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Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for October, 2008

Jackie Clay

New chickens on the homestead get a new coop

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

We had unexpected new chickens. My oldest son, Bill, called to say that his father-in-law had 12 heavy laying hens that he was given in the spring and he didn’t want to winter them. And because they laid so well and were such pets, he wondered if I would give them a home. I already have a dozen hens, but decided to take Don up on his offer. Our old chicken coop is only 6’x8′ and not big enough for 12 more hens. So we hurriedly built a “this and that” chicken coop out of material from the dump and leftovers from our house. It “ain’t pretty” but it’s weather tight and today I put in the final door. Of course I was working alone and the door fell on me once, nearly getting the saw in the process. And the new tom turkey escaped and I spent an hour running him back and forth before I could catch him and return him to the coop. But I got her done. Puff pant, pant.

Yesterday I built an outside door and a big nest box that David (thank God!) helped me hang. It’s built out of 2″x12″ lumber, so it’s HEAVY.

So our new hens are singing and scratching around in the shavings. Now I’ve just got to catch our “old” hens and put them in there too. But those I’ll catch at night, off the roosts. Much better than the turkey! Now if I can just learn all their names. The only one I know now is “Cher”!

Readers’ Questions:

Stressed out hen

I’m having a bit of a problem with my first flock of chickens. I have 5 (1 rooster, 4 hens) Plymouth Rock Barred bantams. I got them in April when they were two days old. Oh, and by the way, I live in Northern California. One of the hens recently won’t come out of the house. She hasn’t been laying any eggs for a week now and seems physically okay, but she barely eats or drinks at the moment and has a “tentative” cluck, like she is worried, or something. I picked her up and brought her out and she seemed okay, but then she went back into the house after a 1/2 hour with the other chickens. There was a traumatic event around the time this started happening where some animals (possum) got some eggs one night – do you think it could be stress? And if not, do you have any other ideas as to what she is stressed about? She seems spooked, for lack of a better word.

Samay Israel
Novato, California

You could sure be right about the stress thing. Provided that whatever got into the coop to eat the eggs can not get in again, she should recover in a few weeks. You can tempt her to eat by giving her “goodies” such as bread crusts, whole corn, sunflower seeds, etc. Hopefully, she’ll find that the varmits won’t “get” her and she’ll have a complete recovery. — Jackie

Wringer washing machine

Do you know a source to purchase (Or easily make) an old style roller/wringer washing machine?
I’ve done a Google search and found some really wacky home made ones that would just not be practical at all. I am already drying outdoors and would love to have a way to reduce energy and water use even more. But I am not ready to totally tub and board it.

Lauren Paul
Magnolia , Texas

I wouldn’t really advise making a wringer washer; it’s too labor intensive when there are a lot of old, useable machines out there. I got mine from the dump. The only thing wrong with it was someone had cut the plug off it! That was four years ago, and I’m washing clothes with it tonight. Put up a few notices around town, in your local free shopping paper and tell everyone you know you are wanting one. I’m sure you’ll pick one up much cheaper than if you bought it off of e-bay. You also might try your nearest craigs list, as you never know what you’ll find there! Wringer washers are very water saving, which is one reason I use one. They also get clothes much cleaner. In Montana, I washed outdoors all summer and enjoyed it very much. — Jackie

Making sweetened condensed milk and canning pastrami

Two questions: I know you can make Sweetened Condensed Milk that tastes like “Eagle Brand Milk” but can you also can it? I have had good results in canning fresh milk and was wondering about the other. Also, I have purchase about 10#s of beef pastrami which is currently in the freezer but want to know if this also can be canned? If possible, How? Thank you very much for all you have done.

Joni Warren
Canyon City, Oregon

I’ve never canned homemade sweetened condensed milk. Yet. You can home can your pastrami. Just cut it into slices to suit you, pack them into wide mouth pint jars, with the top off. Then place the jars in a roasting pan full of water up to the shoulders of the jar and heat until a thermometer in a center jar, between the meat, reads 170 degrees. Then quickly put hot, previously simmered lids on the jars, tighten the rings down firmly tight and put them into a hot (not pressurized!) canner and process for 75 minutes. — Jackie

Heirloom pumpkins and sunflowers

First let me say that I recently received my copy of Starting Over and it is great. I’m usually not the type to re-read books but I can already tell that just like your magazine articles, I’ll be referring to the book often. (I’ve already tried the jerky recipe you give after telling about David’s first deer and even though I only got a couple small pieces I can say it was very tasty!)

I noticed that you said you had some of the Hopi Pale Gray seeds and would like to get just a few to start a seed crop for so I could grow some to harvest in a couple of years. I have started picking up small quantities of heirloom seeds so that I’m keeping costs down but will be growing my seed inventory so I can grow enough to harvest at the next season from the seeds I collect the first year. This is going to be a great test of my patience but I know it will be worth it.

A question I have is about heirloom pumpkins and sunflowers. I emailed Seed Dreams and received their seed list but I’m not familiar with the varieties and thought you may be able to suggest a pumpkin and sunflower variety that would be fun for my daughter to grow in her part of the garden.

Thank you for being a hero of mine.

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

Hero? Me? Wow, how humbling! While not exactly an heirloom variety, I’ll bet your daughter would LOVE Atlantic giant pumpkins! They’re huge! Just don’t grow them the same year you grow Hopi Pale Grey squash; they will cross. Or you might grow old-timey flat pumpkins. They are a C. pepo and won’t cross with your Hopi Pale Grey squash. I like Arikara and Hopi black dye sunflowers, although any sunflowers are great!!! Once you start saving your own seeds, you’ll be hooked. It is just so much fun. And look at all the money you’ll be saving, while preserving heritage at the same time. — Jackie

Cooking an old chicken

I have some older chickens and some younger ones. I want to thin the flock and take out some of the older less useful hens. What is the best way to cook an older hen. Some of the roosters that we have already eaten were very tough and almost inedible. I do not want to waste all of the meat that is tough. Is there a way to pressure cook the birds to make them tender?

Kathy Rayl
Concord, California

Yes, pressure cooking definitely tenderizes chickens. In fact, I can up all my tough old birds, including mixed bantam roosters that are older than sin. I skin them, cool down the carcass overnight, then quarter them and pop the meat into my stockpot to simmer until the meat is falling off the bone. I remove the pot from the stove and let it cool down to lukewarm and I can handle the meat without burning my hands. I debone the meat, then can up the broth and meat together in quart jars. This makes the BEST chicken and dumplings, chicken and noodles and other yummy chicken based meals. And no one knows they were old, tough birds! — Jackie

Kerosene heaters

With the economy and the election, I am somewhat fearful. I thought that you guys had some articles on emergency heaters (kerosene) in case the electricity goes out.

