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Ask Jackie headline

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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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Archive for November, 2008

Jackie Clay

We are truly thankful this year

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

We all have our health, and with my previous bout with a scary cancer and David’s wrestle with flesh eating bacteria 18 months ago, that’s something to be thankful of! Mom is doing well, nearly 93. Our house is coming along great. The garden was productive and I’ve canned a whole lot of food from it. My sons, Bill and David each shot a nice deer for us, so I’ve been canning venison and venison products like spaghetti sauce, taco meat, meatballs, etc. for two weeks. I love the hunt, hate the killing, but really, really appreciate all that meat; free of chemicals, free of preservatives, free of unclean handling in commercial meat packing plants.

But best of all, I’m truly thankful and grateful to have a wonderful man in my life to share all of this with. It will only be a little after Christmas when Will flies to Minnesota to join us permanently.

I feel truly blessed.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning clam chowder and smoking venison

Is it possible to pressure can clam chowder? Also, do you have a recipe to smoke venison back strap?

Mari Ashworth
Elk, Washington

You can home can the clams in a salted, seasoned brine, but because clam chowder has milk in it, I just don’t like the way it cans up. I prefer to just can the clams (if you’re LUCKY enough to live where you can get them) alone, then just put the chowder together as you want to fix it. It only takes a few minutes with the canned clams.

You can venison backstrap the same way you do other meats. First you use a dry rub on the cleaned backstrap. You can use your own mixture. The USDA recommends the following: 1 lb pickling salt, 1/4 lb brown sugar and 1/2 oz saltpeter. You can also buy many different dry cure rubs at sports shops that stock wild game cooking supplies. You rub this mixture into the meat well. Place the meat in a clean, dry container, up on a rack so that the meat doesn’t stand in the brine that is drawn from the meat. Keep the meat refrigerated during curing. Re-rub in 6 days. It will take a backstrap about 27 days to fully absorb the cure. Then it is ready for smoking. You will want a “sweet,” cool smoke, using fruit wood, mesquite, alder, maple, etc. NEVER use pine or fir or your meat will taste like turpentine! The ideal smoking temperature is between 80 and 90 degrees. You will probably smoke your backstrap about 48 hours. This can be all at once, or most conveniently, 12 hours smoking, then a rest, then another, etc., until finished. Curing and smoking meat is an art, and it does take practice to get it perfect. So be patient and keep practicing. — Jackie

Living without electricity

I live without running water and without power except for an extension cord. We have an outhouse and are digging the new hole now, do you live without power of any type? I have my wood cook stove, and a wood heater, and I am now hoping to get the propane stove going to cook in summer as I near died from heat this year. I am a single mom with 2 older kids at home, we hunt, garden, and do all. Jackie, I know we will survive through the times ahead, but how do I go without power completely? How do you?

Sheryl Meissner
Bluffton, Alberta, Canada

We are over a mile from the nearest power line. We get our power right now from a generator that we run about every other night for a few hours so I can boot up the computer. We have four golf cart deep cycle batteries with a charge controller and 1,500 watt inverter. Our system is pretty simple. When the generator runs, it automatically charges the batteries. When it is off, I switch to the inverter, so we have lights (CFLs). The batteries are also charged when I switch on the generator to pump water for the animals. At the same time, water is pumped into our two 300 gallon storage tanks in the basement. Our house water is provided by a little, cheap, 12 volt pump, run off a plain old trolling motor (deep cycle), which is charged by a small battery charger when the generator is running. Thus, we have water pressure in the house so we can even take a shower as well as a bath, wash clothes and other things that having water pressure is darned nice. This will be helped in the future by adding solar panels and a wind generator, as funds allow. All this did not happen at once. When I get a few dollars ahead, I buy something that will make our lives better; the golf cart batteries, an inverter, the extra water storage tank, etc. Now we are developing a spring down below the house so we will have water without running the generator, if necessary. We have lived without any power, and it’s definitely possible. Didn’t our ancestors? What we did was use lanterns sparingly and go to bed very early in the winter, so winter became a time of rest. As the days lengthened, we got about much more. We found plenty of entertainment for those long winter days that didn’t require electricity; reading, working puzzles as a family, crafts, making building plans, baking, etc. I really enjoyed that time and don’t fear the possibility of going without power in the future. Right now, our biggest needs for power are my work (computer), writing, and drawing water from our well. At our very remote homestead in Montana, we had a good spring which gravity fed to the house. We had water inside from a frost free hydrant, but were too broke to go further and install a hot water heater, etc. And I did my writing on a plain old manual typewriter, which I could do again, if necessary. Living without electricity can be challenging when you’re used to having it, but it’s definitely do-able. Just look at the Amish. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

New friends are always welcome

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

You’d think, living way back here in the woods of northern Minnesota, we’d be isolated from human contact, at least to some extent. Not so. Especially because I write for BHM. A couple of weeks ago, I got a nice e-mail through the magazine, from my now new friend, Pam, who lives near the Twin Cities. Then she and her friend, Joan, drove up and we got to spend a few hours visiting, sharing ideas and excitement. It’s always great to meet like minds. It helps renew my energy and forward thinking. I may live in the backwoods, but I still enjoy sharing enthusiasm with new friends!

Readers’ Questions:

Hunting pheasants

I recently moved back to my hometown in Alaska, where pheasants roam freely though our yard. My dog has caught one before and we’ve cooked it up and I want more! However, I currently live in city limits with neighbors very close by so shooting the birds is not possible. I would also like to not rely on my dog running around to catch them. Do you have any recommendations of a reliable, cheap bow? The pheasants are often just 20 or 30 feet away in groups of 7-8 so it wouldn’t have to be very accurate over longer distances. Every morning when I see these birds I go crazy watching my free food wander around, and as pheasants are an invasive species in Alaska I would also be doing some good for native birds by ridding the area of them.

