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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for February, 2009

Jackie Clay

We’re taking out more walls!

Friday, February 27th, 2009

You think we got a lot done when Will came to stay? Well this week, his son, Don, came for a visit from his home in Alaska. He is also a great carpenter and has plenty of hustle. So Will and Don have been REALLY getting things done. David, Don and Will took the bulldozer across our frozen creek and swamp, into our big woods across from the house, where they’re refreshing our surveyor’s flags on the property line and also dozing a trail along it so eventually we can fence it. You can only access that land with equipment in the winter as there’s no dry access to it. In the summer you can canoe across the beaver pond, but you sure can’t drive anything to it or even walk without major wet feet.


We’re also taking out the wall between the greenhouse and the living room, which really opens up the house. This wall was temporary, as we had it planned all along. Now our greenhouse is part of the living room and the wall out makes everything seem so airy and light. We really like the look.


They’re also tearing into the new addition, working on the tongue and groove knotty pine ceiling in the living room, adding long siding in the entryway, above the logs. This will also leave room to snake a water line up the wall, across the ceiling inside a hollowed out log beam, to the new laundry room. In this country, we don’t do water lines under the floor or on an outside wall. We were up till 2 A.M. yesterday! And I’m not a night owl. ZZzzzzzz

But it’s great and we’re sure enjoying Don’s company.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning cherry juice

Do you have a recipe for cherry juice that I can put in jars. I have looked everywhere and cannot find one. My mom and aunt have an abundance of cherries and wanted to make juice. I found a lot of cherry wine recipes but no juice recipes.

Lynne White
Lacombe, Louisiana

Here’s a recipe for you: Enjoy your bounty!

Wash cherries, remove pits and crush fruit. Heat to simmering (185 to 210 degrees F.). Strain through cloth bag. Add sugar if desired (1 cup to 1 gallon juice). Reheat to simmering. Fill hot jars leaving ½ inch headspace. Process in boiling water bath. Process time for both pints and quarts at altitudes of: 0-1000 feet: 10 minutes; 1001-3000 feet: 15 minutes; 3001-6000 feet: 20 minutes; over 6000 feet: 25 minutes. — Jackie

Using powdered cheese and milk

You mentioned that you buy powdered cheeses and milk. Can you tell me how you use them?

Bruce Clark
Interlaken, New York

Powdered milk can be reconstituted and used in cooking, baking and even drinking, just like fresh milk. You can even make cottage cheese from it. Or you can make your own baking mixes, like pancake mix, using it and just add water when you want to use it.

Powdered cheese is great to use as a cheese sauce (I make a simple white sauce, then mix in the cheese along with milk) or to sprinkle on popcorn.. I also use it in soups like cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup as an added flavoring. You can mix cheese powder with sunflower or peanut oil to make a spreadable cheese for crackers or breads, too. — Jackie

Growing potatoes in tires

Potatoes in tires–possible problem–there are some concerns about heavy metals from tires leaching into the soil and contaminating food plants. I received this from our extension service–everyone has to make their own decisions, but I thought the information worth considering.

“In terms of heavy metals leaching from rubber – there’s no question that they do. The question is which metals potatoes will take up in significant amounts. All plants take up heavy metals – because many of them are essential nutrients. They often can’t differentiate between necessary nutrients and toxicants. Furthermore, even needed nutrients can be accumulated in toxic amounts. Plants vary in where they store them – roots, stems, leaves, flowers, seeds – all are possibilities. The other important factor is pH. Heavy metal uptake increases with increasingly acidic soil conditions..

I did a quick search in the literature, and there are several studies that found potatoes taking up significant levels of heavy metals including lead, arsenic and cadmium. To me, the potential risk is just not worth using rubber products around food crops. There are many other sources of environmental contamination (e.g. lead from gasoline and paint), so my own choice would be to limit potential contaminants as much as I could.”

WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center
2606 W. Pioneer
Puyallup, WA 98371
Phone: (253) 445-4542

Bob Taylor
Poulsbo, Washington

Thanks for the information. It is something to consider, for sure. — Jackie

Ceiling joints

Two questions and some comment, if I may, on the wood overlay ceiling, of your octagonally shaped, living room and the young man standing on the scaffolding? Is he applying some sort of gap-filling, yellowish compound, between the end joints? Second question; are those end joints of the wood ceiling overlay simple butt joints? If one were to assume the two bisecting angles of two sides of a regular octagon = 45 degrees,then each bisecting angle = 22.5 degrees. Also,instead of butt joints,which tend to leave gaps dependent on relative humidity, either from environmental, seasonal or human respiration/aspiration; scarf joints are preferred. Scarf joints allow for swelling and shrinkage of the wood without those telltale gaps of butt joints. If you’re going through the trouble of cutting a 22.5 degree miter on one plane, home much harder is it to cut a second angle on a second plane? Rent a sliding compound miter saw or make friends with a handyman that owns one? You’ll be pleased with the results and won’t have to spend money on that yellowish joint compound that probably stinks forever!

