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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

December 6, 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.

Canning pork stock

I just canned several pints of pork and have the stock left over. I have looked in several places and there is no mention of pork stock. Is it safe to can in the pressure cooker, like I would do beef stock? Thank you.

Linda Fisher
Klamath, California

Yes, you may can pork stock. And you will can it just like you do beef stock. Strain if desired and skim off any excess fat from the top of the pot. Excess fat may get between the lid and the rim of the jar and cause the seals to fail. This sometimes also happens when you can any type of meat, regardless of how lean it appears.

Pour the hot strained stock into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim of the jars very well with a hot, damp, clean cloth. Then place hot, previously simmered lids on the jars and screw down the rings firmly tight. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for instructions if necessary) for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.

—Jackie

Removing soap from a straining cloth

Jackie, I am so grateful to you and Backwoods Home for your column. It is something I eagerly look forward to. I am especially interested in raising and preserving healthful food and your advice is always straightforward and useful. Thank you.

My experimenting with canning has been going well, and it seems to have blossomed into a full-fledged addiction! I love the sight of those jars lined up in the pantry, and look at everything now in terms of “how can I put it in a jar?”

But, alas, there have been some disappointments. Most recently I made apple juice and discovered that after draining pulp through the cloth, all my juice ended up smelling like the detergent I washed the clothes in.

Both for me for the future, and as a caution to others, how do you best wash and prepare cloth used for draining? Would boiling the material before use remove detergent smell or residue? I don’t want any of that stuff in my food and am upset over this waste of precious food.

I line-dry everything and don’t use fabric softeners, and will switch to unscented detergents but even so, this is making me crazy. There must be “yuk” clinging to the fibers of everything I thought was clean, and for food prep this is especially troubling.

Barbara Hornung
Bhornung01 at yahoo.com

To tell the truth Barbara, I’ve never had this trouble. And I use old pieces of sheet for not only straining juices for jelly but also for straining milk and draining the whey off of cheeses. I’d sure recommend switching detergents. Using very hot water in your wash will also help. While a cold water wash saves energy, the cold water will not remove the detergent from the fabric as well as does hot water. Also be sure you are using a cotton fabric. Blends not only won’t strain as well, but can leave odors in the food. Line drying is a good idea. My line dried clothes smell like the wind; no detergent or other odors here.

Boiling the fabric might also help. When we lived way remote, I heated my water in canning kettles on the woodstove to fill the wringer washer on wash day. The first clothes to wash were the whites and that water was boiling when I poured it into the washer. I had to remove the clothes with a stout stick when they were ready to wring because the water was still too hot to handle the clothes. When I had food cloths to wash (which, by the way were pre-washed in the dishwater and wrung out when they were fresh), I washed them first. Who wants their jelly bag washed with dirty socks? PeeeUUU.

To test your cloth before you use it, simply pour some cold water through it, smell that, then sip it. If it smells fresh and tastes normal, you are sure to go. No more wasted juice. The best of luck.

—Jackie

Ethiopian vegetable stew

I know of a wonderful Ethiopian veggie stew made with cabbage, which I will enclose after my question. I found your column on the ‘net and read that all cabbage must be pressure canned (meaning using a pressure cooker). I have successfully canned pasta sauce and veggie soup by first sterilizing the jars, filling them up, and then heat processing them (boiling them again for 20 min.). This recipe had a tomato-based sauce, but I’m not sure that that will make any difference. So I guess my question is, will I still need a pressure cooker? The one that my dad will gladly lend to me is too small for 1-quart jars and I usually do 4 at a time.

The Recipe: I had this at an Ethiopian restaurant and was hooked.

Vegetable alecha (Vegetable Stew)

In a 4-quart saucepan:

saute 1 cup Bermuda (purple) onions in

4 Tbsp. oil (I add at least 1 Tbsp. of crushed garlic)

add 4 carrots, peeled and cut in 1 inch slices
4 green peppers, cleaned and cut in quarters
3 cups water
1 6-oz. can tomato sauce
2 tsp. salt (personally, I omit this)
1/2 tsp. ground ginger (I use at least twice as much)

cook for 10 minutes covered

add 4 potatoes cut into thick slices

plunge 2 tomatoes in boiling water, removes skins, cut into 8 wedges

cover and cook for 10 minutes

add 8 cabbage wedges, 1 inch wide

cook until vegetables are tender

NOTE: First I saute the onions and garlic, then put them and all the other ingredients into a crock-pot and slow-cook the stew. This recipe is from The African CookBook by Bea Sandler.

J. Cleo Smith
Jcdancer at peoplepc.com

Yes, you definitely need a pressure canner to can your vegetable stew. It is unsafe to process vegetable soups and stews in a water bath canner. I know your recipe has a tomato base, but with all the added LOW ACID vegetables, it still must be processed in a pressure canner. Some folks get into trouble by adding too many vegetables to home canned salsas. You know, extra peppers, more onions, beans, etc. You can tweak recipes to home can, but you must always follow safety guidelines.

