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Thursday, December 12th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »
Potatoes with strange texture
For the last two seasons, my purchased winter potatoes have had a strange texture and a pale brown mottled appearance in the flesh. The flesh which is brown and mottled will not break down via boiling and mashing and retains a characteristic raw, starchy texture. What on earth is causing this?
These potatoes were purchased from two separate farms in two separate years, one farm organic, one not, and were of two different varieties, Yukon Gold and a generic unnamed white-flesh variety.
Although I’ve never experienced this I have two possibilities for you. First, are you storing your potatoes where it gets below 35 degrees? Chilled potatoes will get brownish or greyish netting and spots in the flesh and that may also cause them to not cook down well. Another possibility is a potato virus such as potato leaf roll or potato virus Y. You can search Potato Virus diseases online; Cornell has a great site with photos so you can compare your potatoes with the pictures. I’m sure this is a frustrating problem for you. Let us know what you discover. — Jackie
I read the back of the Heinz catsup bottle the other day at a grocery store and saw that it had high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup as two of the ingredients. There was an original recipe Heinz that was also being sold but it was significantly pricier. I decided to research recipes online and found this one and made it (with a few modifications). The kids and I both loved it. My question is how I would go about canning it, if I were to triple up a batch? Here is the recipe (the modifications that I made are in parenthesis).
1 can (6-ounce) tomato paste
1/2 cup light corn syrup (I used honey instead)
1/2 cup white vinegar (I will probably cut it to 1/3 cup)
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar (I used Sucanat)
1 teaspoon salt (I used sea salt)
1/4 teaspoon onion powder (I used my own)
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder (I used my own)
Mix all together over medium heat. Whisk until smooth. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Makes about 1-1/2 pints.
Can I do this in the water bath canner? If I have to pressure can it because of the changes, would I just mix it and pour into jars, and consider the canning time as the cooking time?
I recently divorced (about 4 years now since he left) and am now a single mother raising 3 children. We started gardening to save on our food bill and have been do more and more urban homesteading as we go. We raise poultry, rabbits, and sheep and goats (those are off site). We have been saving so that we can find a small rural place of our own someday. We can and dry everything we possible can. I even made off with the fruit from my mom’s Thanksgiving centerpiece after we left this year and dried it. We are having a blast, and I would like to thank you for all the knowledge and wisdom that you have shared. You have truly been my inspiration and encouragement in this journey.
Yes, you can water bath this recipe — doubling, tripling, or even more. Bring it to a boil, stirring to keep from scorching, then ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (Make sure to time from the time your boiling water in the canner returns to a full rolling boil after adding the jars. And if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time, if necessary.)
I’m so happy that you and your kids are doing so well and having fun doing it. Divorce or becoming a widow, which I’ve had experience with both, unfortunately, is never easy on anyone but overcoming the pain is a huge step. Especially when you’re doing something positive to do it. Here’s hoping you and your family will find that little bit of heaven on earth real soon. Meanwhile, enjoy each day. Know I’m pulling and praying for you! — Jackie
Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »
Doing chores in freezing weather
I have been following your temperatures almost daily and I wonder how you do your chores with such very cold temps. Must be a challenge. And how do your chickens manage in the sub zero temps? With the short days and little sun, like many of your readers, my thoughts turn to gardening and seeds. I would love to hear more about the seeds you are planning on offering for sale so I don’t order them somewhere else. It will be another income source for you and Will and I want to make sure I give you most of my business. Any more pics of Hondo and Spencer? How much does Hondo weigh now? All the best Christmas wishes to you and Will and David.
Yep, we’ve got unusually cold temps right now. We don’t usually get this cold until after Christmas.
We do our chores in segments: water the goats up here, grain them, then give them hay. Go into the house and warm up. Water the chickens and feed if the feeder is getting low. Water goats down in the goat pasture. Go inside and warm up. Grain goats in goat pasture and give them hay inside so they use extra for bedding. Go inside and warm up. You get the idea. Not so bad when you do it that way, although it does take longer. Watering the animals down by the new barn is more of a chore, taking several hours. (Heat water lines by running generator to power heat tape inside lines for an hour. Meanwhile do something else.) Dig out hoses. Open hydrants in barn and by generator shed. Turn on well. Water animals as needed. And so on.
Our chickens and turkeys are in their small coop. It’s pretty well closed up in the winter although they get out on nicer days. Because it’s small and there are quite a few bodies inside, it doesn’t get awful cold. We keep it well bedded with wood shavings.
