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
Archive for September, 2008
Friday, September 26th, 2008
It’s so nice, having a helpful, fun loving guy around the place. Especially when he’s so handy at everything homestead! While I’ve been madly canning up a storm as the tomatoes, corn and other veggies ripen, Will has been busy taking up the slack around the homestead, getting ready for winter. The goat barn is now weather-tight, the driveway has been moved off the buried water line, and today, he brought a big round bale over by the well casing (which froze two years in a row). With the chainsaw, he cut out a hole in the very center of the bale. By alternating between cutting and pulling out the hay, he got a nice deep hole…just right for the well casing.
To tip the bale up onto the casing, he used “Old Yeller”, our trusty bulldozer. (If we didn’t have the dozer, we would have used a chain and the pickup to tip it up.) It took only one try, and the bale slid right onto the steel casing. Last year, we had no freeze-up on the well because we had lots of snow and because I had piled straw bales around the casing. The big round bale is bigger, tighter and warmer. And with a cap of tarp to keep water from oozing down into the hay and letting frost work in, we should be great for winter this year.
In the meanwhile, I have been busy canning salsa from the last batch of tomatoes out of the garden. We are still having them ripen out there, as we haven’t had more freezing weather. Wow! After last year’s hauling them all in green to ripen inside, it’s a treat!
Hot pickled mixed vegetables
I love your article on canning meats. I have never done anything like it before and following your instructions in BHM., made it easy, and a success! Also, have made your recipe for Sweet Sweet Watermelon Rind Pickles, they are to die for!
My question is, do you have a recipe for Hot Pickled Mixed Vegetables?
Evening Shade, Arkansas
I use the recipe from the Ball Blue Book, as it’s pretty much a standard for hot mixed vegetable pickles. Here it is, in case you don’t have a Blue Book.
1 1/4 pounds 3-4 inch cucumbers, cut into 1 inch slices
2 cups 1 1/2 inch sliced carrots
2 cups 1 1/2 inch sliced celery
2 cups peeled pearl onions
2 sweet red peppers cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 cups cauliflowerets
2 hot red peppers, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch rings
1 cup canning salt
4 quarts water
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup mustard seed
2 Tbsp. celery seed
6 1/2 cups vinegar
Combine vegetables in a large bowl. Dissolve salt in cold water; pour over vegetables. Let stand 12-18 hours in a cool place. Drain; rinse and drain thoroughly. Combine sugar, spices and vinegar in a large sauce pot; boil 3 minutes. Add vegetables; simmer 5 minutes. Pack hot pickles and liquid into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Adjust two piece caps. Process 15 minutes in a boiling water canner. Note: When cutting or seeding hot peppers, wear rubber gloves to prevent hands from being burned. — Jackie
Green pumpkin apple pie
Have you ever made pies out of your green pumpkins? You can make one that taste like apple only better. All you do is cut up your pumpkin in thin slices as you do apples. Then when you mix up your spices for apple pie and mix with the pumpkin slices and sugar add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and mix well. Add to your pie crust and bake as you would apple pies. That way you don’t lose all those green pumpkins. And we really like this pie better than apple pie.
Varnville, South Carolina
Yes, I have. They’re great. I also make “apple” pie out of small, hard green tomatoes. That’s awful good, too. (You treat the tomatoes as if they were apples; no vinegar.) It’s amazing at what good things you can make out of what you have. Our apple trees only gave us one apple this year. But that’s a start! — Jackie
Growing potatoes in tires
I read your article about growing potatoes in old tires. I have read that this in not an organic practice as the roots will absorb chemicals from the tires. I look forward to your response.
There is a lot of debate on this one, as there is about making raised beds out of railroad ties, treated lumber, etc. I haven’t seen any reliable research that indicates that potatoes absorb chemicals from tires. If I find any, I would be less inclined toward the practice, of course. There are a whole lot of people out there that garden entirely (no pun!) in used tires, as raised beds. Does anyone have more information on this from reliable sources? — Jackie
I would like to make and can apple butter using the Crockpot for the cooking. What is the best way to do this?
I haven’t made apple butter using a Crockpot, but I’d imagine it would work fine. Just put your puree into the pot, following your recipe, and turn it on. Leaving the lid off would let it cook down faster, but don’t fill it too full;you don’t want it to “blub” out onto your counter. I cook mine down in a big roasting pan in my oven, set at 250 degrees, as I live off grid and don’t have a Crockpot. — Jackie
Mineral deposits and rust stains
I recently got about 5 dozen quart canning jars given to me and they were a mess from being stored in a cellar for many years. I was able to clean them up except a few of them look like they have a cloudy white film in the glass that won’t come off. Also, there are what appears to be some rust(?) stains that I can’t get removed either. Do you have any suggestions? I don’t think it will hurt anything to use them, but foods look so much more appetizing in sparkling clear jars.
