Finding wild rice seeds
I would like to know where to get wild rice seeds. Can I obtain them from a natural food store?
The only wild rice you can plant is raw, natural wild rice. The wild rice you buy in stores, even natural food stores, is parched before storing or eating. This kills the seeds’ ability to germinate.
Some sources of wild rice: Triple Brook Farm, 37 Middle Rd., South Hampton, MA 01073 or www.triplebrookfarm.com; Natural Food Institute, P.O. Box 185, WMB, Dudley, MA 01570; and Wildlife Nurseries, (920) 231-3780, or P.O. Box 2724, Oshkosh, WI 54902.
Growing great tomatoes
I hate the “low acid” red fruit they pass off as tomatoes nowadays. They all taste like they were picked way too early or are hot house raised. I heard there is something you can add to the soil to give them some punch. Any idea what it is? Also, raising tomatoes here in Texas can be a challenge. Any hints on what to do to insure a good harvest?
You don’t have to add some magic ingredient to your soil to get tomatoes that taste like tomatoes should. Just buy tomato seed from some of the older varieties that are high in acid. If you want to drive yourself nuts, send for a catalog from Totally Tomatoes, Pinetree Garden Seeds, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, or Tomato Growers’ Supply. These companies list literally hundreds of tomatoes, including dozens of older, heritage tomatoes that do, indeed, taste great.
The addresses for these companies are: Totally Tomatoes, 334 West Stroud Street, Randolph, WI 53956; Tomato Growers Supply Company, P.O. Box 60015, Ft. Myers, FL 33906; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, 2278 Baker Creek Rd., Mansfield, MO 65704; Pinetree Garden Seeds, P.O. Box 300, New Gloucester, ME 04260.
It really makes a huge difference when you choose and grow your own varieties, instead of buying whatever tomato plants are available at the local garden centers and stores. These are often just so-so varieties, not suited well to the home gardens in your own area.
Start your seeds 12 weeks or more before it is safe to set them in the garden, unprotected from frost and cold winds. Then set them out even a month before your last spring frost is due, under the protection of Wall’o Waters (www.wallowater.com, 801-972-1770). These are water-filled tubes, connected to make a plastic tipi to surround your baby plants. Not only do they protect against frost and freezing, but also wind, which is hard on tender plants in much of Texas and the rest of the southwest. I gardened in New Mexico for six years and have a healthy respect for the hardship wind has on garden plants.
Once your plants are in, be sure to mulch them well to conserve soil moisture and provide protection against weeds. If you mulch with straw first, then top it off after the plants begin to set fruit with well rotted manure, you will also provide natural fertilizer when the plants need it most. Don’t fertilize too much, though, before they set fruit or the plants will grow huge and will produce poorly. Nitrogen boosts plant growth.
If garden dryness is a problem in your area, consider using a drip irrigation system. This is easy to fashion, sort of like playing with Tinker Toys. It conserves water while giving each plant enough water to grow and produce well. If you water using the usual overhead sprinklers, the plants are often sheltering the soil beneath them, keeping the roots dry while the leaves are soaking.
You can grow great tasting tomatoes at home that will bring back memories of Grandma’s garden, no matter where you live.
Tomato sauce disaster
I just wanted to make some tomato sauce. I have a Victorio food mill, and I ran a bunch of my tomatoes through it, mostly Romas. I got about a gallon of juice/pulp. I cooked it down to about 21/2 quarts and added an onion, garlic, some basil, and about a tablespoon of sugar. I put it in the fridge in a plastic bowl for 2 days, then got it out to use to go over some ravioli for dinner. I tasted it and it was so acidic it about ate my taste buds off! So, I got a bright idea, and decided to neutralize some of that acid and stirred in a tablespoon or so of baking soda. The chemical reaction was stunning. I hurriedly transferred the expanding pink froth to a bigger pot; after stirring about 45 minutes, it was sauce again. I went for a taste and about spit it out. It was sweeter than syrup. I had to throw all my work into the compost pile, and a swarm of flies followed me the whole way. Why was my sauce so inedibly acidic? What does one do to reduce the acidity without totally removing it?
