Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns
Archive for September, 2009
Monday, September 28th, 2009
Ma Nature waits for no one. I’m just getting through a week long bout with the stomach flu and the weather radio is predicting temperatures in the 20s on Tuesday night. EEEKKKK! So we’ve been picking green beans and tomatoes, along with squash, Swiss chard, and everything that the freeze will hurt…even potatoes tomorrow. I’m still weak as a cat, so Will and I pick, then I go lay down on the sofa for awhile, then we go at it and can what we must and store away the rest. We’ve got all the ripe tomatoes, but there’s tons of orange ones, yellow ones, and plenty of green ones, too! Who would have thought this year’s poopy garden would give us this many great tomatoes? True, we did have some blight. But not too bad. But we had no bugs, slugs, or thugs (deer).
Mom’s bladder infection (or something else) is back again, so I took in a sample and we are waiting for culture results. Meanwhile, she wakes me up every fifteen minutes all night and can’t make sense when she talks. It’s very hard to experience. They call it “elder delirium,” caused by bladder infections and I wonder how many elderly people are in nursing homes because of that, not dementia? That’s really scary!
Tonight the wind’s howling and it sounds like winter. We have had both woodstoves burning and the heat feels good. So does that bulging pantry full of beautiful jars of every color in the world!
Preserving hard-boiled eggs
Can you “can” boiled eggs and if so, how? Not pickle them, just some way to preserve the boiled eggs without refrigeration.
Sorry, but there’s no way I know of to can hard-boiled eggs. — Jackie
My husband and I put up salsa using the recipe in the Ball Blue Book. It was Zesty Salsa and we did the measurements by the weight given, not cup measurements. The recipe was supposed to make 6 pints and we ended up with 8 pints and a quart. I’m concerned about the acidity level. Do you think this could be a problem? I would hate to toss out so much work but don’t like to take a chance on food poisoning.
Normantown, West Virginia
I wish I could ease your worry, but because you ended up with SO much more salsa than the recipe indicated, you probably don’t have enough vinegar in this batch to acidify it safely. If you just made the salsa, you could refrigerate the batch, then use it up fairly soon. But if it has set on the shelf at room temperature for weeks, it’s safer to toss it. ALWAYS use the measurements in the recipe, not the weights. The weights are so you can buy about the right amount if you don’t grow your own. — Jackie
Incomplete ears of corn
We had difficulty with our sweet corn this year. This has never happened to me before, but most of the cobs were not completely filled out. What causes this? Some cobs didn’t even have enough kernels to bother with in the kitchen! We have had some cool night time temps, is this the cause?
Two things commonly cause sweet corn cobs not to fill. The usual cause is planting one or two long rows of corn. This makes for uneven pollination and unfilled ears. Plant your corn in blocks of at least four rows of the same corn so it will pollinate at the same time. Sometimes stress, such as cool nights or drought will affect pollination and this will give you poorly filled ears. The first cause is easy to remedy; the second, not so easy! We gardeners need to learn that some years are great gardening…others less than that. This is why I can up everything I can each year…for the years that I have problems of one sort or another…Iike this summer with no summer. My own sweet corn had a high percentage of irregularly filled cobs in the second planting. Oh well… — Jackie
Starch in canned potatoes
Why is there so much starch in the jar after canning, after some time of sitting it seems to get worse. I do rinse well. I do get a few clear liquid looking ones but they are rare.
New potatoes can “cleaner” than older ones do. Pick a variety that is for boiling not for French fries; they hold together better and shed less starch in canning jars. Canning new potatoes with the skin on holds the starch in the potato much better. If you wish, the skins will easily slip after canning, when you want to use them. Can smaller, younger potatoes; when you cut up larger ones, they seem to have more starch. If you can your potatoes in pints, they will have less starch residue than in quarts as you process the pints for a shorter time and they don’t get overcooked and “mushy.” I hope these tips will help your potato canning. — Jackie
Oil solidifying in canned peppers
I can a sweet and tangy pepper with olive oil, brown vinegar, sugar, and garlic cloves. A friend of mine cans peppers to. He noticed that the oil in my peppers doesn’t solidify, on the shelf or when opened and placed in the fridge. He says that his own canned peppers with the oil does solidify. Can you possibly give a reason for this? He said that he used white vinegar and that everything was hot when put together. To keep them crunchy he did not process. Just set them up to seal on their own. I do process mine for about 5 minutes in hot water bath.
I really can’t tell you why the oil in your friend’s peppers solidifies, where yours does not. Sorry. — Jackie
Do you have a cookbook with all your recipes in them? I love the ‘basic’ cooking you use. I see many recipes I want to use too but it’s alot to print.
No, I don’t have a cookbook. Yet. It is an idea, though and we’ll give it some serious thought. — Jackie
Jackie, first off, we will have Hopi Pale Grey seeds available this fall if anyone wants some, at postage price. Second, we generally grow buckwheat and were wondering how we could grind our own buckwheat flour. We currently grind our own cornmeal (Reids Yellow Dent) and own whole wheat flour. Sure would like to get out of the high price of buying buckwheat though.
Mike & Sue Ledbetter
(mledbetter at twlakes dot net)
Unfortunately, buckwheat is hard for homesteaders to clean and thus grind at home. What I do is to toss the whole grain in my mill, hulls and all. I use this in multi grain bread and figure a little more fiber isn’t a bad thing. (It probably wouldn’t make great pancakes, however!) If anyone has a homesteader-friendly buckwheat hulling idea, PLEASE let us know! — Jackie
Cooking down tomato sauce
I have tomato juice that I want to cook down to sauce. I don’t have the time right now to put it on the range on low and keep it there all day because of work. Could I put it in a crockpot on low with the lid off? I could put it in the freezer till I have time, but I don’t really want to load the freezer up right now…
Gold Beach, Oregon
I’m sure you could use your crockpot, as you suggested. What I do is to pour my tomato puree into a large turkey roasting pan and put it in my oven, set at its lowest setting over night. This nicely reduces the puree, without scorching it. You could do it during the day, too, but I don’t like my stove on while I’m not home. Just in case… — Jackie
Canning peaches with honey
I can peaches in a water bath, and I prefer to use only honey when making simple syrup, not sugar or a mixture of honey and sugar. I have used 2:1 water/honey, and I have also used 3:1. What is a safe ratio of water to honey for canning peaches?
