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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



Jackie’s Fall Homesteading Seminar

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014 by Oliver | 1 Comment »
We’re planning our fall homesteading seminar and are ready to take deposits.This seminar should be a great one, covering such topics as bringing in the harvest, using a pressure canner, canning meats and vegetables, seed saving, long-term food storage, and much more.The seminar will be September 12-14th, 2014 here at our homestead. We’d love to have you come!

Click here to see our brochure. (PDF) –Jackie

Hey guys, guess what? I have a new book out!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 12 Comments »

Well, it’s official, my new book is ready for pre-order at a great 25% reduced price. It’s titled Homesteading Simplified: Living the good life without losing your mind and it details all the different ways a person can make homesteading easier and more enjoyable whether they live in town or on a large acreage … or anywhere in between. I’ve written about livestock, watering systems, gardening, tools, and much more. Because I’ve fielded a lot of questions about how to avoid homesteader burnout, I wrote this book to help homesteaders, new and experienced, make their life easier while enjoying it more.

I hope you like it. — Jackie

Homesteading-book  Our watchdogs, Hondo and Spencer, on watch for the new book.

Q and A: canning meatloaf and pressure canning tomato paste

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Canning meatloaf

We have a question about canning meatloaf. Or, fancier, canning terrines. We bought a slicer recently, and my wife said, “Why couldn’t we can the terrine fancy meatloaf) in a wide mouth jar and slice it when we pop it open?” I think this is a great idea.
 
So, we need food safety input of course. Canned hamburger is obviously OK. Adding spices would be the next hurdle. We don’t like high fat stuff, so our terrines are as low fat as they come. Second, do you have any recipes or experience canning meatloaf in a jar? All input welcomed!
 
Hope your recovery is going well, Jackie.

Tim Inman
Randolph, Iowa

Thank you. I’m slowly gaining on it.

We used to can meatloaf in wide mouth jars. But then the experts decided that it was not really safe as it’s a very dense product and it’s possible that the food in the center of the jars might not be heated high enough, long enough, for safe processing. So now we don’t can dense foods like meatloaf, refried beans, pureed pumpkin, etc. But you CAN make your meatloaf recipe into meatballs and can those with either a tomato sauce or mushroom sauce (not thick!). The steam and boiling liquid in the jars is able to freely circulate around the meatballs, rendering it safe to process. On opening, you can place your meatballs in a casserole dish and bake as you would a meatloaf. The taste is the same. You can find recipes for canning meatballs in my book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. — Jackie

Pressure canning tomato paste

I am curious why I can’t find any recipes for pressure canning tomato paste? I see recipes for pressure canning every other form of tomato, but nothing for paste. I would like to pressure can paste if possible because (I am assuming) it would can up a lot faster than in a bath canner. What are your thoughts?

Cathy Holcombe
Ault, Colorado

While we used to can tomato paste, it is no longer considered safe. Tomato paste falls into the “foods too thick and dense to safely process” category, along with meatloaf, pureed pumpkin, and refried beans. Experts feel that it is possible that the paste in the center of the jars might not get hot enough for long enough for safe processing as it is so thick. So now we can tomato puree and sauces but skip the paste. To get paste, just cook down a relatively thick tomato sauce before using as paste. — Jackie

Freeze!

Monday, September 15th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Well, it finally happened — Thursday night it froze. David came over in the afternoon after his college course was finished and helped Will cover what we could, hoping to save at least a portion of our tomatoes and peppers. At six p.m. it was 42 degrees. By nine, it had dropped to 38 and the clouds had moved out, leaving it as clear as a bell. Not good!

Tarping-tomatoes

We woke early to 28 degrees and heavy frost. Too cold to even run the sprinklers to offset frost. Bummer. And even covering the crops did not completely save them, as many plants were limp and dark.

The squash and pumpkin vines were limp and dead and even the sweet corn stalks were toast.

I feel especially bad because I’m recovering from my gallbladder surgery a week ago, and couldn’t even get out to pick what I could to ripen later in the house, as I always do. (One more reason to have at least two years’ worth of food canned in your pantry.)