Also, I heard that you can’t get parts for my food mill anymore. Is this true? It’s a model 200 I bought new in 1995.
I have to chuckle. Here you have trouble with tomatoes that taste too acid, where Nancy, in the previous letter, can’t get tomatoes that are acid enough. But all aside, this is perfectly common. Tomatoes should be acid. But for your tastebuds’ sake, let’s find out what to do about your tomato sauce so you can enjoy it. First of all, did you boil down your sauce in an aluminum or cast iron pot? Both of these will make a tomato sauce that is terribly metallic in taste, which tastes acid to the max. Cook it down in a stainless steel or heavy enameled pot.
Then when you season it for your sauce, add your spices and enough brown sugar for your family’s taste. (A tablespoon of sugar in 21/2 quarts probably won’t be enough.) Taste it as you go. I’d guess you’d want about two tablespoons or possibly more. You can use the baking soda, but use much less than you did before. Half a teaspoonful is about right for your 21/2 quarts. However, some people don’t like the taste of this sauce as much as they do that with sugar added.
I don’t think getting parts for your Victorio Strainer is much of a problem. They are still sold in current catalogs, including the different screens available for them. I would write to the company if you need a certain part. I’ve had mine for 15 years’ worth of hard use, and never needed a single part; they are pretty sturdy.
Canning tomato sauce
I tried using a vacuum sealer for a batch of sauce I made. What a mistake. It didn’t seal tight enough and of course I had to throw it all out. How long do you need to ‘bath’ the larger [24 oz] jars? I’ve never tried doing my sauce but I would like to avoid using so much freezer space.
Canning tomato sauce is so easy. I can’t imagine doing anything else with it. And once it’s canned, it lasts for years right on your pantry shelf with no more fuss.
To can your sauce, simply pour your seasoned sauce (taste it first!) into warm, clean quart jars, wipe the rim of the jar clean with a warm, damp cloth, then place hot, previously boiled new lids on the jars, tightening down the rings firmly tight. Process them in a boiling water bath canner, with the water at least an inch over the tops of the jars for 40 minutes, unless you live at an altitude which requires longer processing. Check your canning manual for instructions if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet above sea level.
When the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and place on a dry folded bath towel to cool. Do not touch the jars until they are cool. Do not re-tighten the rings, poke at the center of the lids, or wipe off anything from the jar tops until they are cool to the touch. When they are cool, usually overnight or for several hours, you may remove the rings and wash the jars to remove any sticky or mineral residue from your boiling water. This will not cause them to unseal. You remove the rings, because they can sometimes cause the lids to rust.
Canning smoked salmon
I don’t have a smoker to smoke my salmon, however I want the smoked flavor and was wondering if I could just add liquid smoke to my fresh salmon that I want to can? If I can do this how much would I add to a pint jar?
Any information on how to can salmon would be very helpful to me.
No, this will not give you the results you want. The liquid smoke might (or might not!) give you the flavor you want, but it won’t give you the dry texture you will crave in your faux smoked salmon. If you can’t afford a smoker (and they are getting cheaper and cheaper), you can simply build your own out of any container that will hold smoke. I built mine out of an old clothes dryer cabinet.
A simple rack can be fashioned out of wires strung across the inside top of the metal cabinet, barrel, or whatever your “smoker cabinet” consists of. You can hang pieces of fish on heavy wire hooks or lay them across the wires to smoke.
My smoking unit consisted of an old hot plate with an old cast iron frying pan on top of it. I set it on low and tossed a couple handfuls of hardwood chips in the frying pan and shut the door. You can use fruit wood, such as apple, cherry, or pear, if you have it, or whatever local wood is available from mesquite to birch or alder.
You will have to keep adding the wood chips as they char away. You don’t want a hot smoke, only a smoky smoke.
Don’t use a water bath to can green beans
I am in dire need of a good recipe for canning green beans using the hot bath method. Someone has given me green beans and I really need a good recipe.