Holly Aderhold
Homer, Alaska

Just what are your game regulations, regarding taking these “invasive” pheasants? Deer are “invasive” around here, but if I killed one without a license or out of season, or by an “alternative” method, I’d be in jail. If they truly are not regulated, I’d recommend using a wrist rocket, or modern slingshot. These are very deadly and accurate with some practice. They are safe in populated areas and don’t destroy any of your meat, either, as you aim for the head. — Jackie

Venison, potatoes, and tomatoes

I would like to know how you can your venison? I followed your instructions for canning chicken and it turned out very tasty. Thank you! Do I cook the venison ahead of canning, if so, how long do I precook it? Do you put beef broth on the venison in the jar? How much do you put in? I am adding in onions and celery too and pressure canning for 90 minutes for quarts at 10 lbs of pressure. Anything else?

This year we bought our potatoes at a family pick-your-own farm. Well, we have found out that the son (who is eventually taking over the business) sprayed the plants to kill them off earlier than usual. He said that this toughens the skins and makes them better storage potatoes. Well, husband and I are still upset about this. What does this spray do to us? We are seriously thinking of tilling up more garden space and raising our own potatoes. Approximately how many 15 foot rows would I need to harvest about 100 lbs of russets?

My sister-in-law and I had very bad “beefsteak” tomato luck this year. Can you recommend some tomatoes that we can start ourself that aren’t the ordinary tomato plants found at every greenhouse? We make lots of canned tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, sauce, and juice.

I want to thank you for all your help and advice. I know it takes time out of your busy day to blog. But I really appreciate it! I can’t wait to see your new cookbook too.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

Yes, I precook my venison and can it with liquid of some sort (broth, very light fat free gravy, tomato sauce, etc.). I precook it until it shrinks down in size and lightly browns. If I am just canning chunks of venison for steaks/roasts/stews, I add 1 tsp. powdered beef soup stock per each pint jar and 1 Tbsp. for each quart. Then I add the pan drippings with boiling water added to make a bit of a broth. All my venison is processed for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure. Actually I process at 11 pounds, as we live at 1,400 feet above sea level and I can with a pressure gauge, not a jiggling weight.

I would guess that you’d need about five 15-foot rows for your 100 pounds of russet potatoes. But this is a huge guess, as it depends on your soil, the variety you choose and the care they get. (I know I’d have gotten more potatoes if I had hilled them once more and watered them a little bit oftener!)

As for tomatoes for canning and sauce, I love Oregon Spring, Early Goliath and Polish Linguisa (paste tomato). They have always done well for me, even in short season climates. And pick up some Wallo’ Water plant protectors. They make a huge difference in your final harvest! It’s the one gardening aid I’d hate to be without!

I’m hard at work on the new book, tentatively titled “Grow It; Can It.” It gives plenty of tips on how to grow each food, then exactly how to can it, including fruits (with jams, jellies, etc.), nuts, pickles, vegetables, poultry, meat and fish. I’ll let everyone know how it’s doing as I go. — Jackie

Canned pinto beans

I have been given a large case of pinto bean in cans, then say best if used by Jan 08. How long would they still be safe to eat.

Michael Ball
Noblesville, Indiana

As long as the cans are sound, with no rust cracks or holes, the beans will remain good for years. Just like your home canned foods. The nutrition may decrease a bit, but the safety and taste will be unaffected. — Jackie

Canning celery

Is it possible to can celery? Sometimes stores have it on sale for 99 cents per bunch, and we love it in chili, etc. Can it be pressure canned in pint jars for this use?

Tammy Amland
Howard Lake, Minnesota

Yes, you can home can celery, and I do every year; it’s terrific! Simply wash, trim and cut celery into 1/2″ or 1″ pieces. Cover with water and boil for 3 minutes. Save liquid. Pack celery into half pint or pint jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt, if desired, and ladle hot cooking liquid over celery, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process pints and half pints for 30 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet consult your canning manual for instructions on adjusting your pressure to suit your altitude if necessary.) — Jackie

Making venison stock

My husband just shot a deer this weekend. I am making stock from the leg bones. Because I was unsure, I discarded the backbone. In case he shoots another one, could you tell me if it is okay to use the backbone for that? Thanks.

Amanda Kempi
Dover, Delaware

Because of the possibility of Chronic Wasting Disease, many states advise against contact with the spine/brain/spinal chord. Better stick to the leg bones if you like venison stock. — Jackie

Canning butter

I was wondering if you ever canned butter? I buy raw milk and then make my own butter. Right now I leave a half cup or so out, and freeze the rest, but I would like to have a way to store it longer term if we ever didn’t have access to electricity. Also, do you have, or know where I can find, any good recipes using Jerusalem artichokes? I just dug up nearly a bushel, and now I have to figure out what to do with them!

Amy Kelly
Jonestown, Pennsylvania

Yes, I can butter, along with milk and cheese. Be advised that although these recipes are in several good books and available on line, it is still “experimental” canning, as there are no recipes from experts. Most advise against it because no research has been done re; botulism.

In a saucepan, I slowly melt the butter, heat it, stirring so it doesn’t scorch, to lessen the moisture in the butter. Ladle this into jars sterilized in a boiling water bath canner and air dried, to within 1/2″ of the top. Wipe the rim clean, place a hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. I process my jars for 60 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Again, this is what I do, I’m not “advising” anyone to follow suit. — Jackie

Homemade Cheez Whiz

My neighbor gave me a recipe for homemade canned Cheez Whiz. I’m not sure if this is safe, the recipe has evaporated milk, 1/2 lb. butter, fresh milk, and Velveeta cheese. After you mix and melt it your supposed to cold pack it. I’m not sure how to do that. Do you have any Cheez Whiz recipes? I thought it would be a good thing to have in the house for instant meals. Like in the last couple issues of BHM. Your articles are great, I look forward to them.

