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 October, 2009
Thursday, October 29th, 2009
It’s time we introduced our does to our new Boer buck, Thor. We breed two does the end of October or first of November, for late March or early April kids, and two a month or two later for May to late May babies. This gives two does to provide milk at the same time for both the kids and us. And there is no milk-less period when ALL the does are dried up, which happens two months before they are due to kid.
This year we will be breeding our new milker this year, Fawn, and one of the triplet does, Jewel, first. That way we’ll have an experienced doe and a new mom kidding around the same time and we won’t have to break in two new milkers at once. It goes smoother that way for everyone concerned. It’s an exciting time, as we are planning for those great spring babies!
We’ve got the breeding pen built and Will’s welding up a gate for it, so we’ll soon be moving Thor up out of the goat pasture. He’s such an awesome buck that it’ll be neat having him up where we can see him more.
I made 2 batches of applesauce last night, the second batch was fine but the first batch did something I have never seen before. I made 7 pints in regular mouth jars. Everything the same as I always do, they looked fine after processing but as they sat they seemed to separate leaving a layer of what looks like sugar syrup in the bottom of the jar and the applesauce on top. I only used about 1/3 cup sugar for the whole batch. 4 of the jars are sealed tight and the headspace is the same, but 3 of the jars the sauce is touching the underside of the lid. The seals seem tight but there is definitely applesauce inside the rims as when I tried to unscrew them they were sticky and tight. Any suggestions to prevent this happening again? Is this still OK to eat?
Southwest Harbor, Maine
Is it possible that you processed that batch a little too long? Sometimes this causes “boil-out” of applesauce and could have resulted in the applesauce absorbing a little liquid from the kettle. That would be my guess here…and that’s all it is. But as long as the jars are sealed, the applesauce is fine to eat, but I would use it first, before the “normal” ones because the acid fruit could cause the underside of the lids to begin rusting after awhile. — Jackie
Cleaning water tanks
The water supply for my off grid home is an underground spring collected in two 2800 gallon tanks. I test the water a couple of times each year for bacteria and have never found any. My question is what is the best method for cleaning the tanks and how often do I need to do it?
Rancho Mirage, California
If your storage tanks are underground or otherwise out of the sunlight and there is no opening to the outside, save perhaps an overflow pipe, they shouldn’t need cleaning very often. If you can open one, use a flashlight and take a good look at the bottom and sides of the tank. As long as it looks clean and your tests come back negative, I wouldn’t worry about it. If you are getting sediment, algae, or a mineral coating on the tank sides, you can drain your tanks, one at a time. Open them up, use a new broom with a long handle and some diluted bleach in hot water (1/2 cup bleach to 5 gallons of water) to scrub out the tank. Then rinse it well, at least twice with clean water, pumping it out or otherwise keeping it from your house water lines, until the water and the tanks look and smell pristine. There are no “guidelines” for how often this should be done so we just have to rely on common sense on this one. — Jackie
Should I wash my farm eggs before I put them in the fridge. Do you put your eggs in the fridge?
I wash my eggs only if they’re in need. Clean ones go right into the carton and into the fridge. I try not to use detergent unless they won’t come clean as it removes the protective coating naturally on eggs. But I want my eggs clean, too. So if they are soiled, I use a nylon scrubby pad and a bit of dish detergent, if necessary. If you keep clean shavings or straw in your nest boxes and clean bedding on the coop floor, you’ll have more clean eggs that don’t need washing. — Jackie
Canning Oscar Mayer wieners in tomato sauce
Years ago we had wonderful canned Oscar Mayer wieners with a tomato sauce. These were great for cub scout cook outs. I’ve checked and they don’t exist anymore. I’ve also looked for recipes for canning wieners and can’t find any. Is it possible to do at home?
College Station, Texas
Yes, you can home can your own wieners in tomato sauce. The only trouble I’ve had canning hot dogs is that they swell a lot during processing. The taste is okay, though and maybe they wouldn’t in sauce. Just make your tomato sauce and slice your wieners, adding them to it. Leave 1 inch of headspace and process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. Be sure to take into consideration any altitude adjustment necessary if you live over 1,000 feet; consult your canning book. I’d use wide mouth jars for ease of dumping out the canned food. — Jackie
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009
Thursday, October 22nd, 2009
Living in the backwoods, I am seldom exposed to the unsavory segment of the population; no robberies, drugs, identity thefts, etc. But this week, I was hit by a scammer through an ad I’d put on the Duluth Craigslist (a very effective internet free shopper). I put an ad for this buck and another on the Craigslist and received a response from a “woman” who wanted to buy him, sight unseen. She even offered to pay $20 extra to hold him for her until she could get here to pick him up. (I’ve done that.) So I e-mailed her that that would be fine. The next night I had another e-mail from “her.” Her associate had mistakenly sent me a money order for another item she’d bought for a much larger sum. Would I please cash it and send her a Western Union wire for the balance?
I e-mailed her back that I would return her money order but that it was 30 miles to a Western Union. (And besides it sounded WAY FISHY to me!)
I got another e-mail, detailing closer Western Union merchants and saying that she had a family emergency and needed the money soon.
HUGE RED FLAG!!!
I e-mailed her back and repeated that I would send back her money order the same day I got it but that the Craigslist had a warning on it to beware of scammers wanting money transferred by Western Union; the money order or cashier’s check was bogus and you were left hanging for the money you wired…often hundreds of dollars.
I never heard from her again, AND after a week, I still haven’t gotten a money order. I can get mail from anywhere in the country in that time. I will never see the money order she sent, as she never sent one. She was waiting to see if the fish would bite the hook first, BEFORE she sent the bogus money order.
So this is just a warning to all you homesteaders out there. There are crooks everywhere…some as close as your computer! But this fish is still swimming. And I’ve still got a real nice Boer/Nubian buck for sale…
Cedar apple scab
Is there any way to control cedar apple scab?
