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Ask Jackie headline


Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns



Heirloom Seeds now available

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »
JACKIE AND WILL’S 2014 SEEDS
The list of seeds we have for sale this year is ready.We only listed seeds that we grow and love. Some of them are very rare and thus in short supply. When we’re out, we’re out; we can either refund your money or put you on the list for your seeds to come late this fall after harvest to plant next year. All are naturally grown with NO GMOs! They are also all heirloom, open pollinated seeds so you can save your own seeds.

Click Here to download the list of available seeds and ordering instructions. (PDF) ~Jackie

The pumpkin and squash harvest is finished

Monday, September 29th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Will-Hopi

Saturday was sunny and nice, above normal temps right into the high seventies. Wow, was it a perfect Indian summer day! Robert, a young man Will had met while getting a piece of sheet metal bent to form at a local metal fabrication shop, said he’d love to pick up some extra work at our place as he loves everything “farm.” So he came out and helped Will lug a very bountiful crop of pumpkins and squash in out of the garden and old pig pasture. And when I say “bountiful” I mean it in every sense of the word. There were several tractor bucket-loads of squash and pumpkins. We brought some into the house to store and the rest went to the new barn. We’ll bring a few at a time up to harvest seed and bury the rest in a cave of square bales to protect them from freezing.

Tractor-load-of-squash

We had one Howden pumpkin that weighed in at 58 pounds! Wow, were they ever productive. We’ll harvest seeds from them and then feed them to our goats and cattle. Of course, I’m going to make pumpkin pies from a couple of the Winter Luxury pumpkins — that’s what they’re famous for.

Big-Howden

I’m really tickled at our Canada Crookneck squash as I’ve never grown them before. They are an ancestor of modern butternuts but have a very long neck, which is all meat and no seeds. They were very productive and made an excellent crop, direct seeded, here in Northern Minnesota. They also store very well, so I’m already planning on baking a few.

I got the onions pulled but I’ve got to finish digging potatoes. I’m doing a little bit at a time to keep my post-surgery belly happy. But daily, it is getting less sore and I’m feeling better and better.

The goats are happily munching the squash and pumpkins that were too immature to store and the few that I’ve already seeded. I’m still picking tomatoes, which are continuing to ripen despite the frost. Luckily, many were not damaged by the frost which was a surprise as it was a pretty cold one. Our back porch is full of ice cream pail lids of drying tomato seeds and cookie sheets full of Hopi Pale Grey squash and Winter Luxury seeds and I’m still canning madly before it starts to turn winter. I feel like a chipmunk! — Jackie

Q and A: canning juice and grain mill

Saturday, September 27th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

Canning juice

I got an off brand steam juicer this year, and it is working fabulously. My question is about canning the resultant juice. I am not interested in making jelly, as we don’t use much jelly throughout the year, nor adding sugar to it, as I find the combination of apples I use, or the plums I use, are sweet enough to drink with nothing added. Is it necessary to can it in some way, or can I just put a lid on it and let it seal? I assume I need to can it.

I have a pressure canner that can WBC pints, but is not large enough to WBC can quarts, which is what I want to put the juice in. I have seen on the Presto website that you can pressure can quart jars of apple sauce at 6 lbs of pressure for 8 minutes. Is this what you would do for the juice? I am at 1500 ft elevation. Would these numbers change if I was doing apples vs plums vs pears?

Chrissy Mullender
Luray, Kansas

No, you must water bath your juice; you can’t just put a lid on the hot juice and seal it. Personally, I’d buy a water bath canner or at least a large stock pot that will hold quarts. (I’m a bit confused. You say your pressure canner will can quarts of juice but not water bath them?) Usually if they will do one, they will do the other. Just don’t latch down the lid. I often just put a cookie sheet over mine without the regular lid.

It is recommended that thicker juices such as pear and plum be processed in a boiling water bath for a longer time (30 minutes) than apple juice which is thinner. At your altitude, you’d increase your time by 5 minutes. If you pressure can your juice, you’d increase your pressure by one pound. — Jackie

Grain mill

Our family planted some non gmo corn for making cornmeal. Could you tell me what kind of corn grinding machine you think is the best to use? I also need to know where to order it.

