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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

July 15, 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.

Refried beans/whole wheat pasta/summer squash

I have been reading your column for a few years now, and just LOVE it! I read it first when I get the next issue of Backwoods Home. I love to can, and always want to try new recipes each year.

I wondered if you have a recipe for refried beans. I also read in one of your columns where you gave advice on canning recipes that contained pasta. You gave a very good explanation, but I wondered if this works the same for pasta made with whole wheat. We grind our own.

Also, do you have any recipes I could try with our own pasta?

And finally, we raise zucchini and yellow crookneck squash every year, which is wonderful fresh from the garden and any way you fix it. I haven’t found any way of keeping it that leaves it with much of a taste. I’ve tried freezing and canning, and it’s not much good either way. How can we put them up, and them still be fairly good, instead of mushy?

P.S. I hope you’ve had good luck in your search for companionship. We are praying that God will send you that special one He has in mind for you!

Lisa Azbill
Azbillridge at wmconnect.com

Make up a big batch of your favorite recipe for refried beans. For instance, cook up a big pot of pinto beans until they are soft. Let sit until most of the liquid is absorbed, then drain any extra. Mash in a large bowl with a potato masher. In a large frying pan, add a little oil. While it heats up to medium heat, add diced onions, garlic, a little tomato sauce and a few diced roasted chile peppers to taste, to the beans and stir well. Fry in pan, stirring well to avoid scorching. (You can also use a roaster in the oven, but I don’t think the beans are as good this way.) Scoop up the hot beans and pack into hot, wide-mouthed canning jars, removing any air bubbles. Work quickly when filling the jars, so the hot beans stay very hot.

Process pints in a pressure canner for 80 minutes and quarts for 95 minutes, unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, then consult your canning manual for directions for adjusting your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.

Yes, you can home-can mixes with your own home-ground whole wheat flour pasta. Just make sure it is quite dry when you add it to the simmering liquid, and add it just before you put it into the jars to avoid having it go mushy.

Use any recipe for your homemade pasta that suits your taste. If you can it, just can it for the time for the ingredient that requires the longest processing (usually meat or a vegetable). The possibilities are utterly endless.

Other than pickling it (use any cuke recipe), I’ve never been satisfied with a storage method for summer squash, either. I think that’s one crop that we just have to enjoy during its season. I know what you mean; not to use it for preserves or pickles or frozen zucchini bread, but just slices of squash. Mine was always mushy and tasteless, too.

Thank you for your kind hopes and prayers for my search for a special man to travel down backwoods paths with. Alas, so far I have heard from very few men. I sure hope I don’t scare them off. I really won’t feed them toad lips. Seriously, I hope your prayers are answered. Mine too.

—Jackie

Processing potatoes

How long do you process potatoes in a water bath canner? My mother does not have a pressure canner and lost her guide to cooking times.

Nate
Nate at the-escape.org

Sorry Nate, it’s not even remotely safe to can potatoes (or any other vegetable) in a boiling water bath canner. I know folks who still do this, or have had relatives who have done it for years, but it is still very unsafe and could cause serious illness or death should botulism spores produce toxin in those home-canned foods. Please buy Mom a pressure canner. They’re getting cheaper and cheaper and are also quite easy to find used. I’d love to see many more people home-can, but I want everyone out there safe, too.

—Jackie

Goat milk for lactose intolerance?

Quick question; I am lactose intolerant and was wondering if goat’s milk has the lactose that is present in cow’s milk? I would love to find a cheese product as the lactose enzyme pills do not seem to work.

Paul and Kate
Peharris at webryders.net

Yes, goat’s milk does have lactose in it. But some people have much better luck digesting goat’s milk, rather than cow’s milk. My best advice would be to try a small amount of a goat-milk cheese and see if it bothers you. You might also try the pills before sampling the cheese, to see if they might work in this case. As everyone is different, you will just have to do some gentle experimenting here. The best of luck.