Cedar apple rust is spread from galls on red cedar trees within a couple of miles from your fruit trees. These galls are pretty orange, rough balls that, when wet by spring rains, cause spores to release and follow the wind to your apple trees. The best control is to plant resistant varieties, such as Freedom, Haralson, and Liberty. But to protect your existing trees, spray them with a fungicide, myclobutanil (Nova or Rally) or fenarimol (Rubigan) periodically, starting when the flower buds show pink and at 14-day intervals to a maximum of three sprays, or until cool wet weather (spring or early summer) is past. This will protect the emerging leaves and developing fruits. Sulfur is also known to help this disease and appeals to folks who want to use less chemical controls. — Jackie
Yates Cider Mill
Not a question just a comment. I knew you grew up in Michigan, and so did I. I was delighted to read that you used to go to Yates Cider Mill – I grew up only a few miles from there in Utica and your comment brought back wonderful memories of cold fresh cider and warm donuts… YUMMM!
Thanks for the column, I love reading it, and this week’s was wonderful for the memories!
And, here in Northern New Mexico, the rain all night turned this morning to snow. Can’t wait to try the carrots after the cold!
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Strange world, huh? We lived near Gladstone, New Mexico for several years (about 27 miles east of Springer). Wasn’t Yates Cider Mill a great place, though! — Jackie
Thank you so much for your wonderful information and sharing your family with us! Just wondering if you have a little extra time would you consider doing a video about your pantry? What it looks like and how you use your homecanned foods in your recipes? I’ve tried several of the recipes from the BHM cookbook and have gotten many thumbs up.
I’m glad you have had such success with the BHM recipes. I’ll try to do a video for you and other readers, but right now time is SO hard to come by as we are getting ready for Minnesota winter, as well as trying to help Mom get home from the rehab facility. — Jackie
I have a small cabin in Utah, totally off the grid, solar power, propane fridge and stove, 1500 gal water tank. My question is regarding collecting water from the roof, which is asphalt shingles. I bring all of my drinking/cooking water up there. Will the roof water be safe for day to day water — dishes, showers, etc.? Is there a filtration method that would make it so?
Yes, pretty much so. For showers, yes. But to be absolutely safe, boil your dish water first, before you cool it to wash the dishes. After all, birds do unappetizing things on your roof… In the old days, folks had cisterns, often in the basement, which caught rain runoff from the house roof and it was used for everything but drinking: cooking, coffee, washing, bathing. But, like I said, it’s best to be a little more cautious, given what we know about bacteria today. I wouldn’t be afraid to bathe or shower in catchment water, but I wouldn’t want to use it to rinse off my salad vegetables, dishes, or other uses that I might end up ingesting. Of course you can use a filter, such as the big Berkey, to filter your water, which would make it pure, even for drinking. But the filter cartridges for these filters are pricey, so I wouldn’t use one for shower water. — Jackie
First of all we have your new book and love it. Every time we get the new issue of BHM we go straight to Ask Jackie first. We live inside the boundries of the Uwharrie National Forest near Asheboro North Carolina. We have a big garden and put up quite a bit of produce each year, now that we have your book we’re starting to put up much more (using pint jars, love it)
My question is: In your opinion what is the best book on Dehydrating Food? We’re really starting to get into drying and have a big 9-tray dehydrator
Keep up the good work Jackie, God broke the mold when he made you
Asheboro, North Carolina
I like Mary Bell’s Complete Dehydrator Cookbook and the Excalibur Preserve It Naturally. These both will help you get a good start on dehydrating a wide variety of foods. I really love dehydrating foods as the flavor and appearance stays nice, AND the food takes up so little space on the pantry shelves. I’m doing chopped onions right now from my huge onion crop. They are so nice this year!
Yeah. God broke the mold; he went “Oh my gosh, how did THAT happen???” Ha ha. — Jackie
Tuesday, October 20th, 2009
I’m still busily making different tomato products from the last 30 gallons of ripening green tomatoes that were sitting in my unused (yet!) new laundry room, trying to rot after they ripened, then sitting around because of all the running around I’ve been doing trying to get Mom settled in the rehab facility in Buhl, half an hour’s drive from us. Mom’s doing much better, and we hope she’ll be able to come home in a few weeks. The tomatoes are doing less well. But I am packing away jars and jars, every single night. In the picture, you’ll see the last batch of plain herbed spaghetti sauce. It’s real yummy, too!
Besides that, our local store, Zup’s, had a special again on whole, boneless pork loin (raised in the U.S!) for $1.39 a pound. So I got two, cut them each in half, poured on half a pint of sweet Italian salad dressing (olive oil, sugar, water, minced garlic, chopped sweet peppers, and spices) and roasted them, uncovered. We ate some for dinner, then I added about two quarts of water, covered the roaster, and simmered it the next day. Then I cut up the meat, poured on the liquid, and canned it up. Oh my gosh it was good! We ate a jar tonight, just to see, and WOW. I can’t wait till they have more on sale.
While I’ve been canning like mad, Will and David got busy and laid down the lumber tarps that Will’s been collecting all summer. They are very heavy material, similar to Typar roof covering, and free at the local lumber yard where we shop…when the dump doesn’t have what we need! I thought I could afford sheet metal for the roof this fall, but the shingles on our house’s roof cost $1,000 more than we’d planned on (huge increase!), so the sheet metal went out the window till spring. Remember when we had to tarp our house roof the first winter we lived in it? No insulation. No shingles. Just tarps! But we survived and are now shingled. So we figure the storage barn can make it through till spring, too.
The tarping was a nasty job and dangerous too; plastic is very slippery! Luckily, Will and David were very, very careful to only step on the wood lath that holds the tarps in place against the wind, and to work very slowly. Now the highest part is done, with only the two “shed” roofs to go. And they are much, much lower and easier. Now if the weather will just cooperate! I think I hear winter breathing down our necks.
Our grand daughter LOVES apple cider. Now we can buy fresh apples, I was wondering if you have a recipe for it.