You can try boiling the jars, a few at a time, in a mixture of 1 quart of vinegar (cheap-not organic apple cider) and 1 gallon of water. This often removes any mineral film on the glass. The rust stains can usually be scrubbed off with a green nylon scrubbie and dish detergent; get vigorous. If there are a few left on, oh well! I’ve got rust stains on some of my auction-purchased jars. — Jackie
Canning barley soup
We made a large amount of barley Soup for supper and we were wondering if we can water bath and seal for later use or do we have to pressure can.
I have not canned barley soup, and I can’t find a recipe for canning it. No. You can’t water bath it as it is a low acid food. If your soup has meat or broth in it, you would have to pressure can it for 90 minutes (quarts) or 75 minutes for pints, as the meat is nearly always the ingredient that requires the longest processing time. — Jackie
Low acid tomatoes
Is there a simple way to tell which heirloom tomatoes are high in acid? When I went to can my tomato sauce this year, the grocery stores were out of lemon juice. I believe the sign said a crop failure? Anyhoo, I’m getting ready to order my seed for next year and would like to avoid the lemon juice issue all together. I’m kinda new at this and the catalogs don’t really specify low acid from high ones. Help please!
Usually, the low acid tomatoes are relatively “new” varieties and they usually say “low acid”. To be sure, you can use litmus paper, available at many drug stores. Even your high school science department can usually spare a little for you. This is a reliable test for acidity. — Jackie
I planted all sorts of things this last spring. Everything from pumpkins, watermelon, to green beans and zucchini. Nothing but my tomatoes came up. I was so disappointed. My neighbor told me that we had bugs that ate our plants before they were big enough to sustain themselves. I would like an organic garden, how do i deal with these pests?
I really doubt if it was bugs that caused your failure. Usually “bugs” eat the plants once they’re up. The usual reason for seeds not producing plants is that they were not kept moist enough during and just after germination. (Or they were kept TOO moist and the seeds rotted.) Letting the garden soil dry out, even for a couple of days can effectively kill germinating plants. This often happens in new gardens, were the soil has not been built up well. I had this problem this year with my own rutabagas. Keep at it and get a lot of organic material worked into your soil this fall and winter if you can. Plant your seeds in the improved soil, keep it watered nicely and see if that doesn’t do the trick next spring. Keep at it; you WILL succeed! — Jackie
Monday, September 22nd, 2008
My handsome and adorable boyfriend, Will, flew in on Thursday and I haven’t sat still since! Our sweet corn suffered during the recent freeze, and I’m canning it up like mad. I’m so happy to report that the harvest far exceeds my expectations. Like by triple. Wow! And we’re eating it at every meal, too.
While I’m shucking and cutting, Will has been busy around the homestead. The biggest improvement came with the moving of the driveway OFF the buried waterline to completely away from it by twenty feet. Not only will it make it less likely that we’ll be without water in the future, but our driveway will be usable in the winter, making an easy to drive circle; so easy in fact that large trailers can make the loop too.
We’re harvesting every day. Yesterday, we did corn and Will’s pea seed, along with tomatoes which I processed into tomato sauce. This is in my large roasting pan, in the oven on 250 degrees, slowly cooking down. What a huge labor saver!
We’re tired tonight, but it’s a great “tired,” as so much is getting done. Sitting together in the dark new living room addition is so very nice.
I do have a question about canning meatballs. My magazine was loaned out that had your article of canned “convenience” foods and I haven’t been able to get it back yet. I will write the BHM office and get a copy of it sent to me, but in the meantime I want to can some sweet and sour meatballs. I read somewhere that you aren’t supposed to can stuff that is thickened with cornstarch. I don’t remember the reasoning. Here’s my recipe. Do you think it would be OK?
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 20 oz. can drained pineapple tidbits
In a bowl combine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Add green peppers and onions and stir until thick. Remove from heat and add pineapple.
I would make my meatballs and cook them, add them to the jars and then pour this mixture over it. I would have to double or triple the sweet and sour sauce.
Is this something you would think is OK? The pineapple would probably be pretty mushy by the time it’s done processing, but the flavor is really good.
Another meatball question (I have about 100 pounds of hamburger in the freezer and I need the space) Is there a way to can the meatballs without any kind of sauce at all. I would like to be able to add sauces to it after opening the jar. If so, how do you do that?
The reason you aren’t supposed to use cornstarch or flour to thicken sauces and gravies that you are going to can is that when you have a thick (dense) product, the necessary heat to process sometimes doesn’t reach the center of the jars. This can result in incorrectly processed food that could spoil.
I think you’d be okay if you halved the cornstarch. The sauce would still be thickish, but not so thick that your food would be in danger.
