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

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Archive for August, 2009

Jackie Clay

By being neighborly, we get help with our storage building

Monday, August 31st, 2009

For three years now, my 18 year old son, David, has been helping our 80+ year old neighbor, Jerry Yourczek, make hay. He’s learned to drive, maintain, and fix large tractors and a variety of haying equipment, from haybines to double wheel rakes, plows, discs, and hay transports. They made more than 3,000 big round bales last year! That ain’t hay!

david-haying

David’s been offered better paying jobs, but he likes working for Jerry and feels like he’s part of the family. It’s also paid off for us because as a “bonus,” Jerry lets David bring his big tractors over from time to time to use for our projects. Like lifting up the 22 foot, very heavy power poles we are using for our new storage building. We sold our Ford 8N tractor we’d been using to lift the poles, in order to buy my oldest son, Bill’s tractor. That Ford 660 is a little newer and a little bigger. But we don’t have it here yet; we are tractor-less and the bulldozer is still laid up.

Will’s son, Don, is here again from Alaska, and they are going gangbusters, and we didn’t want to stop for lack of more poles in the ground. So David brought the big New Holland 5050 home and they easily set three more key poles so the work would progress. Thank you Jerry!

setting-poles

Of course, we are always willing to help Jerry any time he needs it and are careful not to abuse his neighborliness by overusing his generosity; a huge key to getting along in the country.

Readers’ Questions:

Separating cream from goat milk

I let my milk set in a container so the cream will separate. The cream that comes off is very thick, almost butter. If a recipe calls for light cream or heavy cream, how do I use this very heavy cream? Do I dilute it with milk? At what ratio?

Kathy Minkkinen
Cedar Bluff, Alabama

Goat cream rises in two layers. The top layer is your very heavy cream. Just under that is a layer of light cream. To get “light cream” skim not only the thick layer, but a little of the “milk” just under it. That is light cream. By mixing the heavy and light cream, you’ll get a nice light cream that will work well in all recipes. — Jackie

Corn, old hens, and potato beetles

I just picked a lot of my corn today. Many stalks had no ears and many of the ears I picked were small or had only half the ear in ripe corn. Is this due to the weather we have been having? We have had many cool nights in central Wisconsin around or under 50 degrees. Also what is a good variety for sweet corn for next year?

I am also getting ready to butcher old hens. I have some that are more than 3 years old. Will they tenderize as I pressure can them or am I wasting my time? Do you precook them?

There was a man several weeks ago who asked about potato beetles. Well, I had them this year! I have researched the life cycle of them and if you don’t mind I’ll share what I found out. The adult beetle comes out of the ground and lays orange egg clusters underneath the leaves of the potato plant. I have learned to look under all leaves several times per week after you see your first beetle! If you miss the orange egg clusters they will hatch into larvae. They eat the potato leaves and FAST! I would pick several times a day to get them. I did miss a few and the larvae turned into a darker colored beetle in 2-3 weeks. During those weeks they kept eating the leaves! Keep picking those beetles! These beetles mature into the regular colored adult ones. They crawl into the ground and hibernate until next year. I did catch one beetle crawling into the ground. So pick, pick, pick at all stages. The potato beetles also liked my eggplant plants.

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

I’d suspect your corn problems were due to our summer with no summer. (We had it too!) In normal years, just about any good sweet corn variety will give you great yields. I like Kandy Kwick, Kandy King, and True Gold (open pollinated). Be sure to always plant at least 4 rows of corn together in a block so that it pollinates nicely. This ensures full ears, from base to tip. If you plant one or two long rows instead, you’ll find that you get a lot of ears with ugly, unfilled cobs.

Your hens will give you great meat. Yes, it will become tender during pressure canning. Even old roosters make great, flavorful meat! I do precook my chickens, regardless of age, for ease of packing the jars and a more appetizing end product.

You’re sure right about the potato bugs. Faithful picking will not only end this year’s problem, but also help next year, as well. but some years there are just too many bugs! That’s when I resort to the rotenone dust. — Jackie

Canning apple pie filling

Thanks to you and BHM I have just started canning this year and I love it. I do have a question about your apple pie filling recipe. It does have a little flour for thickening which is why it is not recommended for canning. You did say you have canned it for years without any problem. I am thinking of leaving the flour out and canning it. Also, I do not peel the apples. I leave the skin on. Often I use it as a topping on my oatmeal for breakfast, so I do not care if it is not thick. Would it be OK to can it this way: no flour, peels on?

Susan Bates
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

If you are worried about the flour (which doesn’t really thicken it too much), you can certainly just can the apple slices with a medium syrup (with or without the peels), instead. Or make an apple pie filling using ClearJel, a refined cornstarch product that IS recommended for canning thickened pie filling. — Jackie

Canning fats

Beans aren’t any good without fat and seasoning. I’d like to quickly can my left-over fats to go with any bean dishes. Have you, or do you know how to can fats? Other than pouring hot fat into hot jars and quickly sealing?

Louise Sandy
Edmonton, Alberta

You can “can” lard this way, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it with other cooking fats as they would become rancid fairly quickly. Canning strictly fat isn’t recommended because fat often blows out of the jars during pressure processing and the seals on the lids fail to hold. I dice ham in pint and half pint jars with ham broth (including a little fat) and this is great with bean dishes. And better for your cholesterol level too! — Jackie

Blackberry jam not processed long enough

Ok I wasn’t thinking, maybe just got derailed but I made a batch of blackberry jam and only kept it in the boiling water bath 5 minutes instead of 10. Is it ruined or will it keep? And since I am visiting with you again I was getting ready to can some wild mushrooms when we got on the subject of the 70s botulism that happened and I just would like a little input on botulism or what causes it in canning.

Conel Rogers
Makanda, Illinois

If the jars sealed, they will probably be just fine; we didn’t use to water bath jams and jellies at all. In fact, we poured melted paraffin right on top of the hot jelly to seal the jar. The trouble with that was that often the paraffin would crack loose or mice would eat into it and the jelly would mold. We just scraped the mold off and ate the jelly! And we lived (the mold isn’t toxic, just ugly and nasty). Now to keep the jams and jellies perfect, we don’t use paraffin and water bath them to ensure that the jars seal and stay sealed.

Botulism is caused by bacteria that produce a deadly toxin that is NOT killed by a boiling water bath canning. Improper canning can cause illness because of that toxin. To avoid botulism, be sure to always follow proper canning methods and directions from your canning book; never, never guess. Each and every time I can (and I’ve canned thousands of jars over lots of years), I get out my canning book. Just to be sure. By using a pressure canner for all vegetables, meats, and poultry products or recipes that contain them (other than pickles), the food in the jars’ temperature is raised higher than boiling because of the pressure. That, coupled with a correct length of time for each food, WILL kill any botulism toxin present. — Jackie

Sweet pickle chunks

Do you have a good recipe for sweet pickle chunks that doesn’t involve soaking in brine solution? Something that can just be canned up quick? I’m overwhelmed with cukes this year.