New Freedom, Pennsylvania
Apple cider is simply pressed fresh, unsweetened, unpasturized apple juice. The only “recipe” is the different apples that one uses in their cider. Some swear by this and that variety or mixes thereof. All you do is grind the apples and press out the juice. Unfortunately, you do need to use a cider press. Maybe a friend or relative may have one you could use. The grinding can be done, on a small scale, in a food processor and is done to make pressing easier and more successful. I remember when I was very young, going way out in the country to Yates’ Cider Mill where they pressed cider with an old-fashioned water mill press and you could take a cup and walk down the edge of the trough where the just-pressed cider was flowing and scoop up some to taste. Nothing was as good as that! We bought several glass gallon jugs to take home and enjoy during the fall. We usually stopped on the way home to gather fallen hickory and black walnuts too. I’ll never forget those wonderful outings! — Jackie
Short growing season
I live in Lolo, Montana just south of Missoula. Thank you for all of the quite informative articles on gardening and homestead life. My small garden did well this year, the tomatoes, pole beans, and zucchini were extremely prolific, with the exception of the corn becoming mutant and the melons not growing. My peas were devoured through the fence by the local mule deer. I will plant them in a different location next year. I was wondering if you had any recommendations on which varieties of heirloom corn and melons do well here with our short growing season? I also plan to give the three sisters growing method a try next year. I had good results growing Kentucky Wonder pole beans and zucchini at the base of a newly planted apple tree.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a good heirloom sweet corn that works in short season climates. There IS an open pollinated sweet corn of more recent development, that usually matures in your area. That’s True Gold, and is available through many seed catalogs. I’ve had good luck with Bear Island Chippewa “Indian corn,” which is a flint hard corn of beautiful colors that I grow for cornmeal. Even with our summer with no summer, we got “hard corn.” Bear Island Chippewa is available through Seed Dreams, P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368, email@example.com
For a non-heirloom “hard corn,” we grew Painted Mountain this year. It came in just before Bear Island Chippewa and is available through many different companies.
For heirloom melons, we’ve had good luck with Blacktail Mountain and Orangeglo watermelons and Canoe Creek Colossal and Minnesota Midget muskmelons both in Montana and here in Minnesota. These are available through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. — Jackie
For ready-to-eat meat, why do you say to lightly brown, cook the meat before canning? Don’t you have to cook the meat thoroughly before canning? Or does the canning, pressurizing process itself further cook the meat? This may be too much of a “novice” question for your readership!
There is NEVER, NEVER such a thing as a “too novice question!” Not with me, there isn’t. No, you don’t have to cook the meat thoroughly before canning. You can, or you can just cook it enough to heat it thoroughly. Or you can pack it raw, too. You’re right. During the canning process, the meat is totally cooked and tenderized, too. I cook the meat, either just lightly browning it or entirely, as when I roast a whole pork loin or two for a meal, then canning, instead of packing it raw, simply because it packs and looks nicer in the jars. You can find more information about canning meat in an article I wrote for Issue #105, titled “You can safely and easily can your own meat.” — Jackie
I noticed in one article concerning canning cheese that the time listed for water bath canning was 40 minutes and another article said 25 minutes. The processing time listed for cheddar cheese sauce in the can was 30 minutes. Could you clarify this for me? Our altitude is 4265 feet. Also, is the time the same for pints and half pints?
Clovis, New Mexico
As canning cheese is a sort of “outlaw” process, with no “expert” guidelines, we just sort of fumbled our way through times. I started out with 25 minutes with half pints as I first did it with tomatoes, years ago. But then I went longer, for safety, as tomatoes also increased in time, to 40 minutes. Now I’m processing cheeses in pints and half pints for 60 minutes in a boiling water bath canner, just to be extra sure, as that’s what we do milk, although cheese is much more acid a product. — Jackie
Understanding seeds, planting in shade, and cucumbers
My first question is on seeds. I would like to know what seed companies you prefer. You discuss the seed catalogs you get but I find most are online catalogs and I like hard copies.
Also, I do not understand the difference when they discuss heirloom, hybrid, organic, etc. Do you have any books etc. with clear discussion on seeds, selection, saving, growing, etc.? What do I need to know about types of seeds when deciding what to order? There are a lot of seed books but they all tell you half of what you need to know, aren’t written as much for hot climates, and aren’t written for “dummies.” Any suggestions?
I have several unused areas on my property that are more shaded. It receives partial sun (at least half day), what vegetables or fruits will do OK in partially shaded areas?
Also, I grew cucumbers for the first time and they tasted good but I either got the some the size and shape of a baseball or smaller, others the size of a small watermelon, and many of them were yellow not green. They were planted between snap beans (which did lousy) and crook neck squash (Which grew good but hard rain ruined the yield on the later planting) in rows about 2-3 feet apart. They tasted OK but do you know what would cause this?
Nearly all the companies that I deal with have hard copy catalogs. Just ask them. I, too, prefer a paper catalog so I can make notes, shop, shop, and shop. I also read the heck out of my catalogs, looking for information on different varieties so I can choose new ones to try that would do well here. Many good seed catalogs, such as Fedco, Baker Creek, and Johnny’s Seeds, have a ton of information, just like you want to find.
Hybrid seeds are crossbred varieties, developed by companies, that have certain desirable traits. They have been bred to be always the same. But their seeds, should you save them, will not breed true. That is they will not necessarily reproduce the same traits as the mother plant had. They WILL produce plants that will bear, if saved and planted. But they will NOT be exactly like the mother plant…sometimes very far from it.
On the other hand, open pollinated seeds are NOT deliberate crossbreeds and seeds from a mother plant that you save WILL be like that plant. Not all open pollinated seeds are “heirloom” seeds, though. Some have been recently developed by growers who want open pollinated new varieties. Cases in point are Painted Mountain and True Gold corns. Both are fairly recent developments, and both are open pollinated. You can save their seeds and be sure that the crop you plant next year will be very close to the crop you harvested your seed from this year.
Heirloom seeds are open pollinated seeds that have been passed down through several generations, often favorites of families or Native American tribes. They are usually very hardy, tasty, and often beautiful, to boot.
