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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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