You may use any ratio that suits your taste. But because honey has been linked to infant botulism, don’t give your peaches, canned with honey, to babies. They will be perfectly fine for you and other non-infants. Enjoy them. — Jackie
Planting near trees
…I planted a garden with all non-hybrid seeds that I ordered from a catalog. The spot was new to planting and I got nothing but a few potatoes. I just ran across something on your blog that said not to plant a garden near a black walnut tree. Would that go for a hickory nut tree too? Because I planted my garden very close to that tree, and between it and the rainless summer… I got nothing for my hard work except tears.
There were a lot of iron ore rocks there too. Should I plant some other place next year?
No, your hickory tree wasn’t the problem. Don’t be discouraged; many new garden spots are less than terrific the first year, especially when the weather doesn’t cooperate. I’d work in as much organic material, such as rotted manure, compost, leaves, grass clippings (from a chemical free lawn), etc. that you can this fall, so it can be blending with the soil until you till again in the spring.
Think through your garden’s failure and address such problems as ease of watering sufficiently, weeding, and insect control. Then make plans to remedy them next planting season. Gardening takes a bit of time, work, and yes…sometimes tears…to get right. But the results are definitely worth the effort. Keep at it; you WILL succeed! — Jackie
Thursday, September 24th, 2009
And to top off having the stomach flu, Mom was in the hospital with a bladder infection! Being harvest season, this wasn’t the ideal time for either! But slowly, we’re making progress here. Mom’s better and home again, and I’m eating a little and my stomach doesn’t hurt so darned much. It’s something that’s going around; no fever, but pretty yucky stuff for sure.
I did manage to can up a batch of pretty Bright Lights Swiss chard and a few quarts of whole tomatoes. But this weekend, the weather guy’s calling for a freeze! So I just better get well very soon. Right now I feel as weak as a half-drowned kitten. Wish me luck!
New growing and canning book
Just wanted to let you know we bought your new, wonderful canning book and love it! Your personal comments sprinkled throughout the book are a great touch and we’ve already tried some of the recipes with much success. Thank you so much!
Coeur D Alene, Idaho
I’m so happy you like the new book. Annie and the rest of the BHM crew did a lot to make it special. — Jackie
I bought the food dehydrator from Wal Mart and the instructions for drying squash say after drying put them in a jar and keep refrigerated and use with in a week. Is that necessary? Why dry something and then have to refrigerate it?
College Station, Texas
If your squash is dehydrated crispy dry, it will keep nearly forever, WITHOUT being held in a refrigerator. Some jerkies that are dried to only a pliable, soft stage, do need refrigeration or they will begin to mold as they aren’t dried like “old-fashioned” jerky, which is stick hard, very dry, and also very hard to chew. — Jackie
Canning spaghetti sauce
I made my first spag. sauce to can in a pressure canner. It’s very chunky, so maybe more like stewed tomatoes. It is a meat sauce. I pressure canned it at 15 lbs for around 20 minutes (I live at a high altitude). Now I see little pockets of air on the sides of the jars. They were not there when I put them in the canner. Could they still be safe to eat or do I just chalk it up to experience?
I hope you canned your spaghetti sauce without meat in pint jars; the time is too short for quarts, which need an additional 5 minutes. The air pockets are fairly common in thicker sauces, and are nothing to worry about. As always, just make sure your jars are sealed. — Jackie
Preserving apples and growing Painted Mountain corn
I found a really different recipe for preserving apples but was afraid to try it so I thought I’d ask you and see what you thought. I respect your canning and preserving knowledge more than anybody I’ve ever read, anywhere. It’s from a website that has recipes handed down from relatives in the Kentucky Mountain area. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the site but you may like it. It is at mountain-breeze.com. This apple preserving technique is so different that I’d thought I send it along to you just in case you may like it. It would be a great way for people to save apples, especially if their resources were limited.
8 Minute Apples:
From: Marcia Phipps
Start with any amount of apples you want.
Slice into 1 quart measure, layering the apples with 1/4 cup of sugar into an air-tight container.
Keep layering apples and sugar till a large container is filled and then let stand overnight to “cure.”
In the morning pack the apple slices TIGHTLY into clean 1 quart jars.
Add as much juice from container as will trickle down.
Tighten lids and water bath for 8 minutes.
Apples will remain white and not shrink if they have been packed tightly. When needed open and treat like fresh apples.
COMMENTS: I have used this recipe for years and it so easy to do.
If you have a minute please let me know what you think. If it would work it would be great!
Also, I am fascinated with the food preservation techniques of the Hidatsa Indian Tribe from this site. http://digital.library.upenn.edu/women/buffalo/garden/garden.html. If you are familiar with this site would you have any idea at all what kind of squash they grew?
Also, have you heard of Painted Mountain corn? I’d love to know what you think of it. I sent for some seed but did not get it early enough to plant. I cannot wait to plant it next year, especially after seeing your corn.
The apple preservation sounds good, but I’d be afraid to use it as it’s really NOT canning the apples, but sealing the jars without proper processing time. I suppose the amount of sugar, coupled with the high acid fruit would keep them from spoiling…usually. But I’ll keep on waterbathing my apples for 20 minutes in a light syrup…less sugar and safer preservation.
I have the book, Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden, which is real interesting for all gardeners. No, I’m not sure of what type of squash she refers to; there were, and still are, several traditional varieties grown by the Hidasta People and others in that area.
Yes, we grew Painted Mountain corn this year; it’s some of the corn in the picture on the blog. When it matures, it’s brightly colored; very pretty! It’s a fairly new, non-hybrid, very early corn developed by crossing many types of Native corns known for early maturity. — Jackie
I’m actively reading and enjoying your new book, Growing and Canning…and just want to be sure. Page 131, 5 lines from the bottom, are you sure you mean just “3 minutes” and not 30 minutes?