Organic seeds are grown without the use of any chemicals. You can have organic hybrids or organic open pollinated seeds; the seeds were harvested from crops grown without chemicals.
In hotter climates, garden plants often do very well in areas that receive half a day’s sunlight as they don’t become overheated. Give it a try in your yard and see how they do. I often experiment a whole lot and am usually very happy with the results!
It sounds like you planted a variety of cucumber such as Lemon, which is round and yellow instead of long and green. But sometimes stress and insufficient watering will give you strangely shaped cukes. Remember that cukes are largely moisture and need regular deep watering all during their growing season. — Jackie
Canning pickled eggs
I know how to water bath pickled eggs, but how long do I put them in a pressure canner? Wouldn’t a pressure canner be better?
No. These are pickled eggs. You don’t pressure can pickled anything or it severely changes the texture of the food. As in YUCK! — Jackie
Using canned meat
I purchased your new book last month and love it- I have fallen in love (at 50) with canning and am working to learn to can all types of foods both to save money and to eat less “bought” foods.
One question, after reading about your canning pork loin and other meats found on sale, can you tell me a few ways you might use your canned meat for meals. We seem to mostly eat meat grilled, baked, fried or sauteed and I am not sure how meat packed in liquid will work for us. What else can I do with it other than just serving as meat with gravy over potatoes, noodles etc.
It will work wonderfully! Tonight I boiled fresh garden vegetables; cabbage, onions, potatoes, and carrots. When they were tender, I drained them and poured the broth from a pint of my great pork loin on them and brought that to a simmer, covered. Then I added 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan, added the pork and gently sauteed that. When it was nicely hot, I added 2 Tbsp sweet Italian salad dressing and finished stirring the mix until it was beautifully glazed. Quick, easy, and all from the homestead. There were no leftovers!
I often roast canned meats with vegetables, adding the meat when the vegetables are about halfway tender and spreading barbecue sauce, jam (plum or cherry is great!), or a “cookable” salad dressing on first.
Or I pull the meat apart and add barbecue sauce for a great barbecue sandwich, using homemade buns.
Or I dice up the canned meat carefully (if it isn’t already) and add to a stir fry…sometimes with a Chinese-type glaze (orange, lemon, sesame, or whatever I feel like!) and serve with fried rice, made with the broth from the meat.
Or I’ll add the meat to vegetables and gravy or tomato sauce and make a great, hearty stew. As you see the possibilities are nearly endless. I DO love my canned meats and poultry! Get creative and you will too. I promise! — Jackie
Canning chicken pot pie
I make a dish I call chicken pot pie guts. It is cooked chicken chopped, carrots, peas, green beans, onion, cream corn, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and chicken broth to thin sauce. I don’t make a pie but serve it with biscuits. Can this be canned with a pressure canner? I currently freeze it but am trying to get away from relying on the freezer.
You can home can your pot pie recipe, but you need to use enough chicken broth to thin the recipe more than you would when you freeze it; more like a thinner tomato sauce. The reason is that thick, dense recipes may not heat sufficiently in the jar to ensure safe processing. When you use the recipe, simply dump it into a saucepan and use a little flour/butter roux with some milk added, then add that to your recipe to thicken it just before you use it. Simple, safe, and no more freezer! — Jackie
Thursday, October 15th, 2009
As we had some really cold weather move in, we had picked all our pumpkins and squash and held them in the unheated porch. When it got too cold we had to move them into our entryway. Surprisingly, we had great pumpkins this year. This one weighs 58 pounds! Now that’s a lot of pies. The next smallest one weighs 24 pounds, so we’re really happy, considering they were direct seeded into the garden and pretty late, too.
I’m still processing tomatoes. Whew! I’m down to three five-gallon buckets now. Tonight I have another batch of spaghetti sauce on the stove, cooking down. I couldn’t do it in the oven as I picked up more whole pork loins at the store for $1.39 a pound and have the oven full of them, roasting. I’ll be canning the spaghetti sauce AND pork loin tomorrow, as well as straining more tomatoes for even more sauce. Mmmm I think I’ll make barbecue sauce out of the next batch. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Transplanting apple trees
I hope you and your family are feeling better! How is your mom?
We planted several of our apple trees in the wrong spot last spring. Can they be transplanted now or should we wait until early spring before the tree breaks dormancy?
Your canning book is great. I tried several recipes in there and they are tasty! I had bountiful tomatoes this year and appreciated all of your recipes.
Wild Rose, Wisconsin
Mom is doing much better, but she is very weak and has to go to a rehab facility for physical building up before she can come back home. It was a tough go at 93.
I would wait until spring, while the trees are still dormant, to transplant them. If you do it now, it’d be more stress on them, I think.
I’m glad you liked the recipes in the new book. It always makes me happy to share the ones I like. — Jackie
I bought your new book (I have your others too) and it is great! Thank you. I am new to canning and thought pumpkin butter sounded good. Can I make pumpkin butter and if so, how?
Like pureed pumpkin and squash, it is not recommended that you can pumpkin butter. You CAN make it and store it in the fridge, however. All you do is puree cooked pumpkin, add cinnamon, cloves, and allspice to your puree, then very slowly cook it down, stirring to prevent scorching. You can add sugar or honey to sweeten it, if you wish. When it is thick, put it in a jar and store it in the fridge. It’ll be good for quite a few weeks. Enjoy! — Jackie
I am very impressed with your potato harvest this year. It doesn’t matter what we try, we haven’t been able to grow potatoes. We have planted in the ground, the old fashioned way. We have tried planting in tires for several years and this year, for the very first time, we actually got a bucket full. But in reality, I barely harvested double the amount in pounds than I planted. What is your method? I really want to grow potatoes next year.
