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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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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

4 Responses to “New friends are always welcome”

  1. Becky Johnson Says:

    re: canned celery, do you drain it before putting in soups, stews, etc.?

  2. Marlana Says:

    Jackie (and the powers that be) I have an idea. When your book is ready to go to the publishing phase, could there be a special pre-sale time? On top of that, maybe the first twenty to pre-order could get an autographed copy? I know you’re busy and don’t have time to sign a bunch of books and that you write to help those of us who are seeking experience and the knowledge that you share but I would love to have a copy to hand down that had extra special meaning. Just a thought!


  3. Becky Says:

    Hi. When you use your canned celery, do you drain it or just throw it in your stews, soups etc? Thanks!

  4. jackie clay Says:


    Sorry not to have responded earlier; I just forgot! And Will noticed today that you’d e-mailed again. Oops. That’s one reason I am not supposed to answer questions on the comments part.
    Yes, I drain the celery unless I need to add more liquid to the recipe, then I use the celery “juice”, too.


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