Yes, 3 minutes; you only want to heat the beans thoroughly. They “cook” during the hour + of pressure canning. — Jackie
How can you tell if you over process potatoes while canning?
Colonial Beach, Virginia
They will get mushy and break apart. — Jackie
Boiling canned meat and canning bean sprouts
Your canning book is great. It’s the first time I have read directions on pruning fruit trees that made sense to me. A few questions if you don’t mind. When you put canned ham in quick cooking foods like eggs, do you boil the meat for the 10 min. required for canned foods, or put it directly into the eggs? The meatballs with mushroom soup-how many ounces is a family size can of soup? How do you can bean sprouts?
Cedar Bluff, Alabama
I don’t boil the ham when I add it to scrambled eggs or an omelet. I simply saute it for the 10 minutes (you only need to bring it to “boiling temperature” for 10 minutes, whether you boil, fry, saute, roast, or whatever. Then I add the eggs and proceed. The size of can varies; the regular two person serving can is found most commonly. The “family-sized” can is the next largest, with the institutional-size can, even larger. Most family-sized cans range from 20-24 ounces.
You can your bean sprouts by bringing them to a boil, simmering them for 5 minutes to heat thoroughly. Then pack them hot into hot wide mouthed half-pint or pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Ladle hot cooking liquid over the sprouts, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to pints and 1/4 tsp. to half pints, if desired. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure, for 20 minutes. (Remember to adjust your pressure if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet.) — Jackie
Venting a pressure canner
What happens if you don’t vent the canner for ten minutes? This is our first time to hot can, and we didn’t notice this direction until we were done.
I just want somebody to tell us that we won’t get sick. I mean, the canner may have had some air in it, but then again all the bacteria should be dead at those high temperatures. So it seems to me that the issue is maybe the seals don’t work as often if it’s not vented, or maybe the vitamins end up being more oxidized, and there’ll be fewer of them if there’s oxygen around. So what’s the story?
John in Wisconsin
What happens when you don’t vent the canner is that you begin processing your food before it is hot enough in the jars. Venting the canner allows it to heat very thoroughly and be generating sufficient steam to correctly process the food. Sorry. Reading directions is real important in safe canning. It’s easy to learn and to do, but next trip, vent your canner and enjoy your food. — Jackie
I saw online that you said you can tamales. My question is after you steam them for a while and then place in the jars, do you remove the corn husks or leave the husks on? Then, do you have to add a liquid to them?
I leave the husks on; it holds them together and gives a nice, traditional flavor to the tamales. I just pack the tamales in the jars and can them as is. There is enough moisture in the husks and tamales to thoroughly steam them in the jars, which creates its own “juice.” — Jackie
We subscribed to BHM for many years until last year when finances forced us to economize. But I still read your blogs. My question is: Is it possible to grind dried sweet corn for cornmeal?
I’m really not supposed to answer questions from non-subscribers, as it really swamped me when the blog first started. I mean REALLY swamped me, and I homestead, which is a lot of work, too. But, yes, you can make good cornmeal from dried sweet corn. Just be sure it is thoroughly dried.
I hope you can see your way to again subscribe and join the family. You’re missing a lot of good articles and encouragement! — Jackie
Canning green tomatoes
I have just recently subscribed to the Backwoods Home Magazine, it is amazing. I am in the process of canning tomatoes and I read in your pantry book that I can can green tomatoes and use it for pie filling. I have looked in my canning books and all I can find is canned apples. They contain a recipe for freezing filling, but I am trying to reduce the number of items I freeze. Any suggestions? Also if you have a recipe for green sauce (Mexican) I would appreciate it. I have tomatillo salsa recipes, but I am talking about the green sauce you can get in a Mexican restaurant. I would greatly appreciate any info I can get. Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration to us all
The green tomato pie filling is made from fresh green tomatoes, sliced and used just like fresh apples. I’m afraid that if you canned them, they’d end up mushy when again cooked in your pie filling.
Here’s a New Mexican Green Chili Sauce recipe you might like to can:
4 cups chopped green New Mexico [or Anaheim] chile, roasted, peeled, stems removed
4 small onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 Tablespoons vegetable oil (lard is traditional)
4 Tablespoons flour
4 small tomatoes, peeled and chopped [or substitute green tomatillos, if desired]
4 cups chicken broth or water
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Saute the onion and garlic in the oil until soft. Stir in the flour and blend well. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the sauce has thickened. Fill half pint and pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace and process at 10 pounds pressure for 35 minutes. (If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, check your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.) — Jackie
I feel like such a dork. I asked you about your mustard beans and as soon as I sent the question I noticed the amount of vinegar and it hit me. They are pickles. I will tell you they are great Jackie! I mix a pint with pasta, peas, other veggies, and some salmon and it’s great for a hot weather meal. Thanks for the recipe.
I have a 6 month old buck kid. We thought he was castrated via buldoza pliers 2 months ago. He started acting bucky so we crimped him again 2 weeks ago and he’s still bucky. I was going to keep him as a buddy for my 4 month old buck kid. He is related to all of my does and can not be a buck for us. I’m starting to feel sorry for him, but the guy must have “Organs of Steel.”
I checked with a vet, but they want $70 to do a surgical job on him and that’s with me crating him in to them (1 hour drive each way). Are there any options left I haven’t thought of? Will he still be good for meat?
Dinah Jo Brosius
Battle Ground, Washington
I’ve never heard of a failed castration, using Burdizzo emasculatomes. (You did clamp each cord separately, holding the clamp in place for a couple of seconds following the “pinch,” right?) When you say he’s acting bucky, do you mean jumping on others or peeing on himself and grunting? Some newly castrated bucks still jump on other pen mates, but that’s it. Even Oreo, our 7 year old whether, castrated at 1 month old, jumps on does and kind of acts interested. But he doesn’t go through the peeing on himself and other “bucky” behavior. My thought is that he probably has been “fixed,” but as fall is here, still has the idea. Yes, he would still be fine to eat. — Jackie
Canning tomato soup
I just got your new book which is fabulous! I do have a question about the tomato soup recipe on page 196. Do you process this in a boiling water bath canner as stated? I would tend to do this recipe in a pressure canner since it has other low acid vegetables in it but my pressure canning skills are only a year old so I would defer to your experience.