Nicole Bramm
Narvon, Pennsylvania

This sounds like one of the Amish recipes from several of my good Amish cookbooks. Yes, I’ve made it and it does turn out good. One of the ones I have is this:

2 2lb boxes Velveeta
1/2 cup oleo or butter
2 cup milk
3 1/4 cup cream

Scald cream and milk. Melt cheese in double boiler, then add oleo, milk and cream. Stir well. Pack hot into hot half pint or pint jars to within 1/2″ of the top. Process for 60 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. — Jackie

Pressing olive oil at home

I wonder how to press olive oil at home without expensive equipment. We have some trees here and it is sad to see the fruit goes to waste.

Yuri Gorodetskiy
Sacramento, California

You can make olive oil at home, but it’s an expensive hobby to get into as a small grinder/press costs over $1,000. Without it, it can be a tedious process. One suggestion is to see if there is a small olive mill anywhere near you. Sometimes they do a backyard olive grower’s crop for a fee much smaller than the cost of your own equipment. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

You don’t need harvest season for lots of canning

Monday, November 17th, 2008

I’ve been hugely busy lately. But it’s a good busy. A great new friend, Pam, from the Twin Cities area, recently gifted me with a whole bunch of slightly dented #10 cans from a local warehouse. They can’t sell them because they’re dented and they end up in the dumpster! What a sin. So she came up to visit with a friend, and they brought the cans. There were a lot of tomato products, sliced mushrooms and sliced ripe olives. So with the venison we harvested, I was soon busily canning the most terrific spaghetti sauce! It has tomato paste, ground tomatoes, tomato sauce, ripe black olives, mushrooms, garlic and, of course, ground venison. While that was cooking and canning up, I also canned the rest of the can of ripe olives I’d opened. Boy did I ever have to search for processing times! As olives are a LOW acid fruit, they can not be canned in a water bath canner. Finally, I found a site from the University of California on processing and home canning olives. They are processed at 11 pounds for 60 minutes. Whew! I was so glad. But because my spaghetti sauce had meat in it, that got processed for 90 minutes (quarts) and the olives held their shape/texture just fine.

Besides the spaghetti sauce, etc. I also was busy cutting up venison and canning that, too. Because I have to take care of Mom I don’t know if I’ll get to hunt yet or not. David’s been hunting, but not doing so well this year. We are allowed FIVE deer this year, as they are reproducing too rapidly and lots of folks have wrecked cars because of hitting them. Today he passed by on a spring fawn. It takes just as much work to process a small deer as a large one, and we’re hoping for another large one. Two will be real good; three would be great! There’s all those meatball recipes I’d like to can up, too…Ahhh, life in the big woods.

Readers’ Questions:

Storing vacuum sealed foods

I have one of those vacuum seal machines and wanted to know if I could use it for long term storage of food items like brown rice, beans, dog food, etc? If I can, how long can I store different food items in a vacuum sealed bag? Is there a reference that shows the length of time for the various food items?

Nancy Crowley
Los Lunas, New Mexico

There isn’t any reference that I know of. Your dry foods, such as rice, beans, popcorn, etc. will store nearly indefinitely in your vacuum bags. They also do, placed in any airtight, dry, insect proof container. Dog food is a processed food with fat added. The preservatives will protect it from going stale, but I’m not sure how long it will last in vacuum sealed bags; you’ll just have to experiment and see. — Jackie

Buying a canner

You answered my question about canning chili in the magazine. Now we want to buy a canner. many years ago you wrote an article on the pros and cons, etc., when picking one out. I looked and could not find it, do you know what issue it was? I have a Lehman’s catalog with one that sounds great. It has no gasket, sides one quarter inch thick, cast aluminum, over pressure plug as a backup. Also should we only buy jars instead of using spaghetti or honey jars that say Ball etc.? should I just look canners up on line or are there certain catalogs that sell them? Any new things we should look for?

Jane Lippincott
Wynnewood, Pennsylvania

Yes, the canners that Lehman’s have are very good; they’re like my old, old huge canner, and that’s lasted me for more than 30 years, with extremely heavy use. The only repair was a replaced dial gauge that was broken when we moved. Not bad! I prefer a dial gauge canner because you can see right now what’s going on as far as pressure goes, and correct the heat under the canner. And, as I’ve said, I like the gasket-less canners for the simple reason that it’s one less thing to wear out and you need to buy later on down the road. All modern canners that I’m familiar with are fine for home canning; I’d not be against any one of them. Be sure you pick up a good canning manual and read it every time you can a certain food. I still do, just to be certain. I’ve used any jar that a modern, two piece lid will screw down on tightly. I’ve used pasta sauce jars, mayonnaise jars, salsa jars and even Postum jars. I know that a lot of people, including experts say that you shouldn’t use them, but I’ve done it all my life and have not had any more jars break that were “alternative” jars than Ball or Kerr. Jars usually break because of a small crack you didn’t see before filling the jar, placing hot food in cold jars or vice versa, having jars rest on the bottom of the canner instead of on a rack or folded kitchen towel (boiling water bath canner) or having a cold breeze hit hot jars, right out of the canner. Lots of luck with your home canning! If I can help you along the way, just ask. — Jackie

Pumpkin butter

I have a question regarding the pumpkin butter. Due to our heat, I have cooked down four Halloween pumpkins before they went bad and want to make your pumpkin butter. On hand I only have some brown sugar ( not a lot) white sugar and a jar of sorghum syrup. Can I substitute? If so how much to what? Also I have bottled lemon juice not lemons. Is this possible to do now or should I just freeze it all till next month when I get my next check?

Diana Curry
Spring Hill, Florida

If you have some molasses, you can “make” your own brown sugar by adding a few drops to the needed substitute amount of white sugar. Otherwise, yes, you can freeze your puree ’till next month and it should be fine. — Jackie

Seeds for Hopi Pale Gray squash

I had no luck trying to grow the pale gray Hopi squash last year. I purchased the seeds from a vendor you suggested. While I had poor luck with all my crops, and the seeds may have been fine, I really was not happy with the seeds. You have promised at least one reader some seeds. Could you possibly sell me some known good seeds for next years garden. I will be glad to pay what ever you think is fair.