Neosho Rapids, Kansas
Potatoes are a cool weather lover, but don’t like extended periods of cold weather. We plant about two weeks before the last spring frosts are due, in well worked up soil. Watch the manure and heavy fertilized ground; it causes scabby potatoes and sometimes lumpy, bumpy ones. I plant either whole or cut potatoes with at least three eyes that have sturdy, short sprouts. The sprouts/eyes are planted on the topside. I go down the row with my hoe, digging depressions about four inches deep, about a foot apart, with the rows about three feet apart to allow for hilling later. Then I go back and set the seed potatoes in the holes and cover them up with loose soil. If they begin to emerge from the soil and the nights are frosty, I toss a little more dirt over them so they don’t get frost-burned.
I keep my potato rows watered but not soggy. Too much water and they’ll rot in the ground; not enough and they will grow slowly. As the plants get taller, about eight inches, I go down the rows with a hoe, dragging dirt from the center of the row to nearly cover each plant. This is “hilling” and it makes more potatoes from each plant than if you just left it alone. I hill twice then let the plants grow. Be sure to water frequently during dry weather, especially when the plants start to bloom. That’s when they are beginning to set new potatoes. Keep them watered regularly as potatoes have a high water content and need it.
To harvest, wait till the vines brown and die back, then dig before freezing weather.
I hope this helps you grow great potatoes next year. You can get a start this fall by tilling in leaves, straw or other non-manure based organic material. It’ll help improve your soil, yet prevent scab in your taters. — Jackie
Squash cross pollinating
We (granddaughter and I) planted the Hopi Pale Gray squash seeds you sent, in a “Three Sisters” garden, so she could learn about how the Indians did it (she’s almost five). I had some real heirloom red corn, and some Lazy Housewife beans, and the squash. She was real excited about it, and can still explain the process, and boy did it grow! Everything came on real nice, even with the cold weather. But some of the squash came out twice as big as it should have, and it ranged from pale to pinkish orange. The rest looks to be the right size and color. My question — will the seed from this planting still be good, or is there a risk of cross-pollination here, even though I had no other squash or pumpkins planted?
Lisle, New York
Oops! Your squash had a “skunk in the woodpile.” My mistake, too. Last year, I planted Amish pie pumpkin in my garden, thinking it was a C. pepo. Well this year my friend brought it to my attention that it was really a C. maxima, which is what Hopi Pale Grey squash is. So your squash seed was inadvertently a cross. But you can save the seed from the traditional looking squash and breed it back to purebred Hopi in a couple of generations. Sorry about that. (But some “surprises” like this are actually kind of fun. Native Americans seldom had “pure” crops, only ones that they grew year after year.) — Jackie
I have two questions. First off, is there a difference between pie pumpkins and the pumpkins they sell for Halloween carving?
Also I have two year and a half old hens. I recently received seven 5-week old pullets but every time I try to put them together one of the hens goes after the pullets and tries to kill them. how do I bring them together?
“Pie” pumpkins are sometimes thicker meated and somewhat sweeter than “plain old” pumpkins, but I’ve made tons and tons of pies from “plain old” pumpkins! And I can’t tell any difference in the end product.
Wait until your pullets are older and more “chicken” sized. Then try putting your outlaw hen in with the pullets instead of the other way around. In their territory, she may be less aggressive. And, if they’re bigger, that may also help stop her nasty behavior. — Jackie
Parboiling rice for storage
I would like to know how to parboil brown rice for long term storage. I am going to teach a disaster preparedness class and thought this would be a great to do instead of spending the extra money for the minute rice. This class is for lower income clients of my churches food pantry I’m trying to figure out how to make it so that we don’t have to waste a lot of fuel. We are in Earthquake country California.
The trouble is that once you parboil rice, you shorten its storage life. When fuel is a serious concern, or the lack of it, I’d suggest using white rice, which cooks much quicker and requires less fuel to do it. Plain white rice may not be as nutritious as brown rice, but in a disaster, ease of cooking becomes a huge concern, as you said. To make up for the lack of nutrients in the white rice, add bullion, dehydrated vegetables, and meat. Not only do you have a quick meal, but one that is nutritious, as well. Good luck with your class. It’s such a good idea! — Jackie
Keeping voles away from the garden
We planted sweet potatoes this year and had a great turnout, BUT, the voles enjoyed them before we did and more than 1/2 of them were eaten on. What can we do to keep them away from the garden short of using the little buggers for target practice?
St. Paris, Ohio
Voles can be a real problem sometimes. To help keep them away from your garden, try to establish a clear area of some width all around your garden. In this, keep the soil tilled or mowed quite short. Voles fear natural predators and love long grass and weeds to hide in. They do not feel safe when traveling across open ground; i.e. they may choose not to invade your garden. Also having a good outside cat does much to do away with voles. Our old cat, Monty, is an indoor cat, but spends quite a bit of time outside. Hunting is his hobby and he’s quite good at it, even though he’s 17 years old. We have no voles in sight. And after having voles girdle 23 of my young apple trees back on the farm, I really, really don’t like them!
I’m glad you got a good yield on your sweet potatoes. At least the voles left you half of them! — Jackie
Rusty canning lids
I have a question regarding rusty canning lids. My wife says the Ball canning book says to not use them. I say they can be glass beaded and wiped down with vegetable oil to inhibit new rust and will be fine. What is your expert opinion. By the way, we also care for my elderly mother and sympathize with your trials. Keep up the good work and God Bless you for it.
I’d say that it depends on how rusty your lids are. If there’s just a bit of surface rust and the lids are not roughened or pitted, I, personally, would have no problem using them. But if they have serious rust, I would toss them and get new ones as they won’t last on your jars of food as long as you may need them to. — Jackie
Monday, October 12th, 2009
After a spring of figuring we’d have NO potatoes in the cellar, here I am sorting through the 550 pounds of potatoes we ended up with! We hurriedly picked the crop when severe freezing temperatures threatened, and then materialized. We even had two inches of snow! But, like when you dig any potatoes, a few were damaged in the digging and some had bad spots. So I spent all afternoon picking and sorting potatoes from two full 40-gallon garbage cans, four feed sacks, and a heaping pile. We had to go to town yesterday, so I bought three new 45-gallon plastic totes to store them in. Wood bins are better, but I used plastic totes last year and the potatoes kept real well, right till I used the last ones for seed potatoes. Our pantry is unheated, but above freezing, and vegetables keep very well in it. Luckily, our basement is high and dry, too, so mold and moisture are not problems.