Neat! You have 100 pounds of hamburger! Yes, you can process the meatballs without a sauce, but I’d at least can them in a meat broth. If you don’t have any, you can either use bouillon or add
water to the frying pan you have browned the meatballs in. Adding liquid to canned meats makes them can up more tender and juicy than when you can meat dry, without the liquid. — Jackie
My question is in regards to water storage. I recently bought 3 55-gallon food grade barrels. I was wondering what I should use to remove odor from previous contents, so it will not affect the water’s taste. The barrels have been washed out with a pressure washer.
I would suggest add half a cup of baking soda to a full barrel of water. Let it sit in the sun all day, then dump it out and rinse well. This should relieve your barrels of the food smells of prior use. — Jackie
Hopi Pale Grey seeds
Are you going to have any extra Hopi Pale gray squash seeds this year? If you do could you please send me some? I ordered some from Dream Seeds this spring and none of them came up. So I won’t order from them again. I would like to have some to start early next spring, if I can get them. I keep checking Baker Creek’s web site but so far they still don’t have any listed for this fall.
Varnville, South Carolina
Yes, I’ll have some seed this year. My Hopi Pale Greys did very well. I don’t think your problem was with Seed Dream’s seeds; I’ve used their seeds successfully for years. Not a bit of a problem. But I’ll send you a few of my seeds, too. Genetic diversity is a good thing. I try to plant several different seeds from my own and Seed Dreams seeds, too, for that reason. Remind me again, will you, in about a month? The seeds will be dry then. — Jackie
Growing Hopi Pale Grey squash
We bought 40 mostly wooded acres last fall and I tried my first small garden this summer with mixed results. I was excited to try Hopi Pale Grey squash for its reported flavor and great keeping qualities. I have two questions I was hoping you could help me with.
First, about mid-season three squash on different vines that had been doing well suddenly stop growing and start to rot on the vine. Any idea why? I assume my soil is not particularly fertile, we just dug up stuff that looked decent from around the property for our raised beds and added a little store bought steer manure. Next year we’ll have compost to enrich it.
Second, about a week ago something chewed through two vine stems where they come out of the ground and killed the vines. I just left the squash from those vines in the garden to cure. Will it still keep well or should we use it right away?
Squash usually “blow” that way because of stress. That’s usually lack of water….but it CAN also happen because of too much water, high heat or infertile soil. Were the vines vigorous? If they were, your soil is not infertile; infertile soil usually results in stunted vines. If the squash off the chewed off vine was pale blue and at least the size of a large football, it probably will keep. If not, use it soon. It won’t be as sweet as if it was mature, but it’ll still provide a good meal addition. Next year your garden will be even better. Mine’s just getting good now, after 4 years. It takes work and patience! — Jackie
Thursday, September 18th, 2008
Our summer garden is just about toast. We got a harvest moon early this month, then again last night. The first brought 29 degrees and kind of freeze burned our garden. The second brought an end to most of our sweet corn, the squash, melons, peppers, and is rushing the tomatoes to a finish. And boy oh boy have I been canning like mad. I’ve put up salsa, tomato sauce, lots of sweet corn, and very soon, more corn (the last), and lots more salsa and tomato sauce. I’ve got lots of ripe tomatoes out in the garden, but tomorrow, my sweetheart, Will, is flying in from Washington for another 2 week visit! No, I’m not excited.
Yeah. Not much! But I’m disappointed, too, because with all that canning, my house is a wreck and I really needed to clean more so he doesn’t think I live like a pig! And, of course, that didn’t happen. Yes, I did sweep, mop, and pick up. Dust? Haha ha! Oh well, he’ll get to see me in ALL my canning glory. The true picture! (And I think he’s man enough to laugh with me!)
I am wanting to can meat, primarily venison and chicken. Some recipes say to put “liquid” in with the meat and some say “no liquid”. Which have you done and which is the best? Is it easier to cook the meat before I pressure cook it, vs. pressure cooking it raw?
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Yes, I’ve done it both ways, and sometimes I still put it up raw with no liquid. But I’ve found that the meat is more tender when it’s canned with liquid. The raw meat sometimes tends to dry out and get a bit stringy. Only when I’m in a big hurry, having a lot of meat to take care of at once, do I put some of it up raw nowadays. Now I pre-cook it, at least enough to shrink it down and brown it some. More fits in the jars that way and, like I said, it’s more tender when it’s packed with liquid (broth, light gravy or tomato sauce). — Jackie
Sweet corn for chickens
I saw in the last issue about making cornmeal out of sweet corn that has dried on the stalk. I have access to a lot of sweet corn that was left in the field. Would it be worth getting for my chickens?
Richard Burns Jr.
Keyser, West Virginia
Sure it would. (But I’d fight the chickens for it!) It does make great cornmeal. — Jackie
Canning nut butters
Regarding nut butters and nuts. Can you can nut butters and nuts? All that I can find tells how to make it and keep it in the fridge, but not how or if you can can the nut butters or even nuts.