Friday I pecked away at it a bit at a time (can’t lift much and sure get tired quickly).

Will pitted our last 19 pounds of wild plums as several people have asked if they could buy pits. Then he put the flesh in the Mehu Liisa and juiced it. We ended up with a gallon and half of plum juice which I’ll can up to make jelly later on, when I get time. While he was doing that, I made a big batch of enchilada sauce with the tomato puree Will cranked out with our Victorio tomato strainer. We were almost out of enchilada sauce so now we’re stocked up much better with 15 pints.

Even though a lot of our tomatoes were killed, the heavy leaves on many of the plants did protect some tomatoes so we’ll be able to harvest quite a few to finish saucing and saving seeds. — Jackie

Q and A: canning soup, pecans, and potatoes

Friday, September 12th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 3 Comments »

Canning soup

I have a recipe for a “diet soup” that comes with instructions for varying it up with Asian, Mexican flavors, etc. It occurred to me that I see no reason it can’t be pressure canned. Is it safe for canning? Do you think the zucchini and spinach would get mushy during the canning process? Is this one of those things I could just divide the ingredients up between jars, and let the canning process cook it?

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

I’m sure your soup can be safely pressure canned. As I don’t have the ingredients, I can’t give specifics, but in general you must can at 10 pounds pressure using the time required for the ingredient requiring the longest time of all ingredients. No, the zucchini and spinach won’t get overly mushy but DO steam the spinach a bit to wilt it down in bulk before canning and heat the ingredients thoroughly before putting in the jar. — Jackie

Canning pecans

Have you ever tried to can pecans with Tattler lids? I have tried numerous times but I cannot get them to seal even though I am doing everything by the book. Do you have any suggestions? I still have some of last years pecans in the shell that have not turned. I know that they will soon and due to a terrible spring I am not getting any off of my tree this year, so I need to save all that I can.

Staci Henderson
Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Yes, I have. I’ve done both walnuts and pecans and haven’t had trouble with them sealing. Are you following Tattler instructions? They are different than Kerr or Ball instructions in that you will be barely “fingertip” tightening the rings when you put them into the canner and then immediately tightening the rings after taking them out. Remember, it’s 10 minutes at 5 pounds pressure. If you can’t get jars to seal, I’d call Tattler. They’re great at helping folks walk through using their lids. (If you just can’t get them to work, use regular lids for your pecans.) — Jackie

Canning potatoes

I canned some potatoes and then gave them a hot water bath. I then realized that I was supposed to pressure can them. Two weeks has passed. Can I still pressure can them?

Amy Mergen
Sartell, Minnesota

I’m real sorry but those potatoes are toast. There’s no way they’d be safe to re-can after two weeks. Remember to always pressure can ALL vegetables and meats. — Jackie

Q and A: source for jars and how to store Hopi Pale Grey squash

Thursday, September 11th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Source for jars

My husband has been subscribing to your magazine for several years now, but I have only recently begun reading all of your wonderful articles. Now we fight over it when the mail arrives! I have just recently ordered your new canning book and recipe book and can hardly wait for it to arrive. Thanks so much for sharing all the fantastic things you do.

Now to my question…I am starting to can again after nearly 30 years of not doing it, so I am starting all over again to buy jars and lids. It’s astonishing to me, after all this time, at how expensive the jars and lids have become. I was wondering if you had a good online source for buying them at good or wholesale prices, even if it is in a large quantity. We live 25 miles from the nearest good sized town, and when I do occasionally get by a yard sale or thrift shop, I never seem to see anything like this.

James & Catharine Lawhon
Polk City, Florida

I’m glad to have you aboard and tickled that you’re again back to canning. No, I don’t have a source online for cheaper canning jars. The shipping really bites you there! Things that have worked for me in the past are putting a small ad in various places: your grocery, laundromat, feed store, local free shopper, etc. Telling everyone you’re looking for jars and shopping for sales on jars locally. We’re 30 miles from a larger town and I know what you mean. But I often find jars and canning supplies on sale there if I needed to stock up. And NO shipping cost! — Jackie

How to store Hopi Pale Grey squash

How do you store Hopi Pale Grey squash? What are the normal environmental variables for where/how you store them? Normal temps, amount of light, humidity etc.