Carolyn Adcock
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Good for you, Carolyn! While I have a hand turned grain mill that certainly does corn, friends from one of our seminars gifted me with a wonderful Nutrimill electric grain mill. I’ve used it for both wheat and corn and I simply LOVE it. It, and the same hand turned mill I also have are both available from Emergency Essentials. www.beprepared.com. Have fun grinding cornmeal. Do remember that whole grains will become quickly rancid so I’d advise only grinding a few cups of cornmeal at a time or else keeping your cornmeal in the freezer. — Jackie

Q and A: using canned cabbage and canning apple juice

Friday, September 26th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Using canned cabbage

I have read how you can cabbage. What did you use it for after? We like fried cabbage and cabbage and potatoes done in the crock pot.

Joline Fleming
Rossiter, Pennsylvania

Sure you can home can cabbage. Some “experts” tell you that it’s too “strong” to can. Phooey! I can it every year. When I go to use it, I simply drain off the liquid and gently rinse the cabbage in cold water. Drain and use. If you want to fry potatoes and cabbage in your crockpot, do the potatoes first (unless they are canned), then add the cabbage as it’s already cooked. I often just fry it, then add a bit of milk. Or I use it in boiled dinners (toward the end). We love our canned cabbage. — Jackie

Canning apple juice

I’ve made some sort of juice by boiling apples in water and canning the resulting juice. It’s the best I can do without a regular juicer. What do you think of that? Also I didn’t know about making apple sauce with the pulp.

Louise Sandy

Before I had a steam juicer, I used to cut up my unpeeled apples, remove the stem, then add a little water and cook them gently, covered, until the apples were soft. Then I strained off the juice with a jelly bag. Once done, you can then either put your apples through a Victorio tomato strainer or use a sieve or Foley mill to separate the pulp from the skins, seeds, etc. — Jackie

We’re still madly harvesting (and having fun)

Thursday, September 25th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »

We’re still hauling in our garden treats and enjoying it so much. I still can’t get over the productivity of our garden squash patch. I counted over 37 BIG Hopi Pale Grey squash and that’s from only six hills! And both the Winter Luxury pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) and Canadian Crooknecks (C. moschata) have produced very well. I haven’t counted them yet, but there are a lot.

Huge-Hopi

Will harvested a couple of buckets of ears of our Painted Mountain flour corn and for the bad situation in that new patch (17 inches of rain on white clay, minimal manure, and weeds from hell) we were real happy with what we got. There are still more ears to harvest, too. We’ve got the Painted Mountain out on a table in the living room to finish drying and Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn on a long table in our enclosed porch to finish up.

Painted-mountain-corn

I’m still harvesting tomato seeds every day and we are talking about some new varieties of tomatoes to add next year (and maybe a corn).

This afternoon, I’m pulling in our onions. They weren’t as good as last year but we are happy with them anyway. The carrots are huge and, boy, do we have lots. The goats are loving all those carrot tops! They see a white bucket and come running with no calling needed. Yesterday I took a machete and chopped off the spent cauliflower leaves and the goats thought that was REAL nice. Munch, munch, munch!

We’re expecting kids this fall with four does getting fatter and making nice bags. It’s nice to have some fall kids as then we have winter milk.

I’ve got to go cut another head of broccoli to dry. See you in a few days! — Jackie

Q and A: canning in an autoclave and canning lard

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 8 Comments »

Canning in an autoclave

My SIL found me a nice All American canner at a yard sale, or so we thought. It seems it may be a sterilizer. It does not have a weight, it has an autoclave. Can I still pressure can in it?

Dawn Norcross
St. Charles, Michigan

If this is the old large All American autoclave that sits on a burner, it’s probably just like mine which I canned with for more than 30 years and still works fine. It has a gauge and two petcocks on top. You can call the company at 920-682-8627 for verification. Some folks claim you shouldn’t can in an autoclave but I’m sure it depends on the autoclave; I wouldn’t can in an electric autoclave. You should have the gauge checked to be sure it’s accurate. Many County Extension offices will do this for little or no charge. Remember to use a rack on the bottom. My autoclave/canner has a separate solid aluminum kettle that drops down into the canner body, holding the jars off of the bottom of the canner. Without the rack, you will break the bottoms out of jars due to the intense heat on the bottom of the jars. — Jackie

Canning lard

In the process of moving my canned goods from my old root cellar to my new one I discovered that a number of my jars of lard, which I had canned this year, had not stayed sealed. I usually wait about 24 hours to remove the rings after canning. The lard appears to be fine. Is it likely to have gone bad? Can I remelt it and can it again? It was really nice lard and I hate to lose it.