Sorry, Maxine, you cannot safely can beans in a hot water bath canner unless they are pickled. Beans are low acid, as are all vegetables, meat, and fish. Because they are a low acid food, this means that under certain conditions, dangerous bacteria such as Clostridium botulinum could be canned right along with your beans. This bacteria grows everywhere, from your soil to your countertops.
The spores, which are the dormant form of this bacteria, are not deadly, but when they are canned with your water bathed beans they are not killed and can live to produce a very deadly toxin that is not killed at 212 degrees, which is the temperature of your boiling water bath. They are killed when they are subjected to the 240 degrees in your pressure canner (10 pounds pressure).
Now, I know, and have been told countless times, that folks used to water bath their green beans, and still do. This is true. But it’s too dangerous to do, and I simply won’t do it, nor will I advise anyone to do it either. People can go years eating water bathed beans and other low acid foods, and then suddenly hit a jar that is toxic. It’s like playing Russian Roulette. I won’t play; and I hope you won’t either.
Is using railroad ties for veggie boxes safe?
The train company in my area has refurbished all of the railroad ties with new ones, so they have all their used ties available for the taking. I am interested in using railroad ties for my vegetable boxes. Are they safe to use?
Lucky you! I have to pay $8 a piece for my railroad ties! Yes, they’re safe to use, much safer than the green, treated landscaping timbers available at building centers and stores throughout the country. Most of these treated timbers contain arsenic, which can and does leach out into your garden!
These used railroad ties are creosoted, but after years the creosote is leached and weakened. Enough is left to smell and protect them from rotting, but not enough to cause gardeners much concern. Of course it’s better to use untreated materials, such as logs from the woods or cement blocks. But the ties work well. I have used them for years, not only for raised beds but to anchor hoop house bottoms and as a foundation for small buildings such as chicken houses and goat sheds.
Shelling and canning pecans
I have pecans"all that we want" for free. I was wondering how I can store them so that they will not go bad without freezing them. Also, can you turn these into pecan peanut butter? And if you can turn these into pecan peanut butter, can you can it? If you can put them in canning jars how would I go about it?
Boy are you lucky! Pecans are so good! One year, while we lived in New Mexico, our neighbor lady traveled to her son’s place down in the southern part of the state and came home with a burlap sack full of pecans. We spent the winter, on and off, yacking in her kitchen, cracking pecans, and picking out nutmeats. Then I brought my share home and canned them. They are really good this way, and now, six years later, they are still good, not rancid. And they are super easy to can, too.
The easiest method I’ve found for shelling pecans is the nifty little lever action nut cracker that is sold in many garden catalogs. My neighbor had one of these, and they really did a nice job, leaving most of the nutmeats in halves.
Once shelled, spread the nutmeats out on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at 275 degrees. You want to toast them, but not brown them. You will stir them once or twice until they are just right. (Taste ‘em!)
To can them, you fill the jars to within half an inch of the top, then place a hot, previously boiled, dry lid on the jars, screwing down the ring firmly tight. (Do not add water!) Process them either for 10 minutes at 5 pounds pressure in a pressure canner or 20 minutes in a water bath canner. This method works for all nutmeats that I can think of.
The pecans will keep quite a while in their shell without going rancid, so there isn’t a huge rush in getting them put up.
A head of fresh dill
I have a few pickle recipes that call for a “head of fresh dill.” I was wondering what that is. Is it the entire sprig or half. I’m making dill pickles and the recipe isn’t exact as to the head of dill.
The “head” of dill is the entire seed head of a dill plant. But this can vary with the vitality of the plant. Generally a head of dill is about three to four inches in diameter, having a bounty of green seeds. Stronger dill flavor is had by using the same size head, having dried seeds. If your plants have smaller heads, simply use more of them. I often put one of these smaller heads on the bottom of the jar and another on top, with a small dried red pepper on top of that, for zing. Good pickling!