J. Fowler
Austin, Texas

I’ve found that Hopi Pale Greys store best out of direct sunlight, with lower humidity and temps between 55 degrees and 70 degrees, or “normal” household conditions. Do NOT store them in a cool, damp basement or they’ll rot quicker. I’ve stored them on the floor of our living room, under our bed, and in the closet; they aren’t a bit fussy! — Jackie

Yep, I’m still alive and kickin’

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 11 Comments »

I am back at home after my gallbladder surgery last Thursday. Luckily it was the minimally invasive type and I only had three “holes” in my tummy. The pain wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t hack the pain meds as they made me sick to my stomach. No good! So I quit them after two doses. My only restrictions are to not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for a month and “take it easy.” Hey, I’m trying!

But the garden is out there laughing at me. Everything is coming in heavily. Luckily, Will is helping me pick tomatoes and turn the Victorio tomato strainer. Boy, do we ever have a wonderful variety in the garden this year. Besides our favorites, like the Bill Bean tomatoes, we have some new “favorites” like Indigo Blue Beauty, which is kind of dark blue/purple on top and a brilliant orange below. Besides being gorgeous, it’s open pollinated so we can save seeds and is HUGELY productive with medium large tomatoes with wonderful flavor. And then there’s Indigo Kumquat, unfortunately a hybrid, but it is also gorgeous in salads and has great tomato flavor.

Indigo-kumquat
We have a few truly free-range chickens (escapees). Will’s favorite breed, Black Sex Links lay abundantly but are also escape artists. One hen (we call her Peg) got a feed sack string wrapped tightly around her leg and by the time we noticed, it had cut the circulation off in her lower leg. We caught her and cut the string off but she lost the lower portion of her leg. Being soft hearted, we did not butcher her. Fortunately, she healed up fine and is so handy on that leg that you hardly notice that she’s missing her foot. After she had healed, I put her into the chicken coop where I thought she’d have an easier time. Wrong! The other chickens nearly pecked her to death in one morning! So out of the coop she went. Well, she healed from that and is now a permanent free-range girl. And she free ranges right into the garden if we leave the gate open, helping herself to our tomatoes. Oh well, we sure have plenty!

Peg
We checked our Howden pumpkins in the pig pasture and I’ll bet we have a truckload! And they are HUGE. I couldn’t reach around some and they aren’t even orange yet. They sure like the manure!

The weather radio is calling for low temperatures Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights with a possibility of frost/freezing. Eeek! I hope not. Pray for a bit of warmth for us, okay? — Jackie

Our weather feels like fall now

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 16 Comments »

And I have a beaver report. The beavers in our pond say we’ll have a pretty “normal” winter with plenty of cold and snow, although not as bad as last winter. We’ll see how the “little guys” forecast turns out this year.

As the leaves are turning and the night time temps are getting to feel sharp and cool, it’s putting pressure on us to harvest like crazy. I’m still making jelly from the wild plums, with another batch in the Mehu Liisa tonight.

Wild-plums

Tomorrow at 6:45 we have to be at the hospital and by the time you read this blog I will be gallbladder-less. Finally! I hope…

Will and I went down to his corn and pumpkin patch in the old pig pasture. We have ripe Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (the corn Will has bred back from hybrid to open pollinated). It looks great and I can’t wait to give it a taste. We also checked out the Howden pumpkins we planted down there and found dozens of BIG, round green pumpkins! Wow, how productive they are! We raised them for seed for our little seed business but we’ll have lots for the animals and chickens, too.

Our Hopi Pale Grey squash are also very productive (like that’s a surprise!) and getting big. Next to them, we planted Winter Luxury pumpkins, a medium-sized beautifully-netted pie pumpkin (C. pepo), and Canadian Crookneck which looks like a long-necked butternut that’s early, large, and very tasty (C. moschata).

