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Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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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 (sroyal@phatminds.com). 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…

Thanks,
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
Canada

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
Canada

For folks like you, who wish to make jam without sugar, try Pamona’s Universal Pectin (pamonapectin.com). 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

5 Responses to “Will’s been gone a week but harvest continues”

  1. Able Oaks Dairy Goats Says:

    Dairy goats are really nice animals and very smart. Do you make your own cheeses from their milk?

  2. Jason Says:

    Hello:

    I have an Excalibur food dehydrator and was wondering if it would be possible to dehydrate crabapples. We have a very productive tree in our back yard that has given us buckets of these beautiful, sweet and small (approx 1 – 1.5″ diameter) apples. This I’m thinking would be a wonderful way to put by some of these tasty fruits before they start to go bad. I’d prefer (if possible, because of their small size as well as to preserve the nutrition) to leave the skins on. We’ve made plenty of applesauce so we’d like to try something else with them.

    Any suggestion on how to do this if indeed it’s possible?

    Thanks a bunch

    Jason

  3. jackie clay Says:

    Able Oaks Dairy Goats,

    I sure do make cheese with goat milk. Yogurt, ice cream, sour cream and butter, too. I’m really glad Velvet gave us triplet does!!~!

    Jackie

  4. jackie clay Says:

    Jason,

    Yes, you can certainly dehydrate crab apples with the skins on. Just halve them, cut out the seeds/core (if you choose) and lay them on your dehydrator, in a single layer.

    Jackie

  5. Jonica Says:

    Can I grind popcorn into corn meal flour or do I need to get dehydrated corn kernals?

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