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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

November 13, 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.

Roasting and canning peppers

Can I can roast peppers without peeling and de-seeding them? I slit each roasted and smoked Anaheim pepper and would like to can them in just minimum liquid with no vinegar. Is this safe? Should they be pressure canned or is a water bath safe? Thanks for any help you can give me.

Joanne
leidylk at earthlink.net

You can home can roast peppers without peeling and seeding them, but they will be much hotter with the seeds left in and the skins sometimes become tough; not always, just sometimes. Yes, you can home can them in pints or half pints without liquid. I can my roasted, peeled peppers this way. Be sure to slit each pepper so that the heat penetrates them well when you can them. Layer them gently in your jars (wide mouth works best) to within 1/2'' of the top. Add no liquid. You can add a little salt to each jar if you wish. Process pints and half pints for 25 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions).

Roast peppers are really easy to peel and seed. Immediately after roasting them so that the skins are slightly blackened, place them in a brown paper bag and roll the top closed tightly and let them “steam” until they are cool. They skin much easier this way; I used to do a whole 25-lb. sack full when we lived in New Mexico. In the fall, vendors sold burlap sacks full of them at most grocery stores and had large roasting drums set up outside. For a small fee, they would roast your peppers for you, sending out a wonderful aroma throughout the whole area. Then putting them back into the bag, they steamed all the way home. When we arrived home, they were cooled down and ready to peel; the peels just slipped nicely off.

NEVER use a water bath canner to can roasted peppers, not in a pickling solution high in vinegar.

— Jackie

Homemade soap clogging drains

My husband has been making some great homemade soap. The problem is our drains are clogging from it. Do you have any idea why this happening? I would appreciate your help.

I am rooting for you & your family (have prayed for you too)! I enjoy reading your story in this fine magazine.

Val
thepaulpack at verizon.net

Are you putting unusually large amounts of soap down those drains? It is unusual for homemade soap to clog drains, although it is certainly possible. With homemade soap, a little goes a long way in cleaning. A good way to prevent clogged drains is to periodically pour a large kettle of boiling water down each drain that seems to be affected. I do this when I can; my boiling water bath canner gets dumped right down my kitchen drain while it is still boiling hot. Be careful of the water and steam if you do this or you can get burned.

If you have a septic system, be especially vigilant about using too much soap as it might throw off your bacterial action. I pump my wringer washer’s water outside rather than put it and all its soap and bleach into the septic tank for this reason.

— Jackie

Canning canned clams

My question is on canning clams to make chowder. Is it safe to use canned clams and re-pressure cook them in a clam chowder recipe?

Carole Roma
Allentown, Pennsylvania

Yes, Carole, you can use canned clams in your clam chowder recipe you are going to home can. I often re-can ingredients into a mixed recipe when I have time. A lot of times, I just can tomatoes or tomato sauce, then during the winter, I mix these jars into a huge batch of venison chili with beans and re-can that for “instant” meals that actually taste like something.

Good for you; you’re on the right track.

— Jackie

Floating peaches

I just recently made my first attempt at canning peaches. All went well until I noticed that the peaches were floating on the top two-thirds of the jar and the bottom third was syrup alone. The jars were full when I put them in the water bath canner. The only thing I can think of is that I cut them into slices—much like the peaches you get from the store. Could that cause them to float? How do I prevent this in the future?

C. J. Foster
C.J.Foster at greensboro-nc.gov

No problem with your floating peaches. You canned them cold and poured boiling syrup over them, didn’t you? This happens with most fruit, including tomatoes, when you pack them cold then can them in a water bath canner. It’s absolutely nothing to worry about. If you want non-floating fruit, simply heat the fruit in the syrup to boiling, then pack it hot.

The benefit in packing the fruit cold is that it goes quicker and you get a big batch done up quickly. But, when you hot pack the same fruit, you will get more fruit into the jars and it looks “nicer” because the fruit and syrup are evenly distributed throughout the whole jar.