John E. Harper
Peninsula, Ohio

Where kerosene USED to be an economical fuel for heating, it sure isn’t anymore! Ouch! Boy has it gone up in price. Now I’d advise buying small propane heaters, instead. The Big Heater Buddy is UL approved for indoor use, and will keep you and your pipes from freezing. Or better yet, have a direct vent propane heater installed on a wall of your house. They aren’t “cheap” but will work without electricity and propane is MUCH cheaper than kerosene today. We have one in Mom’s room, along with my kitchen wood range and the new wood stove out in our new addition that I built mainly so we could add more wood heat in the house. I could see the writing on the wall. We have lots of wood! — Jackie

Buying corn to grind

Can you give me a good source to buy corn to grind for bread? We have a big deer problem this year no corn to grind. Also, where do you get your dehydrated cheese,butter, and eggs.

I just subscribed to Backwoods Home and really love it. I have been a real backwoods homesteader for over 20 years and love all the canning,preserving,and tips.

Eunice Harvey
Mouth of Wilson , Virginia

Do you have a Sam’s Club in the area? You can buy 50# sacks of popcorn there very reasonably. And popcorn grinds very nicely for cornbread! I just bought two sacks, myself to last until we can get up and growing dry corn, ourselves. You know…new garden thing! We’ve got the deer problem, too. But hunting season is right around the corner, so that’s a two edged sword! — Jackie

Homesteading in Alaska

I know from your articles that you did not recommend Alaska as a future homestead, but I don’t remember why. Could you enlighten me? We are desperate to get out of California and would appreciate any info you could pass along.

Kay Williams
Placerville, California

Alaska is a great place. But we decided against it for a couple of reasons. First, we like to be isolated from other people. In many parts of Alaska, most of the private land that is 4×4 accessible is right next to other private land, next to other private land, on a major highway. Even the fly-in only land is in remote State subdivisions, in most cases. And the price of accessible land is NOT cheap. Nor is it cheap to get to Alaska or live there. We would have done it if we could have found the right land at a price we could have afforded. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

My long awaited apple fell off the tree and the goats ate it!

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Yep, that lone apple in our beautiful orchard disappeared. I checked it yesterday and it was fine. I even debated on picking it and eating it. It was ripe. But I decided to let it stay on the tree for a few more days. I’d been watching it and drooling over it all summer. First there were five apples, but one by one, the wind took ’em down before they were ripe. Then there was just one beautiful Fireside apple hanging there, calling to me. Eat me…eat me…

Then this morning, I went out to feed the goats and I couldn’t see the apple on the tree. I was a little concerned, but figured I probably just missed it among the leaves. But when I fed the meat chickens, I went in the orchard and looked. IT WAS GONE! Desperately, I looked around on the ground. Even in the wire cage around the tree trunk. No apple. No deer tracks either.

Then I remembered the wind we’d had during the night. It had to have blown the apple off and it rolled down the slope…right up to the goat pen. And, of course, some goat spotted that luscious treat and had a great breakfast. I almost went around smelling goat breath to see who got it! I was that desperate. Sigh. Oh well…maybe next year. At least the trees know how to make apples now. See, you’re not the only one who has a disappointment in the gardening department!

Readers’ Questions:

Feeding goats, storing fuels

In the “Economic Squeeze” issue, you said your goats have hay available all day, what do you put it in and how do you keep them from wasting too much of the hay? What kind of grain do you supply for them? I didn’t want to give them the medicated feed because I intend on milking the does eventually. What kind of dewormer do you recommend?

Also if I’m not mistaken I read a little about fuel storage in one of your articles. How do you store gas and other fuels safely and correctly?

Lisa Barger
Nashville, Tennessee

I feed all my hay outside my stock panel fences, so the goats have to reach through to eat the hay; no poop, no waste. Of course, this only works with dehorned goats, which all of mine are. I feed my goats a 16% horse sweet feed. It has no medication whatsoever. We use our milk to drink, make cheeses, yogurt and ice cream from and don’t want antibiotic residues, either! I run fecal exams on my goats twice a year, spring and fall. We’ve been pretty lucky; I’ve only had to worm them a few times with fenbendazole and Ivermectin. I believe that the reason we have so few problems with worms is I check twice a year and both the feed and water are OUT of the pens, so there is no fecal contamination.

I store my gas in plastic 6 gallon jugs with a few ounces of Stabil added to keep it from getting “old”, which makes carburetors varnish up and get gunky. I’d like to have a farm-style gas barrel on legs, but so far, I haven’t been able to work it into the budget. I would like to have more fuel stored. Just in case. All fuel should be stored out of the sun and away from any source of spark or flame.
For instance, I don’t store my gas or kerosene in the generator shed or home. Because it’s in plastic it can just go outside, on the north side of our generator shed; it’s handy, yet safe out there. Underground storage tanks were popular prior to the Y2K, but they are expensive and that much fuel is hard to keep fresh, even with Stabil. — Jackie

Learning to use a pressure canner

I am a beginner in gardening. Although my grandma raised me on a farm I was not paying attention to the canning of the foods. I was regulated to shelling or snapping. I have a pressure canner here at the house but I am very very afraid to use it. I have never used a pressure cooker. How do I start learning how to use this thing? Or is blanching and freezing veggies enough?

Jonica Kelly
Randallstown, Maryland

Don’t be afraid of the pressure canner. They are VERY easy to learn to use, don’t explode and are the easiest way to put up food that lasts for years and years. I understand your fear, though, we’ve all heard the “stories” of canners blowing holes in the kitchen ceiling. Pressure canners have a safety valve that lets off steam, should the pressure get too high…usually from someone going out of the house or into another room and NOT watching what’s going on in the kitchen. You must monitor the canner all the time while you are using it. But you can be washing dishes, making dinner or whatever…as long as you are there to keep watch over it while you are canning. Do you have a friend or relative that could come over and can up a pint or two of food with you, showing you the ropes, so to speak. You could even can store bought produce, such as green beans…just to get the hang of it. Once you find out how easy it is, you’ll quickly gain confidence and be canning up a storm. And I’ll be right here to help you out. The best of luck! Go girl! — Jackie

Canning pepperoni and bologna

How do you can pepperoni and bologna? I was searching your archives for hours but haven’t found it. I have been a fan of yours for years and love the blog. As you said we never stop canning. There is something to can almost everyday. Even now that I’m in a mobility chair I have still found a way to keep on canning (with the hubby’s help) We work harder now that we have retired than we did when we were both working and raising 5 boys ! I love my Backwoods Home Magazine and look through them over and over!

Judith Mimranek
Live Oak, Florida

Pepperoni is real easy to can. I can the slices by just putting them in the half pint jars, with no liquid, and process the jars at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. The bologna I can is homemade. I can that in pint jars. But because it is so dense a product, I put the open, bologna filled jars into a roasting pan with water up to the shoulders and heat it on the stove until a meat thermometer in the center of a piece of bologna, in a center jar, reaches 170 degrees. Then clean off jar rims and put on hot, previously simmered lids and process for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. — Jackie

Dehydrated butter

If anyone can answer this question, you can. Do you know of any recipes for making your own dehydrated butter or margarine? If not, can you recommend a good source? I’d also be interested in a good source of dehydrated eggs, since you don’t recommend making them yourself.

