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

Jackie Clay

Our little goat cottage is nearing completion

Monday, June 29th, 2009

We’ve been busy with the garden, among other projects, and the weather has been hot, hot. But finally our little goat cottage is nearly done. I painted two coats of barn red on it, doing the trim in white and Will stapled on the roofing felt and now has half the barn shingled. I picked up some “on sale” shingles at our local building center and they look very nice on the roof. Oreo, David’s 250 pound wether that he bottle raised in Montana, thinks it’s especially for him and is carefully watching and helping in every part of the process. Did you know how HEAVY a goat like that is when you’re trying to push him out of your way?


But now the goats have a pretty barn to keep them dry and away from the biting flies. And now we’re on to other projects!

Readers’ Questions:

Hail damaged plants

We recently moved to Wisconsin from Phoenix to our own 40 acres of heaven and planted our vegetable garden, everything was going good until this morning when a hail storm blew through and now everything is damaged. The tomato plants are pretty well broken up and no longer bushy and beautiful. The chard and lettuce and other greens are shredded, the green peppers have a couple of leaves left but no buds now, the peas and green beans are devastated. What happens next, will they come out of it or should we at least replant the greens so we have at least something to freeze this fall? I’m figuring at least the cabbage, Brussels sprouts, corn and potatoes and onions will bounce back but what about the rest? The joys of mother nature, it could have been worse.

Charles Wiedmaier
Mondovi, Wisconsin

Hail is the gardener’s worst nightmare; I’ve had it totally wipe out a garden in ten minutes, leaving absolutely nothing to indicate we ever had a garden! I’d say your tomatoes and peppers will quickly bounce back. Prune off any damaged branches and give them a good feeding. You’ll never know they were hurt in two weeks’ time. I’d replant your beans and peas by making another row, just a few inches away from the ruined ones. That way if the hailed beans and peas recover, you’ll have two crops. If not, you’ll still have a crop. You still have time–just use early maturing varieties. Same with your corn, unless it looks fairly good. It’s tough and will take a lot.

Good luck and may Mother Nature smile on your persistence! — Jackie

Canning red potatoes

I just dug up a tractor bucket full of potatoes…which is a lot for two people to eat!! Anyway, they are red potatoes and all my canning books say you can only can whites or Irish…but a good friend of mine said that her mother always canned the red ones as long as they were really small, like bite sized. So who is right?

Joy Goepfert
Alba, Missouri

Of course you can home can red potatoes! You don’t need tiny bite sized ones, either. I’ve canned chunks, dices, and whole (small) red potatoes, just like the other varieties. I can up the little ones or ones that I damaged digging. That way I use up ones that might be wasted, otherwise. With little red potatoes, I just scrub them and can them with the ultra thin skins right on. They’re great! — Jackie

Breeding goats

We have a Nubia/Boar billy, who seems to be always in rut. Can he breed with our Nubia doe and our Nubia/boar goat after they have kidded? They both had kids in Jan/Feb. We had them in different pens but good old Bubba got out and was running with the does for a while.

Mary Ingold
Kalispell, Montana

Some bucks are more “interested” than others, even if does aren’t in heat. Goats usually can come into heat from the middle of July through January, but CAN breed at other times as well. If your does start to “plump up” along about July, you’ll have a pretty good hint that Bubba had his way. — Jackie

Canning with wire bail jars

We have glass wire bail canning jars. Can we water bath can stewed tomatoes and tomato juice in these jars and if so for how long?

Just wanted you to know that the lemon curd recipe is wonderful and is a good way to use the extra eggs this time of year.

Rhona and Brad Barrie
Strong, Maine

It’s better to save those pretty jars for storing dry foods or dehydrated foods. The trouble with them is that you can’t tell if they are sealed or not like you can with modern two piece lids, which indent in the center. So you don’t know for sure if the jars are truly sealed.

I’m glad you liked the lemon curd; I use it in a lot of baking recipes, like filling tart cups or putting a dollop on a square of shortbread. We love it! — Jackie

Making cherry cordial

I am going to attempt making cherry cordial with tart cherries we just picked. My question is: How do I preserve this? I want to put them in small, pretty bottles, not jars. Michaels has some with a cork top. If I use those, do I keep the cordial in the cabinet, refrigerator or freezer? And how long would it keep? I’m hoping until Christmas.

Becky McKim
Ankeny, Iowa

Sorry Becky, but I don’t use alcohol. Why don’t you type cherry cordial or tart cherry cordial recipe in your browser. I’m sure you’ll find one you’ll like. Enjoy! — Jackie

Keeping turkeys with chickens

I read in the latest issue of BHM that you keep turkeys in with your chickens. I also read in another magazine today that someone else is keeping turkeys in with the chickens. Now, a poultry book that I read this summer (I think it was a Storey’s book but not sure as it was a library book) that you can’t keep turkeys with chickens because of a disease that the turkeys get from the chickens, something to do with black spots on the heads of the turkeys that kill them. The book also said that raising turkeys in different pens on the same farm was a risk due to possible cross contamination. I would love to keep turkeys and chickens as well as other poultry for eggs meat and pest control. So what’s the deal, is it safe to keep turkeys and chickens together or not?

Joshua Schrader
Middleburg, Pennsylvania

Yes, it’s possible that turkeys can get blackhead and pass it on to your chickens. Probable? Not so you’d notice. I’ve kept turkeys with chickens all my life and have never had any type of disease passed from one to the other. Or any disease, period. I have a turkey tom in with my chickens right now and everyone is happy. I wouldn’t advise someone with a commercial, large flock, to mix them, as with a huge increase in numbers and stress, anything is possible. — Jackie

Squash bugs

Do you have suggestions for controlling/eliminating squash bugs? Companion planting nasturtium and marigolds does not seem to help me. I have too many to try to control by hand every day. Perhaps you have an idea or two?

