Fortunate, for sure. Lucky? Maybe. Or maybe it’s just that he’s always been with his dad and I, wanting to “help” with whatever we were doing. And since he was a little kid, maybe two years old, he wanted to be “big” and work with us. Sure it was easier to do it ourselves without a kid tagging along, getting in the way. But it was fun, too. Sure we had to re-do his “work” when he wasn’t looking. And yes, it took longer to have him “help” us. But would I have changed a thing. No way!
I just ran across these pictures that are so much alike, down to the red fiberglass handled hammer and thought they told a wonderful story. David is still using that red handled hammer, albeit a little less red and a whole lot more worn. He used it after his dad died and I was going through cancer surgery two years ago to help build our house.
And in doing that, he also learned a whole lot of life skills; masonry, carpentry, log building, roofing, electrical work and plumbing. Now we have a bulldozer; a new tool. And he’s busy “playing” with it and also learning to run it very well. So far he’s leveled a garage/shop site, widened our trail to the horse pasture, dug a water hole for the horses, cleaned two fence lines and dug up a sand pit to repair holes on our road with.
I don’t know what David will end up doing for a career. But he has the beginnings of a whole lot of choices of marketable skills and that’s always a plus. And he’s learned work ethic along with how to actually enjoy working.
16-going on 17 boy, going with friends to high school sports and dances. He has a bigYes, he plays video games….for a few minutes in the evening. Yes, he’s your typical speaker in his truck that throbs his arrival. But I like to think that he’s different in that he’s learned to enjoy life….whether working or playing. And that’s something a whole lot of folks never do. Way to go David!
I printed readers’ questions below with my answers.
Goat milk soap
I recently bought a really nice goat milk soap and matching moisturiser at a farmer’s market but unfortunately that lady has since moved away. Now that I have a Saanen doe in milk, I’m wondering if you have ever run across good instructions for these sort of things. The only soap recipes I could find were not for goat MILK soap but for goat tallow soap [ erk ]. Also thanks so much for the yoghurt instructions. Haven’t tried ’em yet but am going too. Definitely.
Goat milk soap is really easy to make, but the directions take up too much room for me to run this blog; as you can see, it’s gotten huge this run. But you can check out the website, candleandsoap.about.com. If you can’t get it, try going through goat milk soap. They have a nice site and have thorough directions for you. Basically you’re exchanging the goat milk for the water in the lye soap recipe; there are a few differences, though, so check out the site. — Jackie
Scorched tomato sauce
Is scorched tomato sauce really bad for canning? I just made some and unfortunately scorched the bottom. It does taste a little burnt but not so much as to be inedible. Is it possible to can or freeze
it still, or will it go bad? Are there any tricks that work well for disguising the burnt taste?
Vancouver, British Columbia
Canning or freezing your scorched tomato sauce won’t make it worse….or better. Try simmering the sauce then adding a few peeled chunks of raw potato. This will sometimes absorb the scorched taste. Won’t work every time, but it’s worth a try. No, there’s really nothing that will disguise the taste. — Jackie
Tomato juice, bread, kraut
Love your articles and need your help:
(1) TOMATO JUICE SEPARATES. I heat raw juice until hot, seal in jars, put into pressure canner, 11# for 20 minutes. When done and when cooled it stays separated, with tomato floating in top half of jar and water in bottom half. I shake before serving and it tastes good. How can I keep it from separating?
(2) WHITE BREAD HAS GRAINY TEXTURE. When I make bread in my bread machine (white flour recipe includes 1 egg), rolls or loaf bread is light but has grainy texture. How can I get smooth texture, like dinner rolls or store bought bread?
(3) Cabbage WONT FERMENT INTO KRAUT. I cut raw cabbage into quart jars, add 2 teasp.salt, cover cabbage with hot vinegar & water mixture (1cup vinegar to 1 Gal. water) and seal. Kraut should be ready in 2 wks. Other people use this simple recipe with success, but not me. My cabbage turns a slight pink color, continues to appear raw and never turns the kraut color (when salt & vinegar ferment cabbage into kraut). What am I doing wrong?