Jack Kavanaugh
Groton, Connecticut

Sorry Jack, I don’t. I buy mine from Emergency Essentials ( They also have dehydrated eggs that are very good. I’m sure that other companies that carry emergency preparedness supplies would have these products too. — Jackie

Cold packing potatoes

Can I “cold pack” potatoes? The book that came with my pressure canner (1982) gives directions for it, but my Ball Blue book only gives directions for hot packing them. I’d like to have them stay more firm, even though I’m canning in quart jars.

Jamie Shelton
Monterey, Tennessee

It’s best to boil your potatoes before you pack them. With cubed potatoes, you can boil them for only 2 minutes; just enough to heat them thoroughly. For whole small potatoes or large pieces, you need to heat them more thoroughly, so that the centers get hot enough before they’re packed. In the past, people packed them cold and poured boiling water into the jar. This usually worked fine for the diced potatoes, but folks ran into trouble with the larger ones spoiling during storage. It’s best to boil ’em. I “cheat” and can a lot of new potatoes with the skin on. The skin helps hold the potatoes together, keeping them from getting too soft. I do boil these, too. — Jackie

Storing Hopi Pale Grey squash

This year I planted seeds for Hopi Pale Grey Squash (I got them from Baker Creek) and I now have a dozen squash left, after we’ve eaten the two earliest to mature. I remember you said you kept yours on the floor in your kitchen. I can’t keep these in the kitchen, so I have to choose another spot. What is the best for them? Warm or cool, definitely dry air, or okay if a there is slightly moist air, or? The texture and taste of this squash is really good.

Joan Farmer
Pomona, California

I’m happy you like Hopi Pale Greys! I think they’re the best all around squash, not to mention how long they store…up to 2 years!!! They will keep just about anywhere. Now I have them in my cool pantry, in plastic bins. But I’ve stored them in the kitchen, under the bed and in the clothes closet; they are not fussy! Enjoy. And be sure to save seeds! — Jackie

Making sauerkraut

I really enjoy your site here and your articles in the magazine. My question is about sauerkraut. I haven’t made it in a long time until now and I’m following the recipe in the Ball blue book. It states to ferment until the bubbling stops which should take 3-6 weeks and then process in a boiling water bath. I’m past week 2. Does 6 weeks seem like a long time for a vegetable to sit out at room temp? It smells like its getting closer to sauerkraut but still kind of “ripe”.There’s bubbles in the bowl when I stir it so I assume its still fermenting. Any hints?

Katherine Jordahl
Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Keeping sauerkraut in a crock for 6 weeks isn’t a problem, as it is fermented. As long as it is completely covered with brine and a weight to hold it submerged, it will stay fine. Do be sure you remove the scum daily, as if you don’t, it can taint the taste of the kraut. — Jackie

Best pressure canner

I’m wanting to get a new pressure canner. I used to have a Mirro and it was awful. I’d rather not pay tons of bucks if possible. Is a Presto better than Mirro? I guess the best I’ve seen is the All American–which I’d love–but just wish I could find it for less. What do you think of presto? Have you used one?

Mary Thompson
Charlotte, North Carolina

I have a newer Presto and have used a Mirro, as well, with good results. I’m sure that, like everything else, once in awhile, you get a lemon…in most any brand. My huge canner is like an All American, but was originally made for a hospital autoclave to sterilize dressings and instruments. Mine was bought new, in the box at a State Hospital auction for $50, and I’ve used it every year for over 30 years now! As I’ve often said, I prefer the dial gauge to a weighted gauge, in a canner, but really don’t have a “favorite” brand. I also prefer a gasket-less closure to the top, as it’s one less thing that you will need to replace in the future. — Jackie

Preserving Jerusalem Artichokes

Thanks Jackie for being such great inspiration to your readers! I have greatly expanded my food preservation efforts because of your encouragement. It’s always great to start the day with one of your new blog entries. I’m hoping you can answer a question about Jerusalem Artichokes. I planted them for the first time this year, and the harvest is huge! We enjoy the flavor and would like to do so this winter if we can save them. Can you suggest the best method for preserving them? The ones already dug are getting soft after just one week, so I’m assuming they won’t keep like potatoes.

Wendy Hause
Gregory, Michigan

Thanks for the kind words, Wendy. Jerusalem Artichokes don’t keep long after they are dug. But you can harvest them all winter long by stacking straw bales over your row or bed, then pulling them up to access the area to dig them. The straw keeps them from freezing in the ground and the chokes stay nice and crisp all winter long. Seeing you have already harvested yours, you can put some up as pickles. I’ll bet you never heard of that, right? Well they’re not too common, but are good. Here’s a recipe:

8 quarts Jerusalem artichokes
vinegar to cover them
2 cups salt
4 Tbsp. turmeric
1 gallon vinegar
2 Tbsp. turmeric
1 box mixed pickling spices, tied in a spice bag
6 cups sugar
dried red peppers, if desired
sliced onions.

Wash and cut artichokes. Pack in a large crock or enamel pot. Cover with vinegar. Add 2 cups salt and 4 Tbsp. turmeric. Soak for 24 hours.

The next day, make spiced vinegar by combining in a large saucepan, 1 gallon vinegar, 6 cups sugar, 2 Tbsp. turmeric and pickling spices in a spice bag bring mixture to a boil. Meanwhile, drain artichokes. Pack in pint jars, add sliced onions and a red pepper, if desired. Cover with boiling spiced vinegar to within 1/4 inch of the top of the jar. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. — Jackie

Canning apple cider

I have been given a quantity of apple cider, and since I’m only one person, I’d like to save the bounty. Is it easy to can? Can I use a hot water bath, or does it have to be pressure-canned? Thank you for your wealth of knowledge and wonderful, positive attitude!

Susan Womersley
Petersburgh, New York

YES! You can certainly can your apple cider. Congratulations! And it’s easy, too. Just heat your cider in a large kettle to 190 degrees. Don’t boil. Just keep it at that temperature for 5 minutes. Then pour it into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch head room. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Enjoy! — Jackie

Using citric acid

Do you recommend using citric acid to increase acidity when canning low-acid foods? I have used it when canning roasted red peppers (with roasted garlic) in half-pint jelly jars. I use a pressure canner as well, but was wondering if processing times are different, and if you actually recommend it.

Also — do you still offer the Hopi Pale Grey seeds? You’ve piqued my curiosity on it!

Howard Tuckey
Lisle, New York

No, there is no need to add citric acid to low acid foods canned in a pressure canner. Just follow your canning manual directions, which don’t call for it, either. Citric acid is added to tomatoes and tomato products that are water bath canned to ensure that the tomatoes are high enough in acid to be safely processed in a water bath canner. Other options are vinegar and lemon juice. Or just use old fashioned, high acid tomatoes!

I’ve got plenty of Hopi Pale Grey seeds. If you’d like some, let me know. No cost, but keep them pure and share your seeds with someone else. — Jackie

Making applesauce

You have mentioned cooking down your applesauce in the oven. That sounds like a real time saver to me. Would you, please, share the recipe that you use; what spices and flavorings you put in ?