I’m sure you can find someone to loan you a pressure canner. Your dad’s pressure cooker is too small to be efficient, or safe, to can foods in. Or better yet, shop around. I’ve bought a brand new huge pressure canner for $50 at an auction and two used ones at the Salvation Army and Goodwill for $5 each, complete with canning manuals. Then you will be all set to can just about anything. Safely.

—Jackie

Pomegranate leather

I have several pomegranates I want to make into fruit leather. I’ve pressed all juice from the seeds and have a nice mash left over. I hate to just give it to the chickens if I can use it. Can I make a decent fruit leather from the mash, maybe mix it with strawberries or something?

Kasin Hunter
kasin1 at comcast.net

While I have never made pomegranate leather, I’m sure you can do it. You can use just about any fruit for this. Yes, you could mix it with strawberries if you wish, but straight pomegranate would probably work out just fine. This is assuming, of course, that you removed the seeds first. You can do this by scrubbing the seeds back and forth in a screen colander or using a food mill gently. Pat the pulp out in a layer on a very lightly oiled cookie sheet or the plastic sheet of a food dehydrator and dry until you can catch a corner and peel it up. If you don’t have a dehydrator, use your oven, with the door open, set at the lowest setting. Be careful not to overheat; you don’t want to cook the leather, just dry it. Once the leather will peel up, gently turn it over and dry a little more on the other side. When it is done, you can cut it into strips and store in a glass jar.

—Jackie

Carob Pods

I have been collecting the carob pods that are falling in my yard from the neighbor’s tree. How can I store them till ready to use, and how long will they keep? Do you have any tips on how to prepare pods for baking or drinks? We are moving to the 2500' elevation soon. I was wondering if I could start trees from the seeds and grow carob trees at that elevation. Thanks Jackie. I love your column and your “do it from scratch” attitude.

Jan Dennis
Carmichael, California

Lucky you! I’ve never lived where it was warm enough to grow carob trees. Yes, you can start trees from the seeds of your neighbor’s tree.

The pods are ready to harvest when they have turned dark brown. Check for mold and worms before you eat or process them; carob is prone to both. While you can eat the pods “raw” from the tree, when they taste somewhat like chewy dates, to get the chocolate flavor from them, you will need to make a powder. Many people pressure cook the clean pods for 20 minutes at 15 pounds pressure to soften the pods so you can remove the hard black seeds. After the pods have been pre-cooked, split them open and remove the seeds (you cannot use these seeds to grow trees from). Then grind the pods through your meat grinder or food processor. Spread this mash out on sheets, either in your food dehydrator or on cookie sheets in your oven, set at its lowest setting with the door propped open a bit. Stir a little as you dry to keep it drying evenly. When dry, grind to a powder in your blender. Dry again to make absolutely sure it is completely dry. Store in glass jars and use as you wish as a chocolate substitute.

—Jackie

Watery marmalade

I made blood-orange marmalade, but it did not set up (or jell), as it should have. It’s still pretty watery. I have already processed the jars (water-bath @ approximately 230F) so they are sealed. Can I reopen them and re-boil, or remix with a new, freshly made batch of marmalade?

Is it safe to do this? I’m having a hard time finding a correct answer.

David Fortuna
Altus, Oklahoma

Yes, you can reprocess your marmalade. But first be sure that you need to. Some jams and jellies need some time to completely jell. If you want to re-do your marmalade, simply open the jars and dump the contents into a large kettle. Very slowly, bring it to a boil, stirring as you heat the contents. As it heats, it will liquefy. Simply bring the hot marmalade to a boil and boil it down more, stirring as you do to prevent scorching. You will want to wash out the empty jars in hot soapy water, then hold in boiling water until you are ready to refill them. When the marmalade seems stiffer, take a spoonful out and put it in a cool dish. If it is ready to jar, it will be nice and thick in 10 minutes’ time. If not, continue boiling it down. When it is thick enough, dip out and fill the hot (but dry) jars to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar and place NEW hot, previously simmered lids on the jars and screw down the rings firmly tight. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

—Jackie

Hulling English walnuts

I am trying to find out how long to dry English walnuts: days, weeks, months? Do the green husks fall off by themselves or on their own? This year they are coming off by themselves, but other years they have stayed on. What is the best way to dry them?

P. Krenzer
Pkrenzer1 at aol.com

Sometimes the husks will split and come off the nuts by themselves, but other times you have to help them out. After gathering the nuts, you can lay them out in a single layer, out of the weather and protected from squirrels. They like ‘em, too! They are generally dry in two weeks’ time, but this can vary with the temperature and humidity; the hotter and drier it is, the quicker they dry. When the husks are dry you can usually peel them off easily with gloved hands. Then just dry the husked nuts a little longer and they’ll keep a long, long time. But to get the full use out of them, start shelling them and using them as soon as you can. This is one job we generally put off and put off, losing a great resource. They are quite easy to shell and retrieve the nutmeats. Lucky you!

—Jackie




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