Yes, you process many tomato based foods that contain vegetables in smaller amounts, in a water bath canner. Some of these foods include salsa, spaghetti sauce and tomato vegetable juice blends. There is enough acid to make these safe to can in a boiling water bath canner. Just be sure NOT to go ahead and add more vegetables than the recipes call for or delete lemon juice or vinegar, if listed. I’m glad you like the book! — Jackie
Raised bed gardening
My son and I are wanting to start raised bed gardens on a budget. Although BHM is very helpful, we are ready for more detailed, thorough guidance. In your opinion, what is probably the best “how to” book on raised-bed gardening? There are so many–it’s so hard to know which one is best and we don’t have a lot of money to buy a bunch of books that aren’t really what we’re looking for.
There are several good ones; why don’t you order them through your local library, through the inter-library loan system. Check out several, then make your decision on which “speaks” to you. There are many different ways of raised bed gardening, and all work for folks. The basics are the same: good soil, adequate water, weeding, and planting raised bed-friendly crops. I often “shop” for books by first reading them courtesy of our small-town inter-library loan system. The books come from out of state, even, and it gives me a chance to look before I lay out hard earned cash. — Jackie
Monday, September 14th, 2009
And they are making potatoes! With our weird spring, our first rows of potatoes were a miserable failure; a few scattered plants. But I bought more and was given a bunch more, yet, so we planted more potatoes July 1st, which is unheard of in our short summer climate (zone 3). We planted, Will hilled, and we watered faithfully. Then by golly, the plants started growing. And growing. Then blooming. Now they’re waist high and starting to fade after being burned by a heavy frost two weeks ago. I couldn’t wait and I dug up three hills to put into my canned mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, rutabagas, summer squash, onions, and potatoes). WOW! There were several BIG potatoes under each vine, plus several smaller ones. Now we’re worrying about where we’ll store all those potatoes! Small worry, that one. It goes to show you: you don’t reap if you don’t sow. Plant it; it MIGHT grow!
Canning sandwich spread
Jackie, I came across a sandwich spread recipe in an old cookbook. It is as follows:
3 quarts green tomatoes
1 quart peppers
1 pint sweet pickles
1 quart vinegar
1 1/2 quarts granulated sugar
1 pint onions
1 stalk celery
6 tablespoons flour
1 quart mayo
1 small jar mustard
Salt tomatoes, peppers and onions, let stand overnight.
Boil all the veggies together with vinegar and sugar for 25 minutes.
When cooked, add the flour. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add one quart mayo and a small jar of mustard. Keep hot when canning. Put in jars and seal.
Do you just seal and put in pantry or water bath? Do you have any meat or chicken spread recipes?
No, you can’t do either. The seal here means to screw down the lid and put it in the refrigerator. There’s no recipe for canning a sandwich spread containing mayo that I can find. To do our own sandwich spreads, I just wing it as I feel that day. I start with ground chicken or meat, then usually add mayo, but then I go wild and may add barbecue sauce, sweet mustard, chipotle sauce, chopped celery and pickles, fresh onions, or whatever I feel like that day. I’ve had no complaints so far. — Jackie
We were thinking about an “end of the garden season” soil test and wondered if you had any suggestions on what type kit to buy to get accurate results. How do you test your soil?
The kit I use is one that has little boxes, in which you mix the soil with the test chemicals. It wasn’t the cheapest one available, but it cost less than $20 and is good for many tests. To get accurate results, be sure to dig several shallow test holes, scattered around your garden, so you get a good over-all picture of your soil…not just a single spot that is very rich and well-balanced. The kits have explicit directions included, so I’m sure you’ll do fine. This is a good time to test, so you have plenty of time to remedy any shortcomings. Good thinking. — Jackie
Premixing and storing dry ingredients for bread
Can I premeasure and premix dry ingredients…sugar, flour, yeast, for making bread and vacuum seal for later use, adding wet ingredients at time of baking?
This probably isn’t a great idea because yeast is kind of short lived, compared to baking powder. And plain old household heat, as when it would be on the shelf, might affect the baking because of poor leavening. You could mix up everything but the yeast, if you want to, making it a little quicker. — Jackie
Cleaning up rodent droppings
My family and I are moving into a log cabin built in 1895 within a week. Right now we are in the process of cleaning since it is heavily infested with mice and spiders. I recall reading in your Starting Over book that you have cleaned up some houses that were in pretty bad shape before moving in. Since I am supposed spray disinfect and then wipe up any rodent droppings instead of sweeping, I was wondering how I am supposed to clean the logs that are waaaaay above my reach in the vaulted great room. I have no idea if any rodent dropping would be up there — spiderwebs have coated the ceiling though. Should I rent scaffolding in order to reach the logs to hand clean them or just throw caution to the wind and use a duster. Were you as mindful of the Hantavirus as I am or am I just a little paranoid?
Bruceton Mills, West Virginia
Of course Hanta virus was always on my mind (after we had first heard of it, of course). I wear old long sleeve clothes and use a broom, dipped in Pinesol-type cleaner to sweep and dust initially. The wet broom lays down any fly-away dust so you don’t breathe it and it does clean pretty good, especially where you can’t reach to hand clean. Wearing a simple dust respirator would be a good idea when cleaning, too. You can get them cheap at any hardware store. I kind of slop-clean the first time, then go back and fine-tune the clean-up till I can wash windows, mop floors, and finally dust-dust. In the past, my fixer upper houses were often so dirty that my first “cleaning” was done with a scoop shovel! But I love turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, so it wasn’t ever work. And when we finally got ‘er clean, every house glowed like it was smiling. The very best of luck! — Jackie
Canning red chili sauce
I have a canning question. I have a recipe that I found in a Mexican cookbook for Red Chili Sauce that I use for enchiladas. We love this sauce, but it’s time consuming to make and having it ready to go on the shelf would be wonderful! My question is about the timing of the pressure canning. This will be my first attempt at canning an “untested recipe” and I’m hoping it turns out OK. Could you please review this and offer your opinion as to whether it would be safe or how to make it safe? Also, do you think this would taste OK as a canned sauce since I know some spices get bitter when canned…any thoughts on cumin?