Borah McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

I just put my puree or chopped apples in my large roasting pan, without sugar or spices, then cook at a low temperature until they are reduced and as thick as I want. THEN I add cinnamon and a dash of cloves, along with sugar to taste. Cook it just a little longer, stirring it well, then it’s ready for the hot jars and water bath canner. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The firewood pile is attacked

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

I thought that would get your attention. Actually, David helped his two friends, Zak and Patrick, with firewood splitting and roofing for several days, then they came over to help him with our wood. Wow, with three young, strong men, does the firewood pile ever shrink fast!

They chopped and hauled two truckloads, tossing it in to me to stack on our enclosed porch. Of course I couldn’t keep up, but that was fine…I got it done when they were hauling more wood. With winter roaring down on us like a freight train out of control, I’m real glad to have our wood for the kitchen stove stacked and indoors.

Taking a breather tonight, I went down to open the horse pasture gate for David, who was hauling two big round bales in for the horses and donkeys. Ladyhawk thought that huge blue tractor was a great excuse to spook and run around with her tail up in the air. Although we have good grass on the pastures, we still keep a round bale of hay in there so they won’t eat the grass down too far, damaging the plants before winter. We want a great stand of pasture grass and clover down there next summer. And from the way it looks now, we’ll get it.

Readers’ Questions:

Pantry temperature

Thanks again for all your advice – that was a LOT of questions in your last blog entry!

Hopefully Will can be there with you full-time soon

My question is about canned goods storage temperatures – I’ve read that a max of 75F is best, is there a minimum? I’d guess below 32F is bad.

I’m getting ready to build a very large pantry out of Dad’s old house; it’s decently insulated, I just need to know what temperature ranges I need to keep it in. Active air conditioning in the summer is a given here in Texas, how warm do I need to keep it in winter?

Aaron Neal
Fort Worth, Texas

Yes, sometimes there ARE a lot of questions. But that’s a good thing, I think. Will will be here permanently in January. His flight is already booked for January 9th. And YES! I’m excited! The ideal temperatures for your storage pantry range from about 40-60 degrees. Cooler is fine unless you are also storing vegetables. Potatoes will be okay at mid thirties, but will get black spots near freezing. Your jars will be fine, just above freezing. But if they freeze, pickles, fruits, potatoes and some other vegetables will get very soft; mushy. — Jackie

Chokecherry jelly

I made chokecherry jelly for the first time and am concerned because it has been over 4 hours and it is very runny. My jars sealed without boiling the filled jars in water. Is there a trick to getting the jelly to set up? Please help! I made 24 jars and am afraid I may have a lot of syrup.

Peggy Lynn
Alta Loma, California

Sometimes chokecherry jelly can be a bugger for setting. Sometimes it takes several weeks to set; sometimes it just won’t. If you are stuck with tons of syrup and would rather have jelly, get some boxes of SureJel. In the jelly making directions are directions on reclaiming jelly that doesn’t jell. This process will work; you’ll only be out new lids and maybe a little high blood pressure. It’s also a good idea to water bath process all jams and jellies, to ensure a good seal. Some jars seem to seal without processing in a water bath, but then, later, the seals fail. Better safe than sorry! — Jackie

CHAMPVA Insurance

Not a question, but a comment. It would appear you are in love. I saw your post about CHAMPVA. Make sure if you tie the knot that your coverage won’t be cancelled. My MIL was married to a pilot killed in WWII, remarried to my wife’s father, lost her benefits until my wife’s father died, and then they were re-instated. She also has CHAMPVA.

Jack Arnold
Annandale, Virginia

Thanks for the concern. Of course, this was a concern of mine, too. According to ChampVA, if a surviving spouse over the age of 57 remarries, she doesn’t lose her benefits or ChampVa coverage any more. This is a big improvement over the past. — Jackie

Canning meat

I was wondering if canning homemade chili beans would require a pressure cooker. With or with out meat. Also homemade stews and soups if the meats are already cooked?

Wendy Sater
Sandpoint, Idaho

YES! All vegetables and meat products and recipes MUST be pressure canned to be safe to eat. It does not matter whether the stew or other meat has been cooked already or not. Meat, poultry and vegetables are all low acid foods and require a higher than boiling temperature during processing to make safe eating. — Jackie

Dairy goat book

I have enjoyed your column as long as I’ve know of BHM. At the end of the most recent video on your blog, it shows three books of yours: the Chicken book, Starting Over, and a book on Dairy Goats. Where can I find the Dairy Goat book? At the BHM general store the only Dairy Goat book I find is Storey’s. Can you point me in the right direction?

Susan Eizenga
Earlington, Kentucky

The Dairy Goat Handbook has just now been printed and will be available very soon through BHM. Drop them an e-mail for more information. The cover brings me a huge smile; it’s David, age 11, with his wether, Oreo. We still have Oreo, and he’s a huge ham and such a funny goat. And David was sooooo young! — Jackie

Storing potatoes where it’s hot and humid

I have read numerous articles on how to store potatoes, but I live in South Carolina. What would be the best method for storing potatoes after harvest to make them last more than a few weeks? The climate here is quite hot and humid in the summer, somewhat hot and humid in the fall and winter finally hits us around the latter part of November. Our winters are fairly mild, rarely dropping below 20 degrees. Help! I really would like to plant far more potatoes than I currently do, but not if I can’t use them!

Suzannah Byerly
Pelion, South Carolina

Unless you have a cool basement, in which you can partition off a corner and insulate it against warmth, your best bet might be to dig a barrel into the ground at an angle, add a tight cover, then when you put sound potatoes in it, shut it up and cover the whole thing with bales of straw for extra insulation. This works great for many people; kind of a mini-root cellar. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Finishing harvest & finding a rainbow

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

We’re finishing up the harvest and getting the fields ready for winter. I also spotted a rainbow out by our apple orchard that I wanted to share with you. Here’s a video of it all.

Readers’ Questions:

Making baby formula

I would like to know how to make baby formula from evaporated milk?

Leona Martel
Wausau, Wisconsin

This is one “old time” recipe I wouldn’t advise you to use. While generations of babies, including ME, have been raised on it, which consisted of evaporated milk, Karo syrup and water, it is now not advised as it is not nutritionally complete and can damage the kidneys and cause dehydration, should the baby become ill and not be able to take adequate formula to keep the electrolytes balanced. Better yet, and older still, is good old Mom’s milk! — Jackie

Heating with kerosene

I live in the Cleveland, Ohio area where winters get COLD. I am from Memphis, originally. In one of the articles in the Survival issue you guys mentioned having kerosene stoves available and a 55-gallon drum of kerosene for about 2 months use. Are there any that are safe for indoor use, and can one hook up a vent to the outside? Do you have any suggestions as to brands or types. Besides worrying about the economy, I am really concerned about heating this winter up here.

John Harper
Peninsula, Ohio

I’ll trade you “cold”! Ha ha ha. We get -55 here! But I do understand you concern. Unfortunately, kerosene has taken a huge leap in price. Sound familiar? Now a better alternative for you would be a direct vent propane wall heater. We have one in Mom’s room for when nights get too cold for the wood stove to keep her toasty. She likes it 85 degrees. You can get them that do not run on electricity, nor require electricity to operate safely. They are great for emergencies and will keep you warm. So far, propane is the “cheapest” heating fuel, although not really “cheap” anymore, for sure! — Jackie

High altitude canning

I live at about 7,000 ft altitude and have canned successfully for many years – but never meat. I tried some sloppy joes yesterday – processed at 15 lbs pressure for 75 minutes/pints. The mixture has a definite burnt taste after processing. I wanted to try to can quite a few meat mixtures because I would like to not have so much meat in my freezers but am not happy with the burnt/overcooked taste. Is this something you just have to put up with at altitude or am I doing something wrong?