M. Zipf
Amelia, Ohio

I’m totally in favor of hand picking, but sometimes you have to pull out the big guns to save a crop. I’d dust your squash with a rotenone or pyrethrins powder weekly (more often if it rains) until you get them under control. As these products are quite safe and are a natural alternative to chemicals, you can eat the squash the day after dusting. (But I always wash anyway.) Once you stop the huge infestation, keep an eye out for the eggs on the undersides of the leaves and squash them or you’ll hatch out a new crop! — Jackie

Pressure canning

I have an issue with pressure canning. All my life I’ve only water bathed but did a few jars of green beans and such last year on my old stove. Well, my husband just bought us a new stove this year. I tried to can some chicken stock today. I put it on the burner, and had the burner as low as it would go. The pressure went up to nearly 20 pounds. I tried canning with only a corner of the pot on the burner, and the pressure still stayed around 15 lbs. The only way I could get it down to 10 was by opening the petcock valve a little. Is that okay to do? Any suggestions on how I should do this, since none of my burners will turn down low enough? This stove doesn’t have a “simmer” burner.

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

Is this an electric stove? I’ve never had a stove that wouldn’t turn down low, but I’ve not had an electric stove, either. No, you shouldn’t open the petcock valve, even a little. You could seriously affect the pressure and necessary steam buildup in your canner. A lot of folks who can’t use their “normal” kitchen range for canning, for one reason or another (glass top, top oven that won’t let you put a canner or other large pot on the burners) often buy a small two burner table top propane stove to can on. Don’t confuse these (available through Harbor Freight and Northern Tool, among other places) with Coleman camping stoves; they are much sturdier. They are inexpensive and last forever with no maintenance.

I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble with pressure canning, as very few folks do. — Jackie

Cleaning cast iron

Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed (like always) your recent article about cast iron. I love my cast iron skillets too. Just to pass this tip on that when I clean my oven I put my cast iron skillets that need to be cleaned in the oven (self cleaning cycle) and let all that heat do double duty. The pans come out great. I learned this trick when some one years ago gave me some 100 year old cast iron that looked horrible. A friend told me to bring it over because she was cleaning her oven “self cleaning” and low and behold 3 hours later I had beautiful cast iron. I was also told after I wash out my cast iron to put it back on the stove top on high just long enough to dry it (about a minute) then remove it from the stove and wipe it out with an oily piece of paper towel. I just use vegetable oil and the residual heat must help it soak into the pan because I never have oily pans to put away and voila, no rust. Once again this is the self cleaning cycle, not the chemical stove cleaner.

On pins and needles waiting for your new book.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

Sounds great if you have a self-cleaning oven. I never have had one; all mine were either plain Jane propane or wood. I’m sure readers will like your tip. Thanks!

The book is in the final, final stages, almost ready for the printer. I’ll keep you posted! — Jackie

Canning potatoes and getting rid of cabbage worms

You have inspired me to get a Pressure Canner as a way to become more self reliant and I used it the first time this morning. I canned some potatoes but they lost a lot of their water. I looked in the Ball Blue Book and they said that can happen with starchy foods but they did not say if it was still safe? I have a little guy that I would love to feed home canned foods but want to make sure I am doing everything right! Also do you know of a good organic way to get rid of cabbage worms? Thanks for all your help you are amazing!

John and Leslie Glenn
Lancaster, Ohio

Wow! Amazing. I’ve got to tell my family that; they mostly think I’m tired. I’m thrilled that you’re starting to can. You’ll love it; I promise! Yes, potatoes sometimes lose some water. As long as the jars are sealed, they are safe to eat. As always, before using any canned food (including store food!), look at it when opening, and smell the contents. If the food was sealed, looks and smells fine, it is good to eat.

Before you get cabbage worms, you can cover your cole crops with a floating row cover and encourage swallows and bluebirds; they LOVE cabbage butterflies. After you have a problem, you can use Bt which is a natural biological killer of ONLY caterpillars that eat your plants; it won’t harm pollinators, helpful insects, or you. You can buy it through most garden supply catalogs or stores. It’s worked great for me. For heavy infestations, I’d use a rotenone or pyrethrins spray or powder for fast knock down. Then follow in a week with Bt. None are glow in the dark treatments. — Jackie

Canning pre-cooked meatballs

Having a busy schedule, I use frozen pre-cooked meatballs that I purchase at the grocery. With limited freezer space I would like to can them. I just bought a pressure canner but have not used it yet. Can I just heat these in the microwave or oven and then can with some beef broth? I assume the processing time would be the same for ground meat.

Natchez, Mississippi

I’m so happy to hear you’re starting to stock up and begin canning! Yes, you can heat your meatballs and pack them in broth or a seasoned light sauce such as tomato sauce or your choice. Use 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure, just like ground meat. — Jackie

Rust on canning jar lids

We started storing our home-canned food in our damp basement about a year ago for want of space. Commercial cans rust quickly down there so we dipped our jars’ lids after canning into molten canning wax to stop corrosion. But we’re getting slight specks of tarnish on the lids’ edges anyway. Do you know of any safe way to halt rust in its tracks?

Juneberries we planted last year are still not thriving, even in our rich (and PH neutral) Red River Valley soil. Any suggestions? Thank you.

Ross Nelson
Casselton, North Dakota

I had a problem with rust in MY damp basement on our first Minnesota farm, years back. What changed things for me was installing a wood stove to burn in the winter and using a fan to suck the damp air out during the summer, when the humidity was high. The wood stove worked much better than a dehumidifier (which will also work, but costs a bit to run). I’d stay away from dipping the lids in hot wax, you may compromise your seals.