Robin Balczewski
Colvelle, Washington

Most sweet pickles need to be soaked in iced salt brine before pickling to keep the crisp in the pickle. This year I’m NOT overwhelmed with cukes; I still have not one large enough to pickle! But in most years, I scrub the cukes and cut them as needed, then brine them in ice water brine overnight so I can start the very next morning. Then I pick another batch in the afternoon to do the next day and so on. That way, I’ve always got a new batch all set to go and you really don’t lose any time that way. Lucky YOU! — Jackie

Composting meat products

I’m setting up a “survival” home in a remote area of Arizona. I will have a well, solar and wind electrical system, and a GREEN HOUSE! I want to get a composter but read that table scraps related to meat products won’t compost… yet one particular brand brags that you can put meat, fat, and even BONES in it and it will compost them. When looking at the “bragging composter” construction, it seems just like the others. What gives? Can meat leftovers, trimmings, etc. be composted? If they can, do you really have to buy a special composter that seems to look like all the others?

Joe Hindman
Flagstaff, Arizona

Meat, fat, and meat leftovers should not be put in a compost pile or bin. They don’t compost; they rot. This not only can smell and attract animals to your bin, but will probably smell when you turn your pile so that you won’t want to be around it. You can bury your bones under a tree, nice and deep, feed your meat scraps to the dog, pigs or chickens, and compost your vegetable matter. There is no “magic” composter, regardless of hype. — Jackie

Planting onion sets

How do you make onion sets and when do you start them and when do you put them out. I live in the coastal zone in Washington state, zone 7 or 8.

Joan Orr
Lopez Island, Washington

Onion sets are planted from seed, sown in rows or beds in late summer. They make little bulbs (sets) by late fall, which have the tops die down, just like big onions. They are then harvested, allowed to dry outdoors, out of danger of freezing, then are held in a cool, dark place until spring when they are planted outdoors to go on to make big onions. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The August garden

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

Jackie Clay

See! Even those black clouds have a silver lining!

Monday, August 24th, 2009

the-driveway-home-004

Tonight, with rain threatening, this huge cloud bank boiled up in the west, just as the sun was setting. It reminded me once again that no matter how bleak and black things seem at the time that if you hang in there, the sun is shining somewhere and just maybe that cloud really does have a silver lining if I just turn and look for it.

Readers’ questions:

Canning Swiss chard

You mentioned in your last blog that you can swiss chard – never knew that could be done or if any one ever did! I haven’t found a recipe for this. We have friends handing us bunches of swiss chard and I would love to know how to can this so we can enjoy other times of the year. Can this also be done with beet greens? And do these go with water bath or pressure can? Thanks so much for sharing all your experience with us. You are my “go-to” resource for canning.

Elaine Waskovich
Moscow, Pennsylvania

Swiss chard and beet greens are great canned. In canning books, most group these under the label “Greens,” such as spinach. All are canned the same way in a pressure canner.

Rinse greens thoroughly under running water several times to get rid of grit. Pick off any tough stems or damaged leaves. In a small amount of water in the bottom of a large pot, place greens, covering and heating to steam-wilt. Turn greens when some are wilted to avoid overcooking them. When all are wilted, cut across them several times with a sharp knife to make convenient pieces. Pack hot greens in hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add ½ tsp. salt to pint jars, 1 tsp. to quarts, if desired. Pour boiling water over greens, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints for 70 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. Have fun! — Jackie

Making vanilla extract

Do you have any recipes on making homemade vanilla? What is the difference between vanilla extract, pure, and flavoring?

Gaylene Schwalen
River Falls, Wisconsin

Vanilla extract is just that; vanilla flavoring extracted from vanilla beans, usually in some form of alcohol. This is “pure.” Vanilla flavoring is a non-alcohol, artificial flavoring. Here’s how you can make your own vanilla extract:

4 or 5 vanilla pods
2 cups bourbon, vodka, or brandy

With a large chef’s knife, cut each vanilla bean lengthwise in half and put them in a screw-topped jar with two cups of the alcohol. Cover tightly and let stand for two weeks or longer to achieve a full vanilla flavor. You can buy vanilla beans at health food stores or some of the larger super markets. — Jackie

Canning on an electric stove

I have always used a gas stove but recently because my oxygen level is so low I have to be on oxygen 24/7. I have long tubing so I can move around the house, but I cannot be closer than five feet to any flame, so my question is will a pressure canner work properly on an electric plate or stove?

Helen

Yes, you can surely can on an electric stove (some hot plates don’t work so well, but you could try and see if your canner works with one). I once canned on an electric stove for two years before we switched to propane and wood. It worked fine. Good canning! — Jackie

Mustard bean recipe

I was going to make your mustard bean recipe and think I may have copied it down wrong because I wrote “process 10 minutes in hot water bath” and I am thinking beans have to be canned in a pressure cooker. Could you please set me straight?

Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington

Good thinking, but these beans are pickles and don’t need to be canned with a pressure canner because of the vinegar. They turn out crispy, yet tender and really are great! — Jackie

Using Jello in freezer jam

I found an Amish recipe for freezer jam using zucchini. My question — how can I convert this to a canning jam? It requires a box of apricot Jello – can I substitute pectin? if so, powder or liquid? Hot water bath 15 minutes? Do you need me to send the complete recipe?

Mary Ann Helwig
Red Lion, Pennsylvania

If this is the zucchini jam with pineapple, lemon juice, and apricot Jello, you don’t need to substitute pectin. Just simmer the zucchini till clear, add the pineapple and Jello, heat to boiling, then ladle into sterilized jars. Process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner to ensure seal.

If not, send the recipe and I’ll see what it needs. — Jackie

Canned food shelf life

I canned many jars of food that are now about 2 years old. They look ok, but how can I tell if they are still ok to be eaten? Love your book and hope to get the next one. I am not young, almost 70, but still am very active with garden, full time job, kids, grandkids, and great grandkids. Am trying to instill in them country values and the need to be aware of the powers that be.

Sandra Bullock
Westlake, Louisiana

Your food is perfect if the jars remain sealed, the food looks okay and smells okay. Some of my pantry food is over 10 years old and I’m happy to break open a jar anytime! Enjoy your canning and family! — Jackie

Detouring yellow jackets

I would like to know if you have any way to detour yellow jackets from making nests in your house. We had a large nest last year that we didn’t know about till we just happened to notice jackets in one of our bedrooms. You could put your ear on the wall and hear the activity. An old farmer said that they would eat thru the wallboard if we didn’t take care of the nest. He suggested Sevin (powder insecticide) and a turkey baster and to pump it into the entrance hole after sundown. Well the nest was gone the next morning. The theory is that they (the guards) will track the poison all the way up and poison the whole nest something that sprays can’t do. Now I would like to see how I can keep them from doing all this damage to begin with and not to mention the smell of all of the rotting flesh they they must have had stored, the smell was hideous for quite sometime.
Yellow jackets are very nasty little critters.