As I sorted potatoes, I put cut ones in the “use soon” bowl in the kitchen, the ones that were soft or severely damaged into the compost bucket, and the good ones in five-gallon buckets. I carried these, one pail at a time, down the basement stairs, to dump out gently into separate totes. There’s one for russets, one for Yukon Golds, and another for reds. Of course, I’ll end up with a few sacks full of taters, too. We’ll keep what we can use, and give the rest to friends. There’s no use in being hoggish! It’s nice to be able to give folks something they can really use and share our great bounty.
Who would have guessed that after a July 1st planting, we’d end up with ANY potatoes of size at all?
My cold thing is about over, Will’s is mid-stream, but he’s still working away. Mom is some better, but still rocky, so we’ll have to wait that one out. I really, really do appreciate all your prayers and kindness during this tough time.
Can #10 sized cans be recanned using a pump and seal hand operated vacuum sealer? Is there any danger if a large can is opened, moved into jars and then vacuum packed. Would this preserve the food?
St. Louis, Missouri
DO NOT use a vacuum sealer as a substitute for canning! It is NOT safe, in the least, for foods, save for dry foods, such as flour, or dehydrated foods. I’ve re-canned many foods, previously packed in #10 cans, either alone or in recipes by reheating them to just boiling temperature, then packing hot into hot jars and canning it like it was a freshly canned food. — Jackie
Canning ground meat
I canned some ground meat and had the broth at the same level as meat. After coming out of the pressure canner, the meat at the top is peaking out of the broth. Is it still safe to eat?
Yes. The meat probably absorbed some of the broth. It may look ugly, up there and dry looking, but when you use it, it will quickly look nice again. No sweat. — Jackie
Canning braised beef cube mix
I want to can this and think it will be thin enough with the water to can well, but do not want to take a chance with out input from an expert. Will it can and for how long? In pint jars. I would take out the bay leaf after cooking in the oven or will it have to be cooked that long if it is canned?
braised beef cube mix:
5 lbs. stew meat, cut in small chunks
1 (1.3/8-oz) pkg onion mix
2 bay leaves
2 (10-1/2 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (10-1/2 oz) can golden mushroom soup
1 (10-1/2 oz) cream of celery soup
1 qt. water
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a large covered casserole or dutch oven. Stir until well blended. Bake 3 to 4 hours until meat is tender. Cool. Put into eight 1-pint freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at tip. Seal and label containers; Freeze.
Dallas City, Illinois
I would up the water by about a pint; better a little thin than too thick! The condensed soup tends to thicken during canning, even with the added water. You’re right; you won’t need to bake the recipe; just pack it hot in your hot jars. You will need to process it for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, taking altitude adjustments into consideration if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet; consult a canning book for directions, if necessary. Enjoy your beef cubes! — Jackie
Preserving green tomatoes
We have had a windfall of green tomatoes. A friend of ours called to say that he had a semi truck load of tomato plants (for fall gardens here in Arizona) that were rejected by the retailer and were going to be discarded. They were in pretty good condition, so we planted as many as we could in our small greenhouse, but ended up with approximately 135 tomato plants 2-3 feet tall and absolutely loaded with small and medium-sized green tomatoes. We’re frantically harvesting the green tomatoes (so far over 200 lbs) and still working on it a second day, because the unplanted plants are beginning to die. We’re making green tomato salsa and pickled tomatoes. Do you have any other suggestions for recipes for canning green tomatoes? If we run out of time, can we freeze chopped tomatoes to be used later for canning salsa?
We’re enjoying your new book. Thanks.
Most canning books, including my new one, have lots of various recipes for relishes and pickled green tomatoes. Those medium green tomatoes will usually go ahead and ripen for you if you just put them in boxes, pails, or tubs in a fairly warm area (above freezing). I’m doing that right now with buckets sitting in my new, yet unused, laundry room. Every three or four days I’m canning up a new batch of salsa, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, etc. As you know, there are a lot more recipes of really useful foods using ripe tomatoes rather than green ones. If you freeze your tomatoes, you can process them later, but the salsa will be pretty mushy. Enjoy your bounty. My tongue is hanging out from doing tomatoes, but I’m SO very grateful to have them all. — Jackie
Wednesday, October 7th, 2009
Combine tons of tomatoes, a family case of a bad cold, and Mom in the hospital, not doing very well and you have the picture of a very tired Jackie. Luckily, I’m recovering from the yuck. No, we didn’t have the swine flu, just the plain old fall, back-to-school crud. And luckily, Will is pitching right in, without being asked, by the way, and helping run tomatoes through the Victorio tomato mill for different tomato sauces. So far we’ve done spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce, and pizza sauce, plus plain old tomato sauce. When we’re sick of that, we scald and peel tomatoes and make salsa. Today we did two batches of tomato sauce, which are slowly cooking down (one on the woodstove top and the other in my gas oven) for canning tomorrow. And meanwhile, I made a huge batch of salsa while Will split the worst big gnarled pieces of maple and ash with the tractor wood splitter. (He did the rest of the 12 cords, by hand, a little at a time each day over summer.)
But Mom’s not doing well; her kidneys aren’t functioning too well and she’s very sleepy and hardly wakes up to be fed her meals, which she doesn’t eat. At 93, her body just seems to want to drift off. It’s very hard on all of us and we are hoping for a better day tomorrow.
I have been buying herbs for herbal home remedies but I would like to plant them. What is the best time to do this? I will be keeping them inside; I will not be transplanting them outside.
Some of the ones I want to plant are: yarrow, borage, nettle, comfrey, mullein, and catnip, just to name a few.
Mountain Pine, Arkansas
Sorry but these plants are large and really don’t do well as indoor plants. Unless you have a home greenhouse, consider growing smaller plants, which you can start from seed anytime during the year. The large herb plants (or other large plants) get extremely leggy, searching for the sun, even with plenty of auxiliary lighting.