Juneberries sometimes take a couple of years to start booming. They do like a more acid soil, so adding some peat around the base of the plants might make them happier. They are definitely worth the effort! — Jackie

Chickens and Turkeys

We just bought 2 baby turkeys. We were told that they cannot be in with chickens as they may spread a disease. Can they be be put into the pen with our geese, once they get old enough to go outside? We really don’t want to have to build another pen!

Debra Brown,
Littlefork, Minnesota

This is another case of “it’s possible” but not real probable. I’ve kept turkeys with my chickens all my life and have never had a case of disease transfer between the two. In fact, I have a turkey with my chickens right now. I wouldn’t worry. — Jackie

Amending soil

This spring we cut trees and enlarged our garden space, tilling and adding much Black Kow compost, peat and lime and tilling and tilling. We have planted in the area and have noticed plants are not taking off like we had expected, could this be that the Nitrogen is “locked up”, we did not think we would have this problem with all the amending we had done. Do you have any recommendations? (We are going to begin using Fish emulsion foliar feeding IF the rain stops)

Darnell Rogers
Arden North Carolina

It sounds like your garden is suffering from too much rain, rather than too little nitrogen. A soggy garden never grows nicely. I’ll bet when it stops raining and you see some sunshine, your garden will take right off. Using the fish emulsion should give the set-back plants a jump. — Jackie

Rhubarb jam and planting cucumbers near potatoes

Would you share your rhubarb jam recipe?

Also, I’ve got a question about planting cucumbers near potatoes. I put cukes in my large potato bed this Spring, thinking it’d be a great combination. The potato bed is fenced in to keep out the chickens, and I thought the cukes could climb the fence. Only AFTER I got all that planted, with the potatoes really doing well and the cukes starting to put out their first leaves, did I read that potatoes and cukes should not be planted near each other. I’d never heard that before! Do you have any advice for me on that?

Storrs, Connecticut

My favorite rhubarb jam recipe isn’t a jam, but a conserve. Conserves usually have raisins and/or nuts. Here’s the recipe I use:

10# rhubarb, cut into 1 inch pieces
8 cups sugar
2 3/4 cup vinegar + 1/4 cup water
2 cups raisins
2 cups walnuts
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
3 Tbsp. flour

Pour boiling water over rhubarb in large bowl and let stand 5 minutes; drain. Put rhubarb in large kettle and add vinegar, 1/4 cup water, raisins, flour, and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 minutes. Add chopped walnuts and simmer a bit more. Ladle hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet consult your canning book for instructions for increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary. Hint: This is a real chunky conserve. To make a smoother product, I sometimes run the raisins and nuts through a meat grinder before adding to the mix.

No, I never heard about the cuke/potato thing. Why not try it and see how you come out and let us know. I’m sure other readers will like to know, just like me. — Jackie

BBQ sauce recipe

I used a BBQ sauce recipe years ago from the magazine that I think was yours. I loved it and want to make and can it again, but can’t find my recipe. Could you reprint it for me?

Kathy Harris
Fresno, California

Sorry Kathy, but I have used a lot of different BBQ sauce recipes through the years and every year try new ones, so I don’t have a clue which one you liked. You might try going back through the anthologies for the years the recipe may have been in and do a search. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s a boy! And a girl!

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Our doe, Buffy, finally had babies, a cute tan and black doeling and a big white and lemon buckling. And we were able to be there when they were born, too, so we got all the excitement. They are doing well, and have been disbudded. I hate that job, but I hate having horns even more; they can even lead to the goat strangling in a fence or a collar.


We’ve been busily weeding our new berry patch, and putting in even more garden crops. Wow, is our expanded garden ever BIG! But in the afternoon, Will fires up the hot tub heater that he made from two junked hot water heaters, welded together, and by sundown the hot tub is steaming and ready for our old achy backs, knees, and hands. Heaven! That’s the best $50 I ever spent.

Our baby donkey, Crystal, is getting as fat as a little piggy. Her mommy has lots of milk and she’s eating grain now, too. She’s staying very friendly and can’t wait for us to come pet her. When we go in the pen, she makes this little grunting bray and trots right up to us, no matter what she’s doing. That makes handling her much easier. I wish her mommy, Beauty, had been handled from birth; she’s still pretty spooky of routine handling like having her feet trimmed. But I know that with patience, she’ll eventually come around, too.


Readers’ Questions:

Covering a chicken pen

We have built a chicken house similar to John Silveira’s father’s in the chickens book (in the garden, left and right chicken doors depending on which side of the garden is fallow). My question is – do I need to provide a covered “pen” for them? They’ll be out in the day, in at night, and surrounded by garden fence that is 5 foot high. We have hawks, foxes, and occasionally coyotes. There’s supposedly raccoons somewhere, but I’ve never seen any. We are in a fairly wide open space, and our neighbors dotted around us keep mainly llamas. This is rural Colorado. I believe they’ll be safe from most animals, but I would rather not make an outside roof and walls for them, using chicken wire mesh, unless I absolutely have to. Sometimes they’ll be out after sunset, but always in at night.

Kevin Long
Elizabeth, Colorado

Your birds will probably be fine that way, provided that they are shut in at night. Raptors (hawks, primarily) are your worst possible problem. I had one that used to try for my chickens in New Mexico. In fact it would land in the yard and go INSIDE the chicken door and chase the chicks around. Until I put our labrador retriever, Wab, in the coop one day. The hawk landed, hopped boldly into the coop, then flew a lot less cocky out the door and off into the sunset…with Wab hot on his tail. He never came back, either!

I have no top on my run; in fact, they forage our acre orchard all day. It’s not foolproof, but so far, so good! — Jackie

Canning whole chickens

I’ve been a reader and fan for years. My Mother used to can whole chickens in quart jars. She’s gone now and I will always remember that chicken for jungle lunches. Please pass along any ideas.