—Jackie

Water bath spaghetti sauce

My question is the time for water bathing spaghetti sauce without meat is 35 minutes. What would I use for pressure canning at 10 lbs. I am planning on canning spaghetti sauce without meat. The ingredients are tomatoes, peppers, onions, and some spices.

Dolores Walter
Tedkwalter at aol.com

It is actually better to can spaghetti sauce without meat in a water-bath canner. Reason? It is quicker. Yes, the processing time in a pressure canner would be less, but getting the canner “up to speed” (exhausting the steam, heating the jars before closing down to build up pressure and building up pressure) adds to the processing time. And you don’t have to keep as close a watch on it to maintain a certain pressure; you just get the kettle boiling and time it. Done deal. It’s just so much quicker and easier. Of course, when you add meat, that’s a whole ‘nother ball game; you must use the pressure canner and can for the time recommended for meat.

—Jackie

Moving asparagus

We are moving and I don’t want to wait three years to start getting fresh asparagus again. Can I move it with me? How? Now in the beginning of summer?

Scott
Scott-james88 at charter.net

Sure you can move that asparagus. You might have to wait a year to let the transplanted asparagus recover strength, but one year is much better than three! Simply deeply dig up each plant, digging a wide enough circle around each plant to get all possible wandering roots. (Asparagus roots run deep, so be careful until you see how deep yours run.)

You can shake off the soil and place each plant in a container or all of them in burlap sacks. You may want to carefully pull some of the biggest clumps of roots apart to get more new plants when you get ready to replant them.

When you get to your new home, till up a permanent bed and trench it at least 8” deep (deeper is better) but in some soil 8” will be all you can do without a backhoe. Arrange each root or clump of roots in the trench and cover them with good rotted compost, black topsoil, or other good soil. When the plants begin to grow, slowly cover the roots more and more until the trench is full. This lets the roots reach deep into the soil and lets the plant quickly grow upward, too. Mulch the row well and fertilize in the fall with another dose of well rotted compost or rotted manure. That’s it. But avoid the temptation to pick it next year. The roots really do need one year to rest from the move. You don’t want ‘em to die from jet lag.

—Jackie

Shelf life for dry milk

I stored non-fat dry milk in seal-a-meal bags for several years and it developed a strange odor and flavor. Is there a shelf life for dry milk?

Lavone
Pudro at igou.com

Yes and no. Obviously your milk went bad during long storage. Was it the milk? The bag? Floating particles in the air when you packed it? Who knows? I have dry milk, stored in gallon glass jars with screw down lids, that is more than 10 years old and smells and tastes just like it did when I bought it. (Not like fresh milk, for sure, but like dry milk smells and tastes.)

I do not like plastic ANYTHING. I can taste the plastic in store bought fresh milk. I use gallon glass jars and tins for dry-food storage, and can’t say that I’ve ever had dry milk go bad on me. I’d say, try again, but perhaps use a glass jar or airtight tin for part of the milk to compare the taste and smell of the same batch of dry milk, stored in two different ways. This will tell you if it’s your bags or the milk that’s the problem.

—Jackie

Not my article on okra

Jackie, I enjoyed your article on okra, a longtime favorite of ours. We have raised beds and have always grown the local favorite “Clemson Spineless.” I couple years ago, I found a seed packet of another variety and cannot remember the name. It has a very long (up to 10 or 11”) pod, completely smooth that has no ridges and is spineless. When cooked it does not keep its shape as well as Clemson. Can you identify with this description? Also, can plants be topped off to keep them from growing so tall? Our raised beds are already 16'' high and we have to use a ladder to harvest the okra. Would cutting off the top result in multiple branches or would it make inferior fruit? We are in coastal North Carolina.

Nancy
Theodhams at charter.net

Sorry, Nancy. Wasn’t my article. Living in cold climates all my life, I have never had success with okra. So any gardeners out there who can answer Nancy’s questions?

—Jackie




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