Michelle
Fresno, Ohio

No I don’t. The good news is that “usually” when one nest has been eliminated, the yellow jackets don’t seem to come back to the same area again. Just to be safe, really, really pay attention to activity around your house next spring. The yellow jacket traps (jar with bait hung away from your door) also help prevent nest building as it reduces the population around your house. — Jackie

Comfrey

My question is I noticed that you mentioned comfrey in one of your articles in this last magazine, do you use this herb? I have this growing in my back yard in a row of four and I know its use can be for putting on bruises, is there another use for it?

Linda Gijswijt
Rock Island, Tennessee

I use it, myself, on bruises, sprains, and as a poultice on abrasions and burns. I also feed it to my chickens, goats, and calves. There is a great controversy over ingesting comfrey (as in comfrey tea), as some folks swear by it but others (experts) say it can cause kidney and other internal damage. So read up on it (type “using comfrey” in your browser) and form your own decision. — Jackie

New growing and canning book

In your new growing and canning book, do you cover which varieties of veggies are best for what, which are “all at once harvest,” which grow all season, which are bush vs vine, which grow best where, etc.? I tried canning beefsteak tomatoes and wasn’t as happy with the results as some of the other varieties, for example.

Dani Payne
Rose, Oklahoma

Yes and no. I did discuss different types of tomatoes; determinate “bush” and indeterminate “vine,” but couldn’t get into too many details of which grow best where, etc., for sake of space constraints. As I covered not only growing, but canning in the book, I had to cram as much information into an affordable book as possible. I hope you like the results! — Jackie

Weeds, winter gardening, and apple cider vinegar

One, we have a large, raised garden bed, as high as one railroad tie. We constantly loose our battle with weeds, and they just take over our garden no matter how hard we try to keep on top of it. The heat and humidity here just makes them thrive. I was thinking if we raised the bed, tilled in the weeds, composted on top, and dumped a new layer of topsoil in, THAT might kill the weeds. Otherwise, we were thinking of purchasing the industrial type of weed fabric to tarp over our garden. What would you suggest?

Also, since we have a very long growing season and mild winter, I’d like to do a winter garden. Again, what would you recommend as far as vegetables for a first time try at a winter garden? I also can, so I’d like to preserve whatever I grow.

Lastly, how do you make apple cider vinegar? Our apple season is kicking in, and I’m wondering can I make it and how to can it?

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

You have several options in your battle with those frustrating weeds. First you could till your beds (or some of them), water them well, then cover them with black plastic, weighting the sides down to keep it in place. Let this “cook” in the sun for six weeks or more. This generally kills all weed seeds, roots, and shoots. It’s best, of course, to do this when the daytime temperatures are above 60 degrees.

Yes, you can raise your beds, but after tilling the existing soil well, I’d put several layers of plain (not shiny or colored) newspaper down over it, then add WELL composted material and topsoil. Be sure the topsoil doesn’t come from an area where there might be grass or weed seeds or your problem will start all over again.

A third option is to let one or more beds remain fallow and pull weeds, till it and pull more weeds until there just aren’t any more coming up. This has worked well for me.

You might try growing greens such as spinach, Swiss chard and kale, onions, and even carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and turnips. These are all potential winter garden crops, depending of course, on your climate and particular winter you get. I’d sure do some experimenting if I had a mild winter! Good luck.

Making cider vinegar is an art, and also requires some experimenting and experience to get it right. But if you have the apples, here’s the basics:

Juice your raw apples, making the cider. Strain. Add 2 cups sugar to 1 gallon fresh cider. If you can obtain a mother (that jelly-like glob on the bottom of natural cider), add this to the crock. If not, you can try to catch “wild” bacteria (you may or may not get the right one). Cover your crock with a clean towel and leave in a warm spot. Smell then taste your vinegar to see if it’s strong enough to suit you. When you like the taste, strain it, keeping your mother in a sterilized jar, with some vinegar to keep “her” happy until next time. You can reuse your mother over and over again. You can pasteurize your vinegar by heating it to 145 degrees and holding it there gently for 30 minutes. But this kills the bacteria, making this vinegar unable to start a new mother or new batch of vinegar. But it does keep it clear and nice. — Jackie

Canning tomatoes

I have just canned whole Roma tomatoes using the raw pack method in the Ball Blue book. I am using older quart jars that were given to my wife and I. After inspecting for damage on the jars we processed them following the instructions in the Ball book but one jar, a “Ball Perfect Mason,” seems to have lost liquid, remains sealed, but unlike the rest of the jars the tomatoes are sinking. Is this jar going to survive and what could have caused this?

John and Leslie Glenn
Lancaster, Ohio

This is probably nothing to worry about. The jar may have been packed a little too full, causing it to blow out some of the liquid during processing. Did you pressure can the tomatoes? This is more common during pressure canning than boiling water bath processing. As long as the jar remains sealed, I wouldn’t worry. — Jackie

Cast iron waffle maker

I just bought an old Wagner cast iron waffle maker. It has a huge base. Since I don’t have a wood cook stove do you think I can use it on my gas stove? It fits right over the burner. Or could I sit my cast iron griddle on the 2 burners and sit the waffle maker on top? It really looks like it will take that thing a long time to heat up. I’m new at all this stuff and yes it’s okay to have a good laugh about my ignorance.

Jerry Davis
Pangburn, Arkansas

No laughing here! I don’t really know the best way to use a wood stove waffle iron on a conventional stove either! I THINK you could use it directly on the burner if the burner was turned way low. You’ll have to experiment here! Be sure to gently brush melted shortening on the iron before heating, and in between each use to prevent sticking. Use less batter than you think at first so you don’t have any oozing out. Heat the iron well on both sides before you bake your first waffle. After spooning your batter on the iron, close it, bake a few minutes (also an experiment) and then turn it over to do the other side. Turn off the heat, then take the iron off the base and open it gently. The waffle should be fairly easy to remove with a fork. Keep it warm and brush iron again with a light coat of melted shortening and do the next one. If you work quickly, you shouldn’t have to re-heat the iron before baking the next waffle. At first it’ll be hard to get the hang of it and you may have to dig the first waffle out of the iron with a fork…in pieces. But with practice and determination, you should master it. Let us know how it works out. — Jackie

Green bean recipes

Finally got a garden, froze the first picking of string beans after blanching them. Got a little tired of just nuked string beans and beans with mushroom soup with the crispy onions on top last winter. Is there a recipe for a green bean quiche? Or other green bean recipes for men that cook?

Jan Wesselius
Chatham, Michigan

I use my green beans in about everything! Just use your favorite quiche recipe, then toss in a handful of beans after they’ve simmered to tenderize them. One of my favorite “man” dishes is diced ham and onions, stir fried with green beans added. It helps if you have some bacon grease left over to fry them in. You won’t have leftovers! Or make a chicken pot pie with a double pie crust (top and bottom), using diced chicken, gravy, diced potatoes, onions, carrots, and green beans. After you seal the top, cut a couple of vent holes in the top, brush butter on top and bake at 350 degrees until the top is golden and bubbly. Enjoy those beans! — Jackie

Enchilada sauce recipe

My tomatoes have run amok this summer and have gone into hyperdrive. I’ve gotten over 250 lbs off of 18 Roma plants. I’ve canned all the usuals that we eat but now I’m looking for an enchilada sauce to can. Do you have a favorite that you are willing to share?