Mike Root
Patrick, South Carolina

You’d have to have real small chickens to fit in a quart jar; probably they were half gallon jars; I’ve done that. However, they don’t recommend canning whole chickens today, as there is a possibility that some of the meat might be too dense and not heat well enough during processing. Instead, I bone my chicken (more fits in a smaller jar!), then can it with broth it was boiled in. This is very good, tender and good for you because you did it yourself! — Jackie

Buying dehydrated items

I regularly stock my pantry with home canned foods, dry milk, paper supplies, etc., but am wondering what type of items do you buy dehydrated. I am thinking items such as dehydrated eggs, cheese – powder or freeze dried blends? Have you tried the shortening powder? I am trying to think of staples I can’t really do myself, or would be better bought. What are your thoughts on these preparedness catalogs for staples, is there a less expensive option?

Also, when are we going to be able to order your book? I’m looking forward to getting one for myself and my daughters.

Jo Riddle
Vienna, West Virginia

I buy dehydrated eggs, margarine, and butter powder and shortening powder from Emergency Essentials. These all work well. But I buy my grains from a local mill and package them in buckets after freezing to prevent bug infestations. (I buy in the winter and simply leave the bags outdoors for a week!). I do my own dehydrated vegetables and fruits. It’s MUCH cheaper! My dehydrated milk, I buy at a local grocery; it isn’t cheap, but it is cheaper in a box than a can. Then I repackage that, as well, in gallon glass jars.

Like everything else, you have to shop the catalogs with intelligence. Some things are great and decently priced. Others… However, if you are in a flood-prone area, having your emergency supplies in tin cans and waterproof, sealed buckets is a very good idea. If we flood here on this gravel ridge, Noah will be gathering animals again.

Annie Tuttle is working hard on finishing up my new book. Then it’s off to the printers, so it shouldn’t be tooooo long now. — Jackie

Recanning syrup

Can you re-can pancake syrup? I have a chance to get a fair amount of syrup, but it’s in gallon jugs. I would like to re-can it in quart mason jars. Can it be done in a water bath canner, and if so for how long?

Bo Suddueth
Jacksonville, Florida

Most pancake syrup contains mostly corn syrup or sugar of one kind or another. To re-can this, heat it in a large pot to a boil, then ladle out into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Then process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. (See your canning manual if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet for directions on increasing your processing time, if necessary.) Enjoy! — Jackie

Asparagus ends

Is there any thing you can do with asparagus ends? It seems such a waste to dispose of them.

Barbara Winn
Kittitas, Washington

You can steam them or boil them up, puree them, removing the hard strings, add a few chopped nice tips and make cream of asparagus soup. It’s pretty darned good, served with toasted homemade bread! — Jackie

Cold weather summer

We live in Zone 3 as you do. With this “summer” of no summer, how is your garden doing? Are you going to run out of time before the first frost? What are you doing about it?

Marilyn King
Mora, Minnesota

Well, our first sweet corn seed rotted in the ground because of the cold weather that set in two weeks ago. So today, we replanted a faster maturing variety with huge prayers for a productive summer. One never knows what the growing season will bring. We keep planting, weeding, and hoping for the best. Somehow it all seems to work in one way or another. That is one reason I try to have at least a year’s food stored ahead; you can’t count on having a garden to can out of each and every single year. I have to laugh at would-be survivalists who say “I’ll plant a garden when I need one; anyone can toss a few seeds in the ground.” Yeah. Right.

If my beans are great one year, I still plant beans the next. If my beans are really great the next, I still can a lot and share with my friends who had theirs eaten by goats. What you give will always repay you in one way or another.

Because our spring was so cool, I planted more greens, cabbages, broccoli, celery, rutabagas, carrots, and onions. And I keep planting every little spot I find. Who knows what the rest of the year will bring. Some of my best gardens started out pretty hopeless! Never give up. — Jackie

New garden space

The wife and I just bought our home in February. I have a little garden area. I have tried to till it up, but uncovered nothing but lots and lots of roots. What can I do to get this area better for gardening? I keep trying to work and pull the roots up by hand, but feel like it is a losing battle. So do you have any suggestions?

Hollis Jones
Wilmington, Delaware

If they are huge tree roots, you should either move your garden spot or use raised beds (if the site is sunny most of the day, despite the trees). However, you probably are dealing with smaller roots like we are in our new enlarged spots in our garden and berry patch. Wow, do we have roots! We till, pull, chop, and pull some more. From my past experience, I know that most of the non-runner-type roots can be chopped up and will rot in a year or two. So our aim is to get the worst pulled, the rest chopped, and the garden planted. Take it from me–you can have a great garden despite all those roots! — Jackie

Canning with no salt

I have been put on a no salt diet. This is for a person who was born with a salt shaker in her hand. I am struggling to find recipes for canning that have no salt in them. I know you can can tomatoes and beans without it but I’m worried about other things such as swiss chard, spinach and above all my pickles. Is there such a thing as dill or sweet pickles without salt? Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Joan Toothman
New Carlisle, Indiana

Any meats, poultry, or vegetables can be home canned without adding a grain of salt. The salt is for a flavor enhancer, not a preservative. As for pickles, most pickle recipes only use the salt for a brine/soak to draw the excess liquid out of the pickles. You can rinse them several times after soaking in the salt water, removing nearly all of the salt. Some say soak overnight; you can shorten that down to two or three hours without compromising your pickling. By doing this, you further reduce the amount of salt retained by the pickles. Again, strain and rinse them well. I think both you and your doctor will be happy with the results! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The wild fruits look great this year…so far

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

We have more blooms on all of our wild fruits this spring than we ever had before. The pin cherries, wild plums, strawberries, chokecherries, Juneberries, and, of course, the star of the north woods, the blueberries are just covered with blossoms! Our whole ridge looks snow-covered some days. Now if we don’t get a late freeze to kill the blossoms, or a drought to dry up the fruit before we can harvest it, we should have a great abundance of wild fruits to can and make jams, jellies, and preserves out of.