Carl Goetz
Crestview, Florida

We will be putting 3/4 logs over the joints, so Will isn’t fussy about using our miter saw on the joints. And he isn’t putting Great Stuff between the joints of the tongue and groove, but the joints between the insulation board (Thermax). Then they are taped over the Great Stuff. There is a gap between the tongue and groove to allow for swelling/movement, which the log will cover. The log will not be fastened to the tongue and groove paneling.

Thanks for your suggestions. — Jackie

Freezing flour

I have been grinding my own wheat berries for the last year and was told last week that I should be freezing the left over flour. Is this true? I do freeze my ground flax, but did not ever think of keeping the flour cold. Can you help me with the answer and explanation.

Pamela Lawstuen
Alma, Wisconsin

While freezing will keep your flour from going rancid so quickly, it is not necessary. I don’t freeze my home-ground flour and it’s just fine. If you have the freezer space, go ahead and put it in; it will also prevent any from developing pantry moth larva; flour bugs. — Jackie

Canning milk

I tried canning milk last fall after my grandkids left most of a gallon (from grocery store) after a visit. When I got one out yesterday, it appears to be semi-solid. Like a large chunk of cottage cheese. Any ideas what happened? Is it still good or do I need to dump them? My cows will be coming fresh in a few months and I would like to try again.

Rosalie Secore
Crown City, Ohio

Don’t give up. Open a jar of your canned milk. Many times, pressure canned milk ends up more like condensed milk; thicker like that, and sometimes a tannish color. It is still good for cooking/baking. If the jar is sealed, the milk smells good, chances are it is. If not, toss it. Better safe than sorry! I don’t know how you processed your milk, so I can’t give more advice. — Jackie

Keeping chickens in winter

How do your chickens survive (thrive?) in their winter quarters when the weather is below zero? How did our ancestors raise chickens in the cold Wisconsin Winters without generators for electricity?

Joyce Andrew
Hillsboro, Wisconsin

My chickens are doing great. My coop is pretty much draft free; I went around with insulation and caulking and did all the cracks early in the season. There are enough birds to provide body heat to help heat the coop. I do not provide any type of additional heat, although I would like insulated walls in the coop by next winter. When the snow came, I shoveled it against the walls to help hold the warmth. I also keep plenty of dry shavings on the floor to keep their feet toasty and the dampness down to a minimum. On warmer sunny days, they go outdoors to keep them happy. — Jackie

Planting celery

I noticed you are going to plant celery. I live in southern Iowa and would like to try growing celery. Is it too hot here? Do I plant them real close together?

Becky McKim
Ankeny, Iowa

You can grow celery in southern Iowa. Don’t plant it too close together; a foot between plants is close enough. My little baby celery plants just came up today, so we’re celebrating! — Jackie

Wallo’ Waters

Jackie I read your book and you mentioned Wallo’ Waters. What are they and are they home made or did you buy them. Can you tell me how to make them or buy them.

Lynne White
Lacombe, Louisiana

Wallo’ Waters are 5 gallon bucket-sized poly tipis with water filled individual cells. No, you can’t make them, but they are available through most seed catalogs such as Pinetree Garden Seeds ( and garden centers. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

One man’s junk; another man’s treasure

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009


A friend gave Will a junker air compressor that the pressure switch was shot on. He and David spent several hours rigging a motor, changing pulleys, adding a cord and finally re-doing the pressure switch. After all was said and done, it worked! Now we can use air tools, like a nailer, paint sprayer and other pneumatic tools. That’ll come in especially handy when we start our new spring project, a wood shed/equipment barn/hay storage and small equipment garage. How nice.

Readers’ Questions:

Storing citrus fruits

I recently moved here to Southern Texas where the citrus is abound. Can you advise different ways I can store, freeze the oranges and grapefruit I have in my backyard? I hate to just let it go to waste.

Barry Eppley
League City, Texas

You can freeze the juice or home can the sections of fruit and/or juice. Canning citrus is easy. For instance, to do oranges: Remove fruit segments, peeling away the white membrane that could cause a bitter taste during the canning. Remove the seed. Make a light or medium syrup, as you wish and keep it hot. Pack orange segments in hot jars, gently shaking the jar to settle the fruit, leaving ½” of headspace. Ladle boiling syrup over fruit, leaving ½” of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints and quarts for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

To do grapefruit: Make a light or medium syrup, as you wish. Peel grapefruit with a sharp knife, removing the white membrane. Run your sharp knife between the pulp and skin of each section and lift out the sections without breaking. Remove and discard the seeds. Pack grapefruit in hot jars, leaving ½” of headspace. Cover with boiling syrup, leaving ½” of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process both pints and quarts for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Enjoy your citrus! — Jackie

Canning hot fudge sauce

I just made eight pints of hot fudge sauce, poured it hot into clean jars and they sealed. Normally I make half as many jars and keep them in the fridge, but with eight I would rather have them in the pantry. Do I need to process them?

Betsy Palmer
Saybrook, Illinois

It would depend on your recipe. Many have condensed milk and butter or margarine. These would require processing, but I don’t have a concrete time for you. This is probably one thing you may want to keep in the fridge. — Jackie

Processing snow geese

In an effort to control the snow geese population, the state has increased the daily limits on them. My husband has been bringing them home with regularity now. I’ve been saving feathers and eating the carcasses, but we’ve been throwing away the innards. This seems like a waste to me, so here’s my question: can we use the gizzard, livers and hearts of the wild birds like we use the ones from chickens?