Sumter, South Carolina
Yes, you can home can both nuts and nut butters. To can the nuts, lay the shelled nuts out in a single layer, on cookie sheets in a 250 degree oven and toast, stirring occasionally, until roasted nicely. Then pack hot in hot pint or half pint jars with NO liquid added. Place in a boiling water bath, with the water only up to within 2 inches of the tops of the jars and process at a simmer for 30 minutes.
To can the nut butters, first make the nut butter of your choice, then pack well into pint or half pint jars, making sure there are no air spaces. Put on lids and rings. Then process in a “normal” water bath canner for an hour, keeping the water at least an inch over the tops of the jars.
If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for instructions on increasing the time to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie
Canning grapes for juice
I got grapes from my Valiant grapevine this year and wanted to can some juice. I found a recipe that I could can the fruit now and strain it later. My first batch I did not mash the grapes, was this a waste of my time? Will it be ok if I were to shake the jars for a period of time before using?
You’ll just have to wait and see; this probably will be okay, but not as “grapey” as if you’d mashed and strained off the juice. I’m real excited about “Valiant” grapes, as they are so vigorous in cold climates, AND they are great juice and jelly makers! — Jackie
Eating animal grains
Although the prices for feed keep going up they are much lower than grain for human consumption. Is it safe to eat animal grains?
Personally, I wouldn’t eat feed mill grains intended for animal feed, only in a survival situation. The cleanliness of some farms and feed bins isn’t what you’d like when you’re feeding the grain to people. If you shop around, you can probably find a source for farm-fresh, clean grain at a cheaper rate than health food stores. Or, if you have a little extra room, you might grow your own. — Jackie
Keeping records of garden harvest
I love reading your blog and articles in BHM. I especially love reading about your garden. It sounds wonderful and productive and I was wondering if you keep records of the number of pounds you harvest from there each year? Also I love to see the pictures from your garden and would love to see more of them, especially a full garden shot if possible! Thanks!
Thanks for the praise. (Of course I always LOVE it when people love my garden; what gardener doesn’t?) No, I don’t keep records of my garden harvest…only in my head. I’m a terrible paper person. This year, the garden was great. But so were the weeds. Ish! And I had it perfectly clean in July, too! Oh well. Next year. — Jackie
I came across this website in hopes to find a good recipe for canning pickled beets. I haven’t been able to locate one. Would you happen to know of one?
I would really appreciate it if you did.
Sure, Alicia, try this one:
7 lbs 2″ baby beets
4 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. while cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice
Wash beets, trim tops, leaving root and 2″ of the tops to prevent bleeding (losing color). Boil until tender. Cool in ice water. Remove roots and tops, then slice. Put vinegar, sugar, salt and spices (in a spice bag) in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes, then add beets. Boil 5 minutes and remove spice bag. Pack beets in pint or half pint jars to within a 1/2″ of the top, then add liquid to cover within 1/2″ of the top. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for directions on increasing your processing time, if necessary. — Jackie
I am about to butcher my chickens and hubby and I are having a discussion about butchering. Do you use those cones that some people have? I guess you put the bird in them head down then their head comes out the other end then you slit the throat or cut the head off. For years we have cut the head off then held them for about 10 seconds then put them on a rack my husband made. THey hang there until scalding to bleed out. I guess the cones are suppose to stop wings from breaking. One lady even told me that this cone method is less stress on the bird. I would think hanging upside down is stressful whether you are in a cone or not!!
So do you use cones? Do you butcher the old fashion way?
I am going to try my hand at canning these babies too. I hope they turn out as good as you say they are!
PS Your corn looked delicious in the picture. Do you just can it or make something special?
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
No, I don’t use cones. We have two spikes driven into a large chopping block that is about knee high. The chicken’s head goes into the “V”, holding it so you can kind of stretch out the neck. Our friend, Jim, does the deed. I catch the chickens, but can’t whack. Of course, once they’re done, I can sure do the rest. I’m just too tender hearted, I guess. I agree with you; stress is stress. And whacking a chicken can’t be fun for it, no matter what.
We are sure enjoying the end products, though. Last night I made Spanish chicken noodle casserole. Homemade noodles, chicken broth with chopped chicken, cheddar cheese, a few onions, green peppers and a jalapeño for good luck. Pretty darned good!
I can up most of my corn, but, of course, we sure eat a bunch fresh too. My favorite way is to boil it for 3 minutes, drain it, then add butter and lemon pepper. Once you try that, you’ll never go back to “plain” corn on the cob again! — Jackie
Monday, September 15th, 2008
I left my TroyBilt tiller between my squash rows, after tilling in manure I’d hauled out there from the goat barn. I figured it was a nice, dry spot, where I could begin tilling in spent plants, after harvest. But that manure suddenly made my squash go wild! After two weeks, the squash were burying my tiller, winding around the handles and covering the tines! I had to gently unwind them and wade through the vines to start it so I could back it out to safety.