— Jackie

Canning personal recipes

As someone new to canning, I make every effort to follow the advice of experts and manuals when it comes to the safety of the methods I’m using. Most books advise against using a recipe from a non-trusted source or a recipe that wasn’t intended to be canned. The questions I have are these: How do I modify existing recipes so that they may be canned? Is it safe to take my own chili and soup recipes and follow the instructions for similar recipes found in books or from your column? If this is not generally safe, is there a method using a pH or other test to determine the required cooking time?

Ed Hand
Madison, Wisconsin

Yes, you can make up your own recipe and can it; your chili and soup for instance. The trick here is to process the food for the LONGEST time (and pressure canning if needed) recommended for any one ingredient. This is usually meat or a starchy vegetable such as corn or potatoes. For instance, if your chili has ground meat, beans, and tomatoes for primary ingredients, you will process quarts for 90 minutes in a pressure canner, or the time needed for processing meat. Beans in liquid also process for 90 minutes in the pressure canner, but tomatoes only need to process in a water bath canner. If you were to process your chili as a tomato product, you would incorrectly use a water bath canner and the resultant food would be highly dangerous to eat and might well spoil on the shelf.

As long as you process your recipes for the length of time and type of processing recommended for the food with the longest processing time and pressure canning, if necessary, you won’t go wrong. It is always better to overprocess a food rather than underprocess it.

— Jackie

Canning kohlrabi and sun-dried tomatoes

I have enjoyed reading about your starting over—very sorry about the loss of your husband, he died at the same time as my Mom; and the loss of your father—and I re-read your column until the next issue comes.

My first question is about canning/preserving kohlrabi. Do I can it like turnips? Also, is there a way that I can process my own “sun-dried tomatoes in oil?” (Though, I prefer to dry my tomatoes in my dehydrator instead of the sun.) And when canning meat, is it better to can with hot water or broth poured over the meat, or can I put in oil? And would you include my email address so that other readers can help me with my questions, too?

Thanks for including directions on canning cheese in your magazine column. I did 3 pints last year, but haven’t tried it out yet (haven’t been out of cheese yet).

Gayle Jackson
jacksons at easilink.com

You’re not too far off; kohlrabi is a brassica like turnips, cauliflower, and cabbage. You can home can it very easily. Wash and peel it after cutting off the tops and roots. Small ones you can pack whole, but I like to dice mine to use in a variety of recipes later on. Simmer the kohlrabi in water until barely tender. Then, pack hot into pint jars and cover with the boiling water. Leave an inch of head space. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions) for 40 minutes.

When using it, I discard the liquid and use fresh water to boil it in to serve or drain and use in a mixed recipe. Brassicas tend to get a bit strong when canned and discarding the canning liquid takes away much of the strong “cabbage” taste.

If you want dried tomatoes in oil, keep a fresh quart of dried tomatoes covered in virgin olive oil in your fridge or a cool, dark place. You don’t need to process them. But, you do need to keep them in the oil for at least a couple of weeks for their flavor to mellow. When you are getting low on one jar, start another one. These are simply great ripped apart and placed on pizzas.

When canning meat, I used to can most of mine raw without water or broth. This worked fine, but the resultant meat was a bit dry and stringy. So I started to pre-roast or fry my meat and pack it into jars to be covered with broth that the meat was cooked in. Or I add water to the leftover pan grease to create a broth that adds taste to the meat, where water would not. I found that this meat was much more tender and tasty, so I now can nearly all of my meat with liquid. Exceptions are bacon, smoked meat, and fish.

— Jackie

Canning chili

First of all, I would like to thank you for all the great insight I have recieved from your column. It is so nice to have a reference to go to for answers, and I have learned a lot from reading Backwoods Home Magazine.

Here is my question for you. I canned some quarts of chili following your instructions from a previous issue. I made the chili two weeks ago and then canned it for 90 minutes at 10 lbs. of pressure. The first strange thing was that it boiled for about 4 hours after it cooled. I haven’t canned anything else that ever did that. But, they all seemed to seal just fine. Then, last night I heard the distinctive “ping” of a jar sealing as it cools. One of the jars actually unsealed after 2 weeks on the shelf untouched. Now this morning when I went to throw it out, it was sealed again! Needless to say, I am afraid to eat any of this chili. What on earth did I do wrong?