Dan Jones
Chickamauga, Georgia

Your seeds are in the mail tomorrow, Dan. I’m sorry you didn’t have good luck last year. Some years are just like that: I couldn’t get rutabagas to grow at all, after 3 plantings with 3 different packages of seed from three different sources! Aliens from outer space, I think! I hope you have great growing this year. Remember to isolate this squash by 1 mile from other C. maxima squash so you can keep and share pure seed with others. No charge. — Jackie

Canning pasta

I was able to buy many packages of pasta for pennies using double and triple coupons combined with sale at our grocery store. I have put these kinds of dry goods into my freezer for fresh keeping but my freezer is packed. I want to be able to put other things in the freezer so I would like to know if it is possible to can up the pasta, elbow mac and spaghetti using the same methods as you gave for nuts. Could I water bath or pressure can the pasta to preserve the shelf life and clear the freezer?

Can’t wait for the book you are going to print on canning. You could presell that thing and make a small fortune you know. EVERYONE would pre-order at least one copy if not more. We all await it with great anticipation.

Gwen Koskinen
Celina, Texas

You don’t need to can up your pasta. If you store it in an airtight container that is insect, rodent, and dampness proof, it will be fine for years and years, just the way it is. I’ve got some of mine in one of my retired popcorn tins and more in the original bags, in a new garbage can. (I’ve had some for 10 years and it tastes just like I bought it yesterday.)

I’m hoping everyone likes the book I’m working on. I’m trying so hard to make it very user-friendly so that it’s easy to find the food you want to can and exact instructions are with each food; no hopping here and there. After I get Mom to bed at night, I hit the computer for several hours. It’s coming. — Jackie

Thanks for inspiration

No questions this time! Just thanks for continuing to be so inspiring. We put in a cash offer on a 1/2 built home in South Carolina today, it’s on some land–not alot but still close enough to my husband’s job he can drive. I will have to quit my job but there will be PLENTY to do on the house should our offer be accepted! Very exciting!

Mary Thompson
Charlotte, North Carolina

You’re right. It IS exciting news. You’re on your way to a new adventure. We’re cheering for you! — Jackie

Hawaiian meatballs

I have canned for years and have really enjoyed it, since you came on the horizon, it has become fun and a new challenge everyday. Thank you. Can I can the following recipe for Hawaiian Meatballs?
1 4 ounce can pineapple tidbits
1 pound hamburger
1 egg
2 slices fresh bread-crumbled
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cloves
2 tablespoons reserved pineapple juice
2/3 cup pineapple juice
1 cup ketchup
2/3 cup brown sugar
Mix hamburger, egg, bread crumbs, onions, salt, cloves, and 2 Tbsp. pineapple juice. Make into meatballs formed around a pineapple tidbit. Bake meatballs in oven, until done. Make sauce out of pineapple juice, ketchup and brown sugar. Pour over meatballs and simmer.

This is a holiday favorite of ours and having it on the self would make it a lot easier, in rushed times.

Linda Fisher
Klamath, California

There’s no reason you couldn’t can your favorite meatball recipe. Why don’t you can up a batch and see how you like them? I’d do a smaller batch first to make sure you like the way they turn out. You will, of course, process pints of your meatball recipe for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure and quarts for 90 minutes, taking normal altitude adjustments necessary (see your canning manual for directions if you live over 1,000 feet). Let us know how they turned out! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Another video and lots of questions

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Jackie, It is so good to see you on youtube. I have been a subscriber to BHM for a year or so, but have been buying them off of the shelf for several years. I love it so much I bought the Whole Sheebang. I just want you to know how much I enjoy reading your articles. I often sit in my deerstand and log onto the internet via my cell phone and read your articles on the BHM website. It truly amazes me how you guys have so much in common with me and my family. I also thought that you would like to know that I use some of your ideas on being prepared for an emergency. I am the Emergency Management Director for Greene County Mississippi, and I often implement some of your preparedness recommendations in my hurricane preparedness articles. My wife and I have discovered the world of canning meat, and we are loving it, thanks to you. I feel that my family as well as my friends and fellow county residents will be better prepared for the next disaster thanks to great people like you and the rest of the gang at BHM.God Bless.

Trent Robertson
Leakesville, Mississippi

It’s always great to hear from readers who read and use my tips. Disasters are not SO horrible when you are prepared and have “creature comforts” to sustain you during the duration. And when one person helps another and on down the line, we’ll all be better off. — Jackie

Readers’ Questions:

Light for brooding chickens

I have seen instructions for brooding chickens with a 250 watt red bulb for heat. Then they said to only have 15 watt light at night or reduce lighting period each week. How can I reduce light while maintaining heat with 250 watt bulb? When heating with a light, then heat equals light. What am I missing?

BTW, I saw a post to you from a person in Texas asking about Aquaponics. I have an aquaponics system at my homestead and have written three articles on this subject for Aquaponics Journal. I am also a member of forum. Any interest in my doing articles on Aqauponics for BHM? You can give my e-mail address to the person in Texas, if you wish. Aquaponics has a lot to offer homesteaders. Fresh fish and vegetables with low water use and lots of environmental control. I am an electrical engineer specializing in automation and control, so I have setup my system to run for a week while I am away.

Douglas Basberg
Clarkston, Michigan

First of all, Doug, let me apologize for taking so long to answer your e-mail. When new e-mails come in, once in awhile, they pop up in previous spots that are long gone. I just happened to be deleting some old blog questions and found yours! Eeeek. Sorry. No, you didn’t miss something. Of course when you brood with a 250 watt light bulb, there will be light as long as the bulb is lit. The only time I used additional light was when I used my old homemade kerosene brooder. It provided no light so I had to keep another lamp or a candle lit on the nearby table to keep the chicks from piling and smothering each other at night.

Thanks for offering your e-mail address to the reader who was interested in aquaponics. I think it IS very interesting and I’m sure Dave would be interested in seeing an article on it for BHM. — Jackie

Canning pumpkin

I was given 20 big pumpkins and I wanted to make pumpkin butter and can it. Also wanted to can pumpkin after I cooked it in the oven and scooped it out. Now I’m reading its not safe to can. Can I pressure can it and how long at what pressure? Your a great inspiration and I admire you.