Amanda Kemp
Dover, Delaware

Yes, you sure can. Like any other giblets, just make sure they are normal appearing. Then enjoy your bounty! — Jackie

Herbs for beef

I am trying to find out what kind of herbs you can use to help treat beef. I have found resources on herbs for horses, but can’t find any for bovine. What herbs are safe to use on beef?

Ivy Schexnayder
Winslow, Illinois

Try the book THE COMPLETE HERBAL HANDBOOK FOR FARM AND STABLE or type herbal remedies for beef cattle in your browser. There is a wealth of information on this subject out there. — Jackie

Frozen canned goods

My canning jars froze, will this ruin the contents of them?

Shay Martin
Troy, Maine

No, yes, and maybe. Or maybe not. I’ve had frozen jars because of our move here in February of 2004. They were really frozen…for months! My pickles were toast, some of the fruit was soft, but useable in baking. Most vegetables, all of my tomato products and meat was fine. All of the jars remained sealed. If yours are still sealed, open one at a time as you wish to use them and check out the contents. I’m thinking you may be surprised. — Jackie

Dehydrating frozen vegetables

Can I dehydrate frozen veggies like peas, or mixed veggies? If so, how? I can’t find any info in books!

Dave Harvey
Ammon, Idaho

Yes. I’ve dehydrated frozen peas by simply plunging them into boiling water to thaw them, then laying them on the dehydrator trays in a single layer. Dehydrate as if they were fresh. Enjoy. — Jackie

Canned cheese and butter

I have just read about canned cheese, and canned butter on another internet forum. These products are available from Internet grocery. The cheese was a Kraft product. Are you familiar with these or similar products, and what do you think of them.

Gary Minter
Acworth, Georgia

Yes I am. I’m sure they are probably good products but they are way too pricey for me. — Jackie

Zinc jar lids

I have seen several things on the zinc/glass or zinc jar lids. These appear to be reusable. Can you pressure with these or water bath with these safely? If so, how would I do it?

Gwen Koskinen
Celina, Texas

Sorry, Gwen. Grandma used the zinc lids with rubbers for her pickles and fruits. No I don’t recommend using them because you can’t tell for sure if a jar is sealed or not. This is very dangerous for canning low acid foods. I still have some, but use them for decoration and storing a few dehydrated foods. — Jackie

Dehydrated margarine

In our Mar/Apr 2009 issue #116, you said you buy dehydrated margarine from Emergency Essentials…so do we. How do you use it? We have tried to make it into a solid for spreading on bread but have not been able to find the right formula. Can you tell us how to do that?

Joan Bowman
Hereford, Arizona

I mix the margarine powder with corn oil to reach a spreadable consistency. I first tired water. Yuck!! — Jackie

Canning butter

A million thanks for answering so quickly about the walnut canning problem. I pulled the temperature down to 200 degrees and toasted the nuts 30-40 min. Then canned them. PERFECT! I am working with bushels.

Now, I took time to go through your blogs, for the first time. You told about canning butter 60 minutes in a boiling water bath. BUT, in Issue 112 (July/Aug 2008), page 73 you said 40 minutes That is where I first read about it. And I followed those instructions. Now, I am not sure if I should go back and Re-can my butter that I did. Will it get bacteria? HELP here, please.

Also, since you are blogging your LIFE I would like to ask…who is Will? I think I must have missed something? Am I being too inquisitive? If so, don’t answer. I am excited about the book you are writing about canning, etc. Good for you…but WHERE do you find the time? I can barely get all I need to do done and you do twice/three times more than I. Does it have to do with organizational skills? Do you make lists? What is your secret?

Jan Eylar
Savannah, Missouri

As canning butter is still an “experimental” canning process, there are no experts’ recipes. Many folks who are canning butter successfully don’t even water bath it at all. I’m not comfortable with that, so I followed first a recipe that recommended 40 minutes processing, then I upped it to 60 minutes, as that is what we process milk for. Sorry to be confusing.

Will is my boyfriend. We’ve been writing, calling and flying back and forth, visiting, for over 2 years now, as he lived in Washington state. As you know, he’s now here, permanently, partnering in our backwoods homestead.

No, I have absolutely NO organizational skills. Ask anyone who knows me. I just keep going until it’s either done or I’m too tired to move. I’m kind of like the tortoise, pretty slow, but steady. Remember that I don’t do EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY. Everything has it’s time. I’m usually late, but I just keep working at the edges until it gets done. — Jackie

Shelling peas

I’ve done a search here on the web site and could not find any info on shelling peas, other than putting them in a bag and beating the crap out of them.

I know the two hands the Good Lord gave me will get the job done but was hoping for something a little faster. The search I’ve done on the www brings up a name brand Sheller both hand crank and electric but the reviews I’ve found are not favorable. I did however find a couple designs for homemade ones.

Since my husband has been Active Duty Army for the past 21 years and is just in the process of retiring a lot of this is very new to me and while I’ve left various fruit tree and berry bushes in numerous states and even a different continent this will be my first attempt at peas.

