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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

July 8, 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.

Growing grain

Is there an Internet site or book that discusses growing different grains on small plots? I have been looking without much luck. All the information I seem to find is for large-scale operations, not for someone wanting to grow a bushel or two in the backyard with a rototiller and a hand scythe.

Judy Jarred
Jjared at sktc.net

You can find plenty of useful information on growing small plots of grains in The Encyclopedia of Country Living by the late Carla Emery. If you can grow grass, you can grow your own small grains. Wheat is especially small plot friendly, and a great place to start. Good luck.

—Jackie

Canning salsa

I want to bottle salsa and lots of it. I don’t want to cook the salsa for fear of changing the taste, but on the other hand, I don’t want my friends getting sick from improper bottling. I live at 5500 feet in the high and dry desert of Arizona.

Bruce
Bruce.waltz at us.army.mil

Sorry Bruce, but you do have to slightly cook salsa in order to can it for long-term storage. But the good news is that the taste stays as fresh as it was raw. To home-can salsa, you do have to be careful not to use too many peppers or too little vinegar because the mixture then becomes lower acid and not safe to water bath process. (The variety of peppers doesn’t matter, nor do the other seasonings you may like in your salsa. For instance, I like lime in mine, but not garlic. No problem.)

Here’s one tried-and-true salsa recipe for canning that you can start with:

Zesty salsa:

10 cups peeled, cored, and chopped ripe tomatoes
5 cups chopped long green chiles, seeded
5 cups chopped onion
2 1/2 cups seeded jalepeno peppers
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp cilantro, minced

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pot. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Pour hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean and place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process in boiling water bath for 25 minutes. (The low elevation time is 15 minutes, but at your 5500 ft elevation, you need to increase the time by 10 minutes.)

—Jackie

Growing potatoes

I’m fairly new to gardening, but doing my best. I planted potatoes mid to late April and they were looking good. After one night, the reds looked sad with the leaves turning dark and wilted. It must have been frost. Underneath the dark and wilted leaves, some have healthy looking green leaves, while others have none. The white potato variety came up later than the reds and are smaller and look okay and my cabbage, onions, lettuce, radishes all look fine. My question, should I replant? Is it too late for my area? Will they come back with warm weather? Should I remove the wilted dark leaves, and will that save the potatoes?

Stacy Brzezinski
Fort Ripley, Minnesota

Yes, your potatoes did get burned by a frost. But the good news is that in nearly all cases, the potatoes will re-grow as good as they were before. The reason the other crops didn’t get bothered is that they were all frost-tolerant crops and, as you guessed, the smaller white potatoes just didn’t stick up far enough above the soil to be killed back. No, you shouldn’t touch the wilted leaves; let nature take its course. I’ll bet by now you already see new growth starting on your potatoes. This happens in gardening and you just have to roll with the punches. You only got a light tap.

—Jackie

Canning jalapenos

I am looking for a recipe for canning jalapeno peppers.

Jackie Thompson
Jetret7 at aol.com

The best way to can jalapenos is to pickle them. This leaves them crunchy and they work well in rings for on nachos, etc. (Just drain the vinegar and rinse if you prefer.) So here’s a recipe for you.

Pickled jalapenos:

1 gallon fresh jalapenos
1 1/2 cups canning salt
4 quarts cold water
1/4 cup sugar
10 cups vinegar
2 cups water

Cut two small slits in each pepper. Dissolve salt in 4 quarts ice cold water and pour over peppers. Let stand for 12 hours in a cold place. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Combine remaining ingredients in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Pack peppers in hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headroom. Bring pickling liquid back to a boil and pour over hot peppers, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom. Remove any air bubbles. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, then consult your canning manual for directions for adjusting your time to suit your altitude if necessary).

—Jackie

Pickling peppers

My wife and I are attempting our first garden and want to pickle the little wax peppers, like the brand Bruno’s. I have searched for hours on line with no success in finding the secret. A friend told me all you need too do is fill a small jar packed with 1 1/2 to 2 inch peppers, add a clove of garlic and fill with white vinegar and a pinch of alum, boil the lids, and place on sterilized jar. Is this safe for extended storage?

Lyndon and Windy Johnson
Lyndonj at big valley.net

No. Instead, use the recipe above for pickled jalapenos. Add a clove of garlic if you wish. You’ll get crunchy pickled peppers. And they’ll safely keep for years.

—Jackie

Chicken health & feed

We are moving to the country again. I intend to raise chickens. Two questions:

1. With avian flu spreading, do you have any suggestions to ensure that, other than monitoring the news, my fowl would not probably come into contact with the disease and spread it to the children? We will build a rather large outdoor pen, but usually I allow the chickens to roam and have them trained to come in at dark and only use the pen for when we’re not going to be home.

2. Organic (read no recycled animal body parts and chemicals) feed was not available for retail sale when we last raised fowl. Do you have a “recipe” for chicken feed that I can make up?

Patricia Graig-Tiso

Good for you! I can’t imagine living without chickens. We just picked up two dozen broiler chicks today to add to our small flock.

As for the avian flu, keep a close watch on the news. (You might also fire off letters to your Senator and Congressperson, protesting the National Animal Identification horror that stares us small holders in the face.) If the avian flu does indeed pop up in the U.S., watch its progress. You may consider locking your birds in a wild-bird-proof pen to prevent possible disease transmission between wild and tame birds. Should avian flu appear in your state, or near it, immediately stop buying/trading new birds and do not take your birds away from home (4-H, fairs, shows, etc.). Have your coop located away from the house. In nearly all Asian cases of bird-to-human transmission, it was because the birds lived in close proximity to people; i.e., under or even in the house, wandering through the front yard where people were frequenting, etc. Keep your birds separate from your children, and I feel they will stay safe.

For a chicken feed recipe, what I use is simply a wheat, soy, and cracked corn scratch feed with additional protein in the form of extra goat milk added to it. You can also add fresh kitchen scraps and leftovers, weeds and garden scraps/leftovers. This actually makes a well-balanced diet that the girls simply love. Be sure to provide grit and oyster shell for calcium and they’ll do fine. You’ll notice that today’s laying mash has ingredients that leave you wondering. What in the world is meat digest meal? Or maybe I don’t want to know.

—Jackie

Loquats

I have been searching for a recipe for loquat preserves, jelly, jam, or anything I can do to preserve the tree full of delicious loquats in my yard to no avail. Have you any recipes for loquats so my family may enjoy them a bit longer?

Genavina Mabary
Mabary1 at earthlink.net

Lucky you. I have had loquats only twice in my life and remember how luscious they were. Okay, here are a couple of recipes for you to enjoy.

Canned loquats:

Remove the stem and blossom end. Cut in half and remove seeds. Simmer 5 minutes in a light syrup. Pack into hot jars and pour hot syrup over them to within 1/4 inch of the top of the jar. Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, then consult your canning manual for directions for adjusting the time to match your altitude, if necessary.

Loquat jelly:

Remove blossom ends from 10 lbs. loquats and cut each in half. Add 2 cups water and 1 cup lemon juice. Simmer until tender. Strain and add 1/2 cup more lemon juice. Boil for 5 minutes, then add 5 cups sugar. Cook until a spoonful slides off a clean teaspoon in a sheet or you may use a powdered pectin (use standard instructions for using it). Pour into hot jars and process in a water bath canner for 5 minutes.

You can also use loquats in salads, fruit salads, or even added to stir frys after the veggies have cooked. Just remove blossom ends, stem and seed. You might toss with sugar and lemon, to suit your taste. Enjoy.

—Jackie




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