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Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

January 31, 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.

Clabbering milk

We recently acquired a Brown Swiss milk cow. She gives wonderful tasting milk, but we cannot get it to sour, (clabber). We have tried letting it sour on its own, tried putting commercial buttermilk in as a starter, but it just sits there and begins to smell bad. The milk also begins to get a slightly rancid flavor after 36 hours, which increases as it ages.

Once, a long time ago, we had a similar problem with a certain cowís milk; the other cows, no problem.

Iíd appreciate any information you could give or direct me to.

Barbara Bartell
chr2760 at blackfoot.net

Iíve seen this happen before too, but really donít have a clue why. But that doesnít mean that you canít make soured dairy products. Iíve had good luck using a variety of souring agents. Perhaps the easiest and most handy is using vinegar. Depending on the product youíre aiming for, you may find this quick and handy too.

All you have to do is to gently heat a gallon of fresh milk to 190 degrees, then stir in 6 Tbsp. vinegar. Cover and let set in a warm but not hot place until clabbered. This goes quite quickly, compared to just letting it sit.

Another helper to clabbering milk is using half a rennet tablet, crushed and stirred well into a gallon of fresh warm milk.

Store buttermilk may or may not be fresh, no matter what the ďfreshness dateĒ says, and because of that the bacteria you need to help clabber the milk may or may not be active. Instead of using buttermilk, Iíve switched to using rennett or a powdered cheese culture starter. These are available from any cheesemaking supply house. I buy mine from Hoeggers Supply, which sells goat supplies and equipment. But, of course, these starter cultures also work on cowís milk.

I think sometimes our homes and barns are just too clean for normal souring of milk. Any readers have a better idea?

ó Jackie

Canning rice

Is it possible to can dry rice in a pressure canner? It would be so nice to have for convenience. Specifically brown rice since it takes longer to cook. I tend not to fix it as often and know it is more nutritious. There are all kinds of recipes for fixing it with a pressure cooker, but I canít find anything on canning it. It should be similar to canning dry beans. I still havenít figured out why you would soak the beans before canning them. Just put a smaller amount in the jar and fill with water. Thank you for taking the time to read my request.

Emily Hostetler
Weyers Cave, Virginia

I wouldnít want to can up plain brown rice because Iím afraid it would lose its wonderful texture and become stuck together. Of course, you can add a handful of rinsed brown rice to a quart of chicken or beef stock, giving you a great starter for your meal. I often do this when I can the meat of poultry or beef, ending up with quarts of ďleft-overĒ stock. Instead of canning it plain, I grate up some carrots, chop onions, add parsley and herbs, then toss in a handful of rice. Presto! An instant base for a great quick meal.

If you donít soak the beans before you can them, they will remain quite hard. I know because I tried it. And they never softened, even when I cooked them, on opening, for hours. A quicker way to get dry beans ready for canning is to bring them to a boil in a large saucepan. Then cover them and let them sit all morning. Then, in the afternoon, dip them out of the bean water, filling the jars to within an inch of the top with the bean water or boiling water, and process.

ó Jackie

Squirt guard for Victorio strainer

I have been canning probably before you were born. I use a Victorio Strainer that I have had for more than 25 years. However, I noticed a photo of David using a Victorio Strainer in the latest issue (Issue #103, page 46) of Backwoods Home. In it I see a squirt guard covering the strainer. Can you tell me where to buy this guard?

I made sort of a guard, from aluminum flashing, but it is not very good, and requires frequent adjustments.

Bruce Clark
Interlaken, New York

My Victorio isnít the more expensive (and sturdier) big guy Strainer, but the cheaper Tomato Strainer, which has a plastic hopper and the plastic squirt guard. My friend, Jeri, bought a used Victorio Strainer at a second-hand store and we commented that it didnít have the squirt guard. She went online and made several phone calls to the company. There is no available squirt guard for the original Victorio Strainer. She doesnít use one with hers and says itís fine. (I could see my kitchen ceiling covered with tomato squirts.) Iíve wondered if a guy couldnít make one out of a plastic milk bottle, like the pint or even quart size that you get milk at the deli section of convenience stores. You could cut a circle out of the flat end so it would fit over the outside end of the screen and jury-rig the other end and cut a slot out of the bottom so the chute would fit. Donít know. Just a thought. Good luck. Even without the squirt guard, itís a wonderful invention. It sure saves me hours and hours every single year.

ó Jackie

Moldy wheat flour

I have been freezing my flour to avoid those lovely pantry moths. Then I put the flour in clean, dry jars. Well the white flour seems fine, but my wheat flour smells moldy. Any suggestions?