Sharon Beck
Sikeston, Missouri

The experts now tell us that it’s not safe to can pumpkin and squash puree because it’s a dense product and some folks were pureeing it, then letting it cool down before packing it. Because it was dense, it sometimes did not heat to an adequate temperature for long enough. I have canned pumpkin and squash puree for years, but I am very, very careful to have it simmering when I pack it into hot jars, then quickly get it into a hot canner so it never cools down. It is processed at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions) for 90 minutes for quarts and 65 minutes for pints. Instead, you might consider cubing the pumpkin and canning it that way, mashing it when you want to make a pie, etc. Cube it in 1″ cubes, then heat till boiling in water to cover. Pack the cubes to within 1/2″ of the top of the jars, then pour the boiling liquid that they were heated in to within 1/2″ of the top of the jar and process as above. You might also try drying pumpkin slices. I do this a lot and the slices are easy to rehydrate and they can even be ground as flour to add to soups, stews and even multi-grain breads. — Jackie

Canning blueberries

I became the proud owner of 10 lbs. of blueberries, I want to can some of these for use as pie filling. The recipe I have for doing this calls for Clear-jel. I cannot find this in any of the stores in my area. Can I use corn starch instead of this? Also do I use the same amount?

Pete Ricupero
Shelocta, Pennsylvania

ClearJel is a cornstarch based product that has been formulated so that it doesn’t thicken so as to inhibit the heat from penetrating the thicker product you are canning. Therefore it is not recommended that you substitute regular cornstarch. I found several sources of ClearJel. If you can’t get it to you before your berries need to be canned up, you could either freeze them or can them in a medium syrup and then make your pies using cornstarch to thicken them, as you wish. — Jackie

Garlic juice

Do you have a recipe for making garlic juice? We use a lot of garlic, but would like to know about garlic juice. We understand that it’s the only way to make a really tasty garlic bread.

Paul Harris
Chalfant Valley, California

To tell the truth, I’ve never made garlic juice. I crush the cloves of garlic, which really brings out the flavor. Not chop, not slice, mash. This is then mixed with butter well, and spread over the bread. Everyone who tries it thinks it is the best. I hope you like it too. — Jackie

Canned bread

A whole lott’a years ago, I remember eating my grandmothers’ canned breads, biscuits and cakes. They were great treats. I think they were “hold-overs” from the Great Depression. Anyhow, “Grandmothers” are now gone, along with their recipes. Would you know of any recipes, OR better yet, anyone out there whom might know of or have some of these recipes?

Paul Harris
Chalfant Valley, California

I was one of those grandmothers and made canned cakes and sweet breads for years. Now the experts tell us that it is possible for botulism to develop in those jars of cake/bread. So I can’t recommend it anymore. Sorry. — Jackie

Persimmon trees

I found 3 persimmon trees on the property and just made my wife some cookies. Since I am sharing the persimmons with the wildlife, can I use the seeds to grow starters during the winter? What is the best way to expand my persimmon tree population?

Ron Rogers
Centerview, Missouri

Take the seeds out of your persimmon, then dry them. Place them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag and keep over winter. In the spring, plant them where you want them to grow or else in pots in a protected location. Once they have grown nicely, you can transplant them to their permanent place. Plant at least two in an area, as they will pollinate each other, making a larger yearly crop. — Jackie

Canning meat and beans

I was wondering about canning a recipe I have. It calls for 2 lbs cooked ground beef and 1/2 lb cooked bacon, then butter beans, light red kidney beans, and pork n beans, combined with ketchup and spices. I will be using beans from the grocery so they will be processed already. I was wondering about canning length. Should I go with the time for the hamburger or beans?

Jamie Mastey
Bonduel, Wisconsin

ALWAYS process a recipe for the food requiring the longest processing time, in this case, the meat. Pints are processed at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning manual for directions, if necessary) for 75 minutes for pints or 90 minutes for quarts. Likewise, if you are canning a tomato based recipe, including meat, you would also pressure can it for the same length of time, even though that tomatoes alone can be water bath canned. — Jackie

Canning sausages

Thanks for you help in the past, I have another canning question for you. I have a local butcher shop that makes excellent pork sausages, in a bunch of different flavors, the sausages are quite large about one and one half inches in diameter and about 7 inches long. To cook them I poach them in water and then finish them off in a frying pan. I would like to be able to can them if possible, two to a jar to prevent leftovers. What do you think? Can I just poach them and then process them or are sausages more complicated than that? I read your piece in issue 90 about canning sausages patties but I am concerned about the size of these sausages. By the way I just finished up my second batches of canned butter and canned cheddar cheese, I know it is experimental but it worked like a charm. I would not have gotten into canning if it were not for your articles.

Kevin Dixon
Toronto, Canada

I really think I’d skip these, Kevin. They are kind of large; i.e. dense and you might have a problem getting them to heat thoroughly enough to the center of the meat. Spiced sausages and other meat can also be a problem, as some spices can intensify or change taste in the canning. One common case in point is sage. When canned, it sometimes gets bitter. I can up sausage patties that are pretty much basic-seasoned; salt and pepper, with a little red pepper. Then when I heat them to use, I lightly dust them with whatever other seasonings I want, including sage. This works very well.
No yucky sausages for me! — Jackie

Cranberry relish

I make a cranberry relish where I chop 2# whole cranberries, add 3-4 ground up oranges and sugar to taste. I canned my 1st batch last year using a hot water bath in jelly jars for 20 minutes. They have been stored correctly, the seals are beautiful but they look awful! (kind of a very faded dull reddish) Since it is such an acidic food to begin with, I can’t see a problem eating it. What are your thoughts? Is it normal for cranberry relish to change color? What did I do wrong? I want to try again this year, but hate to waste anything. I make it in small jars as there are only 2 of us.