And boy oh boy are there ever squash in that patch! There are dozens of big grey lumps all over under the leaves. Great! My friend, Jeri’s goats got out and ate all her squash. So not only will I have plenty for us, but for Jim and Jeri, too. I’m always happy to share my bounty with friends!
EXCEPT the deer! A few nights ago, it was supposed to get down to freezing. So I set my sprinklers again, covered the tomatoes and peppers and got up early to sprinkle, if necessary. But we had no frost; no freezing. I watered for half an hour, just to be sure, then, at 7 AM, I went out of the garden, leaving the gate open. (After all, the deer never bother the garden during the day….right?!)
Then later, went I went out to pick some tomatoes, I spotted an eaten mangle! EEEK! Deer tracks! Two had gotten in, munched on mangles, carrot tops, onions tops and a few plum tree leaves. They walked all around the garden, then went back out the open gate…with full stomachs.
The moral to this story? If you want to keep the deer out of your garden, CLOSE THE GATE!
I am kind of new at storing food. Can you tell me if I can store dry goods with the new food savers, of course also putting them in plastic containers? Also I have Vicki Tate’s cook book on using stored goods, can you suggest another book to answer more of my storage questions.
Yes, you can store dry foods in Food Saver bags or vacuum containers. But I just generally store them in gallon jars, popcorn tins or left in the store bags and stacked in new garbage cans. These have all worked well for me in the past. A couple of good books on food storage usage are available through Emergency Essentials. You also might like the BHM Emergency Preparedness book. It has lots of information on this and other topics you may find helpful. — Jackie
I have learned so much from you on canning and I was wondering if you ever thought of writing a canning cookbook with all your wonderful recipes and how you use what you can? I know I would be the first in line to buy it. Thank you so much for sharing your wealth of knowledge.
Tami, I’ll let you in on a secret; I’ve just begun a new, extensive book on growing and canning your own food, which will be published by BHM sometime next year. There has been such a demand for this book by readers, we thought it might be a good time to do it. Keep your eye out for more information down the line. — Jackie
Can we use frozen yeast? Will it do its thing as usual? How long will it keep if frozen?
Yes, you can use frozen yeast. I always have an unopened pound bag of yeast in my refrigerator’s freezer. I’ve had it remain strong after 5 years in the freezer, although recommendations are for one year frozen. I’ve also had my dry yeast on the shelf, in a jar, stay strong for over a year. If after that, it begins to weaken, I just add a little more and that works just fine. — Jackie
Monday, September 8th, 2008
Remember that big 29 degree freeze we had that I had to run sprinklers in the icy garden to save the vegetables? Well, the first of that corn is ripe. Yes, the plants got freeze-burned leaves, but they lived and the corn is slowly ripening. My pantry is pretty skimpy in the corn department, so I planted lots and had high hopes. But lately, I’ve been living on a wing and a prayer, waiting and waiting for those corn ears to fatten up.
Yes! They are. And here’s the proof.
I’ve been busy this weekend, canning the seven chickens we butchered, making tomato sauce and more blackberry jam. Harvest and canning are in full swing here now. I usually love the race, but I got a whanger of a cold from David. So it’s NOT so fun! I do feel better, but my right eye hurts like heck. I guess I pulled a muscle or something, coughing? Oh well, as long as I’m headed in the right direction. The corn should be ready to start canning tomorrow or the next day. Yeah!
Canning broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots
I want to can broccoli, cauliflower and carrots together, that’s what is ripe now. I found that frozen broccoli and cauliflower becomes really mushy when cooked for roasts etc. I don’t like that taste. Do you have a recipe or any idea what to try. Thanks so much.
I don’t think you’d like the broccoli, cauliflower, carrot mix canned. The broccoli and cauliflower both get “mushy” and strong tasting when canned. In fact, broccoli is the one thing I just don’t can. I dehydrate it or use it fresh. The cauliflower, I pickle and use fresh. When you want to use these vegetables with your roast, I’d suggest just simmering or steaming them just before your roast is done, instead of roasting them with your meat. It just turns out better that way. The carrots can join the roast, along with the potatoes and onions, about an hour before the roast is due to be done. Then you have those tender, juicy, browned vegetables to serve with your meat. Mmmmm — Jackie
On that note, do you have any experience with salting as a preservation technique? We had lots of green beans this year, and we were thinking of trying salting some to see if we like them. (And if we don’t, no big loss. We have plenty put up other ways.) The directions we found said to use a special crock. Maybe if I win the lottery I can spend $150 for a little jug, but not now. Do you know how this can be done without using a special crock? It was basically four parts split beans to one part salt by weight.
Also, I saw some info that claimed that salted meat would stay edible for two years in a basement, but my wife and I are doubtful. It seems like the amount of salt needed to preserve meat for so long would degrade the quality of the meat to the point you wouldn’t want to eat it. I’d love to hear some first-hand information on it.
