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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

January 10, 2007
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 sun-dried tomato pesto

I made a big batch of sun-dried tomato pesto. I wanted to can this recipe in my pressure cooker, but couldn't find directions anywhere. I thought it would make nice little Christmas gifts for family and friends. It is nice to give home canning at Christmas; people really appreciate it.

The only thing I could find was warnings not to can regular pesto or sun-dried tomatoes. There are sun-dried tomatoes in the recipe, but also fresh tomatoes and tomato paste and balsamic vinegar. Do you think it is safe to can? Freezing just would not make it worthy of gift giving.

Sari
mike_stanley at telus.net

Your recipe is PROBABLY safe to can if its only ingredients are sun dried tomatoes, tomato paste, fresh tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. But this would be experimental canning and I cannot recommend it. I would think of some other home canned goodie for gifting this Christmas. Just to be sure.

óJackie

Canning apple slices

I enjoy reading your column online and have a canning question for you: We had a very large crop of apples this year, and I made jars and jars of applesauce and apple pie filling. Figuring I had plenty for the year, I decided to try canning apple slices to use up the remainder of my apples. Using the Ball Blue Book recipe for canning apples, I followed the directions and cooked the apple slices in light syrup for 5 minutesóbut they came out mushy, slimy, way overcooked. So the next batch I boiled in the syrup I cooked until they were warm throughout but retained their "crunch." I canned the apples in light syrup in my water bath canner for 20 minutes, but much of the syrup boiled out. Now the jars are only about 1/2 full of syrup, and the apples float. My question is, do I have to boil the apple slices down to mush in order to retain all the syrup in the jar once canned? Why did the syrup boil out? And why are the jars of canned apples so much lighter in weight than other canned fruits (like pears)?

Regina Ylvisaker
Brooklyn, Wisconsin

Your syrup most likely boiled out because you packed too many apples into your jars. I do this once in awhile, with the same results. Apples are lighter in weight when canned because they are not as juicy as pears or peaches. It is nothing to worry about. No, you don't have to boil your apples down to mush in order to can them. Boil your apples in the syrup for 3 minutes, then pack immediately into hot jars, seal, then immediately put them into a water bath canner that was boiling when you took the lid off. If you put the jars of apples into quite hot but not boiling water in the canner, they will overcook and go mushy or if you dink around packing the jars, or if the jars themselves are not hot, the same thing can happen as the cooler product goes into the canner, cooling the boiling water.

Another thing to consider is that some varieties of apples can in slices much better than do others. For instance, Honeycrisp apples remain firm when cooked, where saucing varieties, such as Macintosh, go soft very easily.

Consider dehydrating apple slices for pies and other deserts. They are very easy to dehydrate and they rehydrate very nicely. Dehydrated apples are always firmer because they weren't boiled at all.

óJackie

Removing black walnut stain from hands

I just searched google looking for something to remove black walnut stain from my hands and it showed your name. I was picking up and taking the hulls off of black walnuts Saturday. I had on Playtex gloves. However I still got my hands stained. Do you have any idea what I can put on my hands to remove the stain or do I just have to let it wear off?

Janey Bowling
janey1961 at hotmail.com

If there's a way to get black walnut stain off your hands, I've never heard of it. But you can reduce the handling of the husks by laying out a sack of the walnuts in your driveway and running over it with the car a few times. Then dump out the burlap sack and let the nuts dry in a shady, warm spot until the husks don't easily stain your hands; the drier they are, the less stain you'll get.

Eventually the stain wears off, but you will get some strange looks for awhile, holding out your hand for change at the market.

óJackie

Forage for livestock

We just moved to our little piece of land. Our farm has a nice bit of pasture, but we don't have any spot that is good for hay. Part of it is wooded, there's two creeks and exposed boulders, etc., that make the areas too small to make it worthwhile for hayfields. They would make nice sized garden plots, though, and we were hoping to use them to plant some other forage crops to limit the amount of hay we'll need to buy. Besides the chickens we already have, we're going to get a milk cow and a steer to raise for beef next spring, and we hope to add a pig the following year. Besides corn, can you recommend some other plants that would make good forage, or plants that we shouldn't feed to livestock?