Cathy Edens
La Veta, Colorado

I had that trouble sometimes, too, when we lived at 7,400 feet in Montana. I found that when you use tomato products, especially those containing sugar, it could have that “scorched” taste. For this reason, I pretty much canned my meat with broth instead of tomato sauce containing sugar. It didn’t seem as the tomato sauce without it scorched during processing like the stuff with sugar. You may have to just can your meat and tomato sauce separately, then just dump the jars together into a pan at serving. — Jackie

Protecting grain from weevils

You advocate storing bulk grain for survival use throughout the year. How can the contents of a tight container be protected from grain weevils? Insecticides are out. Any type of gas such as chlorine or ammonia that would kill any bugs trapped within and leave the grain still fit for human consumption? I have wheat and corn to protect.

Howard Wright
Tullahoma , Tennessee

Generally if you will place your airtight storage buckets in the freezer for a few days, you will kill any grain weevil eggs or possible insects. If these are a problem in your kitchen or pantry, pick up a few pantry moth traps, available through many garden supply catalogs, such as GardensAlive!. They really work and the fewer moths, the fewer weevils in your food. — Jackie

Making potato flour and canning cheese

I would like to learn how to make potato flour from my own home grown potatoes. Do you know how to do this or where I could fine this information?

Also I am very interested in learning how you can cheese? We have a milk cow who gives 7 1/2 gallons a day. Do you use a water bath or pressure canner?

Connie Russell
Dixonville, Alberta

To make potato flour, simply dehydrate potato slices by slicing peeled potatoes, steam blanching them for 3 minutes, then dehydrate until brittle. Once this has been done, whiz them in your blender until the desired consistency has been reached. Then again dry the flour, using a fruit leather tray liner, to ensure complete dryness before storage. Any moisture will cause the flour to mold.

While home canning cheese is considered by some to be “experimental” canning, many books have been written with cheese canning recipes, and a whole lot of people have been canning this high acid (lactic acid) food with good results. I dice up hard cheese and pack it into wide mouth pint and half pint jars, placed in water half way up the open jar, in a roasting pan on the stove. The water gets hot, like a double boiler, and the cheese melts. As it melts, I add more until the jar is full, leaving half an inch headroom. The jars are then wiped clean, a hot, previously simmered lid is placed on them, the ring tightened firmly tight and the jars are then processed in a water bath canner for 40 minutes. I have pressure canned cheese, but the cheese gets a too-done flavor; not burned, but like the browned cheese on top of a pizza. — Jackie

Canning Pumpkin and sweet potatoes

I can’t find any information on pureed pumpkin or sweet potatoes to can. I know I have to pressure can them but I’m not sure how long to process them.

Nicole Bramm
Narvon, Pennsylvania

The FDA does not recommend canning pureed pumpkin or sweet potatoes any longer. It seems that some people did not heat the thicker puree enough before canning them and a bad product resulted. Instead, you can dice your pumpkin into 1″ peeled pieces, bring them to a boil in water, then pack into hot jars to within a 1/2″ of the top, pouring boiling cooking liquid to cover to within 1/2″ of the top of the jars. Process for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit you altitude; consult your canning manual for directions, if necessary). When you want to use the pumpkin, simply drain and puree before use and use as you wish. — Jackie

Canning Achiote seasoning paste

Is it possible to can Achiote seasoning paste? The recipe is a combination of ground spices, garlic, salt, vinegar and flour. It’s so thick I’m not sure if it is safe to can, which process to use and for how long to process. I would like to use 4 oz. jars.

Stacie Lancaster
Manhattan, Kansas

You’re right; because it is thick and thickened with flour, it isn’t a good candidate for canning. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will’s been gone a week but harvest continues

Sunday, October 12th, 2008

It’s hard to believe that Will’s been gone a week; it sure left a hollow spot around here! But I’m still hard at it, canning up the food we picked. The tomatoes especially, were great this year. I’ve put up about four bushels, so far, with four more baskets and boxes sitting in the living room, waiting to ripen. I’ve put up salsa, meatballs in tomato sauce, Italian meatballs, spaghetti sauce, whole tomatoes, and lots and lots of tomato sauce. Boy I sure do love my Victorio Squeezo! It’s wonderful to watch the skins and seeds fall out into a bowl and the puree slide out the chute, into a cake pan, which I dump into my large roasting pan.

When the wood range is burning, I cook the sauce down on that; I’ve never had it scorch. But if it’s not, I turn my gas oven down low and cook it over night and on the next day until it’s nice and thick. Mmmmm. That sauce is so good!

Oh, I just received a bag with four pounds of white oak acorns in the mail. I bought them from a nice woman in Wisconsin, Stacey Royal ( As white oaks bear prolific acorns which contain little tannin, which makes acorns bitter, we want to plant acorns so that eventually we’ll have a young bunch of white oak trees in the edges of our woods to not only feed the deer and wildlife, but us as well. I love acorn meal! As soon as it stops raining, I’ll go out with my planting stick and make a forest. Gee I wish Will was here! I think there’s a million and one acorns in that sack!

Readers’ Questions:

Pickled eggs

Do homemade canned pickled eggs need refrigeration? If not, what are their shelf-life?

Jeff Wurm
Beckemeyer, Illinois

Good news, Jeff! Canned pickled eggs do NOT need refrigeration. And they will last nearly forever when stored where it is relatively dry and dark. — Jackie

Growing potatoes

This past summer, I tried the potato growing procedure I had seen in Backwoods Home. The article used tires in which to grow the spuds, but not having enough rubber around, I fabricated a 4’ diameter ring out of some old 6×6” mesh fencing I had on hand. I planted the seed spuds (Green Mountain) in beds about 8” up from the existing ground, & continued to add rotted manure to the plants until the whole deal was about 38” high (BTW- I used scrap cardboard to keep the dirt in the fencing). The plants did very well, grew like mad, spilling over to almost reach the ground on the outside of their corral. This past weekend, we harvested the potatoes. I fully expected to see the spuds throughout the cage, but was disappointed to find produce only at the bottom of the planting, almost at original ground level. I have read in the archives here on BHM of folks having the same result, as well as plenty who have had 60# harvests! FYIW, some of the spuds we harvested were as big as small footballs, with appendages that appeared to be other potatoes “welded” to the main tuber.