Debra Jerrett-Goldenberg
Douglas, Massachusetts

I think Iíd put the flour in the airtight jars before I froze it. Maybe your flour is picking up some moisture from the inside of the freezer; just enough to foster mold growth. If you put it in the jars first, they couldnít possibly have this happen. Remember, too, that whole-wheat flour gets rancid much faster than does white flour because it contains the germ. Is this perhaps the smell you are noticing? If you donít use much whole wheat flour, it works best to store whole grains of wheat then grind a batch just before you are going to use it. I kind of split the difference; I grind about half a gallon at a time, then use that up while itís quite fresh. The whole wheat stores forever without going rancid.

You can also freeze your whole wheat to help prevent pantry moths from proliferating and destroying your grain.

If youíre having an ongoing problem with them, try some inexpensive pantry moth traps. These really work great and will soon end the infestation for good. Many seed catalogs are carrying them. They are safe and very effective.

ó Jackie

Feeding corn stalks to horses

First off I have to say I love your articles. They are the best part of Backwoods Home. My question is if itís safe to feed baled, clean, mold-free, shredded corn stalks to horses as a substitute for grass hay. I feed alfalfa & grass, but the last couple years grass has become exceedingly expensive due to drought. I like to use the grass as a free choice ďfiller,Ē and alfalfa & grain provides protein & nutrients. My ancient Feeds & Feeding book states corn stalks are fine for horses & about equal to brome hay, but I canít find any other info on it & donít know anyone who currently feeds them to horses. Thanks in advance for any info.

Elnora Shandy
Sterling, Colorado

Yes, you can feed shredded corn stalks to horses. In the old days, this was very commonly done. The first ranch I worked at as a teenager fed them all winter, along with hay, shocked field corn, and pumpkins. The key here is to start feeding them slowly so they get used to them. Horsesí digestive tracts rebel seriously to large changes in diet. You donít want them to get colic. We shredded the whole shocks of corn, ears and all, so the shredded corn also contained some whole corn, too. Do be sure that the cornstalks are not dusty. Sometimes baled stalks are. Feeding dusty fodder to horses will often cause them to get the heaves, a respiratory disease.

The way we shredded cornstalks was to haul shocks of corn from the field on wagons to a stationary shredder that was belt driven from a tractor. The shocks were fed into it, and they blew the shredded corn up into the hayloft where they were stored. This smelled so good, but the process was noisy. We had to put cotton in the draft horsesí ears to get them to draw the wagon up near the shredder.

ó Jackie

Canned kraut unsealed

This fall I canned 54 quarts of sauerkraut, and I just found some seals had come undone. Someone told me that the kraut is still good to use. Is this true?

Debbie S.
Grandin at csonline.net

The kraut is probably still okay. You will be able to tell when you open a jar and examine it. If it looks okay (no mold or black slime), smells okay, and the texture is normal (not soft and squishy), it is probably okay. Heat it and smell it again. If it smells alright, sample a little bit. If thatís okay, eat up and enjoy.

ó Jackie

Polled goats

I am interested in polled goats of any breed or cross. I tried searching the net for info with not much result.

Can you please tell me which breeds and/or cross produce kids without horns?

Beams
Beamsinyamba at gmail.com

It seems like polled goats would sure be a good thing. No more disbudding. Hooray! But, hereís the rub. If you breed a polled goat to a polled goat, you will get sterile offspring or hermaphrodites. Why, I donít have a clue. You can, of course, breed a true polled (not disbudded) buck to a horned doe and get some polled, normal offspring, and some horned. Or vice versa. But you cannot breed a polled to a polled goat and get breedable offspring. This is true in all breeds. Sorry. I know it works with cattle.

ó Jackie

Canning milk-based sauces

I hope you can help with some advice on canning milk-based sauces.

It seems when I try this, as with a bťchamel sauce, all looks good for a few days. Then it appears as though perhaps enzymes in the milk eat away at the wheat flour used as a thickener, and the sauce becomes thin in the jar. The lids do not pop up as if anything was fermenting.

Is it possible to can milk-based sauces without them thinning themselves or separating?

Kirk Mazzia
Salinas, California

This is why I donít use milk products in my home canned foods. I have never found a recipe that worked without giving the appearance that the milk has curdled or separated. Itís funny because you can home can whole milk. And other than looking a little off colored, it cans up just fine. I just make my sauce when Iím going to use one, while the rest of the recipe is cooking. Iíve done it for years and it only takes minutes and looks great. One thing Iíve noticed, reading recipes on store cans of ďcream of this and thatĒ soups is that there is less ďcreamĒ than salt. Does that tell you anything? Most are just broth, thickened with flour or cornstarch, with very little milk or cream at all.

ó Jackie




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