Kris Limon
Allen, Maryland

You could plant small patches of a legume hay mix and use a scythe to mow it if you are in reasonably good health. I actually love to cut hay this way and you'll be surprised at how quickly a big bunch of hay can be cut in this old fashioned, yet very effective way. Because you're working close to the ground and moving at a slow pace, you can easily avoid rocks, stumps and other obstructions.

Otherwise, animals benefit from home grown turnips, mangles, corn, field peas, sunflowers, pumpkins, squash and, of course, corn. The old way was to grow a field of corn and interplant it with pole beans and pumpkins or squash. You can roast the first ears of the field corn (although it is more "chewy" than modern sweet corn, it's still very good), use some of the beans, squash and pumpkins, and still have plenty to share with the critters.

óJackie

Canning pumpkin

You have addressed canning pumpkin and pumpkin products in your previous articles. You usually say process for the time in your canning book. All of our canning books, including last year's Ball Blue Book, say that canning pumpkin doesn't produce a good product and to freeze it.

I'm a firm believer that if I can buy it canned at the store, then I can also can it at home. My problem is the correct pressure canner processing time for pints and quarts. Could you help us out? Would you also recommend a canning book that has processing times for such esoteric things as pumpkin?

Cynthia Nardiello
Ashland, Kentucky

It is hard to find information that used to be common in canning manuals when folks used to actually can for their livelihood. I'll admit to using some older books and canning manuals to find information such as that regarding canning pumpkin and squash. One reason that they stopped providing this information on these crops is that some people didn't pack the pumpkin or squash puree while it was boiling hot and then tried to process the lukewarm puree as per the time recommended. It was not adequate and the product spoiled.

I have never had this happen, but I really bust butt getting that puree through the strainer, then into hot jars, immediately. Then it goes into a pre-heated canner, which is exhausted extra well to ensure that the jars of food are heated completely through BEFORE the processing time begins.

The "old" books recommend processing pumpkin or squash cubes (hot packed in boiling water) for 55 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts, 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 directions). Puree is processed for 65 minutes for pints and 80 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure, with the same altitude advisement as above.

óJackie

Thin-sliced dried beef

In response to your newsletter from last March, you can get great sliced thin dried beef from www.alderfermeats.com. The best dried beef in the Philadelphia area has always been Knauss Dried Beef that was originally made by the Pennsylvania Dutch in Quakertown, Pennsylvania. Alderfer Meats, who still use the original preparation, bought the Knauss company. It is delicious, and I think you can order in online

Chris Lister
Harleysville, Pennsylvania

Thank you for sharing your source for good dried beef. I'm sure many readers will enjoy using it.

óJackie

Squash borers

In the Nov./Dec. 2006 issue, a reader asked you about squash borers. I wanted to tell you how I handled the problem.

My husband and I have been experimenting with container gardening. Since squash borers come from the ground, they can't get in the squash vine if it is in a container.

We still have one summer squash vine growing and one squash on it. It has started to get cold now, so I don't expect the squash to get any bigger. This is the first year that our squash plants have lasted through the summer. Also, I haven't seen any squash bugs. When we planted in our garden, I fought squash bugs all the time. Since we don't use poison on our plants, I would use natural bug spray (pyrethrum chrysanthemum extract) twice daily because you have to spray the bugs, not the plant. When I found eggs, I just tore off that part of the leaf and put in a jar with a lid on it. Lots of work! I think I'll stick to planting squash in containers. By the way, the plants will fall over after they get very large. Not to worry, they will root on the ground and continue to produce.

Thanks so much for sharing all your accomplishments with all of us.

Cindy Hertel
Hodges, South Carolina

Thanks for the squash borer tips, good idea. Another way to handle the problem is to use a cattle syringe and needle to inject b.t. into the hollow vine at the point of damage. The squash vine borers are a problem, but not one that can not be conquered.

óJackie




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