Dawn Norcross
Orion, Illinois

I’m sorry to report that in my opinion, the shellers really aren’t so hot. I’m back to sitting on the porch, in the shade and shelling peas by hand. I poke my thumbnail in the seam and pop the pea pod open, then run it down the row of peas, popping them out into my bowl. I’m really pretty fast and last summer I canned a whole lot of peas and mixed vegetables with peas in them. I have a crank/electric mixer sheller, but I’m really faster than it is, plus I don’t get peas all over the floor. (If you par-boil the peas just until the pod is limp, they don’t shoot all over the room as you shell, but they still kind of miss the bowl on occasion.) I knew one woman who used her wringer washer wringer to shell peas, but that seems a little overkill to me! It’s kind of gardener’s zen to sit, shelling peas on the porch. — Jackie

All American Canner

An update from last weeks 2 questions on “Failure to seal”…This is my third time to try to get a completely sealed batch, I canned up 5 qts of deboned chicken and broth…ALL FIVE SEALED!! I didn’t rush the cooling off and waited 5 minutes after the gauge went to 0. Then lifted the petcock off and Viola!! I guess my brand spanking new All American Canner and I will be friends after all!

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

Wow! I’m so very, very happy for you. And your new friend. I’m sure it will be the start of a long and meaningful relationship. — Jackie

Dill pickles

I was wondering if you would share with me your recipe for dill pickles? I looked through the archives of your columns to see if you answered my question already, but couldn’t find just what I wanted. My pickles always come out limp, although my husband says they taste good. I’ve tried soaking in ice water, using alum, lime, etc., but nothing seems to work. I pack my pickles cold in jars, then process. I don’t know what I am doing wrong?

I would also appreciate advice on canning sweet corn, most the of the books I have on canning say canned corn turns brown, but I know it can be done somehow.

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

The longer you “cook” (or boil) pickles, the softer they will become. In the old days, people never water bathed their pickles. But as safety became more of an issue, they began to process the pickles after they were put into jars. So the shortest time in the water bath canner usually results in the crisper pickles. Some helps I’ve found are to use totally fresh, smaller cukes, harvested in the morning (not after sitting in the hot garden sun all day), then processing them right away. I wash them in cold water and hold them in cold water until they are ready to can. I use a recipe that packs the cold cucumbers in a hot jar, with boiling brine poured over them. Then the pints are processed for 10 minutes. (Quarts take 15 minutes, so I don’t do quarts.) I hope this will help you.

Sweet corn very seldom gets brown when you can it. I’ve never had a jar of brown corn, and mine is always much better than any store corn that I’ve ever eaten. Follow the directions in your canning manual and enjoy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

A quick chicken coop

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

Here is a short Video Blog of how I made room for 12 chickens.

(Oops! I posted this video once before. It was previously posted as part of a longer video clip here.)

Jackie Clay

We’re still working on the addition, but now we are seeing results!

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009

We’ve been working on our new addition every single day, and yes, some days it seems like we worked SO hard and nothing changed much. But now, suddenly it’s all coming together. I’ve painted the entryway now, with three coats, and Will has moved on to putting the knotty pine up on the living room ceiling. As it’s an octagon, there’s plenty of measuring and cutting involved there. But with the scaffold that Tom left here for us to use, it’s a lot easier than teetering on a ladder.

ceiling layout

I also canned up 19 pounds of “of sale” cheap hamburger. I got it for $1.39 a pound and canned it up just plain, lightly browned. That way I can use it for a huge variety of recipes. Besides, I didn’t want to take the time to season it this way and that. I sandwiched it in between sanding mud and painting. Yes. I was hugely tired!

dining room

Yesterday, I mopped the newly painted entryway, then moved the sofa and chair out there so I could finally have a dining room. WOW! It’s all so huge, after being cramped in for so long. As the living room isn’t done, the sofa and chair are just temporary, but it got me a nice place to feed everyone and that’s so nice.


Oh, and I planted 17 different varieties of peppers and a flat of celery yesterday, too. Peppers take so long to “get going” so I need to start them very early, so I can set them out in Wallo’ Waters this early spring. I want lots of sweet ripe peppers this year! Mmmm, I can taste them now…

Readers’ Questions:

Using an old crock pot as a bean pot

Jackie, could the inserts from old crock pots be used as bean pots in the oven? I realize that plastic covers would not be suitable, but a cover could be made from foil..and Richard Blunt’s article about rice and beans prompted my question. I wound up putting my beans in a crockpot which lengthened the cooking time considerably, but could I have used the crockpot liner in the oven? Thanks.

Kathleen Dismore
Marion, Illinois

Probably. I can’t say for certain, as they could possibly be affected by higher oven temperatures. I don’t have a bean pot, but use my Dutch oven or a deep glass casserole with a cover, for my beans. All I can say is give it a try, but I’d put a cookie sheet under it, just in case it should crack. You wouldn’t want beans dumped out all over your oven! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve been knocking out walls

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

will drawing arch
Really! To make the new dining room and entryway more roomy feeling, we’ve turned the window in the old living room into a half-wall with an archway over it, supported the wall with a vertical post and removed four feet, making the walk-through into the greenhouse seven feet wide. Will made a cardboard pattern from the cut he made on the sweep (the stacked corners overhanging the front of the house), which made a gentle curve, so the archways would all match. Then, carefully, he cut the new arch in the half wall. With lots of work because there were four 12″ hardened steel log screws in the area he was cutting, he finally got the cut made and the logs removed. WOW! It changed the whole look of the interior of the house, from small to huge!

