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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

November 21, 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.

Pressure cooking jelly

Is there a reason that all the instructions I have found for jelly say to use hot water bath? I usually can different tomato recipes, and always use the pressure cooker method. I am making crab apple jelly and wondered if I could pressure cook. Thank you in advance.

Kathleen Laqua
KathyLaqua at aol.com

If you were to pressure can jelly, the temperature would be too high for good jelly making. Remember that the reason we pressure can is to can at a higher temperature than is possible with simple boiling water bath canning. Jelly and jam used to not even be water bath canned, but now we do it to ensure that it seals dependably; no paraffin, no mouse-chewed wax tops, no moldy jelly. (Two-piece lids give a much better product overall.) The higher temperature could make your jelly rubbery. It would still be edible, but not of a texture your family would appreciate.

ó Jackie

Canning pickled eggs

I have been all over the Internet and still canít find anything about canning pickled eggs without refrigeration. I see them on the shelves at grocery stores and at pubs. I still cannot find any information why this is possible. I raise quail and chickens and sometimes have a surplus of eggs. We love pickled eggs, but there is just not enough room in the refrigerator to handle so many jars of eggs. There are no guidelines for using a pressure cooker, time, temp, pressure gauge setting, etc. If you could, what is different from store-bought pickled eggs and home canning them so they can be stored? Thank you for any insight in this problem.

Linda Mudrich
Dunnellon, Florida

Yes, Linda, you can home can pickled eggs. It is a good way to can up all those surplus eggs we have every spring. You can use these pickled eggs simply as-is or make deviled eggs or egg salad sandwiches with them. To can them, hard boil and peel as usual. If they are fresh, boil them, then toss them around in the dry pan afterward, while hot, till the shells crack up. Then immediately put several changes of cold water on them until they cool down, then soak in cold water for an hour in the fridge. They peel much easier than when you use other methods. My fresh hardboiled eggs used to look like chipmunks had been chewing on them.

Okay, now you have a big batch of cooled hardboiled eggs. Pack them into wide-mouthed quart jars to within an inch of the top. In a large saucepan, for each quart of eggs you have, add the following: 3 cups vinegar, 1 small dry red pepper, 1 Tbsp. mixed pickling spice, and 2 tsp. salt. You may tie the spices in a spice bag, if you prefer, then bring to a boil. Pour boiling liquid over eggs, covering them completely. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your time to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual).

ó Jackie

Runny salsa

Iíve canned only once before, and it didnít turn out so well. Today, I attempted to make salsa with my garden tomatoes, but ended up adding cheese and refried beans because the salsa was too liquidy and vinegary. I cooked it all together and then let the hot jars process for 35 minutes because I didnít have any instructions to go by. Can you tell me if this should be okay, and also where I can find a really good book on canning with tons of great recipes?

Thanks,
MaureenJohnston
moe at ntelos.net

Iím so sorry your canning didnít go well for you as a beginner. Thatís discouraging, but keep at it. Iíll bet when you learned to ride a bike you fell down a few times, didnít you? We all did. The trick is to get back up and try again till youíve got it.

Okay, when you get a juicy batch of salsa (usually from using non-paste-type tomatoes), simply scoop the more solid ingredients up out of the juice and pack the jar. Then add enough juice to cover the tomatoes and other vegetables.

But you canít add refried beans! These must be pressure canned to be safe. Personally, I would not eat this salsa unless it had been refrigerated the whole time. Repeat: ANY beans must be pressure canned to be safe to eat (with the exception of pickled beans).

To start with, Iíd recommend getting a Ball Blue Book canning manual. They are cheap and available at most stores that carry canning supplies. Master a good bunch of these recipes, and then youíll be ready to go on to larger manuals. This is a good, basic, easy-to-read manual.

ó Jackie

Putting cool jars in a hot water bath canner

I followed all the directions for making green tomato pickles. However, once I had the hot jars filled and the lids on, I did not put them in the boiling bath until they had cooled down somewhat. Has this jeopardized the safety of the food product? If so, is there anything I can do? I made them yesterday and have the sealed jars in the refrigerator now.

Pamela Sipala
Pjsipala at snet.net

It would have been better for you to water bath your pickles when they were still very hot, but if you counted your time in the canner from the time the water returned to a rolling boil, they will definitely be safe to eat. The only thing that might (and I say, possibly might) go wrong is that they may be a little soft because of a longer time in very hot conditions. Tomatoes are more forgiving in this aspect than are peppers or cucumbers, though, so Iíll bet your pickles turn out just fine. Enjoy!

ó Jackie

Making kefir

Can you use previously frozen raw milk to make kefir or does freezing destroy something needed to make the kefir?

Peggy Reppert
Pegs980 at comcast.net

I canít imagine that frozen raw milk would not make good kefir. Warm it up and use as you would fresh, and give it a try. Iíll bet it works just fine. Any readers out there experienced in using frozen raw milk for kefir?

ó Jackie

Wild land into pasture

We recently purchased what will eventually become our homestead. It is mostly open land suitable for pasturing a few beef cows, and there is a small hay field.

The land hasnít been used in years. Totally overgrown. Took days to bush hog down the growth.

How would one start to rehabilitate the land into a decent pasture land?

