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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

December 27, 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 chocolate and caramel sauce

I really want to make holiday presents and wanted to can small jars of Chocolate Sauce and Caramel Sauce. I can not seem to locate recipes anywhere, this leads me to believe that it is either not safe or the result is not that good.

Sunny Blonsky
slblonsky at msn.com

Your jars of sauce sound good, but unfortunately I don’t have a recipe for canning either chocolate or caramel sauce. Is there anyone out there who has done this? I, for one, would love to have the recipe as much as Sunny!

—Jackie

Refrigerator pickles

I have been trying to get as much information on green tomato recipes that I can. Not much luck. I have about 30 gorgeous end of season green tomatoes. I am in no way attempting canning. Really don’t want to kill others, or myself. An old friend (my tenant Mr. Guzzo) years ago, made an Italian mix (recipe) with garlic, vinegar, onions, peppers, green tomatoes. He just had let it sit in a vinegar mixture, in a crockery large thing right in the fridge for weeks. I don’t believe he ever cooked anything on heat. And he continued to leave it in fridge as needed. Just wondering if you ever heard of this, and is it safe this way. It was absolutely delicious. But I can’t find any NON canning recipes like this was. I guess he just fermented it in the vinegar this way. I know he also used pickling spice in it. Any suggestions on this would be very appreciated, just making sure this is a safe way to eat it also.

Brad Katz
brk10522 at msn.com

What you are referring to is called fresh pickling or refrigerator pickling. While pickles and relishes of this type can be held out of the refrigerator, they are much better if they are kept in the fridge. Please give canning a try, Bradley. I promise you will not kill yourself or others canning pickled green tomato relish or pickles. All the canning does is to enable you to keep your food tasty, nice looking and good for years and years, simply sitting on your pantry shelf. With refrigerator pickles, you must keep the pickles/relish submerged in the pickling brine (spices and vinegar) or it will start to spoil. And, of course, you have a limited time that the product will keep well. Sooner or later it will start to mold, ferment or spoil. And it does take up a space in your refrigerator. Again, please reconsider canning. It is so quick and easy to turn out great food you will enjoy for years.

—Jackie

Making yeast

Do you know if it’s possible to make yeast—either the fresh cube yeast or the packaged dry yeast? I keep sourdough starter successfully but occasionally need fresh yeast (substitute dry) for certain recipes. Just wondering.

Billie Luckie
Norfolk, Virginia

While it is possible to make yeast cakes at home, it’s not usually very successful. I either buy my yeast in 1 pound foil bags at preparedness companies or restaurant supply houses or use sourdough starter, depending on the type or recipe I plan on making. Anyone out there with a fail-safe recipe for homemade yeast?

—Jackie

Letting jars cool in the canner

Is it ok to let the jars sit in the canner after the pressure has returned to zero? I always fall asleep and just get em out in the morning!

Robin
RLPLCL at aol.com

No it is NOT okay to leave the jars in the canner after the pressure has returned to zero. Set your alarm for ten minutes after you turn the canner off or begin canning earlier in the afternoon. In order for your lids to seal correctly you need to remove them from the canner, where it is still very hot, to a cooler place immediately after the gauge returns to zero. Placing them on a dry, folded towel on your counter top encourages them to seal quickly and securely.

Once I was canning a truckload of sweetcorn and I was extremely tired. Like you, I fell asleep and took the jars out in the morning, after they had cooled in the canner completely. They appeared to have sealed. But a few weeks later, I noticed this SMELL in the basement pantry. Every one of my 9 quart jars and 12 pint jars of corn was bubbling fermented goo out of the jars. The seals had all failed and I immediately knew why.

Take those jars out just as soon as that dial hits zero and you have released any remaining steam from the petcocks. —Jackie

Orange pickled beets

I just canned my first batch of pickled beets and they came out ORANGE.

Can you tell me why that could happen? Is it normal? I’m just learning!

Robin
RLPLCL at aol.com

No it is not “normal” for pickled beets to turn out orange. But that doesn’t mean that there’s something wrong with them. It may be the variety of beets you used or possibly you didn’t leave the root end on the beet as well as an inch of the tops? If your beets smell and taste okay, I wouldn’t worry a bit. They’ll add quite a splash of color on your relish tray!

—Jackie

Canning potatoes, frozen corn

I have tried canning potatoes following the directions in my canning books and although they can up just fine, they taste awful! Kind of a cardboardy taste. What am I doing wrong?

I have the same sort of a problem trying to freeze corn on the cob. It takes like cardboard! Is there a special trick?

Judie Temple
rjtemple at networld.com

It may be the variety of potato you are trying to can. Some can better than others. In general, russets can up better than do red potatoes. Also smaller potatoes can better than larger ones. I think the big ones must have more starch and thus the taste. In my opinion, the best potatoes to can are whole small new potatoes or the small ones left over when you dig your potatoes in the fall. I can them skin on and this holds them together very nicely, without all the mush and floating starch in the jars. I also only process potatoes in pint jars so that they can be processed for a shorter time than when you use quart jars. The less time the potatoes are boiled, the more firm and tasty they are.

I have never eaten frozen corn on the cob that I liked; it all tastes like cob to me. Frozen corn, cut off the cobs is so much better. But then, we like home canned, homegrown sweet corn much better than frozen corn; it is more tender and succulent. Besides, you never have to worry about it being buried in packages in the freezer or the power going out and losing the whole shooting match.
—Jackie

Canning mushrooms

In the Nov/Dec 2006 issue, you refer to canning your own mushrooms and using these for cream of mushroom soup. I have been hitting my head against a rock wall in trying to locate a recipe for canning mushrooms. Will you please share yours?

Erika Gallimore
Klamath Falls, Oregon

The reason that many canning manuals dropped mushrooms from their pages is that some folks were canning poisonous mushrooms, then getting sick when they ate them. Obviously, one should never eat ANY mushrooms that they don't know for sure are edible. If unsure, go out in the field with an experienced mushroom hunter until you are definitely positive of your mushrooms.

Mushrooms are very easy to can, however. I have canned hundreds of jars of them and also dehydrated nearly the same amount as they are also very easy to dehydrate and you can store so many in such a small, lightweight container.

To can mushrooms, soak them in lightly salted ice water for 10 minutes. This not only helps clean them, but rinses out any hidden insects. Trim the dirty and tough parts of the stems, then rinse in cold water. You may leave small ones whole and cut large ones into convenient pieces. Boil three minutes in water. Pack into hot jars. Add a tsp. of salt to each quart or 1/2 tsp. to each pint, if desired. Fill to within 1/2 inch of top of jar with water mushrooms were boiled in. Put hot, previously simmered lid on jar and tighten down ring firmly tight. 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, if necessary; consult your canning manual for instructions) for 25 minutes for pints and 35 minutes for quarts.

—Jackie




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