What happened here? I utilized the only “good” soil we have, which is rotted horse manure (the regular NH soil is rocks). I screened the stuff before adding to the spud corral, but I am wondering if the compost was “too much” in one way or another. We really want to be able to produce our annual potato consumption from the garden. Help us Jackie wan Kenobi- you are our only hope…

Deb & Jack Horan
Mason, New Hampshire

The rotted horse manure probably WAS a bit much for your potatoes. That and possibly irregular watering (often rain, coupled with your own watering) will cause mis-shapen potatoes. One we had in Montana looked just like a moose! I think probably the reason you only got potatoes at the bottom is that you let your potatoes get too tall before adding more compost. They should only be a few inches out of the dirt when you add more, otherwise they may think they’re “done” setting potatoes, and only make them on the bottom. Spade up your bed and don’t add more compost this fall or spring and try it again next year with the same soil. I think you’ll see better results. Did your huge potatoes have hollow heart? This condition is also often caused by too much rotted manure and irregular watering. — Jackie

Storing dried foods

I Want to dehydrate food for storage in case of emergency…is it okay to use standard food dehydrator…then store the food inside food saver brand plastic and vacuum sealed?? Will it last for 2-3 years…if dried and stored properly? Are we trivializing this method of survival or should we do deeper research?

Thank you
Erica Smith
Bentonville, Arkansas

Yes, you can use any food dehydrator that efficiently dries your food. When properly dried, food stored in airtight containers, whether jars, tins or your food saver bags, will last for many years, retaining nutrition, taste and color. This is one of the best methods of food preservation, especially when you don’t have room for an extensive home canned food storage pantry. — Jackie

Living without electricity

Your anthology book was very interesting! I was wondering about some details, though. How do you keep food cool, as it sounds as though you have no electricity. How does the well pump water so that you can flush your toilet? Are you still heating water on a stove in order to take a bath or shower? I work at a health care facility in Duluth, MN, so I was wondering how you and your son manage for health insurance also. I hope that you are eligible for MinnesotaCare or some other program!

Beth Litwin
Esko, Minnesota

We have a propane refrigerator. It is very efficient, although fairly small; I’ve learned to try and not have leftovers to save room! You’re right; we are over a mile “off grid.” We have a generator that we run when we need to pump water. In the basement, we have two 350 gallon poly storage tanks that we fill as we water livestock and the garden. Right off them, we have a 12 volt water pump, hooked to a deep cycle battery. The battery is attached to a battery charger, plugged into an outlet. When the generator runs, it charges the battery automatically. When we turn on the faucet, the water pump kicks on until we turn it off, giving us running water, showers, bath, etc. as usual. There is only a hum as the pump runs. Our water system, because of the 12 volt pump, is pressurized, and also goes to a propane hot water tank. We live in the backwoods, but are enjoying a lot of “civilized” comforts like running hot water.

David and I have health insurance through CHAMPVA, because my late husband, Bob, died of service connected disabilities and we receive survivors benefits. It’s something we’re very grateful for, especially when we both have had serious and very expensive health problems pop up in the past.

I’m glad you enjoyed the book. — Jackie

Apples and applesauce

I have a question to ask you about apples and apple sauce. For the first time in my life (and I’m in my 40’s) I picked real live big apples from real live apple trees. Having moved here from out west slightly over a year ago I have only seen crab apple trees. In my home province Manitoba, which is colder than your neck of the woods in Minnesota we could only grow crab apple trees when I was growing up. Now I have access to a U Pick it Orchard 10 minutes drive from home.

So I went with the kids this past Sunday and picked and picked apples – gorgeous crisp sweet apples – my question to you is can you freeze apple sauce? I have looked through various cooks books including basic Joy of Cooking (my cooking bible) and others and can’t find anything on it.

I would can it but I was a bit of an idiot and bought a stove with a ceramic top and now hear that I can’t can on it. I have to wait now and try to find a 1 burner stove that I can use inside the house to can. Unless you can tell me of a safe way to canon ceramic top stoves.

In the meantime I have all this apple sauce and plan to make even more as well as dehydrate the apples. My kids love the apple ‘marshmallows’ I make when the apple slices are dehydrated until they are still slightly spongy.

I can pick the apples myself for 75cents a pound where the stores here charge $1.69 a pound for the same variety of apple.

I told my husband the first thing we’ll do when we find our land is plant ‘big apple’ apple trees.

M. Blaney
Ottawa, Ontario

Yes, you can freeze applesauce. Just pack your finished applesauce into freezer containers, within half an inch of the top. Freeze. I have friends who can SMALL amounts of jars in a stockpot, instead of a water bath canner on their ceramic cooktop stoves. That way, neither the weight or excessive heat will crack your cooktop. You can fabricate a rack out of a small wire grill top, available at local dollar stores or even put a folded kitchen towel on the bottom to keep the jars off the very hot bottom (which will crack the bottoms out of your jars. I wouldn’t do quarts, but four pints at a time seems to work okay. (Note: I’m not advising you to do this, but telling you what is working for my friends.) — Jackie

Jam with no sugar

My question this time is, I’m looking for a canning recipe for Jam with as little sugar or additives as possible. I have found “No Sugar Needed Fruit Pectin Crystals” which is odd because the first thing on the ingredients is Dextrose. Which in itself is sugar, just another type.

I was wondering is there an easier way to preserve just straight strawberries or raspberries. I like the natural flavor of the berries, and hate the sugars that are added.

I would assume I would have to at bare minimum add some acidity to the jam. But beyond that I don’t want to ruin perfectly good strawberries or raspberries.

Also, I have to say I’ve read your articles and thanks to you. I’ve successfully canned asparagus, stewing beef, potatoes, chicken, and all sorts of low acid foods in my pressure canner.

To anyone reading this, don’t be scared people Pressure canning is so simple thanks to Jackies advice… You will be amazed….

Chris Deere
Kahnawake, Quebec

For folks like you, who wish to make jam without sugar, try Pamona’s Universal Pectin ( It is sugar free and you can use little, no sugar or an alternative sweetener like stevia. I’m so happy you are enjoying canning and encouraging others to try it too. That’s what makes my “job” so rewarding! — Jackie

Feeding milk to poultry

Jackie, did you say that your poultry likes fresh goats milk? and you feed it to them regularly? I don’t have a dairy goat but was considering the uses of goats milk. Plus, I just like critters. I have been studying on Nigerian Dwarf Dairy Goats. Would one goat be content among other poultry? and no other goats?

Joanna Wilcox
Boone, North Carolina

Yes! My poultry (ducks, turkeys and chickens LOVE goat milk, along with the whey from cheese and buttermilk from butter making). While goats are herd animals, they will learn to bond with you and also any other critters you have and be quite content, as long as you pay some attention to her on a regular basis. You probably won’t want to house her right in their coop/pen. Goats tend to get pooped on as poultry considers goats nice roosts, complete with foot warmers! — Jackie

Canning roasted tomatoes

Do you have any thoughts on canning roasted tomatoes? I can’t find much on the net regarding this…

Karen Ennis/Buckman
Onalaska, Washington

I haven’t canned roasted tomatoes yet, but I have canned roasted peppers. I just canned them filling the jars with hot, roasted peppers, then filling the jars with boiling water and a bit of salt, then processing them for the recommended time for peppers (not pickled!) in a pressure canner. To can roasted tomatoes, I would roast them, then pack them hot into hot jars, fill the jars with hot tomato juice and water bath for the recommended time for regular whole tomatoes. You can also immerse the roasted tomatoes in olive oil and keep them in the fridge, pressing the oil out when you use them. Many people really like them this way. — Jackie

Bread and butter pickles

I did about 10 quarts of bread and butter pickles I got my jars hot in boiling water, and lids in hot water, put my bread and butter pickle in the jars as I took them out of the hot water, and put the hot syrup in the pickles, and I check a little while ago and they were not sealed. The jars were cool, they should have been sealed, is it all right to put them back in the water bath for 15 or 29 min to see if they might seal?