Donna Braun
Devore, California

Here is a good enchilada sauce recipe that I’ve used. I hope you’ll like it too.

45-50 cups tomatoes, chopped
2 1/2 tablespoons garlic salt
1 1/3 cups chili powder
2 tablespoons salt
7 tablespoons sugar
1 3/4 cups oil
1 1/3 cups flour

Place the tomatoes in a large stainless steel or enamel kettle. Heat gently to soften tomatoes. Run through food mill fitted with fine screen to remove seeds and skins. Return pulp and juice to the pan. If the tomatoes are juicy, simmer the sauce for at least 1 hour. When you have a thick tomato juice, but not yet tomato sauce, add the garlic salt, salt, sugar, and chili powder. Stir well.

In a separate pan heat oil and add flour to make a roux. Blend 4 cups warm tomato juice to roux and mix well. Quickly stir roux paste into boiling tomato juice. Continue stirring to avoid lumps until mixture thickens. If too thick, add water until desired consistency is reached. Adjust seasonings. Ladle into hot jars and process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner (if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, see your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary).

Note: While there IS flour in this recipe, it is not enough to seriously thicken this recipe, which would render it unsafe for canning. — Jackie

Lamp oil source and squash seeds

My husband wanted me to ask you if you know of a source to buy larger quantities of lamp oil. Locally we can only seem to find liters or quarts; he wants to buy it in a 5 gallon container.

Second, a kind reader here gave me some Hopi Pale gray squash seeds a few years ago. I keep all my seeds in a cool dark place so they won’t sprout during winter in the package. This year, I planted many things from seed, but the hopi’s did not come up. I replanted again, and still nothing. Am I doing something wrong with these seeds?

Marty Young
Huntington, Massachusetts

I don’t know of an economical source of bulk lamp oil. I buy my kerosene in bulk from a fuel dealer that supplies farmers with oils, diesel, and gasoline, buying 5 gallons at a time. Any readers have any ideas for Marty?

Did you store your Hopi Pale Grey seeds in an airtight jar? They could have possibly gotten moist which would cause them to not germinate. A simple germination test is to take a washcloth, dampen it with warm water, place three seeds in the middle, then fold it up around the seeds. Keep this in a small jar with a top on it, in a warm place. Don’t let the cloth dry out, but don’t keep it soggy, either. The seeds should germinate within about 10 days. If not, they’re probably dead. Hope Pale Grey squash are very, very forgiving of growing conditions, but the seeds do need moisture to germinate; if the hills dry out after the seeds are planted, they will die, so keep ‘em moist but not soggy. — Jackie

Salty pickles

I made dill pickles for the first time, using fresh picked cucumbers and the Ball Canning book recipe, they are over the top salty (recipe called for 1/2 cup canning salt). Can I alter the recipe to use less salt the next time around?

Darnell Rogers
Arden North Carolina

I think that somehow you made a mistake in your measuring; either salt or vinegar/water. The 1/2 cup of salt is pretty much standard, and I’ve never had very salty dill pickles, using that or a similar recipe. No, you shouldn’t reduce the salt as this recipe has water mixed with the vinegar, which dilutes it and could cause spoilage without the salt, as well. Try it again, and see what results you have with another batch. I think you’ll be pleased. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Just before major canning starts, I’m putting up some hams

Monday, August 17th, 2009

canning-ham

Our garden is jumping now and I’ll soon be canning big time, starting with carrots, mixed vegetables, and Swiss chard. But our local market had half hams on sale for .89 a pound, so I bought five and canned them up. I first roasted one at a time, just to heat the meat thoroughly. Then while I cut it up, I started another. I did two the first two days and the last one a day later, when I was tired. I used the nicest pieces to make inch thick slices to fit the jar, then large dices and finally small dices to use in mixed dishes. I find I use the diced ham most often, so I put up plenty of that. Every single jar sealed and my pantry shelves look great, all stocked up with nice ham. Now I’m waiting for the next sale or our fall deer!

Readers’ Questions:

Growing comfrey

Read the latest issue and I want to order comfrey. Where did you order yours from? We live in Mississippi; will it grow here?

Lisa Shook
Carrollton, Mississippi

Yes, comfrey will grow in Mississippi. In fact it grows well down into Florida and points south of that! I got mine the way most people do, from a friend. Ask around and I’ll bet you can find someone more than willing to give you a start. Comfrey does get invasive, though. For that reason, folks are more than happy to dig some up for you! I planted mine along the horse pasture, WAY away from my garden and orchard. If you can’t find someone to donate a few plants, you can buy it from Richters Herbs,

RICHTERS HERBS
357 Highway 47
Goodwood, ON L0C 1A0 Canada
Tel. +1.905.640.6677 Fax. +1.905.640.6641

Or type “comfrey roots for sale” into your browser and see how many results you’ll find! — Jackie

Grinding flour and cornmeal

I am wanting to grind my own flour and cornmeal, but in looking for sources online for wheat and corn it seems awfully expensive. In trying to calculate the cost it seems like it would be considerably more expensive than buying flour. Any suggestions for good sources? I have searched on the internet but mostly find the emergency supply places which seem to have good quality grain but are expensive. Did I see you suggest bulk popcorn to grind cornmeal in a previous issue?

Susan Ginnings
Georgetown, Texas

Yes. Popcorn, being a flint corn, makes good cornmeal and is cheap and easy to find (Sam’s Club, etc. in 50# sacks). I buy my wheat locally from our feed mill (Homestead Mills in Cook, Minnesota), and find that it is moderately priced. If you can find wheat farmers in your area, better still! — Jackie

Blemished tomatoes

I have a bunch of tomatoes. However, only a few of them are completely free of any blemish. Some have a small crack around the stem, a roughening of the skin on the shoulders, and/or other small imperfections. Can I can these slightly less perfect ones or do I just trim them up and use them in salsa, etc. I am afraid that when I get enough to waterbath can, the first ones I picked will be over-ripe. Thanks for your help and encouragement. (Love the new calf.)

Sandra Agostini
Nixa, Missouri

The canning books say “unblemished” tomatoes because they are afraid folks will can moldy or rotten ones and become sick. I cut away the less than perfect spots on my tomatoes, making sure that the tomato meat underneath is good. This works fine if you use common sense…which, evidently, many people seem to have lost!

P.S. The calf is doing great! — Jackie

Canning round pickles

My son brought me a huge bag of round cucumbers; they look like big softballs. I need to know how to make pickles out of them. My first thought was to make “stackers” to use the slices on hamburgers. I believe they can be canned like regular dills, but I am not sure. Please help as soon as you are able, because they are producing their little hearts out!

