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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

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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 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

The “F” word strikes our garden — we had a freeze

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 4 Comments »

We’d been dodging the bullet for a month now and as we listened to our weather radio two days ago, we cringed when we heard the “F” word mentioned for Monday night and tonight. Freeze! Frost warning! So Will and I picked tomatoes for a day and a half straight. Then David and his girlfriend, Hannah, came after work yesterday evening and helped pick more. We knew that what didn’t get picked would get frosted or frozen and be no good.

We have been picking, seeding, and canning tomatoes for a month now but suddenly we were in a rush. Covering would do no good; too many tomatoes and it was probably going to get too cold to matter (which it did). So we picked until after dark. Exhausted we called it good with both our enclosed porch and the front porch loaded with tomatoes.
We not only had to pick them but separate the varieties and tag them so we could also extract seed as well as canning them up. That slowed things down until evening when we finished with separate varieties and just picked buckets full of mixed tomatoes, both green and ripe. We found new favorites as we picked, too. We especially loved the bright yellow, meaty Golden King of Siberia, which ran from a heart-shaped pound of fruit to even larger, meaty, and tasty tomatoes that just shone in the dark.
As it’s supposed to get even cooler tonight, we’re headed out to the garden and pumpkin patches with the tractor and front end bucket to harvest squash and pumpkins before they freeze. (Once they get frozen too badly, they quickly get soft spots and rot.) And boy, do we have lots of pumpkins and squash to pull. Last fall, the cows got out and got into the unfinished barn and ate many of the squash and pumpkins stored there. This year we’re not going to take chances so if you come visit, you’ll have to step around them all over the house! — Jackie

Q and A: canning green beans and replacing native grasses

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Canning green beans

I am at a loss! I have been canning since I was in my mid-twenties…not thirty years plus. I can and have canned everything from jams, pickles, vegetables, stew and meats…no problem…except for green beans. As an older woman I cannot can them and they stay sealed. They usually take one to two weeks to spoil and pop open. I could can them in my twenties…but not now. I have gone through the ‘list’. The jars are clean, they are hot, they lids have been simmered, the beans blanched and not tightly packed and under the curve of the jar. I process as the canning jar booklet says and it is the SAME canner that I can meat in and they stay sealed…two years now. What am I doing to the beans? It is at least twenty minutes of snipping to fill one quart and that doesn’t count picking them.

Susanne Andrischok
South Chesterfield, Virginia

Wow, that’s a new one. Green beans are usually THE easiest food for beginners to start canning with as they are so easy. But for you, this seems to be not so. Are you processing them for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure? Do you possibly live at an altitude above 1,000 feet? If so, you should adjust your pressure to suit your altitude. I’m at 1,400 feet and can at 12 pounds pressure.

Let’s run through the LIST, just to make sure you’re not missing something, okay?

I’m assuming you’re hot packing as you said you blanched your beans so we’ll do it that way.

Have your warm jars ready and be sure no rims have nicks in them. Simmer your lids and have rings ready and lids sitting in hot water.

Ladle your beans into the warm jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Pour boiling liquid on to fill jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to each pint jar and 1 tsp. to quarts. Wipe rim of jar clean with damp, warm cloth. Place previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight (not just finger tight; pretty snug but NOT really, tremendously tight). Place jars into warm pressure canner filled with about 2 inches of hot water. Place lid on canner and turn up heat. Let canner exhaust steam for at least 10 minutes forcefully (not just little spurts).

Shut petcock or place weight on stem. With canner on burner turned on high, let pressure build until it reaches the desired pressure. (If a dial gauge, simply adjust heat to keep the pressure where it needs to be. With a weight, adjust heat so that steam rocks the weight several times a minute but not constantly.)

When the required time is up, turn off the heat. Let the pressure return to zero or with a weight, let it cool just until there is no more steam to spurt out the weight if it is bumped very slightly. (If it still does, let it cool longer. But don’t let it go really cold; you want it still hot when you remove the jars. When there’s no more pressure or the dial has remained at zero for a few minutes, remove the lid carefully away from you and remove the jars.

Place them on the counter, on folded dry towels to cool. DO not touch the jars until they are cool. Wiping the film off lids or poking the lids down will cause the seals to fail. When the jars have totally cooled, remove ring and wash jar with warm, soapy water. Dry and store in a cool, dark place.

I hope you can find something here that you’re doing wrong or not doing. If everything you do is right on, I’d suggest having your dial on your canner checked for accuracy at your local extension office (if it is a dial type). But if it were the dial, other foods would also have trouble staying sealed.

If you’re still having trouble, please let me know. We WILL fix this for you! — Jackie

Replacing native grasses

Last year we bought a small 15 acre place in southwestern South Dakota. The previous owners had many horses. The problem is the native grasses have been eaten or trampled away, leaving to a huge crop of Goatheads, Sand Burrs, and Tumbleweeds.

We have a very low water table, and really do not want to use chemicals. Is there something we can plant that will help snuff out the weeds? I have heard that Rye (not grass) will help, but as of yet we do not have irrigation, so we would need something that would work without additional water.

