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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

Click here for Summer of the Eagles Click here for Autumn of the Loons

New Listing of Heirloom Seeds on Jackie & Will’s new website

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Jackie | 15 Comments »
Our homestead seed business is up and going for 2014-2015. We are raising most of our own historical, open-pollinated, definitely non-GMO seeds right here at home in Northern Minnesota. We have many more varieties to offer this year.Our seeds are from beautiful, often rare, wonderful varieties that we love for their production, shining colors, and taste. Some, such as one of our favorites, Hopi Pale Grey squash, is so rare it was teetering on the brink of extinction.
Our prices are right, as is our shipping, so please come take a look at (If you can’t access our website, just e-mail us for the listing!) seedtreasures[at]

Q and A: canning sauerkraut and canning potatoes

Friday, October 9th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Canning sauerkraut

I made a small batch of sauerkraut but only let it ferment for 4½ days. Last night I water bath canned for 15 minutes. My question: is it ok that it was only fermented to a mild level for canning that way?

Jim G.
Mount Vernon, Ohio

The sauerkraut didn’t have enough time to barely start fermenting; Normal fermenting usually takes over a month. I’m thinking yours would be pretty bland or salty instead of having tangy good taste. And without fermenting it wouldn’t be safe for water bath canning; you’d have to pressure can it as if it were fresh cabbage. I hope your batch was small; refrigerate and use up real soon. — Jackie

Canning potatoes

The grocery store had red and white potatoes on sale about a month ago so I grabbed up some to can. I have been canning or helping my momma can food my whole life but potatoes was one thing that we did not grow (because there was not potato ground) or can. I canned the red potatoes with the skin on and the white with the skin off. Neither turned out good at all. Followed all appropriate time and pressure, but did not pre-boil them but did rinse till water was clear. They look good, the water is not cloudy, but taste horrible. When heated, drained and mashed they taste more like glue than potatoes. I typically raw pack all of my vegetables and did not read to pre-boil them till I was looking in your book on the time to pressure them. Why do you figure why they taste so bad, was it because I did not preboil them? I was really looking forward to having potatoes in the pantry that I could just dump, heat and mash. It is just too warm here to store bought potatoes, here all they do is rot. I don’t have a cellar yet and do not relish the idea of dehydrating 100+ pounds of potatoes.

Staci Henderson
Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Canned potatoes don’t taste good when used as mashed potatoes. You did nothing wrong. They ARE great when added to roasts, stews, or soups. I often use mine as creamed or au gratin potatoes. Try ’em one of those ways and see if the taste doesn’t improve a lot. While I still raw pack my canned potatoes, the “official” recommendations are that you pre-boil them so this is what I felt I needed to say in my book. Either way works fine, in my opinion, but pre-boiling does tend to soften the potatoes. — Jackie

Q and A: canning applesauce and canning yellow squash

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Canning applesauce

My wife made applesauce and froze the entire batch with the exception of enough to fill three canning jars, one for us and two for the daughters. She put our jar in the refrigerator but left the two jars for the girls on the counter because she was going to visit them the next day. We are new at this and the morning after she made the applesauce I found articles on botulism from storing wet foods in a sealed container and about applesauce being susceptible to molds, yeasts, and enzymes if not canned properly. She took the better safe than sorry approach and threw away the jars for the girls after we read the articles.

I tried a search BHM on applesauce articles and storage but I am not certain the search function is working because I didn’t get any returns\results. Do you have any experience with keeping applesauce in a closed container without canning or freezing?

Terry McClary
Coshocton, Ohio

Applesauce will not keep long at room temperature, even when enclosed in a canning jar without proper canning first. It is quite prone to mold and fermenting. Always refrigerate jars of applesauce instead of storing at room temperature, even for a seemingly short time. Or take a few minutes and can it up. It’s easy and will then store nearly forever! — Jackie

Canning yellow squash

Yellow squash that is too mature and gets hard. What can I do with it? Can it be peeled and canned?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

Yes, it can be peeled, sliced and made into bread and butter pickles using a syrup meant for cucumbers. Or you can grate it and make zucchini bread or bars. — Jackie

Putting up the harvest

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Now that we’ve got most of it in, we’re going full bore, putting up the harvest. I’ve begun digging potatoes and WOW are they nice this year! I started on the row in the new north garden and 10 feet gave me a six-gallon bucket nearly full; all nice, big, solid Dakota Pearls. Today, I hit the main garden as our temps are dropping down to the low twenties at night.
Yesterday I put up pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce from tomatoes Will cranked out of the Victorio tomato strainer and the day before I made my last batch of Cowboy Candy, using red jalapeños. And I made a double batch of syrup for them and used the extra to make Cowgirl Candy… I used the jalapeño-flavored spicy syrup and red sweet peppers. I tried a couple of half-pints last time I made Cowboy Candy and we really liked the less-spicy variety too. Experimenting like that is so fun. I ended up with 19 half-pints of Cowboy Candy and 15 of Cowgirl Candy.
This afternoon I’ll be canning salsa and a bushel of pears our friend Tom brought up from his visit in Wisconsin. Thanks Tom! — Jackie

Q and A: canning dried beans and spicy carrot pickle recipe

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Canning dried beans

I have a question about canning dried beans. I canned kidney beans for the first time. When I use a jar now they are packed tight and not much fluid. What did I do wrong? I soaked them overnight. I pressure canned them. Maybe I put too many in a jar? Did I fill the jar too much? If you can give me an idea of what to do to have looser beans in the jar and more fluid I would greatly appreciate that.

I used pinto beans for baked beans and they did the same thing. Is there a way to stop the bean from expanding further?