Beverly Robbins
Tallmadge, Ohio

I usually make chunk pickles (either dill or sweet) from oversized cucmbers. Usually the seeds are too well developed (and tough) for regular pickles. You can also grind them without the seeds and make various relishes. If the seeds are still small and tender, you can certainly make any sliced pickle you wish from them. — Jackie

Homemade laundry soap

Do you know if homemade laundry soap made out of washing soda, borax, and fels naptha flakes is safe to use as greywater on flowers, or safe for a septic tank for that matter? I read mixed info as to whether it is safe or a caustic, toxic chemical.

And..what is your opinion of homemade laundry soap versus store bought soap?

Sharon LeMay
East Bethel, Minnesota

My personal opinion is that I wouldn’t worry about using the greywater on your flowers; I have and have never seen a problem. I wouldn’t use it on vegetables or herbs though…just to be safe. All wash water can contain traces of E. coli and that isn’t a good bacteria for edibles! I think folks put much worse into their septic systems, but all laundry greywater is not good for septics, regardless of the soaps used.

I personally prefer to use homemade washing soaps if I have the time. Right now I’m too busy to mess with it, but I do miss my grated lye soap gel (mixed flakes with boiling water). — Jackie

Home canned goulash

I was wondering if you have a recipe for home canned goulash? (hamburger goulash with noodles)

Dora Soder
Curtis, Michigan

Good news! You can use your own favorite recipe for goulash to can. Just use fewer noodles than you would; too many will make too dense a product and the noodles do swell quite a bit during canning. Add them dry just before packing your jars. As goulash has meat in it, be sure to process your jars at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning book for instructions), pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. Enjoy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Broccoli; king of cool weather!

Friday, August 14th, 2009

broccoli

Because we’ve had record cool weather this summer, our cole crops are doing fantastic! We’ve been eating broccoli, kohlrabi, onions, and carrots nearly every day. And to keep up with the broccoli, I’ve been dehydrating it. Broccoli really isn’t very good canned (cauliflower and cabbage are.) so I dehydrate it. I just cut it into flowerettes, blanch it for three minutes, drain it, cool it, then cut it up into pieces about the size of the end of my thumb. Then into the screened dehydrator trays they go, in a single layer. I plan on doing this on laundry day, on days Will is using power tools on the storage barn or some such other energy hog day when the generator is going to be on quite awhile. In a few hours, the broccoli is pretty dry and the summer heat finishes the job nicely. When it’s crisp, it goes into a quart jar and the lid is shut. Each batch is added until the jar is full. It’s great in cream of broccoli soup, cheddar cheese/broccoli/bacon potato toppings, casseroles, etc. It rehydrates nicely and retains its color and flavor. Pretty darned good! And this year we don’t even have cabbage moths! Wow!

Readers’ Questions:

Mushrooms in the garden

I have “mushrooms” growing in my raised beds. The beds were built and filled last year with trucked-in, screened topsoil. They were planted in vegetables last and there were no mushrooms then. The weather here has been dry and cool this summer. Do you know if these things will contaminate this year’s vegetables or if they will come back in future years? Or…maybe they are no more of a problem than all the other weeds!

Mary McEnulty
Priest River, Idaho

Don’t worry about fungi in your vegetable beds. The spores probably rode in with the topsoil and took awhile to develop. It isn’t a problem. Just pull them if you don’t want to have them around. — Jackie

Harvesting Hopi Pale Grey squash

A while back I asked you for some seeds for Hopi Pale Grey squash, which you kindly sent me. I finally got some to grow this year, and I was wondering how big these squash get, and when best to harvest and use them. I have a few squash that I think are the Hopis (the squash patch is sort of overrun!), and they are quite large.

Mark Pressler
Momence, Illinois

Hopi Pale Grey squash vary in size from just larger than an acorn to more commonly a roundish, pointed on the ends, larger than a football shape. They are light blueish gray in color. Remember that squash of the same species will cross, so to save pure seeds, be sure you didn’t plant any squash that are C. maximas, such as many Japanese squash, giant pumpkins, hubbards, etc. — Jackie

Canning frozen broth

I have been collecting the broth and left over veggies every time that I roast chicken thighs. I have been freezing it with plans to turn it into chicken soup. I just bought my first pressure canner, and would now like to make the soup and then can it. Can I use the frozen broth to do this? All of the broth is less than six months old.

Lisa Johnson
Plainfield, Indiana

Yes, you can use your frozen broth. Just thaw and can it like it was fresh. — Jackie

Adopting children

I have a question regarding adoption. I have read in some of your articles and answers to questions that you have adopted children with special needs and I think that is wonderful, but I would like to ask you from your experience is there an age (age of the parent) that you would not consider adopting. I figure from what you said that you have been thru a lot with all the children that you have had and are there any things that an older couple (in their early 50’s) should consider before taking such a plunge and we are talking about developmentally delayed children. I love your articles and how you open up your life and experiences for people to learn from. If this is too personal I understand, but appreciate any feedback. Oh yes, the children are under the age of 6.

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

I don’t really think your age matters a whole lot, but your patience and disposition do more, regardless of age. Like all homemade kids, adopted kids will try you and require lots of your energy and patience along the way. I have to laugh, thinking back. One night I was in the living room, helping 7 kids with homework. They were spread out all around the room. First one, then the next would call out “Mom! Can you help me?” After four of them did it, my daughter, Munni, from India, started giggling. “Just listen, Mom!” and she pointed at first one, then the next. In seconds we were all laughing so hard tears came!

Be prepared for lots of visits to specialists, schools, etc. And expect lots of questioning about WHY you adopted in the first place. A whole lot of people just don’t understand and think you’re “in it for the money.” Ha! Ha! I never received a penny for adopting special needs children, but folks wouldn’t believe it.

It’s exciting to adopt children and they quickly become truly a part of your family. Good luck! — Jackie

Canned corn turning brown

I looked through the archives and I could not find anything: how do you keep your canned corn from turning brown?

Carole-Anne Hopkins
Riverton, Wyoming

There are several possibilities when canned corn turns brown. The corn could have been too mature and starting to get starchy; use corn that is still very milky when you pop a kernel with your thumbnail. It could have been processed at too high a temperature. (Have your gauge checked if your canner has one; it may be faulty.) The water/juice may not have covered the corn; watch pressure to avoid liquid from blowing out of jar during drops/rises in pressure. A few varieties of corn are suspected of browning during canning. These are usually the super sweet varieties with high sugar; try a different kind if that’s the case, next year.

Better luck next time! This is not real common. — Jackie

Keeping pickles in the refrigerator

I made some of your “Fresh Pack Pickles” today (from the Backwoods Home Cookbook) but when I processed them my stove flame had blown out and so they just sat in the hot water rather than actually boiling. Whoops. I don’t want to reprocess them for fear of jarred MUSH so I just put them into the fridge as soon as the jars were cool. How long will they keep in there unopened? I would think a long time but I thought I’d get your opinion.

Cathy Ostrowski
Amherst, New York

They will keep indefinitely; pickles are quite forgiving, especially refrigerated ones! — Jackie

Watermelon jelly

My watermelons have exceeded my eating capacity. I’m wondering if there’s a recipe you might have for making watermelon jelly?