Leigh Gallagher
Kooskia, Idaho

You did nothing wrong. This was a freak occurrence. Probably what happened is that a minute particle of meat or vegetable got between the rim of the jar and the lid, causing the jar to come unsealed. Not allowing enough head space at the top of the jar will make more bits of food blow out of the jar during processing. Why it then resealed, I have no idea. Probably, the chili that came unsealed will start to go bad; i.e., stink, come unsealed, and look bad. I say “probably” because I just don’t know.

When something weird like this happens, the best thing is to open all your jars as soon as you can and dump them back into a big pot to reheat. Wash your jars and prepare new lids. In other words, completely re-can your batch. In this way, you will not have to guess which jar is “bad.” But this should be done within 12 hours of the initial processing to be safe.

Otherwise, watch your jars and see if you can find the one that is the bad egg. If you do, throw it out where animals and people won’t be able to get at it. If you can’t tell, I’d advise pitching the batch, just to be safe.

The chili boiling for hours after it has been canned is fairly normal for chili and spaghetti sauce with quite a bit of meat in it. As it is a denser product, it holds the heat longer than many other canned foods. Many meats will also continue to boil a long time after processing. This is nothing to worry about. The jar that came unsealed and then resealed IS. But, as I’ve said, this is rare.

And, it’s the reason that everyone who uses home-canned foods should always inspect the seal on a jar before using it, look carefully at the product (does it look okay?), smell it (does it smell normal?), then boil it for 15 minutes before tasting it (bad food smells intensify when cooked). If it is sealed, it looks fine, it smells fine when opened and when it is cooking, and tastes fine, it should be a great meal. When in doubt, throw it out!

— Jackie

Canning spaghetti sauce with cheese

Is it possible to can spaghetti sauce made with Romano cheese in a water bath?
Drgn13ldy at aol.com

Yes, I have canned spaghetti sauce made with cheese as an ingredient in a water bath canner. Because cheese is a high-acid food, it lends itself well to water-bath canning. I process my sauce for the same length of time that is recommended for regular spaghetti sauce or tomatoes; pints 40 minutes. Understand that this is an “experimental” processing for home canners as there is no manual that I know of that details canning cheese either as an ingredient or alone. Both of these things I have done with good results, but I can’t advise others to follow my experimental method.

— Jackie

Canning hot sauce

I have a gallon of hot sauce that has to be refrigerated after it’s opened. Can I re-can it into smaller jars?

A. Cilley
Maine

Yes, you can re-can hot sauce from the gallon jars to pint or half-pint jars. Simply heat it to boiling, then pour into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/4'' of the top. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your time according to your altitude; check your canning manual for directions).

I often re-can foods that I have bought in large cans at a terrific sale somewhere into more useable sizes after opening. The key here is to do it before the food deteriorates in the fridge. Hot sauce keeps quite a long while in glass in the fridge, but tomatoes in a tin get funky fairly soon.

— Jackie

Peppers in vinegar

I know this will probably be a stupid question, but here goes, anyway. I had a friend tell me that I could can my peppers just by putting them in a jar and filling it with vinegar. Is this a true way of doing this because I do enjoy having peppers with my meals, and this sounds easy.

Ron Cantrell
roncntrll at yahoo.com

Well, Ron, yes and no. While peppers will stay indefinitely immersed in vinegar, they will stay reliably better when sealed in jars. Unsealed jars are at the mercy of stray flavors, molds, and other unsavory creatures. Peppers are very easy to pickle, and you will be much happier with correctly processed peppers with your meals. I promise.

To pickle peppers, simply wash them, prick a few small slits in each one, then pack into hot, sterilized canning jars. Heat vinegar to boiling and pour over the peppers to within 1/2'' of the top. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your time to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions). For crisper peppers, slit, then soak overnight in 1/2 c salt to a gallon of ice water. Drain well, then proceed as above.

— Jackie

Mushy hot peppers

I cannot keep the hot peppers I am canning from getting soft. I have eaten Pinks peppers and they stay crisp. How do they do that?
A124kAVE at aol.com

The key to crisp peppers is to NOT boil and boil them. Check out my answer to Ron, above. If you pickle your peppers in this way, I guarantee crunchy peppers.