Wild Rose, Wisconsin

Fill your dry beans no more than ¾ full after soaking them overnight. If you’re having too many packed beans, just add ½ a jar full and try that. Be sure to allow a full 1 inch of headroom as all beans will expand during processing. — Jackie

Spicy carrot pickle

Is there any way to make the Spicy carrot pickle recipe for diabetics?


You could substitute Splenda or another low/no calorie artificial sweetener for the sugar but add the sweetener just before packing the jars to keep it “sweet.” Let the syrup return to boiling before packing. — Jackie

We’ve finally got nearly everything harvested and inside

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 7 Comments »

Whew! It’s been freezing nearly every night so all the squash and pumpkins had to come inside. This year, we’ve put them all in the house. (Last year the cows got out and ate a lot of the ones we stored in the barn. Now we stumble over pumpkins and squash everywhere. They crowd the entryway, the spare bedroom, the kitchen, and dining room. More than 120 Hopi Pale Grey, two dozen Apache Giant, 20 San Felipe pumpkins, 40 Howdens, a handful of Atlantic Giant pumpkins, Gila Cliff Dweller squash, and some assorted ones from here and there.
On top of that are buckets full of potatoes and rutabagas. I still have to pull the carrots and parsnips.
Oh, I didn’t mention the crates of tomatoes sitting everywhere, even on top of the piles of squash, did I? There’s FOOD everywhere!

I’m sure not complaining, but folks’ eyes sure bug out when they come in the house, nowadays! –Jackie

Q and A: canning garlic with green beans and adding meat to pintos when canning

Saturday, October 3rd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Canning garlic with green beans and adding meat to pintos when canning

Question one. Would throwing a couple large cloves of garlic in a jar of green beans while canning, be safe (considering the various warnings against canning garlic)? Question two. Since most recipes for canning dried beans don’t mention using meat, would it be okay to add a small amount of side meat or bacon to pintos when canning them?

Rick Gibson
Floyd, Virginia

I would not add the garlic cloves to your green beans. Too dangerous. You could, however add a little garlic powder for flavoring if you wish. The reason for this is that the garlic cloves are more dense, where the powder is simply a spice and is not dense. You can add a LITTLE bacon or ham to your pintos when you can, as you would, adding a LITTLE ham or bacon to baked beans you’re canning. But this is for a bit of flavoring. If you add more than a little, you must process your pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes to be safe. — Jackie

Q and A: spicy carrot pickle and pine nuts

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Spicy carrot pickle

I have your book Growing and Canning Your Own Food, and your other books, but can’t find a spicy carrot pickle recipe. Maybe you have one? Maybe something with onions and jalapenos? I absolutely love all your recipes and actually learned how to can from your book!

Draza and Regina
Miramonte, California

Here’s our favorite spiced carrot recipe, a carrot relish you can even eat as a side dish.

3 lbs carrots (12 medium)
5 medium green peppers
4 red jalapenos
6 medium onions
6 cups white vinegar
2 Tbsp. celery seed
¼ cup salt
6 cups sugar

Clean carrots and peel. Remove ribs and seeds from peppers, peel onions. Put all vegetables through a food chopper using a coarse blade. In a kettle, heat vinegar, spices, and sugar to boiling. Add ground vegetables. Simmer for 20 minutes. Pack while boiling into hot jars, leaving ¼ inch of head space. Process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. (This will make 8 half pints.) Hope you like this recipe. — Jackie

Pine nuts

First I would like to say I love reading your articles. I have used many of your recipes. My wife and I recently went up to the mountains and picked about a gallon of pine nuts. I read how good they are for you and noticed they are $20 a pound at our local health food store. I would like to know a little more about them and if you have any recipes.

Grand Junction, Colorado

Lucky you, Richard. I just love pinyon nuts. In New Mexico, we used to go up to the mountains and harvest them, making a picnic outing of it. You can shell and eat them raw but we liked to toast them. To toast them, you can either lay them in a single layer (shelled) on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven at low temperature, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes or soak them in water, drain, then sprinkle with salt. Then roast them as above. Pinyons (or pinyon nuts) are excellent in salads and vital for pesto sauce. They are a traditional great with lamb, veal, pork, chicken, fish, duck, and game birds. Pinyon nuts are also popular in stuffings, sauces, vegetables, soups, pesto, stews, sweetmeats, cakes, and puddings. I really liked to add them to simple sugar cookies. — Jackie

Q and A: thawed berries and cooking Hope Pale Grey squash

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Thawed berries

First, I absolutely adore you and have followed you for years. I feel like a distant but loving sister.

My freezer failed and some of the berries defrosted then refroze (we think a mouse nesting in the coils caused it to overheat). Can I still use them to make jam/preserves/jelly or are they a total loss?

Claudia Barnard
Oldtown, Idaho

Claudia, I’m thrilled to be your new sister! If the berries still look and smell okay, taste a couple. If they haven’t fermented or started to mold because they were too long thawed and warm, they should be just fine to use for jams, etc. But if they are pretty questionable, toss ’em out, just to make sure. — Jackie

Cooking Hopi Pale Grey squash

Well now that you have Hopi squash growing around the country, what are some of your favorite ways to cook it? I ended up with 30 huge ones. I fried some up with potatoes the other day. Very tasty. I love the flavor. Thank you so much for your seeds.

Joni Warren
Canyon City, Oregon

Every day I find new ways to use this very versatile and tasty squash. One great way is to seed and bake it until tender. Then fry up some Italian sausage, onions and bell peppers. Put this mix in the bottom of a casserole dish and layer mashed, baked squash over it. Top with grated cheese. Pretty darned good!

I’m so glad so many folks have gotten Hopi Pale Greys grown and harvested. It was so close to going extinct that it scared me. — Jackie



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