Matt Remsing
Daingerfield, Texas

Sure, Matt, try this one. WE won’t have watermelons this year; it’s been way too cold; the plants are only six inches high!

4 cups seeded, chopped watermelon meat (no rind)
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 pkg. powdered pectin

Place chopped watermelon in a large pot. Slowly heat, mashing with a potato masher; simmer until soft. Add 6 Tbsp. lemon juice and stir. Stir in powdered pectin and bring to a boil, stirring to avoid scorching. Add full measure of sugar and bring to a full rolling boil that can not be stirred down, stirring constantly to avoid scorching. Boil 1 minute, stirring well. Ladle hot into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. — Jackie

Eliminating salt from canning

My husband needs to watch his sodium intake. I’d like to can some beef cubes, and the recipe I have calls for 1/2 teaspoon salt per pint. Can I halve that, or even omit it altogether?

Julie Hamilton
Lititz, Pennsylvania

Good news! You don’t need to put salt into anything you can. The “add 1/2 tsp salt” directions are only for taste enhancement. It does nothing to keep the food good. This goes for meat, vegetables, and poultry. You DO need to use it for pickle recipes, but you can choose ones with less salt in the recipes to help. — Jackie

Gophers getting potatoes

I have been digging potatoes and found that at least half have been eaten with chunks taken out of them. Is this a mole? We live in Ohio so I don’t think we have gophers and I could not see anything above ground that would have led me to believe the potatoes were being eaten. I’ve never had this happen before. Should I have dug a hole and buried my fencing?

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

This can be either pocket gophers or voles…usually gophers. Look for mounds of dirt, like mole hills or tunnels in the area…not necessarily right by your potatoes. We had this problem in Montana and even lost a lilac bush and cherry tree to underground gopher activity; they ate the roots! Traps or a good cat work wonders! (So does a .30.30! I had one smart gopher that avoided the traps and cat, but I spotted it poking its head out one morning and grabbed my coyote rifle. My son, David, witnessed the kill and dryly commented “Don’t you think that was a little overkill, Mom?” I agreed, but the gopher was definitely GONE. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have a new bottle calf

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

new-calf

Our little homestead is again increasing. We have wanted to raise a couple of calves, both for beef and as a milk cow. But we haven’t had adequate facilities yet. But now, as we have better, divided pastures, another goat barn and more room, we decided that now is the time. As milk replacer is expensive ($49 a 50 pound bag), and grain is also expensive, baby calves are really quite cheap right now. I used to raise many baby calves each year to use on the homestead, as well as to make some money on from sales, many years ago. We paid $55 for our new little guy — and he isn’t very “little” — a price I’d have been glad to pay 20 years back!

Luckily, we have two doe goats milking, so I only have to give him a little of the dry milk replacer. So we are going to get another calf or two to raise with him. (I’m hoping for a pretty Jersey or milking shorthorn heifer calf for a future milk cow, too!)

Readers’ Questions:

Making sauerkraut

My sauerkraut has blue mold floating on the top of the brine. everything looks good. The kraut is a little soft, but it all seems good. This is the second time I’ve made it. Does it sound ok? Should I can it or throw it out? Also I’d like a recipe for tomato soup to can.

Nicole Bramm
Narvon, Pennsylvania

If you followed a good recipe and instructions (which have you keeping the cabbage totally submerged in the salt brine by using a plate and weight or plastic bag full of the brine to weight the cabbage down), the mold is just part of the “scum” you need to scoop off daily. If you are unsure if your kraut is good, take a fork and dig out a few shreds. Smell it; it should smell like kraut. Feel it; it should be firm and kind of squeaky. If it feels okay, smells okay, taste a little bit. If it tastes okay, you have good kraut on the way. Keep the scum scooped off daily until it is finished. Here’s a tomato soup recipe for canning that I’ve used from my Amish friends:

14 qts. raw tomato chunks
1 bunch celery, diced
9 onions, diced
3 Tbsp. parsley leaves, chopped

Cook together. When tender, run through a sieve. Set aside 1 quart of the juice. Add 3 Tbsp of dried parsley leaves.

In a small cloth bag, put:

14 bay leaves
21 whole cloves
2 Tbsp. paprika

Put bag into juice and boil for 15 minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. Then mix the following in a large bowl:

4 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup flour
1qt cold tomato juice
14 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup sugar

Add this mixture to the boiling juice, stirring constantly to slightly thicken. Remove spice bag. Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Place in a boiling water bath canner and process pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on adjusting your processing time to suit your altitude if necessary.) You’ll notice that this recipe does not contain much flour to thicken it, as does commercial condensed tomato soup. This is because a large amount of flour may cause the soup to not heat thoroughly in the center of the jars, which could possibly allow harmful bacteria to grow. If you wish a thicker soup, you can always add more flour when serving. When opening a jar, add equal parts soup and milk, plus a pinch of baking soda when it is hot. Do not boil when reheating to avoid curdling. — Jackie

Freezing green beans

Is it possible to freeze green beans without blanching them. I was wondering if you could just wash, break and freeze them?

Dena Elliott
Rossville, Georgia

Yes, it is possible. But you’ll find sometimes that the taste is affected. The reason to blanch is to halt the enzymes that cause ripening in the vegetables. When the enzymes are left viable, they can cause off flavors in the frozen foods. If it were me, I would blanch. You go to too much work growing the beans, preparing them for freezing and packing them to have a product that is not top notch! — Jackie

Reusing pickle juice

I bought store pickles because we ran out of our canned ones. As I was dumping the juice (vinegar) I wondered about reusing it to can my own pickles. Is it strong enough or would I add more vinegar?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

No, this isn’t a good idea, as you don’t know the acidity of a vinegar that has already been used. You can use the juice in salad dressings, meat loaf and to marinate meat and poultry, with a bit of barbecue sauce added; it’s quite good, actually. Vinegar isn’t that expensive, so use fresh when you make your pickles. — Jackie

Bean recipes

My husband is a diabetic and can’t eat much bread. And he also simply refuses to eat beans of any kind unless they are “baked beans.” This is making it hard to develop a food storage plan, since beans and wheat seem to be the basis of home storage.

Do you have any recipes where you sort of ‘sneak’ beans in? You know…beans for people who claim they don’t like beans?

Renee Glover
Sandia Park, New Mexico

While beans and wheat do play an important role in most folks’ long term storage pantry, you can certainly use other foods, too. My late husband, Bob, was a diabetic, too, and we found that having him eat multigrain bread instead of white bread, kept his blood sugar even. Of course he didn’t over-do the bread. We use a lot of dehydrated vegetables and fruit (as well as fresh and canned, of course) to round out our meat supply (also canned and fresh). Instead of a meal heavy on beans, why not make a casserole, using dehydrated vegetables, home canned ones, along with any meat you choose?