Lenny Persinger
Kelso, Washington

When you make bread and butter pickles, you should boil your pickling solution, add drained cold cuke slices, bring the whole kettle just to a boil, then quickly dip out the pickles and pack them into the jars, filling the jars to within half an inch of the top with the hot vinegar solution. The jars should then be placed in a water bath canner and processed for 10 minutes to ensure a seal. You can open your jars, drain off the juice, pour it into a big kettle and bring it to a boil, then add your pickles and bring them just to a boil (don’t boil them or they’ll soften), then proceed as above. They may be a little soft, but they’ll still taste good. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

My first video blog

Monday, October 6th, 2008

Dave asked me to do some video blogging, so here’s the first one, followed by some questions and answers. Hope you enjoy it, as I’ll be doing more of them.

Readers’ Questions:

Growing potatoes in tires

We have been gardening in tires for many years now, with great results. It started as a practical way to garden in Ozark hilltops, locally known as “baldknobs” due to the lack of topsoil. We sat pretty much on solid limestone. We made our compost using rabbit manure from our 12 producing does. I noticed in your article on potatoes in tires one missing step, be sure to cut out one sidewall of each tire so the spuds won’t compact the soil inside the tire as they grow, making it like concrete to get the taters out. A boxknife will do the job.

Elizabeth Tiller
Bolckow, Missouri
I’ve never done that, and haven’t had trouble removing the potatoes. But I’m sure removing the sidewall would be a good idea. — Jackie

Keeping canning jars hot

I’ve got a couple of bushels of apples to can. I’ve gone out and bought the canner and jars and things but I’ve found a problem. I don’t have enough space on my stove to have the canner, the heating jars and lids and also cook the apples. My question is this: can I cook the apples and make the applesauce (I have the Victoro) and then heat the canner and jars and lids, which means the applesauce will be no longer hot. I usually freeze my applesauce but decided to try the canning to free up the freezer space. I’ve scoured all the articles in BHM but I haven’t been able to find anyone asking the same type of question.

Diane Mackie
Aurora, Colorado
Here’s what you can do: heat your jars in your canner, then place them in a roasting pan, upright, in your oven at it’s lowest setting. This frees up the stovetop a whole lot. Don’t heat your lids until you just start to pack your apples. Then, having them ready in the water, turn on the heat where the apples were. It’s a bit of a juggle, but once you get the hang of it, it’s no problem. — Jackie

Finding “down time” on the homestead

When do you ever sleep. Do you take “down time” for yourself. Have you ever crawled into bed so tired you didn’t take your clothes off?

I love your column. Every time you either give me ideas or answer a question I thought I was the only one interested in.

Sandra Swanson
Lake Stevens, Washington
Sure I sleep. Of course, sometimes it’s not as much as I’d like, but then I do try to get at least 8 hours. I don’t really get much “me” time, as I am the sole caregiver for Mom, but I do try to take mini-breaks all day. For instance, I read a few pages of a good Western, walk through the yard or garden, just enjoying the growing things, play with the goats, horses or donkeys, teach Spencer, our young Lab pup new things or talk with David or Will. I know I won’t always be this busy, and that helps sometimes. I’m just a plain old homesteader. But I enjoy what I do so very much! — Jackie

Canning chicken

Canned 10 quarts of chicken 2 months ago. Read many recipes including yours. Chicken was boneless and 2/3 way cooked in salty broth, then put in sterilized hot quart jars and processed in pressure canner at 12psi for 90 minutes. Have been checking jars and although most liquid is clear, there are small, pepper sized pieces of chicken which are black at bottom of jar. No signs of leakage, bad smell, excess pressure. Is meat tainted? C. botulinum?

Margot Clasquin
Oldtown, Maryland
If you followed your directions exactly, which it sounds like you did, and the seals on the jars are fine, the broth smells good, your product should be absolutely fine. Did you use any seasonings in your broth? They swell on canning and maybe that’s what you are seeing, instead of black chicken bits? Just a guess here. — Jackie

Canning on a glass cook top

I have a flat glass cook top that I am not supposed to can on. It specifically states in the manual not to use it for this purpose, but I have water bath canned on it for about 5 years without any problems. Now, however, I am interested in getting a pressure canner and starting to can meat, especially venison. I am worried that using this could cause my stove top to shatter, so I wondered if I could get one of the single burner portable table top units that are sold to use with the pressure canner. Do you have any suggestions?

Lori Hinkle
Dongola, Illinois
I have used those portable propane single and double burner units to can on when we lived remote in Montana and I didn’t want to can on my woodstove because of the summer temperature. They work great and are cheap. I bought mine through Northern Tool. You’ll LOVE your pressure canner! — Jackie

Decreasing sugar in pickled products

I like to can mixed pickled peppers, carrots, onions, and cauliflower but all the recipes I find have so much sugar. My husband doesn’t care for sweet pickled foods. Can I safely decrease or leave out the sugar if I keep the vinegar/water ratio the same? You inspire me to keep trying to become more self-sufficient. Thanks.

Missy Steiger
Normantown, West Virginia
You can use a recipe, similar to the pickled hot pepper recipe in the Ball Blue Book, which does not have sugar. Adding onions, cauliflower and carrots would not make a difference, as to the food pickling and not spoiling. It’s best to use a recipe that is tested, to be sure of your vinegar/water balance, so that your product stays acidic enough to keep. — Jackie

Canning chicken enchilada

I make a killer creamy chicken enchilada and would love to be able to can it for my husband to take to work for lunch. Is is possible to can this at home?

Desiree Bradbury
Jefferson, Oregon

It probably is possible, but you’d have to look at your ingredients. If in “creamy” you add milk, the long processing time (pressure, of course) would cause the milk to curdle out of the recipe and make an unappetizing product. Because you have chicken in your recipe, the processing time would be 75 minutes for pints and 90 for quarts. I’d can up something else for his lunch and feed him your specialty at home. — Jackie

Canning butter

Info, not question. While reading the Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide I realized that there was nothing about canning butter. Canned butter is good for a minimum of 3 years and I am using the last of 5 yr. old now.

Melt butter, stir and pour into jars, I use 1/2 pts as there are only 2 of us. Waterbath 20 min. As the jars cool, shake (everytime you walk past them) to mix butter back together. When cool put on shelf in a cool, dark location.

I try to keep my pantry under 70 degrees as foods keep much longer that way.