— Jackie

Canning juice

When I can juice, I always heat my jars in the oven and boil my juice on the burner. Then, when I pour my juice in my jars it is actually boiling in the jars. I just put on the lid and let it seal. I have done it this way for years, and it alway seems to do just fine. Is this a bad thing?

M&M
Trooop35 at webtv.net

This isn’t really a safe canning method. To produce a safe juice, pour your hot juice into hot sterilized jars, then process it in a water bath canner for 15 minutes (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your time to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions). Oven canning has been used off and on for a long time, but it is not considered a safe method of canning.

— Jackie

Rubbery jam

I am new to the whole canning process. I have only made 3 jams, and a canned tomato. I was wondering, can you over process your jam? If so, is it fixable? And, how long does it normally take for jams to “set?”

Kelly Rabideau
New Hampshire

Yes, you can over process your jam. If you do this, it can become rubbery. Once that has happened, you really can’t “fix” it. However, you can slowly heat the jam before using it and stir it well while warm. This is fine used right away; it will probably get rubbery when it cools, though. Most jams jell when they cool. Some like strawberry and chokecherry sometimes take up to two weeks to set. If your jam or jelly doesn’t jell, you can use it as syrup over pancakes, waffles, and ice cream or even to flavor homemade yogurt. Terrific! There are no real failures in jam and jelly making. Only a few surprises. — Jackie

Jalapeno jelly

I want to make jalapeno jelly. Some recipies call for processing in water bath from 5 minutes to 15. Some do not even call for processing. Also, some call for 3 oz. of pectin and some for 6. Which is the best way to make it? Also, can I add a teaspoon of minced garlic for extra flavor?

Connie Gartin
Central Point, Oregon

Choose your recipe and use it. As with anything else, there are lots of recipes for the same thing; all are a little different, but most are equally good. It depends on your own preferences. I definitely would process in a water bath canner to ensure that the jelly seals well. You don’t want it to mold after you make it.

Yes, you can add a teaspoon of minced garlic for flavoring; it won’t hurt your jelly.

— Jackie

Canning mashed potatoes

Can you can mashed potatoes? If so, how? Thanks.

Rena Erickson
Boyceville, Wisconsin

I would not advise canning mashed potatoes. I believe the product would not only be too dense for heat to penetrate adequately for safe canning, but the taste would be “pasty.” Instead, why don’t you can whole or cut peeled potatoes, then mash ‘em fresh when you have heated them to serve. Mixed with butter and milk, you’ll have a great tasting product. Quick, easy, and good flavored, too.

To can potatoes, peel them and cut into convenient pieces to go into your jars. Pour boiling water over them to within an inch of the top. Add a teaspoon of salt if you wish. Process in a pressure canner for 35 minutes (pints) or 40 minutes (quarts) at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions).

— Jackie

Canning with maple syrup

I was wondering if you could can with maple syrup instead of sugar or honey. I am looking for a recipe for blueberry jam and blackberry jam (without pectin if possible). I am afraid to change recipes because of the botulism thing.

Lanita
Lanita3312 at aol.com

Yes, you can home can with maple syrup instead of sugar or honey. You will not get botulism from jam or jelly. So, you can experiment a bit with recipes. However, you may get a few batches of runny jam until you get it right. Be sure to process your jars of hot jam in a water bath canner for 10 minutes to ensure that they seal. Here is a of recipe you might start with and “tweak” to suit your taste.

Fresh blueberry jam:

2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 1/2 cups washed, hulled blueberries
8 Tbsp. maple syrup

Combine ingredients and slowly bring to a boil, stirring constantly. As the jam thickens, dip a clean teaspoon into it and see if the jam slides off in a sheet or drips off. If it slides off, it has reached the jell stage. Quickly pour into hot half-pint jars to within 1/2'' of the top. Process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

You can use blackberries in place of the blueberries for blackberry jam. As I’ve said, you’ll have to experiment a bit, but it is definitely possible to create great jams with maple syrup. Good luck.

— Jackie




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