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