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
My tomato juice always separates during storage. That’s normal. Just shake it up before serving.
To make your bread smoother and lighter, knead it more than once. But it won’t (thank God!) turn out like store bread. We call that gooshy bread around here. But Mom likes it. Go figure.
Pink sauerkraut is generally caused by a growth of yeasts on the surface of the kraut. These yeasts can grow when there is too much salt or it isn’t mixed well enough with the cabbage or if the kraut isn’t weighted or well covered by brine.
A reliable quart-at-a-time recipe is to sterilize quart jars. Cut the cabbage and press it down firmly into wide mouthed quart jars. Leave 1 inch of headroom. To each jar, add 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp honey. Fill slowly with boiling water and insert a knife blade here and there to release air bubbles. Leave about 1/2 inch of headroom and put the lid and ring on. Set the jars in a tub in a cool dark place. You want temperatures of about 65-70 degrees. Check the jars every few days. The juice will leak out of the jars. After about 6 weeks, the kraut should be cured.
Open the jars, wipe the rims well, then clean the lids and pour boiling water over them and let them sit in the hot water. Place lids on jars and screw down the rings firmly tight. Process in a water bath canner for 20 minutes. Be sure your water bath has returned to a full rolling boil before you start counting your processing time. — Jackie
Finding affordable land
Dismayed! I moved to northern Minnesota in May. Coming from 6 hours south I didn’t think the price of land would differ so much, boy was I wrong. My husband and I had a small 5 acre farm in southwest Minnesota and of course have no intention of ever living in town. As we look at places here are mouths and hearts drop a bit. The price is double what we paid for our place in SW Minnesota. I am wondering if there is a trick to finding and buying land up here so that a person can build and have their own homestead.
Moose Lake Minnesota
Unfortunately, real estate prices took a sharp upward leap several years ago. I know because we were looking for land about at that time. Then (about 5 years ago), you could buy a 80 acre farm up here on the Iron Range, for about $69,000, with buildings. Now you would pay double for it! Ouch! I know what you mean.
But there still are places to be had if you don’t give up. But it will take work to find them. Call realtors, put ads in local shoppers, put up flyers, talk to people. You’ll probably have to settle on a “fixer-upper”, but I’ve always loved the challenge of fixing up a tired old place. They have character. And they can become a stepping stone to bigger and better things down the line, if you so desire.
Our 120 acre farm, 12 miles southeast of Moose Lake was purchased for $13,000 in 1972 and folks told us we’d paid too much!!!! This was with a big old barn, a farm house, fields and woods. Go figure. (They just sold the buildings and 40 acres for $129,000!!!) But keep at it and I’m certain you’ll find something you love for a price you can afford. — Jackie
Harvesting sunflower seeds
I just logged on to your blog and love it. I need your advice about harvesting sunflower seeds. They really liked this hot dry summer. I think your donkeys are great. I would love to have one or two. Any pointers would be appreciated.
You can begin harvesting your sunflower heads when the seeds look ripe and the petals start dropping off the head. Beat the birds to them, because they sure love sunnies! I tie some hay string around the stalk part of the head and hang them upside down, two at a pair, over a rafter in the dry basement or in an attic, away from birds and rodents. When they are nice and dry, I either hold the head in my lap over a big bread bowl and rub the seeds off or put a frame made of wood and heavy duty hardware cloth stapled to it, over a small barrel or even a wheelbarrow, lined with a clean sheet. You rub the seeds over the wire and it shuck them right off the head. To clean them, toss them up from a wide basket in a breeze. This will blow most of the chaff away, leaving clean seeds.
I’m glad you like my donkeys. I love them. They’re so funny and smart. They came from parents adopted as wild burros from out west. They’re learning to stand tied now and pick up their feet. They ran wild with their mothers and were pretty wild when I got them. — Jackie
Another potatoe canning question: I have a bumper crop of potatoes and would like to can some. Every recipe i’ve read says to peel them and I agree BUT when I dig them up and scrub them there is no peel left and I can’t tell where the peeler has been. What should I do peel them anyway or scrub them really well and go for it?