Years like this make us stand back and sigh with amazement. Just look at these blueberries!


Readers’ Questions:

Canning Jalapenos

How do you can jalapenos?

Donna Guthrie
Phenix City, Alabama

You can can jalapenos just like you would any other pepper, pressure canning them. But most folks prefer them pickled to retain the crunch. I do for sure. To do them canned, you first remove the stem, core, and seeds, wearing rubber gloves to keep from getting your fingers burned. Remove the skins by dropping them in boiling water for a few minutes, then dipping them out and plunging them into cold. Or you can roast them on the grill until the skins are blackened in spots, then place in a bag to steam for a few minutes. Again, plunge them into cold water to loosen the skins. Peel. Then pack into hot jars. Add 1 tsp. salt to each pint or 1/2 tsp. to each half pint. Also add 1 Tbsp. vinegar to each pint. Ladle boiling water over peppers, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Process half pints and pints for 35 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning book for directions.)

As I’ve said, most folks pickle them instead, as it retains the crunch; pressure canned jalapenos get kind of soft. To pickle them, you will need a gallon of peppers, 1 1/2 cups pickling salt, 1 gallon water, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 1 cup water, and 5 cups vinegar.

Wash and drain peppers. Cut 2 small slits in each pepper. Dissolve salt in 1 gallon cold water. Pour over peppers. Let stand overnight in cool place. Rinse and drain. Add sugar and 1 cup vinegar. Simmer 15 minutes. Pack peppers into hot, sterilized jars. Pour boiling pickling liquid over peppers, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary.

Enjoy your peppers! We do! — Jackie

Sloppy Joe recipe for canning

Do you have a recipe for manwich or sloppy joe sauce? We seem to use a lot of that stuff and thought we might could can it ourselves and save money if we had a recipe. We have learned so much from you already, and we appreciate all your advice. We would love to meet you someday.

Wayne Leamon
Old Fort, Tennessee

When I make sloppy joes, I use half a pint of regular home canned barbecue sauce and half a pint of seasoned regular tomato sauce. If you want it to “stick” more and be sweeter, like the store sauce, add corn syrup to taste. It’s the corn syrup that gives it the stick and smooth, shiny consistency.

The barbecue sauce recipe I use is:

4 qts. peeled, cored tomatoes
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped, seeded sweet peppers
1 cup brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. dry mustard
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 tsp. chili paste
1 cup vinegar

Combine vegetables in large saucepan and simmer until soft. Puree. Simmer puree until reduced by half, being careful to stir and keep from scorching. Add spices and remaining ingredients. Simmer, stirring frequently to prevent scorching until thickened. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process pints for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. — Jackie

Canned deviled ham

Is there a recipe to make your own home canned devil ham, like the little tins ones in store that you pay an arm and a leg for? I just bought two large hams for next to nothing and am not sure what to do with them.

Lisa Avila
Gifford, Washington

I don’t have a recipe for deviled ham, but I have canned up a whole lot of ham and it is excellent. I can up the larger chunks in broth and then dice up the smaller pieces and can them in half pints and pints to use in recipes. You could easily drain a half pint of ham dices and mash it up with mayonnaise and spices to suit your taste for your own deviled ham spread. It will be a whole lot tastier than store canned ham spread, for sure! — Jackie

Canning bear meat stew

A neighbor gave us a small bear. Husband Bill is in the kitchen cutting as I write. He thinks he saw a recipe in one of the magazines for canned bear meat stew. Canning bear meat would be ok too. We are getting tired of losing alot of food to freezer outages.

Mary Clementz
Carmen, Idaho

You make bear stew just like beef stew, so use your own favorite recipe and can it up, processing the stew at 10 pounds pressure (if you live over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions in increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary), doing pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.

Likewise, you can process the bear meat just like you would beef, pork, or venison. It all makes excellent eating. Lucky you! — Jackie

Peeling fresh hard boiled eggs

I know I can get an answer from you. We are remodeling and can’t locate our back issues at this time. We have fresh eggs now and when I cook them for egg salad etc. they fall apart and are hard to peel. What am I doing wrong and how do I fix it.

Sheryl Welz
Monroe, Wisconsin

Fresh eggs ARE harder to peel; no doubt. I wish I had a quick, easy, sure fix for you. There are a lot of “cures”, but I’ve tried ’em all and this is what I do: I put the eggs in cold water and bring them to a boil. Then turn off the heat and let stand 15 minutes. Drain off the water, then bounce them up and down in the pan, like they were popcorn. This cracks the shells. Then rinse well in a couple of rinses of cold water to cool the eggs and finally let them set in the cold water for about 3 hours in the fridge. This lets the water seep into the cracks and around under the shell. Then peel as usual, trying to slip your fingernail under the membrane between the shell and egg white. They may be harder to peel, but just think of how much better FRESH eggs taste and are good for you than old store eggs! — Jackie

Canning with old zinc rings and railroad ties for raised beds

We have been canning our own food for a few years now. To save some money we hit the auctions looking for canning jars and other goodies. On one of our trips we landed 5 big boxes of mixed jars, and 2 milk crates with the old glass and zinc rings. Have you ever used the zinc rings? Do you think it would be safe to use them? Do you know how to use them? (If you were wondering we paid $17.50 for all of it.)