I, personally, don’t like salted vegetables and would only salt meat in desperate straits. (I also tend to have high blood pressure, so I watch my salt intake as much as I can.) You can use a food grade plastic bucket to salt your beans in, if you still want to give it a try. That way you won’t be out big $$$ to buy a crock if you don’t like the end product. I much prefer to either can or dehydrate my vegetables; it tastes much better, is cheaper (salt isn’t cheap any more!) and they are better for you, too. — Jackie
I am canning pears and wanted to make a few jars of minted pears, but I don’t have any peppermint oil. I do have some wonderful chocolate mint growing in my garden though. I picked some and put a few sprigs in each pint jar of pears and canned them in a water bath for 25 minutes. Then I got to wondering… will the mint cause it to have to be canned for longer? I put a 500 mg. capsule of Vit. C in the syrup water. Will it be acid enough? Will they be okay?
Generally spices, such as your mint, aren’t used in enough quantity to require pressure canning. I assume you canned your pears in a syrup, so you wouldn’t need to worry about making the product acid enough; the fruit will do that. There really isn’t much to mint; just dehydrate a few springs and see what you have left! — Jackie
Refurbishing a wood cook stove
Can you rework a burnt out wood cook stove to cook in? I have a friend who has one and I need to know if it can be refurbished for cooking.
Varnville, South Carolina
Most wood cook stoves can be saved, but it depends on what is burned out. Is it the sheet metal between the firebox and the oven? Or is it the grates? The top? Most times, you can find replacement grates around, in old stoves in someone’s barn or field, if you really look. Other times, a good metal fabrication shop can make replacement parts for you. Or the local blacksmith shop can weld plate steel between the firebox and oven. Have someone who works with steel take a look at the stove to see what is really involved. — Jackie
Thursday, September 4th, 2008
It’s amazing how fast little goats get big. Our triplet does from our best milker, Velvet, are now nearly as big as their mom and as fat as little piglets. Of course, feeding them armfuls of oats and clover from the orchard planting has something to do with it, along with nursing on Velvet, who produces nearly 2 gallons of milk a day.
The littlest doeling, Sparkle, has always been spunky and something of a pet. There’s a small opening in the inside part of the goat pen, and when I call Buffy, our new doe, out to milk her, it isn’t two seconds before Sparkle dives up on the milk stand to help her eat her grain. But that’s okay; Buffy doesn’t mind and it gives me a few minutes to handle her to get her tamer.
Today, Sparkle beat Buffy to the stanchion, firmly wedging her head in below Buffy’s. So when I shut the stanchion, she was held in place just like Buffy. She wiggled around a little, trying to get out. But when she found she couldn’t she just kept eating. Good girl!
I pet her and rubbed her neck while she ate. After milking, I turned both goats out of the stanchion. Sparkle made a bee line for the pen, but I’ll bet she’s first in line tomorrow morning. She’s learning to be a big goat.
Stacking full canning jars
I have been canning everything I can get my hands on but have limited space so I have triple stacked my full jars. Is this ok?
You’re really not supposed to stack your canned goods, but I’ve had to do it, too. It’s really best if you put a piece of OSB, plywood or other board between the layers, to distribute the load well on the rims of the lower jars so you aren’t putting too much weight on the center of the jar lids, which could affect the seal sometime down the road. — Jackie
I have been watching the Hurricane Gustav news and hearing about mandatory evacuations. Got me trying to visualize if my husband and I could actually leave our home behind. We have some age on us now and have so much love, blood, sweat, and tears in our little place. We have approximately 60 chickens and I can’t imagine that I’d leave “my girls” behind. We’re not homesteaders and most people would describe our house a little more than a shack, but our life is here, no matter the circumstances. Whenever they show the old people saying they are going to stick it out, I’m starting to comprehend that mentality now.
Boone, North Carolina
I sure understand where you’re coming from. Once, in New Mexico, a real bad grass fire tore 26 miles in half an hour, right toward our little ranch. Mom, Dad, and David hooked up Dad’s little travel trailer which was outfitted for a grab and git rig, complete with bedding, water, food, etc. onto their station wagon, complete with my son, David and our dogs and cats. My late husband, Bob, was a volunteer fireman and was out fighting the fire. I chose to stay home to fight the fire, the best I could, knowing I could take some shelter in the trampled center of our barnyard, where we had a 2,000 gallon stock tank filled with water. But I also know that I would also evacuate if need be, with my loved ones because stuff is stuff and you can usually replace what you’ve lost, at least to some extent. When you or your loved ones are killed because you should have evacuated, that’s something you can never replace. In Montana, we lived in a little valley up in the mountains. It was gorgeous, but in a dry summer, we were very concerned about forest fires sweeping down on us. So we packed our big travel trailer with enough survival stuff to live out of for quite awhile. The stock trailer was parked in the pasture, ready to hook up and go at a moment’s notice. We knew our chances of defending our home were slim, and had made the decision to go if necessary. Of course, once our rigs were in a safe area, we’d have returned without the trailers to fight the fire right along the firefighters and our neighbors. We don’t give up. — Jackie
I may have made a canning blunder. Yesterday I making a meat sauce, following the basic recipe in the ball book. I had about 15 lbs of tomatoes, 3 small cans of tomato paste, 4 medium onions, two big green peppers and 3 jalepenos and about 6 cloves of garlic. I also added some fresh herbs from the garden and salt and sugar. Instead of using the 5 lbs of beef I used two pounds of turkey. I forgot the added acid. I pressure canned them at 1 hour and 15 minutes which is what it says for quarts. I got 8 quarts and 3 pints. I used the same time for the pints.