Yes, we’re thinking about seeds too as we’ve already gotten several seed catalogs. Thank goodness it gives us something to look forward to. (I buy a few all winter so it’s not so spendy later on!) We’re planning on offering the following seeds (and some more as we see how others germinate and hold out): Tigerella (large red and yellow striped cherry-type, early), Old German (big beefsteak, yellow with red striping throughout; very sweet and great taste), Italian Tree Tomato (that huge red beefsteak with wonderful flavor), Bill Bean (old Italian huge beefsteak that’s become one of our favorites), Cherokee Purple (big, sweet, fairly early slicer with great coloring), Hopi Pale Grey squash (ancient, very rare, excellent keeper — two years +) and Howden pumpkin (which is a C. maxima and shouldn’t be grown anywhere near Hopi Pale Greys if you want to save seed). Also Provider bush green beans and Dragon Tongue (flat bush bean with yellow with purple stripes that go away when you blanch, cook, or can — great flavor! Again, we may offer more but we’ll have to see. Thanks for thinking of us. Yes, any homestead-generated income is looked forward to around here; it makes more projects possible!
I will take more pictures of Hondo and Spencer. Hondo weighs about 25 pounds now and is very long-legged. He’s only four months old and looks to be a BIG boy!
And a very MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours, too! — Jackie
Using frozen strawberries
I have an abundance of frozen strawberries in my freezer. I would like to make something that I can give as gifts by canning, but I’m a little tired of jams. I’ve seen a couple of recipes for strawberry vinegars but they call for fresh strawberries, not frozen and I don’t know if they are good for canning. Do you have a recipe for something like that or some other suggestion for using frozen strawberries?
How about making strawberry preserves and spicing them up by adding 1 tsp. almond extract and chopped pecans just before ladling into your hot jars? This is pretty, different, and real easy too. For those who you’ll see or visit just before Christmas, how about making a simple cheesecake like Will’s Cheesecake on page 182 of my book Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook. If you don’t have the book, here’s a brief run-through:
1 graham cracker crust, unbaked
2 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar (may add more to taste, up to 2 cups)
2 cups frozen strawberries, sugar added
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
Mix first six ingredients in medium bowl, whipping well. Put in graham cracker crust. Cover and set in freezer to stiffen up. Meanwhile, drain juice off thawed strawberries. In small saucepan, mix water and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat, stirring well until thickens. Add strawberry juice; mix well, then add strawberries. Heat and stir until it makes a thick glaze. Cool to room temperature. Ladle over frozen cheesecake (the cold helps it quickly stick in place). Put in freezer again, covered until you wish to gift it. It’s something everyone loves! — Jackie
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »
We’re under an Arctic blast with HIGHS in the below zero readings and lows … well, we really don’t want to go there. So we do chores in steps, warming up between, then do things inside that have been let slide for awhile. Will’s again working on the rock wall behind our wood stove in the living room. It’s slow work getting it just right, but he’s definitely making progress. I’m excited to see the way it’s turning out. And impatient to see how it looks finished with the rustic wood shelves in it, too! My grandfather collected Indian relics from his fields where he farmed and I have a couple of old wooden crates with ax heads, spear points, and arrowheads in them and we’d love to display them on those shelves. The last time some were displayed was back in the forties in a Canadian museum! And with our family’s Native heritage, those pieces speak volumes to us.
I’m getting ready to can up the frozen Thanksgiving turkey and rearranging things in the house to get rid of the clutter that happens on a busy homestead.
Brrr. I just looked at the thermometer. It’s noon and -8 degrees. I guess those beavers sure knew what was coming! — Jackie
Friday, December 6th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »
Broken egg yolks
In the last few months most of our eggs have broken yolks when cracked to fry. Nothing else is wrong with the eggs. We have not changed chicken food or anything else. Any ideas?
