

I would really like to make my own seaweed + fish fertilizer, the fish are no problem the seaweed is turning out to be a real headache to come up with, can you help?

Cory & Serena Vargason
Vargason at hotmail.com

Unfortunately, unless you live near the kelp-bearing oceanside, you must buy kelp from merchants. But a good middle of the road way is to use concentrated kelp/fish extract, that is concentrated stuff that you mix with water. This is used to spray the foliage and roots of your garden plants.

Another trick that Native Americans used is to harvest LOCAL seaweed from shallow parts of lakes or rivers. Be careful of regulations (check with the DNR, here). But many folks with lakeside homes are more than happy to have you cut and remove seaweed from their beach and boating areas. Take a truck load home and dump it either on your garden as mulch or better yet, on a compost pile to enrich it for next year’s garden. As it does not come from the ocean, it is lacking in certain minerals, but rich in organic material, vitamins and minerals.

—Jackie

Homemade baby food

I just visited your website and found it very educating. I am young (19 years) but grew up in a much older generation than myself, so I consider myself to be an old-fashioned gal and I agree that many people put canning (and other wonderful things such as sewing, now considered a craft) to “disuse.”

Within the past year and a half I have gotten married and 4 months ago was blessed with a baby boy whom my husband and I named Waylan. To get to the point, it is time for my baby boy to start solid foods. But in my opinion the store foods just aren’t good enough for my little boy. I want to start canning baby food for him to provide him the best nutrients. I have canned foods before, pickles, eggs, simple things.

My question is this: is there anything specific about canning food for a baby that I need to be aware of? I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you for your time.

Amy Conley
conley45653 at bright.net

Congratulations on your wonderful little boy. I totally agree with you that store-bought baby food is not good enough for our children. I raised two boys with no baby food at all, and both seem to have done quite well. I didn’t even can baby food for them, either, but simply mashed up “people” food with a fork and gave it to them when we were eating, then put up some of these foods in small plastic storage containers for mid-day feedings. In this way, the youngsters quickly learned to like a wide variety of foods that were actually good for them and ate home-grown food that I knew contained nothing harmful. It was also much cheaper and easier, as well, instead of having all those glass jars.

Meats, I cut across grain, very finely, and mashed it with a little potato until they had enough chew-power to handle munching on their own.

—Jackie

Eating honeycomb

Hi, I found you on-line...what a great site! I found a large Mason jar of honey that a beekeeper gave to me years ago with about 2 inches of honey it in. I put the jar in the microwave to melt the honey, so I could pour it into another jar...everything melted, and the honeycomb is melted into the honey. It has not “set up” yet, but is it okay to eat it this way?

Rebecca Covalt
Albuquerque, NM

Yes, you can eat the melted honeycomb, with the honey. We used to pack honey in the combs and of course, we always ended up eating some of the comb, with the honey. And we’re still here to talk about it. Actually, I kind of like the taste of the honeycomb, myself!

—Jackie

Mushy canned veggies

I have been canning for about 25 years now and never had this problem before. The last few years my pressured canned veggies, low acid, beans etc. have been getting very mushy, to the point that they cannot be eaten.

I follow Ball blue book instructions carefully and use only garden fresh veggies, new lids, the seal is good and the food does not appear spoiled, just mushy, any suggestions or opinions? Would appreciate your input as I am losing a lot of food.

Barb
herbs at evenlink.com

Is there any chance that your canned food is freezing during the winter? I have had food go mushy during moves, as the food froze during long stays in a U-Haul truck. I also used to have this happen occasionally in a cold north corner of my basement on the farm in Minnesota, years back. We had little heat there, and during cold spells, the jars would freeze. They would stay sealed, but would have mushy foods.

Another suggestion, if that isn’t the case, would be to have your pressure gauge on your canner checked. It may be reading lower than the pressure actually is, making your canning cook much more than it should. This would soften foods, but allow them to stay sealed and edible. Your home extension office (County Agent) at your county courthouse (usually) can test the gauge for you, usually at no cost.

—Jackie

Bread for diabetics

My husband has type 2 diabetes and I need a recipe for bread using whole wheat unbleached flour, NO SUGAR. This is the only grain he can have. I am really at a loss. At this point NO pasta, cereals, rice, any kind of grain other than whole wheat.

Thank you for your help

Donna J Brannam
Wilson Creek, WA
Dbrannam at vib.tv

Here is one sugar-free recipe for whole wheat bread:

European Whole Wheat Loaves

Put 2 1/2 cups warm water into a large warm bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. dry yeast and stir gently. Let soften. Mix in 3-4 cups whole wheat flour and mix well, making a heavy batter. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise for an hour or so. Now add 3-4 more cups of flour, one cup at a time, mixing well, until a nice ball is formed that is NOT sticky, but not stiff, either. Return to bowl and let rise again, until nearly double. Divide the dough in half and place in greased tin or on a greased cookie pan. Slice top of loaf about half an inch deep, either lengthwise or several slashes, crosswise. Cover again and let rise. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped with finger. This will be about an hour. Remove from pan and let cool (if you can stand waiting!).

—Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey seed supply

Jackie,

We have a good supply of fresh Hopi Pale Grey seeds from last year's crop. We got our seeds from Oregon and there were no other squash within a mile upwind so they should be good to go. Only asking postage.

By the way, they make the most wonderful squash pie we have eaten. Just watch out, they will take over the place. Very prolific and don't care to climb the pole beans either.

Good luck this growing season and keep up the good work in the magazine.

Mike and Susie Ledbetter
mledbetter at infoave.net

Thanks for the offer. Interested readers can contact you directly at your email address.

--Jackie




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