So now the big questions is: is this recipe safe to eat? Do I need to re-do it? Freeze it, or chuck it out?
I don’t understand how people can if they have to follow the exact recipes in the book. What if we don’t like the recipes? How do you substitute ingredients safely?
Mary J. Bolin
Elk River, Minnesota
Yes, your meat sauce is safe to eat. If you had used beef instead of turkey, you would have needed to can your quarts for 90 minutes instead of 75. The meat (or poultry) requires the longest time, processing. When you make up your own recipe, all you have to do to be safe is to check through the ingredients to see which take the longest time in the canner, then process the whole batch for that time, which is what you did. You didn’t need to add vinegar or lemon juice when you pressure canned your sauce for that length of time.
Your pints only needed 65 minutes processing time, but over processing them did no harm at all. The more you can your mixed recipes, the more confident you’ll become. It’s like anything else, the more you do it, the better you’ll become. Good luck! — Jackie
Canning little potatoes
I have some small Yukon Gold potatoes, smaller than golf balls. Is it absolutely necessary to peel them before canning or would a really good scrubbing be adequate?
You can just scrub the little potatoes. I use a green scrubby and most of the peel just rubs right off. They make excellent new potatoes, creamed or boiled. The processing time is the same as if you had left the skins on. — Jackie
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008
First and foremost, fall is upon us. I first noticed a maple tree with a red leafed branch a week ago. Then we had that nasty surprise freeze that about did us in. Now, in the night sky, I notice the winter constellations slipping up on us. And, of course, harvest and canning season is under full force.
Two days ago, I picked and canned up a big basket of dragon’s tongue beans. These are my very favorite yellow bean. They aren’t your regular wax bean, either. They are huge, twisted and curved like a serpent, thick and flat. And they are yellow with purple stripes. Awww. The purple stripes quickly fade away when they are cooked or canned. But the taste is sweet and very good.
Then yesterday and today, I canned up the wild blackberry puree that my sweetie, Will, sent from Spokane. He’s been picking nearly every day, down along the river and bringing them home to cook down and puree, removing the plentiful seeds. Then he poured the puree into 2 liter plastic pop bottles, froze it hard and sent it on to me, Priority Mail. It arrived in pristine condition, and I have it all canned up, as jam. Wow! It’s so good. I made five separate batches, yielding about 3 pints and 3 half pints per batch. Pretty nice, huh?
And, best yet, Will’s still picking!
Meanwhile, I’ve been helping Tom with our newest addition. We decided to do the living room part of the addition as an enclosed gazebo type structure, so it would fit with our multiple roof line and not trap snow and water. To do this, we raised the walls to 9′, with an octagonal floor plan and roof. It’s been a headache for Tom, with all the multiple angles and cuts, but WOW does it look terrific. Now when we get the wood stove in there…
Today I canned up the last of the blackberry jam, re-canned a #10 can of cheese sauce into pints and half pints, then put up salsa. I still have the juice part of the salsa left after straining much of it off the salsa. I’ll let it sit overnight, then skim off the watery part and can up the rest to use in stews and soups. The chickens get the watery part. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it on their mash!
In the mornings, before chores, I take a few minutes to walk the gardens. For me. Our flowers are blooming very nicely. (If I could just get the weeds out, it’d be nicer!) Some of my favorites are the clematis and oriental lilies right now. What a show! I’ve never had larger flowers. The white clematis has flowers seven inches across and the lilies are nearly ten inches wide. How pretty they are. After Will left this spring, I scattered wildflower seeds on the barren gravel in our side and backyards, in hopes of something growing. It seemed a folly, as I could only spot a few baby plants afterward. But now, they’re coming on in full force, with more and more blooming every day. I have California poppies, bachelor’s buttons, toad flax, California bluebells, sunflowers, cosmos and more making the gravel disappear under sparkles of color. I sure hope they’re still blooming when Will comes back for another visit in three weeks.
Canning boiled peanuts
I have a question that I have never seen addressed. I’m sure this can be done but I’m not sure how and wondered if you could help me. I would like to can boiled peanuts. When I cook them to eat, I cook in my pressure cooker for 15 minutes. I don’t mean to be insulting, but some people that are not in the South and are not familiar with boiled peanuts don’t know this so I’m going to say it–they are still in the shell. Do you think I should cook them done then pressure can them the same amount of time as peas or should I leave them a little under-done before canning? It is right to use a pressure canner and not a water bath canner isn’t it–even though they are done?