Thanks so much!
Red Chili Sauce:
18 dried red chilies
1 cup plus 2 T boiling water
10 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (the original recipe calls for canned but I have a bunch of fresh right now!)
6 cups chopped onion
12 garlic cloves, minced
4 T oil
1 cup plus 2 T tomato paste
2 T ground cumin
1/2 cup plus 1 T wine vinegar
2 T sugar
Place chilies and water in a blender. Drain tomatoes, reserving the juice, and add the tomatoes to the blender. Blend until smooth. Heat oil in a large skillet and saute onions and garlic until soft. Stir in blended tomato mixture, reserved tomato juice, tomato paste, cumin, vinegar, and sugar. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Can be served with tacos, enchiladas, poultry, and fish dishes. Yields approx. 9 cups.
I’m thinking pressure canning at 10 lbs. for 25 minutes for pints. This is based on the creole sauce recipe in the BBB. The sauce doesn’t get really thick. I make it about as thick as tomato sauce. Do you think this would work and be safe to eat?
There’s a real close recipe in the USDA HOME CANNING AND PRESERVING BOOK, called Mexican tomato sauce. This is processed at 10 pounds for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. It sounds great, and I’ll bet you’ll love the convenience of having it on the shelf when you want to make enchiladas. — Jackie
Planting cucumbers with potatoes
You wanted me to let you all know how my potatoes inter-planted with cucumbers worked out. Early in the summer, I had written you with a question, because after I’d planted my cukes with my potatoes, something I’d never tried before, I read that you should never do that. You urged me to go ahead and let ’em go, and let you know how it all worked out. Well, everything did great, but I did discover a couple reasons why I won’t do this again. Reason one: in Connecticut in mid-summer, it’s often rather dry. So, I needed to do some careful watering. I like to water the cukes, but not potatoes, as I find the potatoes do better with less water–otherwise they tend to rot. So, that was problem number one. Reason two: it was tricky to harvest the potatoes without disturbing the cukes, who were still going strong! The cukes, by the way, did indeed do a great job of growing on the fence around the potato patch. I didn’t let the chickens in there! Of course, I let the cukes grow on the fence because all of our chickens have always seemed repulsed by cukes. Of course, this year a few of our younger hens decided cuke-eating was a fun pastime. We got plenty for ourselves, though, anyway.
Thanks for the update. It sounds like you got a good crop, even planting them together. It’s not like the cukes would shed poisonous rays and kill the potatoes or something! My chickens eat cukes too, so that’s the reason for my six-foot fence around the orchard where the hens range now, and around our garden. Too many freelance, banquet chickens! — Jackie
Processing Anaheim peppers
I have a lot of Anaheim peppers this year. How long would you process them in the pressure cooker at 5200 ft. Not in my manual. Do I need to add anything to them, and should I roast them first?
Wheat Ridge, Colorado
Lucky you! I would roast my Anaheims, as I do most chiles. The flavor is so rich and tasty that way, even though it IS a little more bother skinning them afterward.
To roast your peppers, you can place them in a hot (450 degrees) oven for 8-10 minutes until the skins are blistered and cracked and a few areas are just blackening. You can also roast your peppers outside, on the grill, turning carefully midway through roasting. Do not let the skins burn. After roasting, place the peppers in a paper grocery sack and roll the top closed. Leave the peppers in the bag for half an hour, then take out and plunge the peppers into cold water. The skins will slip off nicely. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs. Pack into hot half pint or pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. vinegar or lemon juice (improves the flavor) to each pint jar. It is recommended that peppers only be canned in half pint and pint jars. Pour boiling water over peppers, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process for 35 minutes (half pints and pints) at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. As YOU live at 5200 feet, you’ll be adjusting your pressure to 13 pounds pressure.
Caution: wear rubber gloves while working with hot peppers and do not touch your eyes or mucus membranes. It will burn. — Jackie
Friday, September 11th, 2009
After planting our corn three times (count them; THREE), I’m finally getting some corn canned. With a hard freeze two weeks ago, which I fought hand to hand with six sprinklers running for three hours, prior to dawn’s early light (REAL early!), I managed to save the corn. But it’s still slow. I figured I may get a bit to eat, but none to can. So I thought, why not can some of the heirloom Native corns? So when some of my first Quickie bi-color sweet corn finally became ripe, I picked that, and also a bowl full of a mix of Abenaki, Bear Island Chippewa, and Painted Mountain. All of those old “Indian” corns were long, thin cobs with 8 rows of kernels.
I cut corn and got six pints of sweet corn and six half-pints of the mixed Native corns (my sweet corn has 16 rows!) plus we ate some of each for supper. Yes, the Native corns were getting colorful (Will’s fingers are still stained purple from holding the cobs to eat!), but they were kind of tough. It would sure be better than starving, but I know I won’t be eating any of it as table corn any time again soon. On the plus side, we now know, in a decent year, we could get dry corn here to feed our poultry and stock. And the corns are all extremely hardy and pretty too. Of course the colors will be brighter as the corn matures and dries. Right now, they are pretty pale yet. This was an experiment and we had fun sampling. I do know these corns all make great cornmeal, so maybe we’ll have a late fall and we’ll get some mature dry corn to grind. If nothing else, around here we always have fun!
Homesteading with health issues
…We are ready to move ahead with our dream of buying land and homesteading. We have 14.5 acres on a large creek in the Mat Su Valley picked out.
My husband is 56 years old, 5’9″, and 320 pounds. I’m 49 years old, 5’8″, and 375 pounds. We both have some health issues, but nothing extremely serious.
My question is: before we invest money into land, equipment, etc… do you think it’s possible for us to physically do this? I’ve heard you repeat over and over, about how hard of work it is. I don’t want to sound stupid, but this is our dream and we now have the financial ability to go after it. And I know that you are the one that can answer that for me.