In Issue #117 May/June 2009 you talked about raised bed gardens. You used old railroad ties for them. We heard you shouldn’t use them for eatibles because of the stuff, (poisons) that leach out of them. Are they safe to use? We got phone poles for beds then we heard that it was not safe to use them.

Shawn and Karen Moore
Ada, Ohio

It’s best not to use the old zinc lids for canning. I use mine to store jars full of dehydrated foods, spices, and herbs. The reason for this is that you can’t tell when the jars are truly sealed or not. With the “modern” two piece lids and rings, the lid indents and stays that way when the jar seals. One look and touch and you know for sure that your jar is sealed. If you do use them for canning, you need to buy new rubber rings to use under them each canning season. I would recommend that you only use them to can fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and other high acid foods. If unsealed, they might mold or ferment but won’t develop bacteria that will make you sick.

There is a lot of debate about this issue. I, personally, don’t feel that enough “toxins” leach out of used railroad ties to keep from using them in garden beds. A lot of folks have, for a lot of years, that I know and they remain very healthy in old age. But there are others who are horrified to see them used in garden beds. You’ll have to research this and make your own decision. To be absolutely safe, use untreated logs (which will rot after several years) or concrete blocks or large rocks. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Planting strawberries, waiting for the kid, chickens, and the orchard

Monday, June 15th, 2009

Jackie Clay

Very pregnant Buffy is still waiting…and waiting

Wednesday, June 10th, 2009


Holy cow! Would you look at that udder? I’ve had cows with smaller udders than our precious Buffy. We keep thinking that surely today she’ll kid, and she still is waiting. As we had her running with the buck, we don’t have a breeding date, so we will just have to keep peeping at her and hoping.

In the meanwhile, we’ve set out 70 tomatoes and peppers in Wallo’ Waters, planted 20 long rows of sweet corn, 12 rows of various Native American flint corns, plus beans, rutabagas, carrots, potatoes, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower and beets. And on to the squash, melons, pumpkins and more spinach. Having a big garden is great, but boy do you get tired planting it. I just keep thinking about all that food in our pantry this fall…

Readers’ Questions:

Best paint for OSB siding

We have a shed/”guest cottage” made of the same sort of stuff as your goat shed. It was on our property when we bought it–don’t know how long it’s been up. A few years I’d guess. We recently primed and painted it inside and have given it a coat of latex barn paint outside.

Hubby is dubious that this will last long. It does have a shingled roof (multi-colored). Do you think one more coat of barn paint would do to make it last–or should we have used oil based or must it have some kind of siding?

Its a useful building. I hope to use it for guests as our family all live out of state–and also part of it will be a potting shed/green house.

Mary T.
Charlotte, North Carolina

Another coat of barn paint should do the trick, but watch the walls; in a few years you may need to do it again. If the OSB starts to swell or peel from moisture, you may need to put siding over it in the future. My old goat barn was unpainted for three years, and now it has three coats of red stain. It “ain’t pretty” but it will stand until we build a new barn in the future. — Jackie

Leaking Wallo’ Waters

I have a question on Wallo’ Waters. I have been using mine for a couple years, and they all sprung small leaks and will not stand up now. It seems to me that I should be able to patch them, but I am not sure how. Can you help? How long have you been using yours?

Los Alamos, New Mexico

There are repair kits that are available where you buy the Walls which repair 6 cells for about $2. I have so many that when I get one that has over 3 leaking cells, I mark those and cut repair cells from those. I gain about 8 repair cells for each Wall I cut up. I’ve also made temporary (1 season) fixes, using those popsicle clear plastic tubes that the kids squeeze the popsicle out of. The plastic is thinner, but I’ve made quickie fixes using those.

I’ve had some of mine for more than 20 years now. The newer ones seem to be much less durable and some tend to blow out the seam between cells. But they are still a great idea! I have 70 tomatoes and peppers out now in them. — Jackie

Surprise USDA visit

I operate an in-home daycare, live in farmland outside of city limits, and began, step-by-step building a mini-farm on our small piece of land. We now have chickens, ducks, goats, a piglet, rabbits, and garden like crazy, just purchased two 100 foot commercial greenhouses for private use, and this weekend put in 30 more fruit trees in our orchard.

PROBLEM: Yesterday, a USDA official came by to check on what kind of animals we keep! I told him that ours are for a petting farm for our daycare… But what’s going on? Why is big brother watching? What can they do to us? We operate a licensed beautiful daycare, and the animals are extremely well cared for in a picturesque setting, loved and tame from all the loving they receive.

Laura Marshall
Stanwood, Washington

I have no idea of why they came. Perhaps they thought you might have wild animals, such as deer. It IS scary. Probably you won’t hear from them again, but if you do, I would talk to your lawyer if they (the USDA) won’t give you a straight answer about WHY they came. I don’t think they can DO anything to you, as they certainly have no reason to, but they can sure frighten the heck out of you! — Jackie

Bread machine sourdough

I am looking for an answer to this question–hope you can help. Can you use a bread maker to make sourdough bread? If so,do you have a recipe?

K. Beard
Durham, North Carolina

Yes, you can. A lot of bakers only mix and knead the dough in their bread machines, then bake it in the oven, although Mom used this recipe in hers.

Best Bread Machine Sourdough:

1/2 cup warm water
1 cup sourdough starter
2 1/4 cup bread flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. oil
1 tsp. salt
3/4 Tbsp. active dry yeast

Place ingredients in bread machine (following manufacturer’s directions on order of wet and dry ingredients). Use quick setting. I hope you have good results. — Jackie

Strawberry jelly

I hope you won’t think that I have lost my mind…I made strawberry jelly this morning, crushed the strawberries, used lemon juice…the whole thing. Put them in jars and…forget to process them! The jars are cooled now…Can they still be processed or what can I do now ?