Mary Byrne
Gassaway, West Virginia

I’ve never canned cranberry relish; I usually make it and serve it refrigerated. But from my experience with other types of fruit relishes/conserves, I’ve found that they often are a darker color, too. For instance, rhubarb conserve is that dark reddish brown you describe. If the seals are okay, the food smells fine and tastes good, don’t worry about it. — Jackie

Chicken sausage

I have a bunch of chicken and I’d like to make some sausage with it. I can find plenty of recipes calling for chicken sausage, but no luck finding any recipes on making the sausage itself. Then I thought, “Jackie will know!” Would you mind sharing your favorite recipe for making chicken sausage?

Bob Bader
Rockwood, Maine

Boy did you stump ME! I had to type “making chicken sausage” into my browser. And I was surprised at all the information. Why don’t you try it and choose one you’d like to try. If I get the time, I might just pick out a couple too. — Jackie

Saving root vegetable seeds

My mother and I just purchased a large variety of heirloom seeds. We already save seeds from the easy stuff, but we’d like to save seeds for everything we grow. How do you save seeds from root veggies like carrots?

Sara Maria
Freeburg, Illinois

A lot of root crops can be encouraged to set seed by leaving them in the ground over winter, depending on the climate. Here in northern Minnesota, I can toss a good layer of straw over my seed carrots and they’ll live over winter and go on to make seeds the next season. If that won’t work, you can pack your seed roots in a 5 gallon bucket of damp sand and keep that in the colder corner of your basement or root cellar if you have one. Then in the spring plant them as you would any other plant and wait till fall to harvest the seed. Be advised that carrots grow all gangly and huge their second year, looking like Queen Ann’s lace and the “carrot” also gets un-carrot like, getting hairy, sprawling and ugly. But it does make seed that is good to plant. Likewise for parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, etc. Good seed saving! — Jackie

Calculating liquid for canning

This weekend I canned 14 quarts of potatoes and 7 quarts of meatballs. How do you calculate how much liquid you will need if you are using something other than water? For the meatballs, I used 1 jar spaghetti sauce with 2 1/2 jars water which came out close enough. Used the rest for meatballs for dinner.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

I confess; I pretty much guess. But you’ll find that after years of canning, your guesses will come closer and closer to being right. I usually have a standby quart or two of, say, tomato sauce, ready, just in case I’m coming up short. I can heat it quickly and use that to finish up the last jars, if necessary. All the flavors of meatballs don’t have to be the same in one canner batch. I’ve canned “cream of mushroom” meatballs along with jars of tomato sauce meatballs. They are all processed for the same time. — Jackie

Salt brining eggs

My father used to tell me how gramma saved eggs during the depression. He said gram just kept them in a salt water brine. The brine had to be thick enough to ‘float’ the egg, where ever you placed it. He said that the eggs would keep for up to a year, only the yolks would break. I have searched every where and haven’t found anything regarding this method of egg storage. Have you heard or do you know of a way to store eggs without canning or refrigeration?

Brenda Lee Shelt
Kalispell, Montana

I think your father’s gram probably kept her eggs in a waterglass solution. My grandmother did; it was a popular way of preserving eggs then. Yes, it will keep eggs quite well. But I really hate it; reaching in that snotty, cold solution, in a crock in the basement is not conducive to visions of great meals! I’ve found that good, fresh unwashed eggs will keep quite well with no treatment, when placed in a cold (not freezing) place for the winter, when the hens may not be laying. I’ve kept eggs from December to March or April this way. The whites get a little watery and the yolks will break more easily, but if you break all eggs in a cup before you use them, you’ll be sure to spot any that have gone bad. Another way that some folks have preserved eggs for over winter is to carefully coat them with Vaseline and store in a dark, cool place. — Jackie

Starting over

We have been trying to find a property we can afford to buy with little or no financing. Currently we’re looking at a partly finished house on land that the builder is selling as is. We think we’d need to get it to the point where it is legal to live in it and then finish it “pay as you go.”

If you were starting up again in a situation like that, what is the one thing you’d do different? Or is there something you would want to have that you maybe didn’t think of last time?

Mary Thompson
Charlotte, North Carolina

Regarding our move and building the homestead, really I would have done nothing different. Other than losing my husband, Bob, the bout with cancer, etc. I totally loved the adventure of building the way we did. Of course, there WERE down days! Hey, I’m human! Like the day it rained cats and dogs before we had shingles on our roof; only a worn tarp. We had 2″ of water on our kitchen floor! But you get bad days no matter where you’re living or what you’re doing. Now I can look back and see just how far we’ve come. And boy do I appreciate every single day! Go for it! — Jackie

Canning pumpkin and squash

My question Jackie, is on purees of pumpkin and butternut. I usually stem up my pumpkin and then puree it and freeze it to make my pumpkin pies and use in bread etc. Is it possible to can this instead of freeze? I make a butternut squash soup that uses cooked butternut,1 to 2 potatoes, chicken broth, butter, onions and cream (all is pureed smooth and served). I would like to can this soup as well if possible. I do know that I would have to leave out the cream, I guess I would add it before serving. I also would love a canning recipe for tomato soup if you have one.

Jennifer Joyner
St. Mary’s, Georgia

You would need to process your soup for 90 minutes (quarts) at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. Consult your canning manual.) You’re right, you probably should leave out the cream, as it kind of curdles on canning. I haven’t found a good tomato soup recipe for canning, for the same reason. I just can the tomato puree, then make a white sauce and stir in the tomato puree when I want cream of tomato soup. It works just fine and only takes a very few minutes. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The last campfire of the year was for burning my cast iron pans

Saturday, November 8th, 2008

We love sitting around the campfire at night. There’s just something comforting about those flickering flames and the smell of pine smoke. Maybe it’s the Native in us? But this time, I had more of a plan. My old, old cast iron frying pans that I’d used at camp for years had developed a good case of the “crud,” especially on the bottoms. This flaky build-up is common, but after awhile, it gets disgusting. You can’t scrape it off, wash it off or wish it off. The best cure is building up a good bed of coals and plopping your pans down in them, then keeping a good fire going for an hour or so.