I have been trying to find where I can purchase powdered eggs. When I was a little girl the government gave out powdered eggs and cheese to some folks of Native American descent and some underprivileged folks. I’m sure we fell in both those categories but I was really too young to tell that my life wasn’t as “normal” as anyone else’s. One of my best childhood memories is my mother cooking a big breakfast after getting a new supply of powdered eggs and cheese. It was a taste that I can remember to this date. I now have grown children and would like to buy powdered eggs and let them and my grandchild have a taste.
I buy powdered eggs from Emergency Essentials, a company in Utah that specializes in foods and supplies to stock up in case of emergencies. Not only do they have different types of powdered eggs, but powdered cheese, margarine, and a whole lot more. Their address is: Emergency Essentials, 362 S. Commerce Loop, Suite B. Orem, UT 84058, or www.BePrepared.com
I am looking for a good recipe to pickle garlic. I have searched my canning books and there isn’t one recipe in any of them.
Simply peel the individual cloves of garlic, then soak them overnight in a brine of 1/2 cup salt to a gallon of cold water. Weight down the cloves so they remain under the brine. In the morning, rinse the cloves well with fresh water. To four quarts of garlic cloves, you will need 8 cups white vinegar, 2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup pickling spices (optional). Tie pickling spices in a cloth bag and add to vinegar and sugar in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes.
Pack garlic cloves in sterilized, hot pint jars to within an inch of the top. Remove spice bag from simmering pot and pour boiling syrup over garlic cloves, filling to within 1/2” of top of jar. Wipe jar rim and place hot, previously boiled new jar lid on jar and tighten ring down firmly tight. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. If you like hotter garlic, you may add one or two dried hot peppers to each jar before putting the boiling syrup on.
I live in Northern Alabama and have been planting a garden for all my life. I love canning and putting food in the freezer. I have a problem, I cannot find a way to put up okra so it does not taste like freezer burned, or can it to fry. If you could pass one on to me I would be ever so thankful. I have tried freezing it battered, whole, cooked and just about every way I can find. I guess I am no good at the okra thing. Just that my family loves it and my rugrats (grandkids) want it all year.
The best way I’ve found to preserve okra is to slice the young pods, then bread or batter the slices and fry them just until the breading is beginning to brown a light golden color. Then drain on a paper towel and place on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Put this in your freezer just until the slices are barely frozen.
Now pick off the sheet and pack into freezer bags. Zip them shut, all but for one tiny corner and roll the bag gently to get nearly all the air out, then shut the bag. When you want to use the okra, barely thaw enough to use and fry it without oil (there’s enough on the okra in most cases), or with just a little. I think this tastes almost as good as fresh.
Frozen yellow milk
I was wondering if you could tell me why milk turns yellow when you freeze it and back to white when it defrosts. It was a question from my seven year old.
I think it’s the difference in the freezing of the butterfat in the milk. I’ve noticed that when you freeze skim milk, it freezes white, but if you freeze whole milk it does turn a bit yellowish, like homemade vanilla ice cream. The fat freezes at a lower temperature than does the “watery” part of the milk, like when the ice cubes in the freezer are frozen but the ice cream is a little soft. When you thaw the milk, the butterfat melts and is again part of the milk, losing the yellow color.
Getting lanolin from sheep
I have searched and searched on-line for an answer to my question. I hope that you can either answer my question or direct me to someone who can. I have just sheared a very large sheep and he (he has been cut) had a couple of years’ growth of beautiful gray wool. I would like to harvest the lanolin from this wool. How do I do it? I thought of soaking it in hot water and hopefully the lanolin would rise to the top….I’m not sure what to do and don’t want to lose that valuable stuff. I enjoy your column and my prayers have been with your family since the loss of your dear husband.
To extract lanolin from sheep wool, all you have to do is to boil the wool. The oil that rises to the top of the tub is lanolin. Skim it off, then reheat it to make it thin and strain it through a cheese cloth to remove impurities. You can best boil the wool in large galvanized wash tubs or half metal barrels over an outdoor fire. Some lanolin will rise from wool soaked in quite hot water, although not as much as when you boil it. When you boil wool, it sometimes shrinks and is ruined for spinning. But the wool that has been left on sheep for two years is often not clean enough for spinning because it requires a tremendous amount of work washing and carding to remove the dirt, hay chaff, and pasture seeds. So this may be a good year to make your homemade lanolin!