Then we took out the east wall, from the old door, which was removed, eight feet further, again supporting the top two courses of logs with a vertical post. Again, there was a matching arch cut at the top. And again, WOW! The whole area opened up into the new entryway/living room. It’s gorgeous. Of course we still have a lot of work to do finishing the whole thing up, but we sure have encouragement to do it now. And the sunny windows will be perfect to start my new crops of peppers and tomatoes this spring!

Readers’ Questions:

High altitude canning

I live at over 4000 feet. I just bought a pressure cooker/canner and the instructions say to not can over 3000 feet. Is this true? And if it is, what is a good canner for us highlanders?

Carol Sorensen
Sparks, Nevada

I’ve never bought a pressure cooker/canner; if it’s one of the smaller ones. I’ve canned at 7,400 feet, up in Montana, and canning books have directions for up to 10,000 feet. I’d call the company if your directions say that. You may have to exchange it for a larger one. — Jackie

Canning bags

Let me say you are my hero! I so admire what you do and how you live. I would love to visit you sometime if I am ever in the area. But I do have a question with all this admiration! A friend at work said he heard of canning bags that you use instead of glass jars. I can not find anything in the internet about them, but knew if anybody knows about this new product, it would be you.

Audrey Bennett
Belvidere, Tennessee

Would love to have you stop by. No, I’ve never heard of canning bags. There are vacuum sealing bags, but they don’t work in place of canning. They are okay for freezing some foods, but don’t take the place of canning. Jars last forever! — Jackie

Failure to seal

I’m writing to ask a “failure to seal” question. I have a brand spanking new All American Canner used it for the first time yesterday to can beef vegetable soup. I had a time getting it up to pressure, it took an hour or two before I realized it was leaking steam too much to ever pressurize. My husband came in and tightened the wing nuts down even more (I had tightened them until I met good resistance). Finally pressurized, it was a 90 minute canning time and afterward, taking out the jars there was a lot of blow out on the jars and lids, I cooled them overnight and only 2 have sealed, the rest I have poured out (After sitting out all night, I was wary of trying to recan). What happened? The blow out, taking so long to bring them up to pressure? I’ve never had any failure with my old canner.

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

My guess is that your water evaporated due to the long exhausting of steam. It’s just one of those things. Be sure to tighten wing nuts in opposite pairs in order to get the top settled down evenly. If you don’t, it doesn’t seal and you get this problem. It can happen to anyone. Try again and better luck. — Jackie

Failure to seal, part 2

Jackie, I wrote this morning about a “failure to seal problem.” I have a comment to add. I canned 2 more quart widemouth jars this morning, followed ALL directions to a T. The canning went off without a hitch but only 1 jar sealed. Could I have defective lids? (I let the lids simmer in water until I needed them).

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

I really don’t think you have defective lids. In more than forty years of canning, I’ve never had a batch of bad lids; some better than others, but none I’d label defective. The chief cause of jars not sealing is often leaving them in the canner longer than necessary after the pressure returns to zero. Once it does, let off all the remaining steam and remove them at once. Also, don’t “hurry” the process by bumping the steam valves, letting steam exhaust. I’ve done that a time or two in a “hurry” situation and had jars fail to seal. If you’re still having trouble, let me know and we’ll figure this out. — Jackie

Dehydrating cooked rice

I was just wondering if it is safe to dehydrate cooked rice at home. I would like to make some home made backpacking meals for my husband so lightweight is key. I haven’t seen a recipe in any of my food preservation books.

Magi Clark
Leavenworth, Washington

Yes, you can dehydrate cooked rice. Use a bit less water to cook it in, so that the kernels separate after cooking. Then put it in a thin layer on your dehydrator sheets and be sure to stir it around during dehydration to break up any clumps. Better than Uncle-You-Know-Who. — Jackie

Making bean flour

What can you tell me about making and using bean flour, sounds like something I could do.

Patricia Treadwell
Marshall, Mississippi

You can make bean flour by simply grinding any dry beans in a grain mill or even your heavy blender. For fine flour, run it through a sieve to remove any bigger pieces, which can then be re-ground. Bean flour is often used as a thickener for soups and stews, also adding a beany flavor. You can also use it in meat dishes to replace part of the meat, much as you might do by using refried beans in your tacos. Experiment and you’ll have lots of fun, along with lots of healthy eating. — Jackie

Canning Kielbasa

Our local grocery store often has Turkey Kielbasa or other such prepackaged sausages on clearance and I wondered if they would be a good candidate for canning? I was thinking it would be a great addition to kraut or rice for an “in a hurry supper.”

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

While you can home can these sausages, I really can’t say that I like the end product. Mine has tasted over-processed and kind of flat. Try a couple and see what you think. — Jackie

Dairy goats

Seems I read somewhere a goat crossbred Pygmy/Nigerian made good pets and milk producers. Before I buy my goats, what do you think?