Of course, while that’s happening, you can watch the fire, smell the pine smoke and listen to the wolves howl out in the woods. David brought out the marshmallows and some hotdogs, too. We enjoyed our evening. Mom had gone to bed earlier, and the night was ours. A few glowing sparks drifted upward but we didn’t have anything to worry about because it had been raining and the woods and grass was wet.

I got my pans burned out well and the next day I brought them inside to wash and season with olive oil and some low temperature oven heating. My pans are now smooth, inside and out, ready to cook future meals on, over the campfire or in the kitchen. I do love my cast iron. And my campfire!

Readers’ Questions:

Flavor of Hopi Pale Grey squash

Jackie, you’re always talking about the Hopi Pale Grey squash, and I’m wondering, exactly what do they taste like? I garden, but wonder about trying the seeds because of their flavor.

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Okay. I admit it; I’m a fanatic about Hopi Pale Grey squash. Not only are they severely endangered, but they are one of the very longest keeping squash AND one of the best tasting, too. They have a thick meat that isn’t stringy. It has a fruity, almost nutty taste. I even grate some of the meat raw on salads. It really is that good! — Jackie

Canning cheese

I have read about you canning cheese. You mentioned that you didn’t can soft cheese. I’m thinking about trying to make cheese and salsa dip. Now I’m guessing that when you can your cheese that it solidifies as it cools. What I need to know is what type of cheese to mix with the chopped peppers so when it cools it is still soft and dip-able. By the way I’m a new subscriber but I’ve been a fan of the website for months and have used many things from the ask Jackie part of the site. Keep up the good work.

Joshua Schrader
Middleburg , Pennsylvania

Canning cheese is still kind of an “experimental” processing. I feel comfortable canning cheese, as it is high acid and it is often stored for months on end to age it without refrigeration or chemicals added. But I’d hate to recommend adding peppers, which ARE low acid and could possibly contribute to the end product allowing botulism spores to live and produce toxins. Until we learn more, it’d probably be a good idea to skip the peppers in the cheese. I have been having good luck by re-canning #10 cans of cheddar cheese sauce into pint and half pint jars. This stays soft, about like Cheesewhiz. I heat the cheese in the can, in my water bath canner, after processing tomatoes…so I recycle the hot water! Then I dip the hot cheese out into hot, sterilized jars to within 1/2″ of the top. The jars are processed in the water bath canner for 30 minutes. Be sure to consult your canning book for instructions on increasing your processing time if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet. — Jackie

What brand of pressure canner?

We are new subscribers and trying to learn as much as we can about self reliant living. Are there any particular types or brands of pressure canners and dehydrators that you recommend? We have a modest budget but would “splurge” for something that would last us a lifetime. We are a family of 4. Thanks!

Steven & Gloria Schultz
Lakeland, Florida

Not really. All of the modern pressure canners and dehydrators that I’m familiar with are very adequate for the job. I DO like the dial gauge and gasketless canners, but I also have weighted gauge canners with gaskets. The only trouble with the gasket is that you have to replace it sooner or later. But they DO last for years and years. The dial simply lets you adjust your heat precisely and you know instantly when your heat is letting your pressure increase. The weighted gauges just rock faster and faster when the heat is going up too high. But, as I’ve said, all are good products. I’m real glad you’re getting into self reliant living! It’s a great, satisfying way of life. — Jackie

Teaching dogs not to chase poultry

I know you’ve written extensively about raising homestead chickens, and you contributed a great deal to the new Chicken Handbook – which is great.

Do you have your chickens completely fenced all the time, or do you let them free range? What do you do to train your own dog to leave them alone? Amazingly, we’ve never had trouble with neighbors’ dogs or other predators, but my husband’s hunting dog won’t leave my girls alone. She killed one of my Rhode Island Reds and one of my meat ducks earlier this summer, and yesterday she attacked my other Rhodie as she was coming out of the coop, from laying an egg, and wasn’t with the rest of the flock. I think she’ll be ok, and I’ve got the rest of my mixed flock back inside our fence for now. But I’d like to be able to let them range, since I don’t have much fenced in area for them. I don’t know how to teach a “bird dog” not to go after our own birds.

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

Our chickens are fenced in the winter, for convenience, and let run free in the summer. It is easier to teach a pup to not kill chickens than an older dog. And bird dogs DO love birds! But so do huskies. I would NEVER let my huskies run free or I’d never have a live chicken! (I have had a husky that was fine with poultry, though. But she was trained very young; my guys weren’t and would happily eat them all. To teach our pup not to chase chickens, I just took him out there with me every time I went to the coop. When he got too “happy” with the chickens, I’d scold him real severely. Then when he grabbed one, I beat him up. No, I really didn’t beat him, beat him. I just made him think I was abusing him. Let me explain. Dogs have a pecking order, just like wolves. The alpha dog (you) reprimands the pup (him) by grabbing the scruff of his neck and shaking him, while forcing his head to the ground. I didn’t shake him hard enough to do any damage, mostly hollered and shoved him to the ground. It only took one time and he listened to me when he’d stop being enthusiastic when I’d yell at him. Now I don’t even have to watch him. He’s perfectly fine. The same worked for eating eggs, which he really loved to do. With an older dog, you’ll have to be sure to be out with him EVERY time he’s out with chickens out of the pen. And catch him in the act of chasing before he hurts a chicken. Some people have had good luck with training collars (shock collars). I prefer to train without one, but some dogs are just too aggressive to take a lesser hint. — Jackie

Curing sweet potatoes

Can you tell me how cure sweet potatoes?

Edwin Long III
Plymouth, North Carolina

Dig your sweet potatoes, then let them cure by drying them out of the sun, until the skin gets tough. This lets them resist bruising and cracking, which contributes to premature spoilage. — Jackie

Keeping bread fresh:

I’ve really taken to baking my own breads and rolls… The “Burning” question is: How to store the breads and rolls after baking, to keep them from going stale. We live at 4200′ elevation.

