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Jackie Clay

Lots and lots going on on the homestead

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.

Readers’ Questions:

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?

Melanie Staggs
Statesboro, Georgia

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

Canning potatoes

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?

Darnell Rogers
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?

Brenda Palmer
Bakersfield, California

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

Elderberries

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.

Sherri Davis
DuBois, Pennsylvania

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?

Pat Crowder
Holyoke, Colorado

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

Dehydrating vegetables

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.

Patrice Lindsey
Lockport, Illinois

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

6 Responses to “Lots and lots going on on the homestead”

  1. Aaron Neal Says:

    Jackie,

    I hope the early freeze didn’t do you too much harm. Glad to hear things in general are going so well!

    Getting ready here in Texas to put in the Fall garden; and… ta-da… I won a bid on Ebay for a big pressure canner, so I’m planning on taking my Spring garden (1200 sq. ft.) to 3000 sq. ft. and planning on having extra to put up, instead of just eating whatever’s fresh.

    Of course, some of the Spring garden overproduced, and we put some up with water-bath canning (about 30 quarts of pickles, and so far, about 6 quarts of tomatoes) and froze a couple pounds of squash. But I’m looking forward to putting up LOTS with a bigger garden and a pressure canner!

    Best of luck to you and yours… stay warm up there in Way Too Cold land!

  2. Jo Riddle Says:

    Pat, after finding buttermilk reduced to 75cents a quart (even though the date was still good), I canned a bunch up a couple weeks ago and it did the same thing. I thought perhaps it was too much fat in the milk? I blended up a jar and used it in bread, which is what I canned it for and it was fine. As a matter of fact, my daughter that commented on how gross the canned milk looked also told me that was the best bread I ever made and should use that recipe all the time. I just smiled and said thanks. I didn’t know I could water bath milk, for how long?

  3. jackie clay Says:

    Jo Riddle,

    You water bath milk for 60 minutes. It turns out less tanish than it does in the pressure canner. Most people like the looks better. But, like you found out, it works just as good in recipes, despite the yucky color/consistency.

    Jackie

  4. Pat Says:

    Thanks Jo (and Jackie)! Think I’ll just stick to waterbathing it from now on. I am planning on using the globby glops in bread, as I thought I’d just run the hand blender through it and then make sourdough starter out of it.

    Thanks so much for the posts!
    Pat

  5. Jo Says:

    Jackie,
    Thanks for the info, I will try that the next time I find milk on sale! Does the fat make it globby? I didn’t have any of that with the skim milk.

  6. gen Says:

    Did you pressure can or water bath the cheese sauce? A new idea for me. TY

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