Hopi Pale Grey squash
We had obtained some seed for Hopi Pale Grey Squash last year and planted some this spring. I must say that they certainly spread through the garden. We now have some fruits on the plants, one of which is larger than a football. Our question is when do we know when to harvest the vegetable? Would you be interested in the seeds? I would be more than happy to give you some after they are harvested and dried.
Because these squash are so rare, I would wait until they are as big as they will get before a frost hits and kills the vines. I would even protect the vines as long as you can to allow the squash to mature. When they are mature, most are about the size of a basketball, and the seeds will have a hard shell. I was sent some seeds by my friend Shane Murphy of Seed Dreams in California. He, too, is growing out a crop of Hopi Pale Greys for seed. I don’t need seed, but very much appreciate the offer! I plan on giving any readers a few seeds from any squash that I have that reach maturity. It’s a horse race now; the squash look great, but fall freezes are just around the corner!
Sweet pickle relish
I would like to use some of the surplus cucumbers to make a relish. Do you have a recipe?
Sure, I have a recipe for cucumber relish. Several, in fact, but here’s one of my favorites.
Sweet Pickle Relish
8 medium cukes
4 medium onions
2 cups chopped green peppers
2 cups chopped red bell peppers
1/2 cup salt
7 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. celery seed
2 Tbsp. mustard seed
4 cups vinegar
Chop all vegetables and place in large bowl. Cover with salt and cold water. Let stand, covered, for two hours. Drain and rinse. Combine sugar, vinegar, and spices in a large pan and bring to a boil. Add drained vegetables and simmer 10 minutes. Pack hot relish into hot pint or half pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of head room. Remove any air bubbles by running a hot knife down inside jar. Wipe jar rim clean. Place hot, previously boiled new lid on jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process in hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove quickly and cool on folded dry towel. Do not overboil.
All of Jackie Clay’s articles always say you must use a pressure canner. Me and my wife have been canning meat, vegetables, jam, you name it and have never used a pressure canner. We have canned food sitting on the shelves from three years ago that Jackie says you must pressure cook. I have hams and bacon hanging in the smoke house that I will can this fall. I can deer meat and sausage patties, cantaloupe. No pressure canner. Now I know Jackie is a good writer and I love her articles. Is she afraid of liability or was she just never told the Amish or old way.
You bet I know the old Amish (and other old-timer) way. Would I can meat, vegetables, and poultry without a pressure canner? NO WAY! Jam, pickles, tomato products, fruit and other high acid foods, of course.
No, I’m not afraid of being sued. I’m deadly afraid that one of my cherished readers might eat a jar of green beans, venison, or whatever that is seasoned with botulism toxin. It is not a common thing, especially if you boil your food for 15 minutes before you eat it, but it can kill you or one of your children.
Many of my Amish friends use a pressure canner, as well as the good old water bath for fruit and high acid foods. It only makes good sense. There is no reason not to use the pressure canner. It is not expensive, especially if you buy a good used one. It is easy to use. It works well. And it home cans food safely.
(Just because you’ve never had a house fire, would you let your kids play with matches?)
Canning dry milk?
I just read in BWH Issue #94 your description of how to can fresh milk. Do you know if it’s possible to can reconstituted non-fat dry milk? I have tons of it.
I wouldn’t bother reconstituting dry milk in order to can it. Canned milk is not really that good, except in cooking. The dry milk lasts a long, long time in air-tight jars or even in the original boxes and doesn’t take up canning jars better used for something else. Nor do they take up much room on a pantry shelf. Maybe you need to begin using the oldest milk, in order to rotate your stock. Use it in puddings, cream pies, ice milk, and custards. You can even make cheeses out of it if you want.
Keeping kraut lighter
How can I keep my cabbage from turning brown when canning kraut? I pack into jars, add salt, water, and let that ferment for about seven days then hot water bath. The kraut is always good but turns a little dark. I enjoy all of your articles and wonder how you have time to answer questions with such a busy lifestyle (living simple is not so simple).