In an emergency situation, you’d be surprised at how a person’s eagerness at previously unliked foods changes! That dish of refried beans MAY suddenly look awfully appealing! — Jackie

Canning Brunswick stew

I make a lot of Brunswick stew in the fall and winter. I have never canned it. I would really love to, because of freezer space. Is is hard to do? Do you have to put it in a pressure canner after you cook it?

Dianne Daniels
Fletchers Pointe Stem, North Carolina

No. Canning Brunswick stew is very easy. But, yes, you do have to pressure can it, as it contains meat and vegetables. Here’s the recipe I use. Your recipe may vary some, but here’s the basics:

BRUNSWICK STEW
¼ pound thick sliced bacon
1 chicken
2 cups water
1 cup potatoes, cubed
1 quart tomatoes with juice
2 cups butter beans
2 Tbsp. onion, chopped fine
1 ½ cups okra (optional)
4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
½ lemon, sliced thin
1 tsp. celery seed
½ tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. pepper
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper

Cut bacon in cubes and fry until crisp and brown. Cut chicken into pieces, put into frying pan with water. Cook slowly until chicken falls from bones; adding more water if necessary to prevent scorching. Remove chicken from bones. Add chopped vegetables and rest of ingredients. Bring to a boil and pack hot into hot jars to within an inch of the top of the jar. Remove any air bubbles. Wipe rim clean and place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie

Potato bugs

Hi, at our farm, (about 10 miles from your homestead) I’m having a problem with something eating the leaves of my potato plants. The pest is just eating the tender part of the leaf, leaving the veins of the leaf. I would like to keep my garden organic. I miss visiting with you when you would come into my shop.

Larry Barnes
Cook, Minnesota

Hi Larry! Sounds like you have potato bugs. When they are not too thick, you have to look for the fat, striped beetles or their orange egg masses on the undersides of the leaves. If you can find them, squash the eggs and pick the beetles. If they get too numerous, you can dust your potato plants with rotenone dust, which is an organic product. I miss coming in to your shop, too, for the good small engine repairs and enthusiastic conversation. — Jackie

Gray beets

I had the opportunity to can beets last month for the first time. I didn’t pickle them I just cut them, add tsp of salt and sugar to each jar and then added the boiling water. Went through the canning process. Stored them in a cool dark area since then. I noticed yesterday in one of the jars, the beets have turned a dark gray color. But the others have kept the dark purple color. Please explain, what I have done wrong for I love beets and would like to try my hands at canning them again.

Deborah Hicks
Hillside, New Jersey

I’m assuming that you canned your beets with a pressure canner, using directions from a canning book. Beets can lose their red coloring. This is usually due to not leaving the root and an inch of stem on the beet when you boil them, in order to peel them. Leaving the root and a portion of the stem on during this initial boiling period prevents the beets from “bleeding,” or losing their color during storage. If the seal is fine and you did use an approved canning method (not a boiling water bath — they’re vegetables!), the beets will taste fine. To improve the looks, you can add a few drops of food coloring to the pale ones. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our cold weather continues, but our garden grows on

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

onions-and-carrots

We have now had the coldest summer for our area on record! No wonder our hot crops pooped out! Thank God for Wallo’ Waters that we used on our tomatoes and peppers. They are doing extremely well, with our first ripe tomatoes only a day or two away. The cold weather lovers, like carrots, onions, cabbages, and others are doing fantastic, though. Even the potatoes that we planted the first week of July are growing like weeds. We are finished hilling them up and some are starting to bloom. (By tossing dirt up on the bottoms of the growing plants a couple of times, you get more potatoes than if you left the plants “natural.”) When the plants are blooming, it means little new potatoes are formed on the lower parts of the plants. Hooray! Now if we’ll just get a few more weeks of non-frosty weather for them to grow larger…

hilling-potatoes

Readers Questions:

Storing lard

Can you can lard? If not how do you store it long term? We are getting some pigs butchered this winter and I want the lard from the processing.

Erin Crouch
Coats, Kansas

While you don’t actually “can” lard, here’s how I store it — and it stores a long time in a dark, cool place:

First render your lard in a large roasting pan; I use the oven, as there’s less chance of scorching. Then skim off the top lard while hot and liquid, pouring it through several thicknesses of cheesecloth that lines a heavy colander over a clean pan. Then, from the clean pan, the hot melted lard is poured into hot canning jars, and a hot, previously boiled lid is placed on the clean jar rim and ring screwed down firmly tight. The jars seal on cooling. — Jackie

Growing potatoes in tires

I planted my potato eyes in tractor tires as recommended beginning with compost. Have added the last tire about 2 weeks ago. My potatoes are going crazy with growth. However, there are NO blooms on the leaves. Everyone elses potatoes planted in the ground have blooms on them. Should I worry about this or as the article said to wait until all of the foliage dries up? Please let me know if I may just have beautiful green foliage or potatoes.

Steve Brooks
Tok, Alaska

When this happens, I always suspect that the compost was very high in nitrogen…usually from lots of manure. It often produces rampant plants (usually tomatoes and potatoes) and few fruits. Have patience, though. Your blossoms may just be a little late from having had the plant hilled and hilled, so to speak. Our own potatoes are JUST starting to boom. But we’ve had a summer that was a record breaker for cool temperatures. — Jackie

Worms in root vegetables

All root veggies I grow, (rutabaga, radish, turnip, etc) always have worms in them. I don’t have that problem with any veggies that grow above the ground like tomatoes, beans, squash, and pumpkins, etc. What can I do to get rid of these worms? They make the produce really nasty looking and no good to eat.

Nancy Hanson
Washburn, Wisconsin

These are root maggots and you’re right; they are nasty buggers. These are the larvae of a small fly that is attracted to your newly planted rows of root crop’s moisture, where the eggs are laid. To prevent this, you can either cover your rows with floating row cover or use beneficial nematodes, watered in on your root crop rows. Many companies sell these relatively inexpensive, natural remedies, such as Gardens Alive! and Planet Natural. The beneficial nematodes usually multiply in your soil so that it remains root maggot free for years.

Using wood ashes in your garden is also often a help in reducing the root maggot infestation, as is immediately tilling in any spent root crop debris after harvest so the flies can not over-winter in your garden. — Jackie

Over-ripe cucumbers

I started gardening this year in a small area that I could manage this summer, but I have a problem. My cucumbers have all turned orange in color and appear to be very blotted but still growing. Everything else is doing great and we have already enjoyed many different peppers, zucchini, acorn squash, and okra. But what do you do with orange cucumbers?

Todd Hauck
Charles Town, West Virginia

It sounds like you missed picking your cukes and they are over-ripe. Sometimes this happens, seemingly, overnight! Or when the vines are stressed the cukes can be small but still become over-ripe and often kind of C shaped, too. Pitch any that are orange or yellow because that signals the vines to stop blooming and setting new cucumbers. Then watch the vines EVERY day. Be sure to water the vines well if it is dry; cucumbers are real water hogs. — Jackie

Feeding potato plants to chickens

We have recently moved to our homestead, started a garden and acquired chickens. My question is: after we harvest our potatoes (which are doing really well!), can we safely feed the potato plants (stems and leaves) to the chickens? I have found conflicting information on this topic, I hope you can help. If it is not safe to feed the potato plants to the chickens, what do you do with them? Can you safely put the plants in the compost bin? Are there any other vegetable plants that might be a problem to feed to the chickens?