The Glass Gem popcorn is still growing. It’s like Jackie and the beanstalk! Most stalks have at least four ears, many five and six. And the tillers that have stooled out from the mother plant also often have ears. The funny thing is that on the mother plant, newer ears are popping out between the stalk and the older ear! No, it’s not GMO corn!

Firefall

Our Early Firefall tomatoes that are of our own breeding are now producing like mad. They are a medium-sized plum tomato that I use for tomato sauce — very meaty and flavorful. They also have a point on the blossom end and are pretty, hanging in groups. — Jackie

Q and A: fertilizing fruit trees, canning peach juice, growing Bill Bean tomatoes, and using Aronia berries

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Fertilizing fruit trees

 We moved to a new homestead in Alabama this January. It is in Zone 8. I’ve planted peach, plum, apple, and pear trees. All are doing well and are 4-6 feet tall. I water them every other day and wonder if they need to be fertilized before winter. The ground here is sandy but I planted them in $1000 holes with a lot of composted hay/horse manure. I don’t know how to label the horse manure; what number to give it. Thanks for your pictures and advice, I look forward to your emails and articles.

Alecia Lee
Salem, Alabama

No, don’t fertilize this fall. You’ve already given those trees a good start. Just keep ‘em watered and they’ll be fine. In the spring, mulch well with rotted manure right out to the drip line or more. That will fertilize them, keep the grass/weeds down, and help hold moisture in the soil around the roots. Be sure to wrap your tree trunks with screen or hardware cloth to prevent voles or rabbits from eating the tender bark of the trunk. — Jackie

Canning peach juice

Have you ever canned peach juice? If so, could you pass on the recipe/guidelines?
 
Lynda King
Bolton, Massachusetts

Not lately, as we don’t have enough peaches available; they are $37 a lug here! But back when I was a newer homesteader in Michigan, I did. And it’s easier today as we have steam juicers, such as my Mehu Liisa. With a steam juicer, just cut the peaches in quarters, removing the pit. Then fill the fruit container and add water to the lower unit. Turn on the heat and extract the juice. If you don’t have or can’t borrow a juicer, pit the peaches and dice them. Put in a large pot with minimal water and mash them with a potato masher. Heat under medium heat, stirring frequently so they don’t stick and scorch. When the fruit is very soft, dump into a jelly bag and let drip until finished.

To can the juice, place in a kettle and slowly heat, adding sugar or other sweetener if desired to taste (optional). Ladle out into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts). — Jackie

Growing Bill Bean tomatoes

Do you think that Bill Bean tomato will grow in south Carolina? A very impressive tomato!

Sam Stevens
Aiken, South Carolina

Heck yes! And they taste SO good, too! — Jackie

Using Aronia berries

Regular reader of your blog and always look forward to it. Would like to know if you have any suggestions for using Aronia Berries other than juice and jelly. Have an overabundance of them this year and hate to see them go to waste.

Craig Lough
Hawks, Michigan

Our motto here is “Waste Not, Want Not.” So here are a few suggestions for using your berries. Can them up in half pints using the same directions as for blueberries. Then you can use them in recipes calling for blueberries or any other fruit, such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes, etc. Or dry them as they re-hydrate nicely and you can save room by dehydrating and storing many in a very small container. Just lay them out on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate until small and hard. — Jackie

Q and A: keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment, early Fall weather, and freezing eggplant

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Jackie Clay | 6 Comments »

Keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment

I heard that they don’t make a refrigerator/freezer that can be used in a cabin that is allowed to get cooler than 55 degrees. We have been turning our thermostat down to 50 degrees when we leave so it might get that cool for a week or more. Sometimes the freezer section gets above freezing when we do that — the fridge part stays at 35 degrees okay, but it doesn’t run long enough to get the freezer cold (I guess this is a common problem). All kinds of people keep fridges in garages and on back porches — I don’t think most people know how to operate a fridge/freezer properly or safely. Most of the information I have found on the Internet on this subject has been very lame. What to do?