Laura and Scottie
Oral, South Dakota

Congratulations on your new homestead! I totally understand about your burr situation and especially the Goat Heads. We had ’em in New Mexico. Nasty things! The best things to plant are native grasses. You can buy native grass seed, such as Gamma, Buffalo and Big Bluestem grasses, often through local elevators or seed dealers. You can also check with your county agent for local sources for seed as shipping from online orders can get expensive. We got rid of our weeds and I’m sure you can do the same. But it does take work. Hang in there! — Jackie

The cows got into our pumpkin/corn patch

Friday, September 25th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 2 Comments »

Yesterday Will was bulldozing the horse manure in the horse pasture where we feed round bales all winter up into a compost pile. He noticed that the cows seemed to be too far north on the new pasture. He dismounted from Old Yeller and walked out to see. They’d gotten the gate open into the pumpkin/corn patch on the new pasture and were eating/walking through corn and pumpkins. To make it worse, we were going to have our buyers from The Watering Can nursery out today to BUY pumpkins!
He called the cows and they came right out and he fixed the gate. Today I went early to buy that last 20 feet of fence we’d “Mickey Moused” with six-foot-tall chicken wire.

Luckily, although they had bitten and eaten some pumpkins and squash, there were still a lot that they hadn’t gotten into yet. So Gina and Dianne were still able to fill up their van. Oh well, you can bet that won’t happen again next year!
One thing we’ve learned is that you win some. And you lose some. It’s all part of homesteading. Luckily, Will harvested two feed sacks full of Painted Mountain corn BEFORE the cows got in. And it’s just gorgeous. Meanwhile, I continued picking and seeding tomatoes. I did a big batch of Topaz tomatoes. Boy, do I love them — about ping pong ball-sized perfect light yellow with white stripes. Gorgeous and great in salads too. They’re a new favorite, for sure!
While Will and I sure do our share every day, Hondo is bound to get Will outside faster each morning. Not only does he drag him out of bed by the pajamas, but he pulls his pant legs and jacket if he comes in to sit for even a short break. What a boss! — Jackie

Q and A: canning tomato broth and canning tomatoes

Friday, September 25th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | 1 Comment »

Canning tomato broth

Follow up to the question on canning tomato broth. I can’t figure out how long to keep steaming. My instructions say 60 minutes of processing time for tomatoes. Does that 60 minutes start at the time the steam starts or at the 40 minutes past steam start that you take the first drain of juice? How long do you steam tomatoes, pears, or apricots?

Erica Kardelis
Helper, Utah

I’m hoping you’re talking about using a steam juicer like my Mehu Liisa. I’ve found that I steam my fruits longer than the instructions say in order to get the most juice per batch. I steam until the juice pretty much stops running out the tube, taking care to keep water in the lower pot. Don’t let it go dry or it may warp the bottom of the water container. I steam juice tomatoes, most fruit such as raspberries, pin and chokecherries, wild plums, apples and so much more. You can certainly do pears and apricots too. Using a steam juicer is not like using a canner; you just cook until the most juice has been extracted and the fruit is pretty pale and puckered. It’s not a precise timing. — Jackie

Canning tomatoes

Wow, am not sure what I’ve done except maybe didn’t process long enough. Some of my jars of tomatoes when I go to open them I can literally pull the lid off with my fingers. It’s tight but doesn’t seem like my usual. They look and smell okay and I’ve used them after cooking for at least 15 minutes, think I should dump them? I’m canning like my mom did, hot pack and water bath 10 minutes for pints. I’ve ordered your canning books because someone said tomatoes don’t have the acid they used to and things have changed.

Lin Gendron
Wright City, Missouri

Whoa, water bathing tomatoes for 10 minutes is NOT enough, especially if the tomatoes you’ve canned are a low acid variety. Whole hot packed tomatoes should be processed for 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts and you should be adding 1 Tbsp lemon juice to pints and 2 Tbsp to quarts to allow for the lack of acidity in many varieties of modern tomatoes. I’m so glad you’ve ordered my canning book. You really need Growing and Canning Your Own Food. To be safe, I’d dump those underprocessed tomatoes. So sad … — Jackie

Q and A: canning with hominy and winter weather

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by Jackie Clay | No Comments »

Canning with hominy

I want to can pork posole using raw hominy. Do you have any comments on using the raw hominy? I do not want mushy hominy.

Myra in Arizona

Hominy cans up great. I’ve even re-canned #10 cans of store-bought hominy. I’ve never had it go mushy. With raw or uncooked hominy, just pack it into canning jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Don’t pack it tightly, allowing a bit for expansion during processing. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to pints and 1 tsp. to quarts. Pour boiling water over the hominy, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 55 minutes and quarts for 85 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. — Jackie

Winter weather

So, have you noticed what the beavers might be saying about this winter weather yet? Or am I still too early?

Elizabeth Seymour
Whitefish, Montana

They say that we’re going to have early snow and a moderate winter with average snowfall and cold. Do remember that these are Minnesota beavers. Montana beavers may have another opinion based on their locality. Our beavers have already stockpiled plenty of brush for winter food, but not excessive and haven’t built up huge dams. All of this lets me know what the beavers “say.” — Jackie



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