Carol Stone
Port Saint Joe, Florida

If they were my jars and they sealed, I would just leave them alone. The worst unsealed jelly will do is develop some mold on the top, which you just scrape off. We used to do this all the time before we used two piece lids on jams and jellies. Paraffin was used instead, which often came loose and the jars got a little mold on the tops. If the jars are not sealed, you can dump the contents in a large pot and gently heat it, stirring until it liquifies. Then bring it to a boil and again ladle into hot, sterilized jars, cap, and process in a water bath canner. — Jackie

Baking meatloaf in a canning jar

I have read your answers to canning meatloaf. You bake it in a pan and then put it in a jar. Is it possible to put it in a wide mouth pint or quart jar and bake it there and then put it in the canner? It cuts out a whole step and the canning jars will take the heat of the oven. I don’t think it will be any more bulky in the jar then it will be in a pan so it should bake all the way through it.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

It is not recommended that foods be baked in the dry heat of an oven, by jar manufacturers, so we don’t do that. The loaf also shrinks a lot, so you end up with less loaf than jar. — Jackie

Heavy bread

I bake multigrain wheat bread and it tastes great. Problem is, it weighs a ton (4-1/2lb loaves), is somewhat dry, and for some reason, never cooks the same, at same temperature, same cook time. It always rises well, generally doubles on first rise, punched down, shaped into loaves and rises double again. Rises again during cooking. Many times, cut loaf resembles a large doughnut, with a large opening all the way down the middle of the loaf. Any idea of what may be causing these problems?

Ken Mask
Simi Valley, California

Check your oven’s temperature. I had one that I set at 350 degrees and had the same hollow bread as you describe, then found out that it started out at 500 degrees! Wow!

You might try adding some dough enhancer such as gluten to your bread. Many multigrain breads are very dense and rise but don’t get light enough, even though they do rise. I think it’ll help your bread. — Jackie

Getting rid of ants

Could you tell me a good way to get rid of ants in the house?

Katherine Jasperson
Belle, Missouri

First get rid of anything the ants are eating, such as sugar crumbs on the kitchen counter or dry pet food. Then sprinkle Borax around the area they seem to be coming in. If that doesn’t do it, try mixing boric acid, sugar, and jelly. They’ll eat the mixture, which is toxic (the boric acid) to them and bye bye ants. Of course, keep it away from pets and children. — Jackie

Identifying chicken breeds

I bought a straight run of chickens from my local Tractor Supply about a month ago. I am trying to determine the breed, because no one at the store seemed to know for sure. I estimate their age at 8 weeks, they are white in color, and seem large for their age. I believe they are a Cornish Rocks or possibly a Cornish Cross (due to their size). How can I know for sure?

Stephen Maynard
Milton, West Virginia

You probably have Cornish Rocks or “meat chickens.” They are the most commonly found chicks on the market today because they grow so quickly. This is your clue. They have thick yellow legs and really get huge fast. Don’t do like I did, though, and keep a few as breeders. Every single one I have done this with had the legs/feet go bad; they just can’t stand the weight. Butcher them and you’ll have the best and most meat possible! — Jackie

Water bathed spaghetti sauce

I previously water bath canned (3) quart jars of spaghetti sauce and meatballs. Can I reprocess them in a pressure cooker now and be safe with its contents?

Tim Schaefer
Rochester Hills, Michigan

You can do this only if you have refrigerated the three quarts. Water bath processing is fine for spaghetti sauce WITHOUT meat, but you must pressure can sauce with meat. If you refrigerated the jars, dump out the contents, heat it to nearly boiling, then ladle the hot sauce and meat balls into hot jars, seal, and process in a pressure canner. Use new lids. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

More building and a wood-fired hot tub heater

Monday, June 1st, 2009

We’ve been busy building. We needed a shelter for the goats in their new goat pasture, so we are finishing up our goat summer cottage. They seem to like it just fine and have “moved” right in for shade and shelter from light rains. We need to get tarpaper and shingles on it, plus a couple coats of paint and it’ll be done. When we also get a solid door on it, we can leave them in the pasture at night, too, shut safely inside. We do have lots of wolves, bears, cougars, and other neighbors who might decide a tender goat might make a great supper. We’ve never lost an animal to a predator, but we are careful to keep them in at night. Having a big dog or two sure helps on that account


Spencer, our black Lab, is learning to “get ’em!” and is an avid ground squirrel-hunter. Not only does he protect our livestock and us, but our garden, as well.

We finally got all 2 million leaks fixed on the hot tub (where the PVC pipes had frozen) and it was ready for water. But we knew it would cost a bundle to heat it often with propane. So while Will was at the dump, he brought home two hot water heaters, an electric one and a propane tank. After removing the insulation and covering, he cut the bottom 18 inches off the electric tank, made a door and ash cleanout door in it, then welded it onto the bottom of the propane tank. (The propane tank has a chimney through the center). Now we had a wood-fired water heater. Will bought a new pressure relief valve so it didn’t go into orbit if it overheated, then plumbed it into our hot tub, the top line going into the tub up high and the bottom one down low to create a thermosyphon. He fired up the heater, bled out the air from a faucet on top, and in a few minutes, we watched the ripple of incoming warm water from the tank into the hot tub. Wow!


He later boosted the flow with a little 12-volt pump, run off an old lawnmower battery. It worked great and we had hot water in three hours. For free. That makes soaking our weary backs in that hot water even sweeter! Ah! Life on the homestead!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning chili

I am new to canning and have read your blogs for lots of great ideas and help. I am a little confused by Presto as they have recipes for their 23 Quart Pressure canner that state that you only need to pressure can Chili for 15 Minutes at 15 Pounds. See their web site instruction manuals for confirmation. According to you and the USDA the correct amount of time is 90 minutes. Why would Presto go with 15? I played it safe and went with the 90 to be sure.

