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Jackie Clay

I’m just getting over the stomach flu and there’s a freeze coming!

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!

Readers’ Questions:

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.

Sandra Passman
Vidalia, Louisiana

Sorry, but there’s no way I know of to can hard-boiled eggs. — Jackie

Canning salsa

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.

Missy Steiger
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?

Susan Foster
Lockwood, California

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.

Cathy DeBey
Hastings, Nebraska

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.

Roberta Gould
Conneaut, Ohio

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.

Gloria West
Sparta, Tennessee

No, I don’t have a cookbook. Yet. It is an idea, though and we’ll give it some serious thought. — Jackie

Grinding buckwheat

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
Jamestown, Tennessee
(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…

Ruth Dixon
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?

Kristina Dickinson
Montague, Massachusetts

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?

Sonja Neatherland
Dodson, Louisiana

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

7 Responses to “I’m just getting over the stomach flu and there’s a freeze coming!”

  1. Ellen Waters Says:

    Just a note for Ruth in Oregon – I tried to reduce a tomato sauce in my slow cooker with the cover just slightly ajar. I left it for too long, and wound up with a bit of a burned ‘crust,’ as the liquid all evaporated, I would suggest that you not leave it for a full day – a few of hours with the lid off while you’re home would likely be sufficient.

  2. Karin Drees Says:

    For Roberta in Oregon and others–There have been a lot of problems with adulterated and even fake olive oils for the last several years, with common additives/substitutions being hazelnut, canola and soybean oils. Olive oil will get thick and even solid in cool temps while soy, canola and many others do not. It’s possible your olive oil was not really olive oil. Maybe try a different brand of oil next time and see if that makes a difference.

  3. Kay Says:

    Stinging nettle leaves, plantain leaves and dandelion are all good kidney support. If there are spruce pines near you the needles are good for kidneys also, in addition to being packed with nutrients. Marshmallow root is another good herb for kidneys.

    For the Pine Needles, boil them in a stainless steel pot on a low simmer until the water turns reddish. Sweeten with honey and allow your mother to drink liberally.

    For the herbs, if you have any or all of these near you, rinse the leaves (wear gloves harvesting the nettles) and bruise them (or rip them into small pieces) and then put them into a glass bowl. Pour boiling hot water over them and place a lid over the top. Let them steep until good and strong, sweeten to taste, and allow your mother to drink liberally.

    This will go a LONG ways towards supporting her kidney health. Continue to drink a couple of days after symptoms improve. These are actually pleasant teas even when you aren’t feeling poorly. I use nettles in my smoothies.

    Hope you and your mom are feeling better soon!


  4. Jenny Pipes Says:

    I am loving your new canning cookbook! Mine came in the mail on Saturday and I have read every word more than once! I am so excited to try some of the recipes and to have all my best canning stuff in one place. It is a treasure!! Thanks so much for sharing your knowlege with us!!
    I hope you and your Mom are feeling back to normal very soon! We are canning up a bumper crop of tomatoes here too..and frost threatening also..I have been covering the tomatoes at night…but we will have to finish harvesting this week I think.
    take care..and thanks again!!
    Jenny in Utah

  5. Wendy Hause, Gregory, MI Says:

    Sorry that you’re not feeling well Jackie. Wish I lived close enough to you to give you a hand with all of those wonderful gardening chores! Hope that your mom (and you) are back to feeling well soon.

  6. Dawn Norcross Says:


    I second the cookbook idea!!! I had been thinking, after devouring your new book, that it would be so wonderful it you took notes on each meal for a year and compiled it into a cookbook. It comes so naturally to you. And as a fairly new canner I am trying to rethink / relearn my cooking habits and what a blessing one of your cookbooks would be.

    Get better soon.

  7. NaNa in Texas Says:

    If you need any other “seconds” on the cookbook, count me in too. I know of several folks that would love to have a copy of your cookbook. Oh my goodness, it sets my imagination off just thinking of all the things I could cook and can!

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