Sure, just scrub those new potatoes. You peel them because some potato skins are thick and tough or because people “just peel potatoes”. Personally I like potato skins and prefer not to peel mine; just personal preferences again. — Jackie
Jam gone bad?
I took some jam I made out of the freezer and left it out 2.5 days then put it in the frig…hubby thinks we could get sick eating it …what do think.
Swartz Creek, Michigan
I don’t know the recipe you used, so I can’t tell you for sure. Generally, if a jelly looks fine, smells fine and tastes fine, it’s okay. But again, I don’t know what recipe you used, so I can’t say for sure. — Jackie
I was wondering if you have a food dehydrator. If you do, what kind would you recommend purchasing.
Yes, I have 2 dehydrators. They are different brands but are basically the el cheepo round plastic dehydrators with stacking trays that are available at most chain discount stores and larger hardware/farm supply stores. But like everything else, you get what you pay for. Mine do a very adequate job for me, but some day I sure would like one like the Excalibur! Only I can’t seem to find the cash. Sigh. I’ve used the back of our old Suburban, sheets on a tin roof and tins in the warming ovens of my wood stove. They all work, but a dehydrator is faster and neater. — Jackie
Do not use a steam canner
I was hoping you could give me some insight into a “new” (at least to me) canner I have been seeing advertised lately. It is a steam canner and is supposed to be used to can things a hot water canner does, but it uses less water and in turn less energy to accomplish the canning. I have copied and add for the “steam canner” below and wanted to see if you thing it’s safe and worthwile. For me the energy savings would be worthwhile (if the canner is safe) as the added heat and humidity the regular canner puts in the house sends the AC into overdrive- especially as the temps here in Central Alabama have hoovered in the 100’s the past couple of summers. I’d love to hear your take on the steam canner. Also, is there a way to can celery for later use as a cream of celery soup? I know you recommend that cream soups be canned as the veggie alone because the milk curdles, but my canning books only recommend drying the celery. Do you have any suggestions?
Steam canners are NOT recommended safe method of home canning, regardless of all the advertising. I don’t have one and wouldn’t advise anyone to buy one.
Yes, you can home can celery. I do it all the time. I have right now, two nice rows of celery growing in the garden, just waiting to be canned. It’s so convenient to have half pints of celery on the pantry shelves!
To can it, wash and trim off tough leaves and the bottoms. Cut into pieces. Cover with boiling water and boil 3 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid. Pack into jars, add 1/2 tsp salt if desired and cover with hot liquid, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints and half pints at 10 pounds pressure for 30 minutes. Very quick and easy and so handy later on! — Jackie
I have a few of those ‘seal a meal’ vacuume sealers. I really like how they work and would like to know if you have any experiance with them. I would specifically like to know if you, or anyone, has used them for ‘canning’. I would like to make up large batches of soup, stew, chili, veggies, Etc. seal them up, put them in a pressure cooker and then put them on my pantry shelf the same as canned
foods. Should I just ‘can’ them the same as normal and see how that works? I would love to open up that space in my freezer and be able to store up a lot more food.
St Cloud, Minnesota
No, I really haven’t used the Seal-a-meal vacuum sealer. But, no you can’t use them in place of canning. Removing the air from a bag is not the same as processing the food at a high enough temperature to kill possible lurking botulism spores. Either freeze your meals or else can them; I can a whole lot of “instant” meals in a jar and find them very useful for hurry up meals. — Jackie
Canning grape juice
Can you can grape juice with the seed……maybe by using a vitamixer to crush the seed and then straining it and canning it? If grageseed is so good for us, I really don’t want to waste it!!!!
Amy M. Hoffman
There is no reason you can not can grape juice from whole, processed grapes; it’s just a matter of preference as to the final taste and appearance. Give it a try and see how you like it. — Jackie
Oily canning jars
I was just canning some chicken in wide mouth pint jars and it happened again and I do not know why. The jars are oily from the chicken fat but I do not can the fat just with the broth that I cooked the chicken in and I left the 1 inch headspace and I am concerned that the oil may have gotten under the lid.. In the past when this has happened the jars were fine and when I opened them
they were sealed and I haven’t lost a jar yet. Am I doing something wrong or is this just what happens durring the canning process.