Walla Walla, Washington
If you are truly determined to build a new homestead, you CAN do it. It depends on how much you are happy working. If it is an unpleasant “chore” to get over, it will never work. I totally love looking at what I’ve accomplished at the end of the day or early in the morning the next day. Yes, I work, but I also take breaks when I’m tired. When I was going through chemo and radiation several years ago, I took a LOT of breaks; work ten minutes, sit ten minutes. But the stuff got done and now we’re enjoying the house we built. I could have whined and said I just couldn’t do it; but then we wouldn’t have this great house around us now.
You’ll work hard and I’ll just about guarantee you’ll find less health problems troubling you and you’ll lose weight. But you’ll gain a great new lifestyle. I hope you’ll love it. — Jackie
Charging batteries with a generator
I noticed in one issue of BHM that you stated that when you run your generator you charge up your batteries for your home. How do you do this? Do you just hook a battery charger to your batteries? How many batteries are in your bank and how long does it take to charge your batteries? Also, what can you run on your batteries? How many lights, etc.?
We have a charge controller that charges when the generator is on, automatically. It also “controls” how much the batteries are charged so they don’t become over-charged when we run the generator for an extended period of time like when we are using a lot of power tools all day. That’ll fry your expensive batteries! Right now we have four 6 volt golf cart batteries. They will, when decently fresh (ours are more than 3 years old now and are getting “tired” and will soon be replaced), they’ll charge in about four hours.
When our batteries were decently fresh (for the first 2 1/2 years), we could run the house entirely off the batteries at least for 24 hours. This included my desktop computer, David’s TV and video games, several CF lights, and our 12-volt water pump, which pumps water from our basement storage tanks to supply water pressure in the house at all times; i.e. shower, bath, washing, sink, etc.
Our batteries are still halfway good, so we will extend their lives by hooking them to our 12-volt water pump ONLY and hooking our new 6 batteries to the house system. You can’t hook old and new batteries together because the old ones will help kill the new ones. With only the water pump on the old ones, we should get many more months’ worth of power out of our old timers. After all they weren’t “cheap” and we aren’t rich!
I’ll be so glad when we get solar panels hooked to them and a wind generator so we don’t have to use the generator much at all! I DO hate the noise! — Jackie
Saving flower seeds
Here in Alabama one of our favorite annuals to plant are impatiens. This year I saved and dried seed pods, how do I store them?
Rub the dry pods over a paper to remove the seeds. Be sure the seeds are dry. Then carefully pour them into an airtight jar and store in a cool dry place. Just think of the flowers you’ll get next spring! Enjoy them. — Jackie
Canning pumpkin pie filling
I wanted to know if you have a recipe for canning pumpkin pie filling. I wanted something like Libby’s where you just add a few things to make a pie. The Ball Book only has pumpkin chunks.
I’m planning on ordering your new book next week.
West Grove, Pennsylvania
Sorry, but dense products, such as pureed pumpkin pie filling can run into trouble because the center of the jar may not heat thoroughly enough during processing; it is not longer advised to can it. Instead, now I can the chunks, then when I go to make a pie, I simply press the chunks through a sieve with a wooden spoon. It takes seconds and you’ll love the end product. It may not be Libby’s but it will be better for you and taste better, too! — Jackie
Giving yeast to goats
Recently in another ” farming” publication I came across ideas I had never heard of before so would appreciate your take on it. It says that now in the fall is a good time to give natural yeast in the goats’ rations. It helps keep the rumen in good shape and contributes to the overall health of your animals. Okay, if this is true, what other animals should be getting it and how much and how long and what kind would be “natural yeast”? Later in another article is says “don’t forget to put out free baking soda for your goats. It helps keep the right balance of acidity in the goats rumen.”
Some folks swear by giving their animals brewers’ yeast as a sort of vitamin for their stock. I have never used it and my goats and cattle have done extremely well. Likewise, giving free choice baking soda, can help when goats receive too much grain in their diets. But, again, I have never done this and my goats’ rumens have always worked quite well without it. I do believe in having a routine fecal check by your veterinarian at least every year or two (depending on any sign of problems, such as thinness, diarrhea, etc.), just to be sure they aren’t harboring parasites. Even a healthy looking animal can be wormy! If there is a parasite problem, your vet will prescribe a wormer for that specific parasite and you will also become aware you need to check more often until your herd has a few negative checks. No need to feed worms instead of goats! But without a fecal examination you can’t say “my goats are worm free.” I’ve heard that from a lot of people because their goats are fat, shiny and sassy. — Jackie
Canning lids and rings
My mom just gave me some boxes of canning stuff. I have two questions, one is there are some Klik-It one piece reusable canning lids. Are these ok to use for canning, in either the water or pressure canning? The second is there are a ton of rings, some are kinds dark spotty, but not rusty, how do I tell which ones are ok to use for canning?
Los Alamos, New Mexico
I, personally, won’t use Klik-It lids on anything but jams, jellies and other preserves; they really aren’t approved for canning but when used to cover jams and jellies, a failed seal won’t kill you.
A ring is okay to use for canning as long as it is structurally sound and will hold a lid down securely on the jar during processing. The rings are removed after the jars are cooled and ready for storage. The reason for this is that in a damp storage area, as some basements are, the rings hold moisture against the lid and this causes rust. The rust will quickly worsen and sooner or later, the lid will rust through. Removing the rings after the jars have cooled from processing will lengthen the storage life of the jars by quite awhile. The rings do nothing to hold the jar seals, once they have cooled and are sealed. — Jackie
I have been noticing for the first time in all my years in the kitchen these small moths that seem to be everywhere and especially I have found them dead in bagged foods in pantry. Just what are these, what causes them, and what can I do to get rid of them?