Jeff Mitchell
Hensley, Arkansas

Congratulations on your new homestead! I hear you there. I spent three years getting back some pasture/hay land on our old farm in Minnesota. You were lucky you had a brush hog; I had to chain up and pull willow brush, popple trees, and young oaks with a tractor. If I were you, Iíd fence the pasture and divide it in half, even if you have to use electric fence to divide it. Then Iíd put in a few cattle to keep the new growth from growing up. Any that does, use that brush hog again; donít let it get big again. When you think it can be plowed, use a double bottom plow or a single brush plow if the roots are really tough, and plow one half of the pasture in the fall when it has been eaten/brush hogged down. Disc it up very well ,and in the spring, seed in some oats mixed with a legume/pasture grass that does well in your area. Talk to your County Extension Office or the fellows at your local feed mill.

Meanwhile, keep at the other half of the land. Donít let new growth become rank. When you hay off the tilled half, you can let it grow up to pasture next year. Then, do the same with the half of the field that the cattle were on. You may have to keep plowing if the brush comes in again, or you might get by with simply cutting it with the hay or letting the cattle keep it down with the help of your brush hog. This is a definite do-able project. Good farming!

ó Jackie

Venison lard for lye soap

I was wondering if it is possible to use venison lard for making lye soap?

Every year at deer camp I think to myself ďWhat a waste to throw this out to the birds there must be a way to utilize this.Ē

I am guessing you would treat it just like beef tallow and render it first and then filter and pour it into metal coffee cans to use for later.

Jamie Zincke
Moorhead, Minnesota

Yes, you can use venison fat for making lye soap or any other kind of fat you have available. Old timers often used bear grease, lacking hog or beef fat. You use any ďhard fatĒ from animals like you would beef tallow or lard. Good thinking. The fat off of one nice deer will make enough soap to last an entire year.

ó Jackie

Canning in the oven

If I put canned tomatoes in the oven at 225 degrees instead of putting them in a hot water bath, would this work? We can fit more jars in our oven than on our stove.

Tom Considine
Portage, Wisconsin

No, Tom, this is not a good method of canning. The oven will not safely heat the tomatoes in the jars to an equal temperature, like a boiling water bath canner. It might seem so, and folks have been doing this on-and-off for years, but it is NOT a recommended method of canning.

ó Jackie

Making lard from pig fat

I melted down the fat and when I poured it off, the lard settled to the bottom of the pint jars and it looks like greasy water on the top half.

Should I pour this off or will it harden when cooled? Also, one pig should make 3-5 gallons of lard, but we were given 2 pigs and it only made 6 pints.

Nancy
Nance at metrocast.net

Yes, you should get much more than 6 pints of lard from 2 pigs. I used to get about 2-3 gallons from one hog. Today, many people are raising more lean meated pigs for health concerns, but you still should have gotten more fat from 2 pigs than that. Perhaps the folks who gave it to you only gave you the very best of the fat?

The ďwaterĒ in the lard is normal, but you should have either kept rendering (heating and stirring) the melted fat to evaporate this liquid or else skimmed the liquid lard out of the kettle, leaving the water at the bottom. I render my lard in the oven in large turkey roasting pans. I cut it into chunks then turn the oven on to about 200į F. I keep it going from afternoon until mid-day the next day; there is very little water left in the lard.

I still skim off the top lard while liquid, pouring it through several thicknesses of cheesecloth that lines a heavy colandar over a clean pan. Then, from the clean pan, the hot melted lard is poured into hot canning jars, and a hot, previously boiled lid is placed on the clean jar rim and ring screwed down firmly tight. The jars seal on cooling.

If I were you, Iíd reheat this lard in the oven, in the open jars, pour it out, and either re-render it or skim it to remove the water. Lard stored with this water does not keep as nicely as does solid lard.

ó Jackie

Canning margarine in spaghetti sauce

I canned my spaghetti sauce for the first time this summer. My recipe calls for margarine. I tried to find something stating if I could or could not use it and never found any source of information. I used the water bath method, and plan to give these as Christmas gifts. Please tell me if I am going to hurt anyone with my first experience in canning.

Deborah Smith
Deborah.Smith at isrlaw.com

Yes, you can use margarine in your recipe. It is like using olive oil in a spaghetti sauce recipe. Too much grease/oil/fat sometimes causes jars to fail to seal because some of it gets between the lid and the rim of the jar. The small amount you use in spaghetti sauce should cause no problem.

ó Jackie

Life of canning lids

I got back into gardening this year and so Iíve been getting old issues of Backwoods Home Magazine from the library and reading your canning advice. My favorite is where you get all those leaves for free to put on your garden and people actually bring them to you. And the topper was you get a winterís supply of free heavy-duty garbage bags! Thought that was clever.

I also liked the issue where you tell about planting asparagus. But, this question is about canning lids. I got a whopper of a deal at a yard sale...19 boxes of ďhomeĒ brand flat lids, 48 to a box for 10 cents a box! Thatís over 900 lids, and theyíre brand new. Of course, they were probably stored someplace for years, but the rubbers seem perfectly good and the lids are shiny. Iím 50 years old, so itís probably enough for the rest of my life. How long do canning lids last?

I thought those canning lids were a great find, considering I really donít take time to go to yard sales often. But, another good deal I stumbled onto was an All American Pressure canner for $5. The canner works great. Now I just need you to tell me the canning lids will be okay. Thanks for any advice.

Penny Hermsdorfer
Sandyville, West Virginia

Whoa, Penny, good deal! If you donít want the canning lids, Iíll buy them from you. And include postage, too! Those lids should be fine forever (well, maybe not ďforever,Ē but close). When I use any older lids, I just make sure to soak them in simmering water for a little longer than usual to ensure that the sealing compound softens up nicely. Iíve used a lot of older lids and never had any problem as long as the sealing compound was not hard and cracked or the lids corroded or rusty.

Again, congratulations on your great finds. ó Jackie




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