William and Jane Petty
Wilkesboro, North Carolina

I really prefer larger breeds of dairy goats. They produce more milk for the feed consumed and the excess bucks also can be used for meat, as wethers, whether by you or from sales. There isn’t much market for pet pygmy goats. But this is a personal decision; some people swear by this cross, as well as purebred Nigerians or Pygmies. — Jackie

Storing popcorn and spices

I purchased some popcorn online. Amish Country tiny kernel popping corn as my husband and I love it. We want to store it somehow for longer storage. the corn comes in plastic bags that are sealed at the top. Do you have any recommendations? I thought to place in gallon buckets and add an absorber to it but I don’t know if leaving in the plastic bags before adding to the bucket is a good or bad idea. I don’t want to acquire bugs in my popping corn as this has happened to me once before when the bag was just sitting in my pantry.

Also, can you tell me the best way to store spices (i.e., #2.5 cans, simple bags, etc.). I assume they lose their flavor if not stored in some protective manner for longer storage. I am referring to 5+ years or so.

Elena Wallace
Woodinville, Washington

I often store bagged foods in plastic bags in sealed buckets. This works well and does offer more protection against insects. Popcorn stores very well. I think you’ll be pleased. If it loses pop over time just sprinkle a jar full with a little water, stir it well and put the top on. soon it’ll gain enough humidity to again pop well. (Don’t do this with a big batch or it could mold over time.)

I store my spices in airtight smaller canning jars (unprocessed). They may lose potency over time, but I just use a little more of the old spices. Many of mine are more than 10 years old and still going strong. Probably not good enough for a chef, but plenty good enough for me. — Jackie

Dead soil

The soil in our garden spot seems to be dead. Our land used to be nothing but pine trees grown by a local paper mill for pulp wood. What can we do to our soil to bring back life to it so it will produce the veggies we grow?

Wayne Leamon
Old Fort, Tennessee

The best “one” answer is to work in plenty of rotted compost or rotted manure. This is the quickest fix I can think of. Also invest in a soil tester. There are cheap ones, less than $20, that will tell you the whole story and what you can do to fix your soil. Our own land was just pine trees, too, which were harvested and the acreage left bare over much of it. But now we are growing tremendous crops. All thanks to wonderful compost and manure! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I’m bushed, but boy are we getting things done!

Monday, February 9th, 2009

jackie peeling log

Our drywalling is coming along well, but Will and I kind of needed a break in it; there’s just so much. We got the new laundry room finished, except for the trim around the door and windows. We also moved the old living room window out of the wall and into the laundry room. So now all our north-facing house windows match. And that laundry room is SO sunny and bright. Wow! Will cut trim for the walls from left-over pieces of log siding that we used in the upstairs bedrooms. I stained it and yesterday, we put it all together. Very nice! The paint came from the left-overs from my son, Bill’s house, so the laundry room is costing us very little to finish, but for the insulation and drywall.

new laundry room

Will has the ceiling in the entryway mudded and taped, and I’ve done all the screw heads. But for a break, yesterday, we knocked out walls of the house. Really. After carefully supporting the bearing walls with 10″ vertical posts, we sawed and whacked logs and now have two graceful arches over open expanses of floor. Talk about light and room! Wow! But boy was that a job!!! The logs were screwed together with 12″ log screws and we ruined two chainsaw chains doing the cuts. Will winced and sharpened, then cut some more. We cut the screws we could find with a Sawsall, but there were always ones we didn’t know were there and OUCH! Sparks flew! But this morning we cleaned up our mess and were ready to start over again. What we do for fun, out here in the backwoods!

Readers’ Questions:

Homestead life

My wife and I want to live the homestead life, but we only have five acres and three of it is wooded. I know that is not a large enough piece of property, but how much is enough? Also how can a person get started without incurring debt? I want to live that life, but without having a piece of family owned land or $200,000 to start with I don’t see how to get started.

Wally Orr
Harrisburg, Arkansas

I’m just not sure what you mean by living the homestead life. Do you mean totally living off your land? Or slowly working toward a self reliant lifestyle? With five acres, you already have more than many people have had when they started. My best advice is to start gradually and pay as you go. If you will be building a home, perhaps you could find a free used mobile home to “camp” in while you slowly build your debt free home. With a couple of acres clear, you can have a large garden, an orchard, room for chickens, dairy goats, a pig or two and much more. By using rotation grazing, and alternating your chickens between a garden and another garden or chicken yard, you can make much use from small land. Read the book, “The Have-More Plan” by the Robinsons. It’s very inspirational for people having a few acres and wanting to make the best use of it.

I didn’t have $200,000 either, nor family owned land to move into. We had to work our way up by lots of hard work and careful saving and planning. You will too. But the rewards are great if you stick with it. The best of luck! — Jackie

Canning orange juice concentrate and butter

I have a freezer full of concentrated orange juice. I would like to put them all in jars if possible. How would I go about canning concentrated frozen orange juice. I buy 24 cans of it at a time but would get more if I could can it. Also I know I have read about canning butter but can’t find where it is. Please tell me where to find it.