Brenda Palmer
Marblemount, Washington

There is a neat website on this subject, PoultryHelp.com. It’s best not to feed tomato or potato plants as they do contain toxins that may harm chickens or animals (although the deer sure ate ours!) We simply till our spent potato plants into the garden soil; the same with tomato plants UNLESS they show signs of disease, such as spotted, yellow leaves. In this case, we burn our dry plants in an isolated spot away from our garden to avoid spreading disease into our soil and future plants. — Jackie

Pressure canning

My question: is there any reason why you couldn’t use the pressure canner to do tomatoes, pickled beets, or any of the fruits or veg’s. that would normally be done in the water bath? I LOVE the pressure canner since I learned how to do it! It’s really so much easier than water bath to me. A friend of mine always did her produce in the pressure canner, but couldn’t remember how many minutes for pints or quarts.

Tammy Amland
Howard Lake, Minnesota

You can do tomatoes in a pressure canner, but pickles and fruits can’t because the temperature is too high and they would become real mushy. ALL vegetables must be canned in a pressure canner. ALWAYS. I see no benefit to doing tomatoes in a pressure canner as you must constantly monitor the pressure canner while it is processing, while you can do something else once your boiling water bath canner is boiling and you’ve begun counting your processing time. But if you wish to use it, you certainly can. For tomatoes, you would process pints and quarts at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude; consult your canning book for directions if necessary) for 10 minutes (packed in boiling water) or 25 minutes packed in their own juice. — Jackie

Adding fresh chilies to cheese

Living in the chili capital of the U.S.. (as in Pueblo chilies), I use a lot of ‘em. After roasting, I can them, and freeze them, and dehydrate them. I’d like to add them to my fresh cheese but I can’t figure out how to make chili flakes or otherwise get the chili into small enough pieces. Any ideas?

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

Sure. I grew a lot of different chilies in New Mexico and I also roasted, canned, and dehydrated them. To make chile flakes, take a handful at a time of dehydrated chilies and toss them in the blender (after removing the stem and some seeds, if you wish) Give it a few whizzes and you have flakes. Want smaller pieces? Give it a few more! Then mix with your fresh cheeses for a delightful spicy flavor. Enjoy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

There’s a bear in the raspberry patch!

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Really. Will and I are picking wild raspberries up on our ridge. They are really good this year—large and juicy. Usually they are hardly worth picking, but this year they’re wonderful. So we pick a couple pails full then I make jam from them. We’ve done this several times so far and boy oh boy is the jam good. We DO have to sample it! Last time I was alone picking in a patch on one side of the road. I’d about finished it when I heard a branch snap across the patch from me. It was a bear! Not a big bear, but a bear, nevertheless. I quickly decided that he/she could have the rest of the berries while I went to pick with Will in another patch. The bear looked up and kept on eating berries. Hey! We ALL like ‘em!

david-and-hannah-on-roof-with-spencer

Our storage shed is coming along nicely. We now have the roof mostly on the second, HIGH bay. I had to take Mom to the dentist and when I got back, David and his girlfriend, Hannah, were on the roof…with Spencer, our Labrador! It seems that when they were up with Will, working on nailing down the OSB, Spencer had started climbing up the aluminum extension ladder! He’s one smart dog, for sure. He made it all the way to the top, with some encouraging. But after Will took this picture, he had to carry him back down. And Spencer weighs over 65 pounds! We’ll have to watch him around ladders in the future. Or teach him to climb back DOWN them!

Readers’ Questions:

Antenna for picking up AM/FM radio

I have 40 acres in Rauch, MN, just west of you. What do you have for an antenna to pick up AM and FM radio? I don’t care about getting TV, but I like to listen to the radio at night when I am up there.

Daniel R. Washick
Saint Francis, Minnesota

We have no special antenna for our radios, which are el-cheapos; just the antenna on the radio, and we get good reception on several AM and FM stations. Try different spots in your cabin. It sometimes makes a difference. Hi neighbors! — Jackie

Canning  squash soup

Can I can a homemade soup consisting of summer squash, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes? I am trying to avoid freezing it to conserve freezer space.

Mike Hatfield
Seymour, Indiana

Yes, you can. You’ll process this soup at 10 pounds pressure (unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 and must adjust your pressure to suit your altitude if necessary), quarts for 85 minutes and pints for 55 minutes. Not only will you save freezer space, but you’ll have an “instant” meal, only requiring heating to serve! — Jackie

Homemade cheddar cheese

I was wondering if you had ever made cheddar cheese? If you have would you mind sharing your recipe please. Does cow’s milk or goat’s milk make the best cheddar cheese? Thanks for sharing all your wisdom, reading BHM takes me home when I’m far from it.

Staci Hill
Currently stationed in Germany, but my heart’s always in Arkansas.

Yes, I’ve made cheddar cheese. It’s a little fussy, but not really hard to do. Either goat or cow milk will make good cheddar cheese. Here’s a recipe I’ve used from the book GOATS PRODUCE TOO (VOLUME II) by Mary Jane Toth:

2 gallons whole milk
1/2 cup cultured buttermilk or 1/8 tsp. Thermophilic DVI culture
1 tsp. liquid rennet
1/2 cup cool water

Warm milk to 88 degrees. Stir in 1/2 cup buttermilk or culture. Let milk set to ripen for 1 hour; keep temperature at 88 degrees. Add 1 tsp. liquid rennet to the 1/2 cup cool water; stir into milk for 30 seconds. Hold temperature at 88 degrees. Allow milk to set and coagulate for 45 minutes.

Cut into 1/4 inch cubes; let rest for 20 minutes. Stir gently while increasing the temperature, slowly, to 98 degrees over a 30-minute time period. Keep at 98 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until curds no longer have a custard-like interior. Let the curds settle to the bottom of the pot.

Pour off the whey and put curds into a colander and drain for about 10 minutes. Break curds up into a pot. Add 4 tsp. salt. Mix well.

Let salted curds set in the pot for 1 hour, stirring every so often to keep the curds separate. Keep warm during this process by placing the pot into a sink of hot water. Keep the temperature at about 98 degrees.

Line a cheese press with cheesecloth, scoop the curds into the press and fold over the extra cheesecloth. Place a wood follower on top and press at 15 pounds pressure for 20 minutes.

Remove from press and turn over. Put back in press and apply 30 pounds pressure for another 20 minutes. Remove from press. Redress curds in a clean cheesecloth and press for another 2 hours at 30 pounds. Lastly, remove the cheese from the press, redress, and press at 40 pounds pressure for 24 hours.

After pressing, remove from the press and air-dry several days, until cheese is dry to the touch. Turn several times daily while drying. When dry, coat the cheese with cheese wax. — Jackie

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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