These are pantry moths, one of the most frustrating pests to invade the house. They get into minute openings in any grain or cereal based stored food, propagate, and do it all over again. To get rid of them, examine each and every bag, box, and tin of dry food in your kitchen and pantry. Look for “webs,” “bugs” (larvae), or dead moths in the foods. When in doubt, toss it out. REALLY out, as in out of the house, not just in the trash. Then clean out your shelves and wipe them down with plain warm, soapy water. Also check pet food, such as dry dog and cat food and bird food. Invest in pantry moth traps. These are often available in health food stores or in gardening/kitchen catalogs. Pinetree Garden Seeds and Gardens Alive! carry them. They are cheap and really work. You’ll have to watch it for quite awhile, so you don’t get a re-infestation.
When you buy flour, cornmeal, etc., watch for any “leaking” bags. These are open enough for pantry moths to gain entrance and is probably how you got yours. Some people in problem areas routinely freeze any new flour or cornmeal for a few days, just to be sure they have NO meal moth eggs possibly left viable to hatch later.
Be sure to store all your grains/cereals, etc. in airtight containers; anything left in the box or bag is a possible target for infestation. The good news is that once you get rid of them and become aware of them, you probably won’t have this trouble again. — Jackie
White mold on canned tomatoes
I jarred more than 250 jars of NJ tomatoes. After sitting in my (kind of hot) garage, upside down, I went to transfer them to my basement for the fall/winter. We notice there is white mold on the tomatoes (looking at it upside down. Of course, when we open a jar and pour it out, the substance is mixed in and we cannot see it anymore. what is it, how did it happen, what should we do with all these jars?
Jersey City, New Jersey
Why were the jars sitting in your garage upside down? And how did you process them? It sounds like the method you used failed you. I never turn my jars of fruits, vegetables, or meats upside down; it’s asking the seals to fail. If, indeed, the substance on the tops of the jars IS mold, you have no choice but to throw the tomatoes away, wash the jars, and do it over again, using a good method. By doing that, you won’t have failures to deal with. I’m so very sorry you went to all that work and are now disappointed! — Jackie
I’ve been experimenting some with homemade sausage. So far it’s delicious! I need to find an inexpensive grinder. I’ve used a small food processor but its not doing the job as well or as efficiently as I like. I wondered if you have any experience with the old manual non-electric meat grinders and if they are terribly hard to use, also if they grind nicely enough for sausage. I notice they are much less pricey.
Catawba, South Carolina
I have several manual, non-electric meat grinders. Two are smaller “kitchen” models, meant to grind a little roast beef for hash, some raisins for conserve, etc. While they certainly will grind meat, I have a larger one meant for heavy duty grinding, as when we grind meat from a deer or larger big game animal. Even the smaller ones will certainly grind enough meat for sausage. No, it isn’t hard at all. But if you want a larger grinder, and don’t want to spend much, check out the Northern Tool catalog; they have several, as well as a lot of meat handling equipment. — Jackie
We’re trying to get our garden organized so it’ll be ready for the spring. We were wondering if you could suggest a good variety of pole bean. The ones we grew this year are great but they are not pole beans. Also, do you have any recipes for corn flour (masa harina) other than tortillas?
Tracy & Bill
Kenmore, New York
One of the best old-timers is the tried and true Kentucky Wonder, which is a pole bean. It has true bean flavor and is very large and productive. Another of my favorites is Cherokee Trail of Tears. To my taste, this is the best tasting pole bean going. When “green” it is purple, but the purple changes to green on blanching, canning, or steaming. This bean was so valued by the Cherokee people that many women sewed the seeds of this bean into the hems of their skirts prior to making the long trek on the Trail of Tears.
One of the best uses for masa harina is for tamales. You will just mix up the masa a little “wetter” than if you were making tortillas, pat a rectangular shaped dough out on a dampened dry corn husk about 1/8″ thick, then spoon on a little tamale filling, gently roll it up, tie the ends then stand them up and steam until done. You’ll find lots of tamale recipes online or in cookbooks. (If you can’t find a good one, let me know.) I even can mine up; see prior blog for more information. — Jackie
Expiration dates of canned food
Regarding canned food that is purchased at the grocery store, how much faith do you put in the printed expiration dates? Is it dependent on the type of food? Should anything past the expiration date be automatically thrown away?
Tracy & Bill
Kenmore, New York
Regarding expiration dates on store bought canned foods; I put no faith in them whatsoever. The canned food is good nearly to infinity if properly stored (cool, dry location). I feel it’s a ploy to get folks to throw away perfectly good food and BUY more; i.e. more profits for them! Hogwash.
Of course, fresh foods, such as dairy products, meats, poultry, etc. will eventually spoil if kept over so many days, for them the freshness date IS truly relevant. — Jackie
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
I just thought I’d show you how wonderful our new horse pasture turned out. You’ll remember how a year ago that 10 acres was just a bunch of straggly poplar trees. Will cleared it with the bulldozer, and I’ll admit it DID look ugly for quite awhile as we burned some of the slash piles and leveled the rest. I dragged it with the tractor and four wheeler, then finally seeded it into clover, trefoil, orchard grass, reed canary grass, and brome. We quickly fenced the horses into a smaller pasture, feeding them hay to supplement the grass that might not satisfy them.
You can’t grow new seeding pasture with livestock grazing the ground; it never gets a good start. But let me tell you how great it looks now! It’s so high that our donkeys don’t even have to bend down to graze. Today, while the horses were full and lazy, I turned them out onto it. What a pretty sight.
Our Friesian filly, now two years old and 16.2 hands high, watched in amazement as the first geldings walked through the gate into the new pasture. (“Are they supposed to be out there?” you could just watch her think.) But Ladyhawk quickly followed them and rolled in the luxuriant growth. Now we just have the other pasture to make beautiful, as well! Oh well, maybe next year?
Jars bubbling after coming out of the canner
I just pressure canned some stewed chicken for the first time and the jars were bubbling for about three hours after I took them out to cool. The jars are all sealed but will they be safe to eat or do I need to discard them?