Also, use a little caution if growing these herbs outside; many herbs, such as the mints, nettles, yarrow, and comfrey can get VERY invasive. Think about planting them in large containers or separate raised beds so they can’t spread out of bounds. My friend, Jeri, planted comfrey, and it is now in her flower beds, the rhubarb, and even in her greenhouse, after creeping under the footings! — Jackie
Chickens eating eggs
I have a medium sized flock of 25 chickens. They started to lay only after 4-4 1/2 months old! My problem now is they have taken a liking to eating the eggs. We were getting around 15 eggs a day, now sometimes we only get 6 because they ate the rest! The coop is very large, and they have a very large run. We also have more nesting boxes than most say they need, so I don’t think they are
Recently we tried giving them some meat protein (scraps from the two mule deer we harvested this season) and it seemed to slow down the egg eating, only about 1-3 a day. Their diet consists of layer pellets, scrap veggies from a local restaurant (raw lettuce and tomatoes), and left over breads from the local christian mission, plus weeds and such from the garden. I’ve also tried the golf ball solution, but no cigar.
Buena Vista, Colorado
This is a common problem. Unfortunately, chickens DO like to eat eggs. But to keep more for yourself, collect the eggs as often as you can — up to several times daily until the problem abates. You can also try using ceramic or wooden nest eggs, which work better than golf balls. If they still do it, consider using a new nest box that has roll-outs, so that when a hen lays her egg and gets up, the egg rolls gently out of the nest box to a secure location. Other than these tips, a one-way trip to the chopping block will cure the problem permanently, but it’s an expensive “cure” for all involved! — Jackie
Canning dried beans
I keep hearing about people who can beans dried. That is they add about 1/3 jar dried beans, fill the rest will water and then process in a pressure canner. Does this work well? To me it seems so easy that it can’t possibly work
I know folks have used this method, but the way I put up dry beans is safer and just about as easy. Try this:
BEANS-DRY (HURRY UP METHOD)
Hot pack: Rinse dry beans, cover well with boiling water. Boil 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let soak, covered, for 2 hours. Heat to boiling and drain, saving liquid. Pack jars 3/4 full with hot beans. Add small pieces of fried lean bacon or ham, if desired. Fill with hot cooking liquid, leaving 1inch of headspace. Process pints for 65 minutes and quarts for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.
You can find this recipe plus many others in my new growing and canning book— Jackie
Freezing beans now, canning later
I had an abundance of purple, yellow, and green beans this year, although not all at once. I would pick and freeze them as the beans would come. Is it safe for me to take those frozen beans now and can them? Would they become mush after having been frozen?
Yes, you can home can previously frozen vegetables and meats with very little change in texture, appearance or taste. I would recommend hot packing them to ensure that they get thoroughly heated before packing in your jars. — Jackie
Thursday, October 1st, 2009
We have the floor on half of our new hayloft and are starting to sheet in the back wall of the upper part of the storage building. I hadn’t been “topside” since the floor had been laid, so yesterday I climbed the ladder to take a peek. WOW! What a view! I could see for miles. Of course our fall colors are just starting to get bright, so it was even a more beautiful view.
I hadn’t ever seen our yard from that perspective either and it looked especially nice and green. (Remember when it was just a pile of gravel?) I looked longingly at our $50 hot tub, knowing that it would soon be emptied and covered snugly for winter. We have really enjoyed it all summer.
And the orchard from up there! I had just mowed the clover in it and those brave little trees look so nice and healthy. I, for one, remember when my “orchard” was just another slash pile and weed haven, when dreams were better than the naked truth. I really, really appreciate it now.
I guess sometimes we all need to get a different view of our same-old life to see how truly blessed we have been.
I was wondering if you could explain how to can chestnuts a little more. I followed your instructions I found on the “Ask Jackie” section and you said to peel your chestnuts, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in your oven. Slowly roast them at 250, turning them to prevent scorching. Make sure nut meats are hot for packing, and use hot jars. Pints or half pints only. Process at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes. I did that and there seems to be a lot of moisture in my jars. I was wondering if you can tell if I did not roast them long enough or what the problem is.
New Freedom, Pennsylvania
As chestnuts are big, fat nuts, you do have to roast them quite awhile to get them dry enough to can. You might even have to halve them, depending on your nuts. Toast them slowly so they also lose moisture. I hope you have great canned chestnuts! — Jackie
Canning everything and testing for acidity
Not so much a question but I just wanted to say that you are so right when you’ve said many times in your column and articles that gardeners would be wise to put up as much produce as possible in one season because you never know what the next season will bring. Last summer I thought I was being silly by putting up about 20 pints of pickles and 15 quarts of pumpkin (just for my husband and I) but this year my cukes and pumpkins completely failed. My tomatoes did much better than last year though and now I’m not questioning the case of quart jars I filled with stewed tomatoes! Now whenever I fill up my canner or my dehydrator I think of your advice. Thank you.
Oh, and I might have a suggestion for the reader who ended up with too much salsa that might not be acidic enough. I once had trouble with a salsa recipe and thought I might not have done it properly so I ordered pH testing strips from a science supply outlet and confirmed that it was right where it should be. Maybe this could help in their situation as well?
Val Verde, California
Good idea! I’ll bet you could beg strips from your local pharmacy or high school science teacher, too. — Jackie
Canning tomato juice and woody celery
I have been closely reading your articles and books and see that you recommend adding lemon juice to tomatoes that may not have enough natural acid to make them safe for canning. Oh, oh…I’ve made several years of homemade tomato juice from our little garden and my recipe does not contain anything that would increase the acidity. (My 1977 vintage Blue Book said I could water bath…now I don’t trust the recipe) Do you recommend that I “toss” the old years–about 3 years worth–of tomato juice? How much lemon juice should I add to my recipe for 6 quarts of juice to be safe? Will this change the flavor of my juice?