Princeton, West Virginia
Sauerkraut processed directly in the jars does tend to turn a little dark. It helps to keep the jars in a very dark place. Some folks even wrap the jars with newspaper to keep the light away. Kraut that is fermented in crocks, then canned is usually lighter in color.
Sometimes deadline comes too soon, I’ll admit! Like this month, with me finishing up those nasty cancer treatments (the alternative didn’t sound good to me, either), trying to get the new log house ready to move into before winter, and (finally) canning our garden like crazy. Sometimes I wish I were twins. Triplets?
I would like to can beets without using a pressure canner, as I don’t have one and would like to do some beets without pickling them.
Riply, New York
Sorry Sharon, you just can’t safely can beets, without pickling them, in a boiling water bath canner. Like green beans (and all vegetables), beets are a low acid food and must be pressure canned in order to be safe from deadly botulism toxin. You can pick up a good used pressure canner at many yard sales, flea markets, and so on, complete with manuals in many cases. I have one I bought for $5 at the Salvation Army. It is a good idea to take the canner in to your local extension office to have the pressure gauge tested for accuracy. This is usually a free service.
Saving pepper seeds
How do you prepare the seeds in a green pepper for planting and growing the next season?
First of all, make sure your bell pepper is not a hybrid. Hybrids will grow a plant and usually produce fruit, but it will not be the same as the parent plant. Sometimes this is okay, and sometimes it makes for inferior vegetables.
Let your pepper ripen on the bush, which means it will turn (depending on variety) brilliant candy apple red and then slightly soften and wrinkle. When it reaches this stage, the seeds are mature. They will be large and fairly hard to the touch.
Remove the seeds and lay them out on a cookie sheet to dry, stirring them every day until they are very dry. Then dry them a couple more days. Mold is the enemy of seed savers. Any dampness remaining in the seeds and they will mold and this will end the germination ability of the seeds.
Once they are very dry, place them in an envelope and place that in a sealed container until spring. That’s all there is to it. I should mention that seed saving is fun and addicting!
Getting rid of loco weed
We recently took over the family ranchland. The area that should be good grazing is heavily infested with locoweed. There’s probably 60+ acres of the stuff, too much to dig by hand. In with the loco is native grass, sage, and wildflowers.
We are reluctant to use chemicals to get rid of the loco, and would only want to as a last resort.
Do you have any suggestions to rid us of this evil weed? Can one keep mowing it down and it would eventually die off? We can’t burn it due to the risk of forest fires. It’s toxic to goats so we can’t use them for weed control. If we must go chemical what would you recommend for the least long-term effects. There is a stream on the property.
Walt van Bielert and Debbie Myers
Locoweed is a tough customer but it can be whipped with hard work. We had a good sized patch on our New Mexico ranch and after three years it was gone. I don’t think mowing will get it. I tried and seemed to get nowhere. I finally had to resort to using a backpack sprayer loaded with Roundup. I didn’t like using it, but I liked having our stock get in the loco even less. As you know, loco weed is addicting to livestock and will eventually make them sick with diarrhea and the staggers and kill them.
I divided the patch into quarters, and in the spring when the loco was getting going I began spraying the individual plants. Yes, it was a lot of work. And yes, the patch was very large. But every day I would walk the pasture, advancing on the nasty weeds.
Of course the Roundup didn’t kill all the loco. I had to re-walk the pasture three times that spring, all before it began to bloom and make seed. But after the first trip, much was dead and a lot more was yellowed and unhealthy looking.
The next spring, I did it again, picking up many new-seeded young plants (which killed out on the first spraying.) There were also some not-so-healthy older plants, as well. But that did in the loco.
You can also use a mounted spray tank with booms and spray the whole works at a time from the seat of a tractor or ATV, but that will kill everything"grass, wildflowers, and all. I didn’t want to do that because we lived on the high plains where it is dry and the native grasses take a long time to regrow after being totally killed out. And I do like the wildflowers.
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