I don’t know squat about boiled peas; hey, I’m a northerner! BUT I did go online for you and found information on canning your boiled peanuts. Here it is: Make up your salt water brine and bring it to a boil. Boil one minute, then pack your peanuts in the jar and cover with the boiling brine to within 1/2 inch of the top of the jar. Put on lid and ring, screwed down firmly tight. Then partially submerge the jars in boiling water and boil for ten minutes. Take out and pressure can at 10 pounds pressure for 45 minutes. Good eatin’! — Jackie
I have a weighted mirro pressure cooker/canner. I canned up white potatoes in pints and put them under 15lbs of pressure (I’m above 1000 ft) for 35 min. I did not vent my pressure for 10 minutes, the steam was coming out full force with no sputters…do I need to redo my potatoes?
Arden, North Carolina
Your potatoes will probably be fine; just keep checking to make sure the seals remain good. And, I’m sure next time, you’ll vent your pressure canner for the full 10 minutes. — Jackie
Mixing jar sizes
Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us! With your encouragement I purchased a pressure canner and have canned two batches of meatballs. Now that I have actually used the canner, I have a couple of questions. 1. Is it OK to mix the sizes of jars being processed at one time? Quarts and Pints and Half-pints being processed at the same time? I am assuming that if you do, you would need to process for the longer time required by the quarts? 2. If it is OK to mix the jar sizes, can you stack the smaller jars on top of the quarts? Or is that a No No?
Yes, you can certainly mix jar sizes in your batch of canning to save time and energy. Yes, you do process the batch for the longest time required for jars in your batch; usually the quarts. And, yes, you can stack the jars. But you do need to place a wire rack over the first layer to evenly distribute the load on top. You can make your own; I’ve used a wire frame from an old dart board and then a heavy wire grill cover from the dollar store, cut to fit the canner with wire cutters. It’s simple and the rack will be useful for years. I’m really glad to hear you’re starting canning! — Jackie
We live in Pennsylvania and were wondering how we can tell elderberries from other berries that look like them but may be poisonous. Any help you can give would be appreciated.
Your best bet is to have an experienced person show you. Elderberries are quite easy to identify, though. The shrubby tree is medium sized, and the stems of it are usually hollow with a pith inside. The leaves are along a stem and are pointed and oval shaped. The berries grow in large clusters and are very dark when ripe, like blueberries but smaller. They have large seeds. Go to the library and get a book or two on tree/shrub identification and look up elderberries. These books usually have good photos for you to study. — Jackie
Canning goat milk
I pressure canned goats milk according to your directions. I’ve done store-bought cows milk before, and had no trouble at all. The goats milk was strained twice, non-pasteurized, non-homogenized, non-separated, and fresh from the goat. When I took the jars out of the canner, the milk had all separated into horrible-looking light brown globs with light brown liquid underneath. To say it’s truly disgusting looking is an understatement. I will save it and run it through the blender and use it in bread if you think it’s okay food-wise, but I wonder what in the world happened? The milk was from 3 different goats of 2 varieties. Any ideas as to what went wrong? Would it be better to water bath it for an hour rather than the pressure canning instructions?
This carmel color is fairly common in canned milk. But it usually doesn’t get as nasty as what you’re describing. My guess is that the milk got overheated a bit. Did your pressure go up a bit too high for a few minutes? Or was the time a little too long? Why don’t you try another batch and see if that doesn’t go better for you. I’m sure it’s nothing wrong with your goats’ milk, but in the processing. The ugly milk should be fine for cooking (gravies, baking, puddings, etc.) provided that it is sealed and it smells okay when you open a jar. Stuff happens. Better luck next time! We all have days like that on occasion. You might like the result of water bathing your milk better; the milk doesn’t seem to get as dark colored. — Jackie
I have a few questions about dehydrating vegetables using my gas oven. How would I go about drying tomatoes in the oven using only the heat from the pilot light? Can I only dry paste style tomatoes or can I dry cherry/grape varieties too? Do I lay the vegetables directly onto my cookie sheets or should I put something onto the pans? Thanks for taking the time to answer your readers questions. You inspire so many people, me being one, to try to be more self reliant.
While you can dehydrate any type of tomato, the paste tomatoes dry nicest. To dehydrate cherry tomatoes, you can simply halve them and lay them in a single layer on your cookie sheets. No, you don’t have to put anything on the cookie sheets, but you need to kind of move the slices/halves a little while they’re drying with a spatula so they don’t bond to the cookie sheet when they dry. Just a hint: it is easier to dry tomatoes in a dehydrator rather than your oven, as the heat and air movement are more even and dependable. But you can certainly do it with great success. And the end result is SO good! — Jackie