Your box is on its way, finally. Let me know when it gets there.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I got your box Saturday. I was overwhelmed with your wonderful gifts. I’ve never dreamed of so many flavors of candied nuts. Wow! Thank you for your box and thought. We appreciate it very much.

Sure you can home can that frozen orange juice. And it’s easy, too. Simply reconstitute your orange juice. Then place it in a large enamel or stainless steel kettle and bring to 190 degrees and hold it there for 5 minutes. Don’t boil. Then ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom. Process either pints or quarts for 60 minutes in a boiling water bath. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for directions for adjusting your time to suit your altitude if necessary. That’s it! I told you it was easy. Enjoy.

As for the butter, here’s an answer from a blog last year on the same question, so I’m passing it on to you: 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 inch 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

Canning chicken and rice soup

I canned some chicken soup using your recipe in the magazine several months ago. You said I could throw a handful of rice in, so I did. I put 1/4 cup rice in each quart. But when they were finished, the rice was all clumped together. I’ve been hesitant on opening up a jar and feeding it to my family, because I’m concerned that the big clump of rice, which is immovable in the jar, didn’t get hot enough in the middle of that clump. Am I overreacting?

Lori Siburt
Cambridge, Ohio

While the “clump” of rice settles out after canning, during canning, it is an active, boiling mass of particles, not a clump. You’ll find that it did, indeed, get heated through during processing. Simmer up a jar of soup and enjoy it. — Jackie

Canning lemon juice

I asked for excess fruit on our local freecycle, and received two huge rubbermaid tubs of lemons. I canned some juice already, but have three gallons in freezer waiting. I have a concern that 1: I did not add sugar. 2: I water bath canned for 10 minutes not 15. 3: I left about 1/2 inch headspace not 1/4. Are they going to be ok or should I re-can or throw out? Also will be getting grapefruit soon. Same directions?

Diana Curry
Spring Hill, Florida

Sugar is for taste only, in this case. But skipping five minutes in the water bath might cause problems. If it were me, I would probably re-can the batch, using 15 minutes and the 1/4″ of headspace. The headspace, in this case, alone wouldn’t make much of a difference. Just be sure the juice looks and smells normal, then re-do it. Better safe than sorry. — Jackie

Canning dry goods

Would like to ask if this idea might work or if you’ve tried anything like this before. I’ve seen various methods of “dry” canning such as nuts for example where you put the nuts into the canning jar (dry), boil your canning lid and screw on the ring and/or after that place the jar into a canner with water only up to lid/ring area (not submerged with water over the top of jar and process. I would like to try dry goods such as a dry cookie mix, dry pancake mix, or even dried milk powder and “can it” so to speak or would this be a waste of time; would the mixes just go rancid? Thank you very much for your time and help.

Pam Ayala
Arlington, Washington

I honestly don’t know. You could try a few jars and see how they keep. It’s an interesting idea; basically vacuum packing dry foods that don’t require canning. — Jackie

Ceiling plans

I see Will mudding the walls and no sheetrock on the ceiling. What do you have planned there?

Love your blog, I check it everyday.

Ron Rogers
Centerview, Missouri

We’re putting tongue and groove knotty pine on the ceiling. We both love wood, and don’t want too much drywall. We’re making lots of progress, so I’ll keep you posted! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Are we having fun yet?

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

Well, yes, actually. We’re still drywalling and mudding. But the good news is that we also have our new woodstove hooked up and heating! And it does a good job, too. We even took the door out between the new addition and the living room. Now we’re looking forward to removing part of the wall between the two so we will be using the rooms like we plan to. Will’s been giving me lots of mudding tips (he taught it in carpentry school). The biggest help was to use a series of different knives, starting out with a 6″ blade to spread the mud and tape, then on the second trip over the joint, use a 10″ blade, finishing up with a 12″ inch one. Less mud, more area covered = less sanding! Hooray! I’m getting it, but he’s still a whole lot better and faster, too!

will mudding living room

I should be painting the primer on the walls and ceiling of the new laundry room tomorrow. I’m really looking forward to that. It’ll take my mind off the other 30 feet of room that needs more mudding and sanding. Whew!

jackie sitting by woodstove

I’m getting out my pepper and celery seed to decide what I’m going to plant this year. But this year, Will gets to “play” in the seeds too, so it’ll be a joint decision. That’ll be so much fun. We’re both seed-aholics. And that’s a good thing. I think.

Readers’ Questions:

Soup from dehydrated vegetables

I am a new subscriber, but have been doing all these things for years. I am trying to use my dehydrator more and like the results. Do you have or know a source for making homemade vegetable soups and such. I have tried the store bought dried soups where you just add a few fresh ingredients and they have been very tasty but would like to make the whole business from scratch myself, using my own dried vegetables and herbs. My kids say I rely too much on recipes, but they also say no one cooks a meal better.