Orangeburg, South Carolina
No sweat, Angela! This is perfectly normal. Do not discard this food; it’s good to eat and probably super tasty. It does amaze me how long these jars can boil after you take them out of the canner! — Jackie
Dangers of PBAs in plastic
I have been reading on the affects of PBAs in plastic. I hate the idea of not trusting the plastic that touches our food on a daily basis. So I found this great idea of a hoop house made with PVC and tried to do a little research on PBAs in PVC, but couldn’t find any. Could you please tell me if PVC is ok to use as a hoop house and not expose my family to the PBAs found in plastic? The PVC is actually not in contact with the food technically, but is there harm when condensation builds up and it drips down on the plants?
Not being a scientist, I’m not 100% sure. Personally, I wouldn’t worry about harm from condensation from a plastic hoop house dripping on plants. I’m sure that a glass and steel greenhouse would be 100% safe, but then again, it would be expensive unless you built it from recycled double pane windows and dampness-resistant wood, such as cedar. I feel that there are many more chemicals in our daily life that need to be eliminated; the herbicides, insecticides, chemical sprays, and additives in most store-bought food, for one and even in the materials homes are built of and furnished with. We are trying to whack them out of our lives, one by one.
I buy little store-bought food, built a log home, stained with natural oil finish, use no chemicals on our garden, lawn, or home, put no carpet (often laden with chemicals) in the house and so on. I read labels and cringe when I can’t even pronounce some food “ingredients.” So what might leach out from PVC in a home greenhouse seems, somehow, insignificant. In fact, we are planning on putting up a hoop house next year so we can help our our heat loving crops in our cool climate. — Jackie
Have you ever canned Tamales? I can remember my mom doing it but she’s gone now and I’m without a resource.
Yes, I have canned tamales. When I lived in New Mexico, friends would get together and spend a whole day making tamales for everyone. We used traditional dried corn husks too, which makes them taste even better! To can mine, I steamed them just enough that the dough didn’t fall apart on handling, then packed them hot into hot wide mouth jars, leaving 1 1/2 inches of headspace. Over that I ladled my favorite enchilada sauce, leaving 1″ of headspace. Quarts were processed for 90 minutes and pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure (be sure to consider altitude adjustments in pressure if necessary). Gee, NOW I’m hungry for some good old home canned tamales! — Jackie
Processing plum jelly
How many times may jams or jellies be reprocessed? I made plum butter a few weeks back and it didn’t set. So I reprocessed it. The first time I made it without pectin. When I reprocessed it I used liquid pectin and it didn’t set. The third time I reprocessed it with powdered pectin and it still hasn’t set. Will it be okay to reprocess it again and if so, how would I do it?
Like in poker, you need to know when to throw in your cards and go home. I’m not sure what happened, but just use the plum “stuff” as a killer plum sauce and call it good. I use plum sauce over roast chicken, turkey and pork as a glaze. It’s really good and you won’t feel like you failed at all.
Generally, you cook down butters with no pectin; just using sugar to sweeten it and lots of stirring to keep it from scorching, just like you would apple butter. It does take a LONG time to get thick. But when it is thick enough on the stove, it does not need to thicken in the jars. When you ladle it into the jars, it is at your chosen “perfect” thickness. I’m sure you’ll get it next time. — Jackie
Gardening over a septic tank
Can you garden over a septic tank? Is there anything specific your should not plant there, like root crops?
It’s best not to garden over a septic tank. Not for the reason you might think; because your vegetables might suck up some unsavory bacteria. It’s because you shouldn’t compact the soil over your septic tank or leach lines. Compacting the soil can cause poor drainage and even freezing during the winter. What you can do is to plant some flowers over it. Choose shallow rooted flowers that are either reseeding annuals or perennials, so you don’t have to disturb the soil every year, and thus compact it. Do NOT plant trees, shrubs, etc. over or around the tank or lines, as the roots make a bee line right for the holes in the lines. This soon plugs the lines and reduces the drainage you want.
I planted wildflowers over ours while the soil was disturbed from installation. They are still going, as they all are either perennials or reseeding varieties. — Jackie
Tomato sauce separating
I’ve been making homemade tomato sauce for spaghetti with tomatoes from my garden for several years now. I generally use romas and simmer the sauce for a few hours to thicken. I have had good luck with flavor and canning the sauce, but I have never figured out how to get the sauce to NOT separate. the minute the sauce hits the pasta, the meat of the tomatoes stays on top and the water liquid goes to the bottom. any ideas on how to prevent this. I’ve heard that while cooking a natural pectin in the tomato breaks down and allows separation. would a pinch of pectin added work?
Try cooking your tomato sauce down more. I put mine in a large roasting pan, in the oven, on it’s lowest setting, over night. I get up a time or two and give it a good stir during the reducing time. Of course you could also do it during the day when you are available to stir. I make mine quite thick; not as thick as a paste, but quite thick and mine never separates. And I add nothing but spices, onion and garlic powder and a little brown sugar to cut the tartness.
Some thinner sauce that I’ve used on pizzas did the separation thing when I spread it on the crust. I had to blot the watery sauce with a paper towel! Then I made my sauce thicker and no more runny business. — Jackie
I would like to can carrot juice. Does canning the juice change the taste? What are the directions to follow for canning it? I assume it must be done in a pressure caner.
I’m sorry, Nancy, but I can’t find a single safe recipe for canning carrot juice. Some folks have tried to can it as they would carrots, but the end product is not appetizing at all. On this one, I’m stumped! — Jackie
I just picked a bunch of raspberries. We made one batch of jam and tried to make one batch of sauce. We didn’t have a recipe for the sauce and it turned into jam. Do you have an easy recipe for raspberry sauce that can be canned in a water bath? Also, I tried to dry some in a dehydrator, do I dry them until they are hard and crispy or still soft? I haven’t done anything with raspberries before so I am really experimenting.
There are several ways to make raspberry sauce. The easiest is to boil together 8 cups water and 4 cups sugar. Boil 5 minutes, then add raspberries. Just return to boil and ladle into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (taking normal altitude adjustments into consideration).
Another way is to use the recipe for raspberry jam and simply halve the amount of powdered pectin required. This makes a thicker, sweeter version. It IS fun to experiment!
You want to dehydrate your raspberries hard; if they are softer, they will likely mold before you use them. Enjoy your bounty! — Jackie