Lee Harris
Chalfant Valley, California

After your baked goods are cooled down, place them in a plastic container or old bread bag. Most baked goods stay fresher longer when refrigerated. The one unfortunate thing about home baked goods is that without all those chemicals, they do tend to go stale or mold faster. But refrigerating or freezing them will prevent this. If you then reheat them briefly in a covered container, in the oven, or even uncovered, in a microwave, they’ll again taste just oven baked. It’s great to hear that you’ve caught fire with baking! — Jackie

Boiling canned food

Do you think it is needed before eating food that has been pressure canned to first boil it for 20 minutes? I read this someplace and I’m afraid the quality after all that boiling is going to be gross.

I’m mainly thinking of meat/poultry and soup.

Mary Thompson
Charlotte, North Carolina

It is advised to bring home canned foods up to the boiling point for 10 minutes (add 1 minute for each 1,000 feet above sea level, above 1,000 feet). This does not have to be “boiling”. It can be heated in the oven, as if you made a casserole out of home canned ingredients. This is to kill any possible toxins produced by Clostridium botulinum. However these toxins will only possibly be present if the food was improperly canned or the seal had failed. The boiling won’t affect the taste/texture too much. — Jackie

Dutch oven cooking

I’m ready to learn how to campfire-cook and cook with a Dutch oven. Can you give any tips, and just how DO you bake over a campfire? I can understand using a Dutch oven, but until I get one, can I “adapt” any current baking pans, etc. to do this?

Kathleen Dismore
Marion, Illinois

Keep an eye open in a future issue of BHM. I’ve done an article on cast iron cookware, including a Dutch oven, and you’ll find your information there. It gets too long for the blog. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The goat barn is painted (before winter!) and beauty is expecting

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I finally finished painting the goat barn/chicken coop. And boy does it look nice! You’ve got to remember what it used to look like, with donkey-eaten holes in the old OSB and raggedy blue plastic tarp hanging from the ridge, where it used to cover the gable end. And now the old chicken coop is empty, because I built the new one, I have a remodeling project. I’m turning it into a milking parlor! How wonderful. Soon I won’t have to milk with sleet and blizzards blowing down my neck! Wow.

Oh, and I got my first egg from the new chickens yesterday. How do I know it was the new chickens? Because it was brown. The only brown egg layers I had before were two banty hens, that laid little banty eggs. This one was extra large. My other “old” hens are all aracaunas, and they lay green, blue and pink eggs. So it was definitely a new girl. And today I got another. My new nest box is working!

I forgot to tell you that Beauty, our jenny donkey, is expecting a foal. You remember when we had Moose castrated this spring? I guess it was a little too late. OOps. I didn’t even know IT happened. So, of course, I don’t have a foaling date. But Beauty is getting a round, round belly. On to plan B, making Ladyhawk’s old stall in the goat barn a foaling stall in case Beauty foals during the winter. I sure hope not. We are real excited to have a baby coming, though.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning vegetable oil

I would like to purchase a 35lb container of vegetable oil from Sam’s Club, and am wondering if I can divide it up into quart jars and can it. Do you know and if so how would I do it? Pressure canner?

Jane Simonson
Idaho Falls, Idaho

This is one thing I haven’t canned, nor can I find any information on it. Sorry. I’ve kept vegetable oil a long time in my pantry, but once opened, it will sooner or later, go rancid. It doesn’t “spoil,” but you can’t stand the taste/smell. — Jackie

Trading seeds for sauce

We would like to have some of your Hopi Pale Grey Seeds to try next summer in our garden. We have access to some free #10 dented cans of tomato products, mainly sauce. Would you be interested in some?

Pam Foster
Richfield, Minnesota

I’ll mail your seeds tomorrow, Pam. Yes. I certainly would be interested in some cans of tomato products! I’ll e-mail you. — 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

Kay should check out our properties here in Northern Nevada before going out into the frontier of Alaska. There are tons of remote properties, former ranches, etc. up here and they are a lot easier to get to than Alaska. AND the winters are no where as harsh. We found 32 acres and are anxiously awaiting the day we can build our homestead. — P

Blemished tomatoes

We had to bring in all our tomatoes before the first hard frost, and they were all still green. They’ve been spread out on blankets in the garage and have ripened nicely. My question is about canning them. My book says don’t use any with blemishes, but they mostly all have that. the skin isn’t the greatest looking. I was hoping to just use my Roma mill and make them into quarts of sauce base, but should I be concerned that they aren’t pristine?

Many have gone bad, and I’ve tossed them out. Really, I just want to store what I can, in whatever form I can, so the harvest isn’t wasted.

The types are mainly roma, some “big boy” that are small. I don’t think any are hybrids, but they all got mixed up. I have probably 70 lbs total, including still green ones.

Kevin Long
Elizabeth, Colorado

Those late tomatoes do often have “blemishes.” I just cut out the bad spots, PROVIDED that the “bad” spots haven’t rotted, which spreads into the interior of the tomato. When you don’t know the variety you are canning, be sure to add the vinegar or lemon juice advised in the canning manuals so that the acid level is sufficient for water bath processing. — Jackie

Are tough chickens worth butchering?

My question is about butchering “jungle fowl” chickens. My neighbor had ordered a bunch of exotic chickens which interbred. She moved and gave me 20 of them. They are so tough that my neighbor who taught me how to butcher them gave up. They have quit laying and I don’t want to winter them. They are small and the meat is tough. Is it worth the trouble or should I feed the coyotes?

Michael Fink
Cougar, Washington

Sure they’re worth it! I’d skin them when butchering, then cool the carcasses overnight. Quarter the birds, then simmer them in a big stockpot until the meat is falling off the bone. These tough guys, I usually can up with the broth. The canning helps tenderize the meat; I’ve never had tough chicken that way. (Sorry coyotes!) — Jackie


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