One other question: With our busy and dry summer, we did not always water the garden. Last night when harvesting and preparing our celery for storage we found it to be very “woody” and white in many of the stalks. Was this because of our lack of watering? Did I harvest too late? How can we prevent this in the future?
Happy Canning and hope you are feeling much better today.
The reason you should add lemon juice to tomatoes and tomato juice is that a few modern varieties have been developed that are low acid, supposedly for folks who can’t tolerate acidic tomatoes. But because there are few of these varieties, your juice is probably just fine. If it did go bad, it would mold or ferment. If the jars are sealed, the juice looks fine (no mold floating on it) and smells fine, I wouldn’t worry. In the future, to be safe, I’d add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice to each quart, as you fill the jars. This will not affect the taste.
I’d guess that your woody celery was because of lack of regular, deep watering as celery does like moist soil. Try again next year and I’ll bet it will be fine. You might try placing a soaker hose next to your celery rows to be sure the roots get plenty of water when they need it.
Thank you. I AM feeling very much better and am canning up a storm with much gratitude. — Jackie
Cider vinegar vs. white vinegar
When canning we prefer cider vinegar to white vinegar, find white to be to intense in flavor, in your new book–which is great–can cider vinegar be safely substituted for white vinegar?
While cider vinegar tastes better to many people, the darker color makes darker pickles that some people find distasteful. It makes no difference in keeping, so if you prefer cider vinegar and don’t mind darker pickles, it will substitute just fine. — Jackie
I just canned up 11 pints of chicken broth in my pressure canner last night and I took them out and a series of popping of the lids continued for several minutes. They all seemed to pop more than once. Is this a problem? I have never had this happen before. They all appeared sealed however. Also, I have a blackberry vine I planted 3 summers ago and it has survived so far. Is there anything special I should be doing to protect it from the cold winters here?
As long as the jars have a good seal when cool, you have nothing to worry about.
I’ve had great luck with my blackberries, so far. I’ve done nothing to protect them, either. I’d say it would depend on the variety of blackberry you have. Mine are wild blackberries (Himalayan), Prime Jim, Prime Jan, and one Boyle. If you want to protect your berry bush, cage it against voles (they WILL eat the canes!) by making a screen cage around it and spread a good layer of dry straw over it. I can’t wait to start eating mine; should have a great crop next spring! — Jackie
I am going to be canning a large batch of chili this weekend and was told that I need a pressure canner. I have a large, old pressure cooker with the weighted gauge. Can I use that to can my chili? I was told I need to have a regular pressure canner.
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
You do need a pressure canner. Few old pressure cookers are large enough or dependable enough to actually can in. Maybe you have a friend who has a pressure canner and isn’t using it right now? Be sure to follow a good canning book’s directions so you get a safe, tasty batch of home canned chili. — Jackie
Ball Blue Book salsa recipe
My wife was reading your blog and was wondering about the question regarding canning salsa (from Missy Steiger). A couple weeks ago she made the Zesty Salsa recipe in the Ball Blue Book, and she measured all the ingredients. Like Missy, she came out with more than the recipe said… 8 pints instead of 6. Do you think it’s possible the book is incorrect? The salsa has been stored in our cellar (around 50 degrees) for a couple weeks. Is it too late to refrigerate it now?
It’s common to have a recipe vary from the amount suggested in a book. As long as you MEASURE the ingredients, you’ll be fine. Missy got WAY over the suggested 6 pints and that’s a red flag. A couple of pints over isn’t such a problem. She also weighed her ingredients, instead of measuring them. I wouldn’t worry about your salsa at all. Enjoy it! — Jackie
Semi-dwarf trees planted too closely
Last fall I planted five semi-dwarf apple trees. I inadvertently planted them too close together (dwarf spacing..) Do you think they could handle being dug up and replanted with proper spacing after they go dormant this fall?
I think if they were my trees, I’d leave well enough alone. The trees might take the re-planting, but maybe not. In the spring, when they are barely budding out, THEN try moving them. I think over-wintering first might help them survive. Don’t wait until they are leafing out in the spring; we did this because we had to, with our small plum orchard in our large garden and really set our trees back. They DID survive, though! Whew. — Jackie
Mustard bean pickle recipe
The new book is great! It is like all of your writing—just like sitting down at the kitchen table and visiting. I need help regarding the mustard bean pickle recipe (anything David likes that much has got to be worth trying!) How much salt should I use and which kind—table or pickling? Which kind of vinegar–white or cider? Why not trim the pointed end of the bean? The Kentucky Wonder pole beans are doing well, so they are very long. Will it hurt the pickle to cut it in half? Silly questions, I guess, unless you are a novice canner and non-homesteader.
Oops. That should have been clearer! You just use a little salt in the water when you pre-cook the beans, just as if you were cooking them for the table. It is NOT a necessary ingredient, but optional. You can trim the pointy end of the bean too, if you wish. You can cut the beans in pieces, leave whole or in half, just as you like. I hope you like them as well as we do. We usually eat a pint jar at one meal! — Jackie
Removing seeds from persimmons
We have a ton of persimmons this year. I can’t possibly eat them all. How can I separate the seeds from them in order to get pulp? I have your cookbook with the recipe for persimmon pudding. The only way I’ve ever gotten the seeds out of persimmons is in my mouth, and I don’t think that’s the way to go to make pudding.
Soften the persimmons by steaming them gently in a very little water. Then press the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. You can also use a food mill. The key is to soften the fruit first. Enjoy your pudding! — Jackie
Safe wormer for egg laying chickens
Is there a natural/safe wormer for egg laying chickens? The Wazine I found at the feed store says “not for egg laying chickens.” I sometimes sell my extra eggs to co-workers and don’t want any chemicals in my free-range laid eggs.
Battle Ground, Washington
My question to you is, why do you think you need to worm your chickens? Poultry is usually quite parasite free, given reasonable hygiene. To be sure your birds DO have internal parasites, gather a mixed fresh fecal sample and take it to your vet to examine under a microscope. If they do, indeed, have worms, he/she can prescribe a safe wormer that won’t affect the eggs. — Jackie