Deborah Pasco
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

I don’t have a source for recipes for dehydrated soups. I’m pretty much a no-recipe cook; I experiment and experiment until I love what I’m making. I start my soups with a basic base. For instance, chicken stock, beef stock, etc. Then I add whatever dehydrated vegetables and spices I decide would taste good that day, let ’em cook and it usually turns out pretty darned good. You can also throw in rice, pasta or wild rice for additional body. Keep at it and I know you’ll develop your own favorite recipes! — Jackie

Pickled green tomatoes

I have a question about pickled green tomatoes. We visited my wife’s uncle and aunt in Alberta, Canada, a few years ago. At the end of their growing season they picked all the small green tomatoes off the plants and dill pickled them. They were the most delicious pickles I’ve ever eaten, aside from dilly beans (green beans), of course. The pickled tomatoes were crisp, and full of yummy garlic and dill-flavored juice. Since then, I have tried twice to copy their pickled tomatoes, without success. They didn’t give me a recipe–I just thought I’d try it using my dilly bean recipe, which includes water bathing the veggies for a short while to seal them up. Both attempts the past two summers have resulted in mushy tomatoes, not crispy ones. The flavors are about the same as the ones in Alberta, but they’re mushy to the point we can’t eat them. Have you ever pickled little green tomatoes? Is there a way to pickle them without cooking them, say just adding hot water and letting them seal on their own? Will they seal that way? I’m certain my aunt-in-law didn’t cook hers at all, as they were so crisp and firm, yet they absorbed the vinegar and flavorings so well.

Incidentally, our whole family loves pickles, especially pickled green beans, as noted above. Whenever we find green beans on sale for 69 cents a pound or so in the winter, we buy ten pounds and pickle them up with garlic, dill and a pinch of cayenne pepper. They are so delicious and crunchy.

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

Here’s a recipe that you might like to try:

Dill Tomatoes

5 qts. small, hard green tomatoes
3 small green peppers, seeded and cut in strips
5 large heads of dill
1 qt. water
1 qt. vinegar
1 cup pickling salt
5 cloves garlic

Pack tomatoes into sterilized quart jars, dividing pepper strips among the jars. Add heads of dill or put them in first. Add sliced cloves of garlic. Bring water, vinegar and salt to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Pour boiling brine over tomatoes, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

I hope these will taste like the ones you remember! — Jackie

Canning lemon juice

I have a lemon tree and have a lot of lemons and was wondering how do you can lemon juice? I freeze the zest for cooking and baking and would like to save all the lemon juice I can. I prefer to can over freezing.

Deanna (Dee Dee) Miles
Palatka, Florida

Rinse heavy, solid, ripe lemons and drain. Juice. Strain juice through several layers of dampened cheesecloth, into large pot. Add sugar to taste. Heat only to 165 degrees. Fill hot jars with hot juice, leaving ¼” of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints or quarts for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

Your home canned juice will be so much better than store juice, and have no additives! Enjoy. — Jackie

Growing potatoes in barrels

I tried growing potatoes in barrels last summer, but was very disappointed when I dumped them only to find pea sized potatoes. I need “barrel potatoes for dummies” instructions for doing this. I put an old air conditioner filter on the bottom, then 4 inches of sawdust, then the potatoes and soil. As the potato vines grew about 4 inches above the soil, I added more ‘eyes’ and more soil repeating this to the top of the barrel. What did I do wrong? How much water do they need? I really want to can some next year! Thanks for any help you can offer, I gain so much from your site and eagerly pass it on to my Cheapskate Club. I will be giving classes on canning to those young moms this year and you will be a big part!

Jo Riddle
Vienna, West Virginia

Here’s the way I do it: I put two large tires on the ground, over several thicknesses of newspaper to retard weeds. I add good soil, mixed with rotted compost in the tires, packing the dirt into the tires as well as in the centers. Don’t pack down the center soil. Place your seed potatoes about a foot apart, planted 4″ deep in the soil. When the plants are about a foot above the soil, add another tire and soil to cover all but 1/3 of the plant. Keep repeating this until your tier is about 3′ high. Potatoes in this “container” need more moisture than regularly planted ones because the sun evaporates moisture from all sides and the tires are black, attracting heat. Some people add more sets as they raise the tires, but I don’t. I think it only gives you smaller potatoes and doesn’t let the “old” ones mature and make big spuds. Better luck this year. — Jackie

Canning black walnuts

I am trying to can black walnuts. The 1st batch had very small moisture droplets inside the jars. I opened and re-canned them. Same problem. Am I not getting the nuts HOT enough? I heat nuts on cookie sheets in 300 degree oven with the jars on the 2nd oven rack. How long should I heat the nuts? I finally froze the nuts after 2nd canning. How much re-heating can these nuts take without changing the flavor? I REALLY need help here. Sorry I’m not as canning savvy as I should be. Also, I canned some butter. LOVE it! My second batch had a “bubble like” effect along the inside top of the jars. Is that normal?

Jan Eylar
Savannah, Missouri

You need to reduce the heat on your walnuts, but keep them in the oven longer. Nuts usually need about 30 minutes in a slow oven, stirring them a few times to maintain even drying/toasting. Once they are toasted, there will be no more moisture. Then you proceed to can them. The heating only improves the flavor.

The bubbles on the butter are normal; it depends on how much it was heated during the melting process and how much moisture was “cooked” out of it. I try to get as much out as possible. — Jackie


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