This happens when you can any meat or poultry; sometimes the grease in the meat blows out during processing. I can’t remember when I’ve ever had a lid fail to seal because of it, although that could happen. If the jars are greasy feeling when they cool, simply remove the ring and wash the jars with warm soapy water. This will not cause the seal to release and lets you store nice clean jars. — Jackie
Canning recipe with gravy
You are a font of practical information! I’m new to canning and having an absolute blast! My husband is a trucker who’s gone 3-4 weeks at a time, and really enjoys being able to take home
cooking with him. I have a family recipe that I would love to be able to can & send out with him, but am unsure of how without killing him. The buttermilk chicken that I make has lots of thick, buttermilk/mushroom gravy and I haven’t found anything on how to safely can buttermilk. Do I just follow a standard, boned chicken canning recipe of 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (pints)? Will this keep the buttermilk safe? Also, every canned chicken recipe I’ve found says to leave the skin on. I always take the skin off before I cook any chicken recipe. Do I have to leave it on?
Raleigh, North Carolina
It isn’t recommended to can recipes containing “gravy” that is thick because the inner temperature of the jar might not be high enough to ensure safe processing. I can chicken both with the skin on and with the skin removed. It makes no difference; depends on your preference and the recipe you choose to use it for. — Jackie
I seem to remember an article you wrote waaaay back (in my younger days) about canning cheese? I was recently able to secure a LARGE quantity of Colby Jack, medium and sharp cheddar cheeses and would like to can them for future use. Can you please help as to the process? I thought it was via water bath, but I’d hate to lose all those pounds by doing something wrong. Also, any info on their shelf life would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for your help and sharing your zest for all that life holds.
Mary et all
Braxton County, West Virginia
I have successfully canned cheese by putting wide mouthed jars in a roaster pan half full of water on a low heat, cutting the cheese into chunks and slowly melting it until the jar was full to within half an inch of the top. These pints were water bath processed for 35 minutes or pressure processed at 10 pounds for 10 minutes.
However, I’ve read several articles by “experts” decrying this method, saying it could be a potential for botulism. Personally, I’m not convinced, but I must tell you of this. After all, how about aging cheeses for several months at a low room temperature???? Wouldn’t want to put a beef roast out on the counter for that long…… — Jackie
Canning a homemade meal
Being single I sometimes want to make something from a recipe serving 4 or 6 or the like, divide it up and freeze what I don’t eat right away. Do you know of any reliable way when reading a recipe to know if it can be frozen? I don’t like eating the same thing for several meals/days in a row. I know I can probably duplicate somewhat things like beef pepper steak and rice that I see in the frozen food department but what about other things?
Molly R. Moody
San Antonio, Texas
You can freeze just about any homemade meal. If in doubt, just try it! It’s how we learn to do so much more than we think we can. Sure we’ll fail sometimes, but frozen food won’t harm anyone. Most meals freeze just fine. It is a good idea to date them, as many foods won’t freeze for long periods of time due to insufficient removal of air from the containers. Use freezer type boxes/bags for best results. They lock better and are thicker to retain freshness longer. — Jackie
Grapes, grapes, grapes
I was recently given the opportunity to purchase slip-skin grapes (I’m assuming they’re concord, but I suppose it doesn’t really make a difference either way) at $12 per large banana-box (I’m thinking
like 20 lbs?). I had the same deal last year, and made a lot of jam. A lot. I still have a bunch left over, and I’m already out of pint jars from jam and pickle canning this year. What we really like is
pie (I have a grape pie recipe from Farm Journals Country Cookbook that we love). We are big pie eaters, and I usually just freeze the berries till I need them. Is there a way I could freeze slip-skin
grapes? Should I freeze them first, and then slip and de-seed them after they defrost? Should I slip and de-seed before I freeze them? Should I make the pie filling in it’s entirety, and freeze that? Or
is there really no good way to freeze slip-skin grapes?
