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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Jackie Clay

Sorry BHM family, I’ve been sick this last week

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!


Readers’ Questions:

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!

Kate Carter
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

Drying squash

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?

Don Wood
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?

Carol Sorensen
Sparks, Nevada

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 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. 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.

Beth Stoneking
Diamond, Ohio

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

Canning beans

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?

Sara Thomas
Chelan, Washington

Yes, 3 minutes; you only want to heat the beans thoroughly. They “cook” during the hour + of pressure canning. — Jackie

Canning potatoes

How can you tell if you over process potatoes while canning?

Sherrie Roberts
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?

Kathy Minkkinen
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

Canning tamales

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?

Linda Bradley
Chester, Texas

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

Grinding corn

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?

Lynda Figueroa
Millersburg, Ohio

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

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

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

Failed castration

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.

Judy Sloan
Spokane, Washington

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.

Helen Johnson
Tyler, Texas

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

7 Responses to “Sorry BHM family, I’ve been sick this last week”

  1. kathy v Says:

    Hi, Jackie, glad you and your Mom are feeling better. We missed you.

  2. Nancy Says:

    I am ashamed to say I have never eaten swill chard. Is it some thing like spinach? I love that. Am buying vegis to can, beets to spice and maybe some potatoes for sure. And carrots. Love them glazed.

  3. Nancy Says:

    your swiss chard is sure pretty..

  4. Karen Chakerian Says:

    So very glad to hear you’re better. I get your blog on my homepage and everyday this week I eagerly looked to see if there was a new one…. Thrilled to see today was the day. I see your book is out and have just ordered it. Can’t wait (rubbing hands together gleefully). Glad you and mom are on the mend.

  5. Elly Phillips Says:

    Feel better, Jackie! There’s never a good time to be sick on the homestead, is there?

  6. Darrell Says:

    I’m glad you’re feeling better and that your mom is doing better also. I was starting to worry about you. Just like you said it is a bad time to get sick with so much work to do. I also haven’t eaten swiss chard. I want to. I try anything once and I’m not real picky so I’m sure I’d love it. When it comes to any kind of green, I never seen one I didn’t like.

  7. Jack & Deb in NH Says:

    Sorry you’re felling “under the weather” Jackie.
    We hope you & Mom are doing well soon

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