The two most common causes of this are older laying hens (5 years plus) and insufficient protein in the diet. I’d try switching your chicken feed and see if this helps. Or try giving your hens a handful of cheap dry cat food daily. This is high in protein and in several amino acids that often aid chickens’ egg-laying problems. Be sure they have some greens too, whether it is kitchen scraps, sprouted grain, or even alfalfa meal soaked in boiling water. That really helps. — Jackie
Wrinkled bean seeds
We always save our Kentucky Wonder bean seeds for our next year’s crop, & sharing/trading. This year I noted that most of the seeds have a wrinkled finish, some more than others. Usually I’m pretty sloppy about seed saving, just leaving a few on the plants to dry after the killing frost, then throwing them in a box to shuck later. This year, after the frost, I got motivated & strung the beans inside, (no direct sun, cool & dry) to let them dry. In your estimation, will these seeds be ok? I mean, I got wrinkles & I still work…
Mason, New Hampshire
Hey Deb, so do I! But usually wrinkled beans are beans that weren’t quite mature when pulled and dried, but they usually aren’t good. To make sure, just take several beans and wrap them in a washcloth or several folds of paper towel, dampen it with warm water (don’t get it soaky drippy wet), and place in a bowl. Put the bowl in a warm place and keep the towel damp. You will either get sprouts within a week or so or they won’t germinate. That way you’ll know for sure if your seeds are good or not. Here’s hoping! — Jackie
Thursday, December 5th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 15 Comments »
They said it was going to snow pretty bad so we got ready, moving things we hadn’t gotten out of the way, putting the snowplow on the truck, making sure the animals had plenty of bedding and feed. Then it started snowing — inches per hour. And it snowed all day. Later in the afternoon, David plowed the driveway so he could get out to school (they still hadn’t cancelled it!) and Will started snowblowing the trails around the buildings.
If you’ve never had a snowblower and live in “winter country,” let me tell you how much work they save! Now we would never be without one.
Yeah, both Will and I have shoveled hundreds of feet of driveway and paths on the homestead. But Will’s grandfather also dropped dead shoveling snow, as do many people every single snow storm. Not only is the snowblower easier on you but it blows the snow in any direction you wish and leaves the edges of the clean areas smooth with no big berm that gets bigger as winter progresses…and also causes snow drifts to form.
We ended up with about two feet of new snow out of this storm and the temps are dropping to HIGHS of around zero all of this week. I guess it is lucky we got the snow first as it’ll help keep things such as septic tanks and water lines from freezing. But BRrrrrrrrrrrr! Hey Will, throw another log on the fire. — Jackie
Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 5 Comments »
Although we have had a great fall with little snowfall until now and relatively decent temperatures for northern Minnesota, winter’s definitely here. I’m just recovering from a real nasty bug and poor Will’s been trying to get things done outside to get ready for the big snowfall that’s starting to hit us. We’re getting 2 inches today, another 2 inches tonight, 2-4 inches tomorrow …
Since Will has the roof done on the barn, he’s trying to get enough lumber cut on the sawmill to put up temporary walls to keep out the snow so he can work this winter on the hay loft floor. (And so we can kind of use parts of the barn.) And then there’s the unfinished front porch roof … We’d like to get it covered before too much snow hits us. So while I’m working on an article today, he’s cutting boards in the snow. Luckily, it’s not too cold but we’re heading for sub-zero HIGHS later in the week. Yuck! — Jackie
Wednesday, November 27th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 14 Comments »
Our Thanksgiving will be small and quiet with only David, Will, and me around the table. Of course our house pets, Mittens, Spencer, and Hondo, will share our bounty with us and the livestock will get special treats to celebrate our bountiful year.
Hondo is getting huge for a “puppy” only three months old! And he’s so smart, already being potty trained, going to the door when he needs outside, sitting on command with military precision (if you don’t praise him right away he does a “double sit,” sitting on his tail with his legs sticking right out under him), and he already is bringing in firewood with Spencer! He also has learned that Will’s comfortable old chair is doggy friendly. Sometimes he shares it with Spencer and sometimes he gets it before Spencer does! When Will comes in, he has to evict the dogs to sit down. Hondo is the last one out, giving Will the “do you really, really mean “get down”? Or is it just a suggestion” look.
Such a fun addition to our homestead. He already “guards” the gate to the goat pasture while I go in to feed grain. But I don’t know what would happen if one of the goats challenged him. Right now, they just play the game and stay away from the gate.
Again, have a real Happy Thanksgiving and count your blessings! — Jackie
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013 by Jackie Clay | 10 Comments »
My oldest son, Bill, shot a nice seven-point buck the first weekend of season this year. And he called to ask if he could come and spend some “quality time” with me and, of course, cut up the meat. He learned to can with a pressure canner last year and came to our seminar this summer. His mother-in-law had bought a used canner at a yard sale and had never used it. It is a Presto, 1970′s vintage with weights and no gauge. So I showed him how to use it. Simple, huh Bill? We canned up all of the stew meat in short order. He cut steaks from the best parts and we tossed all of the other meat into a grind bowl as he wanted to try sausage this year. We had fun and made short work of that buck.
I’d never made sausage with a sausage stuffer and Bill brought up seasonings and casing. As Will had bought me an electric meat grinder with sausage stuffing attachments, I learned along with Bill. And guess what? We made great summer sausage! I fried up a patty with the leftover meat in the grinder’s auger and it was real tasty. I’m sure we’ll both be making more sausage in the future. — Jackie