Gordon Hoffman
Lewiston, Idaho

You might try an older refrigerator. I know several people who have older fridges in their unheated garages/lightly heated cabins that work, both fridge and freezer. I’ve been told that modern refrigerators’ manufacturers figure that NO modern people would use a fridge in a lightly heated home; they are built for “normal” living conditions. — Jackie

Early Fall weather

I wanted to share with you how well the Bill Bean tomatoes have done this year. We actually got a 3 pound tomato too! We couldn’t believe it! It is a very meaty tomato, and has a great flavor. Have you ever heard of or grown an Italian heirloom (I believe) called Purple Plum? They are a smallish pear shaped tomato with a smoky flavor. If you are interested in trying them, I’ll be happy to send you some seeds. I am also wondering if you have noticed anything unusual with the weather this year. I live in So Indiana, and I feel we are having an early fall this year. And I mean REALLY early. A few of us noticed about 3 weeks ago, lots of leaves on the trees just turning yellow, or completely brown, and then falling off. Other trees are starting to change color. And even though I got a late start in my garden this spring, everything is coming to the end of its life cycle and begging to be harvested. It’s so weird. I’ve never seen such an early fall. All the leaves on my winter squash plants have completely withered away, and the same is happening with the Hopi squash. Should I harvest them now? We are still having 90 degree days here. I will say that it has been a mild summer for us, with a cooler spell mid summer for a couple weeks. But weatherwise, we didn’t seem to experience any stressors. It’s just got me perplexed. I thought you might have some insight.
 
Lisa Graves
Georgetown, Indiana

No, I haven’t grown Purple Plum tomatoes and would LOVE some seeds to give a try next year. I’m tickled that your Bill Beans are doing so well! I’m harvesting some right now. MMMMmmmmm! Yeah, this year is “different” alright! I know first we got 17 inches of rain, then heat and drought. The rivers are as low as I can remember right now and our leaves are falling, too. Are your Hopi Pale Grey squash bluish gray yet? If not, I think I’d leave them a bit and see if they get enough nutrients through the remaining vines to go ahead and mature. If not, harvest before it frosts hard. They’ll keep over a year even if immature and they still taste good although not as good as if they had matured. I think our weather is just in one of those weird cycles. — Jackie

Freezing eggplant

Is there any way to save/freeze/dry eggplant until the tomatoes are ripe to use in marinara? The tomatoes are just starting to ripen. Not sure how many will actually get to ripen before frost since I am seeing scattered gold on the locust and cottonwoods. A few willows look like they are changing too.

Thank you for all the info on canning & drying squash. I canned 30 quarts on Sunday and Tuesday last week in addition to giving away a lot. I am now resorting to drying. I did try drying broccoli for the first time and green beans. Really a huge space saver. Drying jalapenos, bell pepper and Fresno chilis now as well as 2 racks of squash. Obviously, I have been on “vacation!” I have several quarts of potatoes canned. Can they be sliced and dried or would it be better to wait on fresh potatoes although I am not even seeing blossoms yet. I have gotten finished canning my 1/4 beef and will be getting another 1/4.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Yes, you can freeze your eggplant. Just pick and quickly bring inside, peel and slice about 1/2 inch thick. Blanch for about 4 minutes, then plunge into ice water to quickly cool. Drain very well, pack into freezer containers to exclude as much air as possible, then freeze.

We’re getting leaf color changes too and the birch are losing their leaves. It SO feels like FALL! It sounds like you’re plenty busy now. So are we! Wow, so much food — how great that is.

I’d wait and dehydrate fresh potatoes as your canned potatoes are already “put up.” Sometimes potatoes don’t bloom at all. We’ve had that happen in the past and still harvested great potatoes. You can peek under a hill with your fingers to see what’s going on. Will did that and pulled out a big fat potato.

Oh yes, beef! We’re thinking of that too, having four steers ready to go this fall. We’ll keep a half and sell the other three and a half sides/quarters. The steers look so nice and fat on good pasture. I can hardly wait! — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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