Liane McKellip
Pikeville, Tenessee
I learn new stuff every day. I’ve been canning butter and cheese for over two years now, and I agree that they are great additions on the pantry shelf. There are those out there, though, who cringe because canning these products are not “approved,” i.e. not in the canning manuals. — Jackie

Silent generator

Can you recommend a good silent generator forum, or a just recommend a few to check out? Ebay has new ones starting at $700 and I don’t want to buy another POS like the first China diesel.

Mike Jones
Fredericksburg, Texas

There are several quieter generators out there. It depends on how much wattage you need. Onan makes one that is often used in big RVs. Honda also usually runs quieter than those with a Briggs motor. Our newer generator has a Honda motor and is quieter than our old ones….but they’re all too noisy for me! But right now, a necessary evil until we get set up with solar and wind. — Jackie

Apple butter

I just discovered your page when looking for recipes for apple butter barbeque sauce. Awesome! I have been making old fashioned, slow cooked non-commercial pectin jellies and jams which has lead me to making apple butter. I make apple butter in the crock pot, cooking it slowly and adding sugar and spices to taste. My question is this: Is it safe to can old fashioned apple butter as it is? does it need a bunch of vinegar or lemon.

Also I have been experimenting with making apple butter barbeque sauce. I notice recipes for canning put in sooooo much vinegar. How much vinegar does one need to safely can an apple butter barbeque sauce…and is apple butter (old fashioned method) safe to can? I would love to give these as presents but do not want to harm anyone. I would appreciate your sagely advice.

Debbie Borel
Kansas City, Missouri

By old fashioned apple butter, I assume you mean pureed apples, spices and sugar, cooked down. In this case, YES, you can certainly can it. It is water bath processed for 10 minutes (if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for directions on increasing the time to suit your altitude, if necessary). — Jackie

Canning fish

My husband and I are purchasing and helping the slaughtering of a large pig in November. Our freezer is about half full, but we’ll need to make room for all the pig. Much of the freezer is fish, as we are avid fishermen. Can I thaw that out and can it? I’ve canned fresh fish before, but I’m not sure if I can do it with the frozen fish. Thanks!

Amanda Weingard
Do, Delaware

Yes, you can home can previously frozen fish. Just thaw as much as you plan on canning that day, then proceed with a recipe from a good canning manual. It will turn out great! (So will pork, by the way!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest continues and we attack new projects

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

We’ve dug our second row of five rows of potatoes, yielding 50 pounds of big fat russet potatoes. Watching those nice clean potatoes roll away from the shovel was just like Christmas morning for Will and I. I had been afraid they might be scabby because of all the rotted manure I’d dumped on that area last fall. But not a trace! And the potatoes are just great.

We got 100 pounds of red potatoes, leaving us with our Yukon Gold, assorted fingerlings and David’s All Blue potatoes yet to dig. David loves his blue potatoes (that really are more purple than blue….even when made into mashed potatoes. Yes, they’re weird, but he likes to grow them every year and this year they are even bigger than before. Yea! We love the manure, don’t we?

While we’re still harvesting (I picked thirty pounds of big fat red tomatoes today.), we are starting to work on developing new trails in our big woods so we can access firewood and make fences around it for some more horse pasture in the clearings. When David’s home, he and Will grab the chainsaw, chains and the good old dozer and head for the woods. They’re having lots of guy fun out there and it’s amazing how much firewood they’ve already hauled in! We had a lot of blow-down trees that are still good, but won’t be much longer if they aren’t cut up. And we sure hate to waste anything around here. Especially when it keeps us warm in the winter.

Readers’ Questions:

Old pressure canner

I have a pressure canner with the weight type pressure regulator. It is old, from the 70’s, but has new sealing ring and rubber on the automatic air vent. I think I have been cooking at too high heat (gas stove), as my corn from last year tasted scorched. I use 15 lbs for our altitude. My instruction book says to start timing when the pressure regulator begins to rock gently, and then to adjust the heat to maintain a slow steady rocking motion. I have always been in a hurry to adjust the heat when the regulator slowed down to barely a wobble. I decided to experiment and leave the flame alone. I was canning stuffed peppers (inspired by you). The regulator slowed down, and movement was barely noticeable, but I could see SOME movement, sometimes the regulator just turned and barely moved back & forth. However, there were small bursts of steam that continued, which I could hear. Then it picked back up a little, and rocked a little more noticeably. The time when it was turning and barely noticeably moving wasn’t for long, maybe 20 seconds. It makes me nervous that it may have been too slow. Can you explain to me what they mean by “gentle rocking”? I was always told you have to start re-timing if it stops. I know you cook with a dial gauge, but am hoping you can reassure me, or tell me to throw out the food! I will keep trying anyhow. Thanks for your help!

Robin Huber
Coudersport, Pennsylvania

The weight doesn’t need to jiggle constantly, but it does rock to release steam to maintain an equal pressure in the canner. If the heat is too high, it will rock noisily and faster. If it is too low, it won’t rock much at all, nor will steam be released. Most instructions call for the weight to rock about 3-4 times a minute, at least. With more experience, you’ll learn to “read” your canner’s noises. — Jackie

Threshing buckwheat

I recently read your article in the Sept/Oct issue on growing your own grains, and then I shared it with my dad. He just started experimenting with grains in his gardens (yes plural) in the last few years, and has done pretty well. But he has hit a snag and asked me to pass his question on to you.

Last year he grew wheat and buckwheat. His wheat threshed out nicely and cleaned easily, but his buckwheat did not. Do you have any tips on “de-hulling” or threshing buckwheat to prepare for grinding to flour? He was wondering if he could just coarsely grind it to break up the hulls and then winnow it from there. What do you think?

Janelle Martinez
North Highlands, California

This is a problem with homesteaders. I simply grind up hull and all, figuring it’s fiber. But the only way you can remove the hulls is with expensive machinery. If SOMEONE knows a way, please let us all know, okay? Thanks! — Jackie

Canning bacon

In Issue 93 a reader asked if bacon can be canned. You wrote that you have canned it, but you did not explain how to do it. Could you please tell me how it’s done? With the world disintegrating, I’m very worried about using my freezer as much as I do. I can’t afford to discard meat since it’s so costly. Can you help me? I have used a pressure canner for years, so I know how to do it.

Beverly Robbins
Tallmadge, Ohio

You can home can bacon, just like you can any other meat. I’ve had the best luck, by far, by canning my own home raised bacon. Number one, it’s leaner, and number two, it’s in a dryer form, being in an uncut side of bacon, than store bacon, which is greasy and sliced thinly. To can a side of bacon, simply cut it into chunks that will fit into a wide mouth canning jar, within an inch of the top. You can slice it, thickly, keeping it in the shape it was in. Canning store bought bacon is a little more difficult, in that it doesn’t keep a pretty appearance as well. But you can do it.

To can bacon, pack it into your wide mouth jars (pints work best), then place the open jars into a roasting pan, filled to about 2″ of the top of the jars, with boiling water. Place this on your stove and simmer until a thermometer inserted into the center of one of your center jars reads 170 degrees. Then adjust your lids and process without liquid added for 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts. Be especially careful to wipe your jar rims with a damp clean cloth as bacon can be greasy and the grease on the rims can prevent the lids from sealing. — Jackie


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