I know it is hard but it won’t be long before the doctor lifts your restrictions and you can go “full tilt” again.

Carol
Hightown, Virginia

Your lard is probably fine but I would re-can it. Open the jars and sniff it. If it’s gone rancid I wouldn’t re-can it. But if it smells fine, just scoop it out into a kettle, melt it until quite hot (about 275 degrees), then pour out into hot, clean jars. Wipe the rims well with hot water and a clean dish cloth, put a hot, previously simmered lid in place and screw down the rings. You’ll be good to go.
Isn’t it exciting moving to a new pantry?

I’m glad to get rid of the gallbladder but it IS hard after most of the pain’s gone NOT to lift! Soon though… — Jackie

Q and A: converted woodstove and wild plum pits

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Converted woodstove

We have a woodstove that the prior owners turned into a gas “fireplace” type of stove. They put a hole in the bottom for the gas line, etc. Is it possible to change it back to a wood burning stove? If so, is there a resource to help us through the process? The stove is a Wonder Warm stove (dunham lehr inc./Richmond, Indiana serial #7452). There is no fire brick. It is flat on the bottom — no grates. The stovepipe is still in place — needs to be updated and cleaned! We are in the process of getting the gas line pulled and the gas source capped.
 
Kristi Phipps
Holdrege, Nebraska

You can have a welder weld a patch on the stove where the gas lines passed through. I would probably add firebrick to the bottom as it’ll help keep it from warping or burning through. You can get firebrick at most big box lumber stores such as Lowes. Be sure the stove is far enough from the back (36″ is usually recommended) and any side walls (36″ is recommended), with a fireproof backing and hearth underneath. You can use patio blocks under the stove and a larger stove board behind it. And, as you said, clean out and/or replace the stovepipe if necessary. Do be sure that it’s installed properly as more house fires in the winter are caused by improperly installed and maintained wood stoves than you really want to know. — Jackie

Wild plum pits

I mailed my check today for some of your plum pits. I’m very excited to get them!
 
Can you post a few pictures of your plum trees? I would be interested in knowing how high they get, how wide they spread, how big the fruit is, how long from planting until the first fruit, etc. As well as some planting instructions/tips.
 
Donni
Lowman, New York

I’m sorry to tell you that we’ve about run out of plum pits! We had no idea of the HUGE response we’d have for this listing. Next harvest, we’ll be sure to save many more pits! We’re substituting a pack of our more requested seeds for the plum pits and hope this is okay. If not, we’ll refund payment.

These plums are about the size of a peach tree at full growth, maybe 20 feet tall at most (you can prune them shorter) and perhaps as wide. The fruit is about the size of a half dollar, sweet and yellow flesh inside and a tart red skin. You plant in the fall, water well, and protect from squirrels and chipmunks who will dig up the pits for themselves. In the spring they will sprout. They begin to fruit at about 3-4 years with good care. — Jackie

Food time at Jackie and Will’s homestead

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Mexican-corn

It just dawned on me this morning — our entire homestead is about food right now! Will is hauling in the last of our round bales of hay for the animals. We are madly harvesting the last of our corn before it becomes too starchy to eat and can (right now I’m canning some of Will’s wonderful Seneca Sunrise open pollinated sweet corn). Every day I’m canning something or somethings. Yesterday it was Mexican corn, which is a mixture of sweet corn, onions, and red and green sweet peppers and more enchilada sauce. I’m bringing in baskets of different varieties of tomatoes to harvest the seeds from each day.

Seneca-sunrise

The dried seeds are accumulating slowly, drying on ice cream bucket lids marked with each variety. On the front porch, I have set up a bench and chairs so I can work outside on nice days. It’s a lot easier to wash away the tomato juice and dropped seeds from the porch deck than from my living room floor!

I have two dehydrators set up in the dining room and they are full of broccoli. Yesterday I harvested the first Winter Luxury pumpkin for seed saving. Boy, is it wonderful. It has glowing yellow flesh two inches thick. Today I’m baking it whole, after taking a bounty of seeds. Then I’ll make it into a pumpkin pie. They have the reputation for being the very best pie pumpkin in the world. We’ll see; Will and I really like our pumpkin pie made from Hopi Pale Grey squash.

When I get off the computer, I’m pulling all of our onions so they can dry before being brought in to store. And there’s three big rows of nice fat carrots plus potatoes to harvest. Mmmmm. Food. Food. Food!