Also, a lot of people I know make grape juice, which is not our preferred method of eating grapes, but is a lot easier. Most people just put the sugar and grapes at the bottom of quart jars, fill with
water, and process. Then they strain it right before serving. Could I do this without adding any sugar, or is that a necessary step? I really don’t care to sweeten grape juice, or at the very least, not that much (1/2-1 cup sugar per cup of grapes!). Actually, while we’re talking not-so-sweet, I recently saw a recipe for “grape butter” that didn’t use any sugar at all (from the book, “Stocking Up”. It only used grapes and water, and then got cooked down as apple butter would be). Is sugar necessary for preserving, or does it just help jam jell up? (I don’t have health issues with sugar, I just don’t care for things that taste that sweet. Good fruit is pretty sweet on it’s own.)
Finally, several years ago I found (finally!) a pickle recipe that everyone loves. It’s ‘quick kosher dills’ from Carla Emery’s encyclopedia, and it uses lower temperature pasteurization (water temperature between 180 to 185 F). The recipe calls for pint jars, and a processing time of 30 minutes. Can I do quarts of this pickle recipe? Do I have to adjust how much time to process for larger jars?
Chenango Forks, New York
You can cut the grapes in half, seed them and freeze them in a light syrup, slip the skins and seed them, freezing them in a light syrup or make your pie filling and freeze that, depending on your preference. All will work for you.
To make grape juice, wash and remove the stems from your grapes, barely cover with water in a large kettle and heat slowly to simmering. You don’t want them boiling or they may scorch. Cook slowly, stirring occasionally until grapes are very soft. Strain through a bag and add 1/2 c. sugar to each quart of juice, less if desired. Pour into clen jars to within 1/2 inch of the top. Process for 15 minutes in a water bath canner. You can home can this juice without sugar if it is sweet enough for you. When you do this you can also use this juice to make grape jelly at a later date.
Sugar sometimes has to do with preservation, but it’s most often used for sweetening and making jelly and jam jell. There are now no-sugar and low sugar pectins that help with the sugarless jelling. You can put up food to your own tastes and preferences; there are recipes available. For instance, when you can peaches or other fruit, you don’t HAVE to use a sugar syrup; you can use straight fruit juice or even water. But the flavor is not the same as when you can with a light or medium syrup.
I have never used the lower-temperature pasteurization method in Carla’s book. I either bring my pickles just to boiling and seal them or else water bath my quarts for 15 minutes when canning “quick” pickles; i.e. pickles packed raw and having had boiling brine poured over them. Done this way and carefull timed, they come out nice and crunchy. — Jackie
Pickles too salty
I just made my first one n a half gallons of Homemade Polish dill pickles. The ingredients included water, dill, garlic cloves, kosher salt, and the pickles. After three days, I snuck a taste, and it was saltier than I want. Is there anything I can add to my two enlarge pickle jars to cut down on the taste of the salt. ? Vinegar ?
Without seeing the amount of ingredients in your pickling recipe, I’m kind of lost. But you may just have to wait for a couple of weeks; pickles don’t develop “pickle” flavor for at least that long. Yours are too fresh for sneaking a taste. Let ’em ripen more. Then taste them. It’s hard to “remake” pickles as you have to reprocess them and that softens them. If after several weeks, they still taste too salty, I’d make a fresh brine with less salt, drain the pickles and pack in a hot, sterile jar. Then pour on the fresh boiling brine and reprocess in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. And hope for the best. — Jackie
Looking for a homesteader mate
I’m a 28 and going on 30 year old man. I have been out of school for a bit now and am looking for a woman who is interested in homesteading and a rural life. I have high standards and am looking
for a young woman who is fresh out of college and ready to start a family. Where do I look?
Why not try putting a personal ad in BHM? Several people have told me that they had wonderful luck doing this. It IS hard to find homestead-minded match mates; we seem to be a breed apart. You seldom find ’em around the usual places. Give it a try and see how you do. The price is right! — Jackie