Bob Burbage
Belvidere, New Jersey

I really don’t know, Bob. Why don’t you give them a call or email and ask? I’d be interested in finding out their reasoning on that one. — Jackie

Watery tomato sauce and canning lemon curd

I have written before and I have to say that I love all the answers. We are currently getting all the veggies in the ground and so far we are seeing blooms on the Early Girl tomatoes! Yay! Only one question with that: last year I canned all this wonderful tomato sauce that I thought would be great. Just had to pour it out and heat it up for noodles and meatballs. But it was not to be. The sauce was basically watery and tasteless. What can I do to make it better this year? Can I make the recipe but not cook it down and just pack it in hot jars? Without water? And process it in a water canner?

Another question I have is that I love lemon curd. Can I can it in jars in the water processor? I hope I can, making it every week or so is getting a bit much!

Jonica Kelly
Randallstown, Maryland

I’m not sure what you did with your sauce. To make great tomato sauce, first either peel your tomatoes or run them through a tomato strainer like a Victorio Squeezo. Puree the tomatoes, one way or another, NOT adding water. Then add any spices you wish, just like you were making your sauce from fresh. If you don’t know if your tomatoes are an acidic variety, add 1Tbsp. lemon juice to each pint jar and 2 Tbsp. to each quart jar before you fill them. Simmer the tomato sauce down until it is fairly thick; the thickness depends on your likes but remember the lemon juice will slightly water it down. Process. This sauce will NOT be watery and tasteless. Good canning!

I found this information for you from the University of Georgia and I know I’ll use it too:

Canned Lemon Curd

2½ cups superfine sugar
½ cup lemon zest (freshly zested), optional
1 cup bottled lemon juice
¾ cup unsalted butter, chilled, cut into approximately ¾-inch pieces
7 large egg yolks
4 large whole eggs

Special Equipment Needed: lemon zester, balloon whisk, 1½ quart double boiler (the top double boiler pan should be at least 1½-quart volume), strainer, kitchen thermometer measuring at least up to 180 degrees F, glass or stainless steel medium mixing bowl, silicone spatula or cooking spoon, and equipment for boiling water canning. Yield: About 3 to 4 half-pint jars


1. Wash 4 half-pint canning jars with warm, soapy water. Rinse well; keep hot until ready to fill. Prepare canning lids according to manufacturer’s directions.

2. Fill boiling water canner with enough water to cover the filled jars by 1 to 2 inches. Use a thermometer to preheat the water to 180 degrees F by the time filled jars are ready to be added. Caution: Do not heat the water in the canner to more than 180 degrees F before jars are added. If the water in the canner is too hot when jars are added, the process time will not be long enough. The time it takes for the canner to reach boiling after the jars are added is expected to be 25 to 30 minutes for this product. Process time starts after the water in the canner comes to a full boil over the tops of the jars.

3. Combine the sugar and lemon zest in a small bowl, stir to mix, and set aside about 30 minutes. Pre-measure the lemon juice and prepare the chilled butter pieces.

4. Heat water in the bottom pan of the double boiler until it boils gently. The water should not boil vigorously or touch the bottom of the top double boiler pan or bowl in which the curd is to be cooked. Steam produced will be sufficient for the cooking process to occur.

5. In the top of the double boiler, on the countertop or table, whisk the egg yolks and whole eggs together until thoroughly mixed. Slowly whisk in the sugar and zest, blending until well mixed and smooth. Blend in the lemon juice and then add the butter pieces to the mixture.

6. Place the top of the double boiler over boiling water in the bottom pan. Stir gently but continuously with a silicone spatula or cooking spoon, to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Continue cooking until the mixture reaches a temperature of 170 degrees F. Use a food thermometer to monitor the temperature.

7. Remove the double boiler pan from the stove and place on a protected surface, such as a dish cloth or towel on the countertop. Continue to stir gently until the curd thickens (about 5 minutes). Strain curd through a mesh strainer into a glass or stainless steel bowl; discard collected zest.

8. Fill hot strained curd into the clean, hot half-pint jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if needed. Wipe rims of jars with a dampened, clean paper towel; apply two-piece metal canning lids.

9. Process half pints in the prepared boiling water canner 15 minutes for 0-1,000 feet altitude, 20 minutes for 1,001 to 6,000 feet altitude, and 25 minutes above 6,000 feet altitude. Let cool, undisturbed, for 12 to 24 hours and check for seals. — Jackie

Spider mites

I have enjoyed your articles since I started reading Backwoods Home Magazine. I have a question about our garden:

We are new to Alaska and we are trying to get a nice little garden going to supplement our produce. We started all our seeds in little trays and have just recently moved them outside. The problem is that they are all starting to wilt at the stalk and shrivel into nothing. The only thing that happened while they were in the initial planters is that we had this interesting little spider web looking thing grow around the base of our plants. It it looking like this year’s garden is going to be lost if we can’t figure this out.

Thanks for your help. Any other advice about planting up north as opposed to the south (where me and my wife grew up) would be greatly appreciated.

Joel Ryals
Fort Wainwright, Alaska

You sound like you may have spider mites in your seedlings. These are tiny little “bugs” that suck the juices from the plant, much like aphids do. Use a mild insecticide spray, such as Safer or a rotenone based product to spray your plants. — Jackie

Metal to metal seal on canner

You talked about a canner with metal to metal seal. I have searched on-line looking for one and without a name I have had no success. Could you give me the name of one or more? It will be much appreciated.

Brenda Hudson
Calico Rock, Arkansas

I have two canners with a steel to steel gasketless lid. One is an old timer and I don’t have the brand. The new one is an All-American. Lehman’s Hardware also sells their own brand of this canner in several sizes. — Jackie


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