NOTICE: ALL OF THE WILD PLUM PITS HAVE BEEN SOLD. We had no idea that so many folks would want them! Next crop we’ll harvest many more. I’m so sorry for those who got disappointed and I’ll substitute with another pack of one of our favorite crops.

Fall-maples

Our fall colors are simply gorgeous right now. I never realized how many maples have come up on our land until this fall as they’re turning color! In a few years our driveway will be flaming reds and oranges, come fall. But we cringe as we know full well that it’s only a few weeks until the pretty leaves have fallen and that white stuff starts. Stack that wood, Will! — Jackie

Q and A: canning enchilada sauce, tornado clucker plucker, using a steam juicer, bringing plants inside for the winter

Sunday, September 21st, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Canning enchilada sauce

You mentioned canning enchilada sauce in your blog today. I searched the archives and found a recipe you posted in 2009. Could you post it again with any updates? I’ll be processing 60 one-gallon bags of frozen tomatoes and would love to make enchilada sauce (and the pizza sauce that you’ve already told us how to make).

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

I think the recipe you refer to is this:

18 dried red chilies
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. boiling water
10½ cups chopped tomatoes
6 cups chopped onion
12 garlic cloves, minced
4 Tbsp. oil
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. ground cumin
½ cup plus 1 Tbsp. wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar

It’s processed at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for pints or 25 minutes for quarts.

I make mine by mixing tomato puree (turkey roasting pan full) with ½ cup brown sugar, 1 cup chopped onions, 1 cup chopped sweet peppers, 2 Tbsp. oregano, 2 Tbsp. cilantro, 2 Tbsp. cumin, about 5 cloves mashed garlic, 1 Tbsp. salt, and 4 Tbsp. chile powder (hot or not, depending on your taste). This is pressure canned the same as above.

Most “traditional” enchilada sauce is made without tomatoes, using chiles, onions, chicken broth, and tomatillos so there’s a wide variety of enchilada sauces! — Jackie

Tornado clucker plucker

Will you be sharing instructions on how to make the ” tornado clucker plucker”? Sure would like to make one.

Dawn Fowler
Rosebud, Missouri

Sure, Dawn. I’m working on an article about this right now. — Jackie

Using a steam juicer

I recently purchased a strainer/juicer at a yard sale — it has three parts: one for water, one to hold the juice and the top one in which to put the grapes. I used it the other day to make grape juice. It seemed to take an inordinately long time before the grapes looked dry and I thought all the juice was extracted. It took approximately 8 hours to do a bushel of grapes. It seemed as though there was a burst of juice and then it just dripped before finally quitting. Is this normal? Or am I letting them cook too long? Also, can I make apple juice using this strainer/juicer?
 
Alice Clapper
New Castle, Pennsylvania

It does take a long time to extract most of the juice from fruit. But the good news is that you get a LOT of juice from the same amount of fruit that you used to get a modest amount from. Be sure to keep the bottom full of water. It will boil dry after several hours and that can ruin your juicer. I would be happy to do a bushel of grapes in 8 hours. You don’t mention a lid, which I’m thinking it has…and needs.

After your juicer pretty much quits, grab the handles with pot holders and gently tip the unit toward you. You’ll be amazed at how much extra juice will flow out. Do be careful of the steam, however.

You can make apple juice or just about any type of juice with it. Tomatoes will produce a “broth” or watery yellowish juice, not “normal” tomato juice which has much more puree. But after taking off two quarts of broth from a batch of whole tomatoes, you can run the shriveled tomatoes through a Victorio tomato strainer and harvest thicker tomato puree that requires very little cooking down. Same thing with apples. You can harvest apple juice then run the apples through a tomato strainer and harvest applesauce that is nice and thick. — Jackie

Bringing plants inside for the winter

I want to bring several garden plants inside for the winter but every time I have done that I end up with bugs, namely aphids that cover the plants. How can I eliminate the problem before bringing them inside?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

What I’d advise is to spray the plants well with a garden hose. Let them dry. Then spray thoroughly with a natural bug spray such as spinosad. Let dry and bring inside a couple of days later. Spray again and then watch plants very closely for a week or so. It’s very easy to bring in pesty bugs as there aren’t any natural predators in your home to keep them in check. I, too, have had trouble doing this. You’re not alone! — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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