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Archive for November, 2009

Jackie Clay

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

To all my Backwoods Home family, let us all be truly thankful for all we have and dream of tomorrows. — Jackie


Jackie Clay

The good new is that I’m canning venison; the bad news is that David’s transmission broke

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

I’m once again canning up a deer that my son, Bill, donated. It’s lucky he did, too, as we didn’t have much luck this year hunting. I had a doe tag but won’t shoot fawns…or a doe with fawns. And guess what was all I saw every time I went out? Yep, lots of does with fawns, fawns, and more does with fawns. Oh well, we’ll have venison in the pantry once again this year anyway. David didn’t hunt as much as he usually does because he’s been working to make truck payments on his new-to-him ‘01 Chevy pickup…then last week, a part in his transmission broke. It’s a cheaper part, but the labor is more than $1,000!


No choice, but David painfully learned how to pull a transmission. Luckily he had Will to help him learn and to help him with the hardest parts. But Will wisely had other work to do and mostly let David figure out things for himself. (He stayed nearby to answer questions and bleats for help.) It took two days and skinned up knuckles, but the transmission is at the shop and David is NOT looking forward to putting it back in. They had to pull the starter, the tailpipes, the transfer case, and torque converter before they could pull the tranny. Plus all those wires, sensors, etc. And of course there were several bolts way up on top, that were terribly hard to get a socket on. But David learned a life lesson, and saved more than $1,000 which he didn’t have. I’ll bet he’s going to be relieved when he finally drives the truck down off the ramps!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning green peppers

I have canned green peppers without peeling the skin. Is it unsafe to can them this way? Can you can creamed soups like broccoli or potato?

Nancy Phillips
Britt, Minnesota

No, you can eat your green peppers without peeling them, but some varieties of pepper have tough skins that don’t chew well when canned. However most don’t and you’ll be okay. Sorry, but you really can’t can “creamed” soups at home because they are a thicker product and are not recommended to can. What I do is can or dehydrate the ingredients, then make a simple white sauce that is thin enough, add the vegetables, and there you have it. I dehydrate broccoli and onions for soup, while I can celery, mushrooms, chicken dices, etc. It only takes me about 10 minutes to make “cream of” soups from scratch this way. — Jackie

Re-canning dill pickle slices and recipe for Cheese Whiz

I have a gallon jar of hamburger dill pickle slices, and would like to know if I could can them in pint jars, if I drained the brine into a pot, bring the brine to a boil, add the pickles bring back to a boil, then pack them into the hot jars, and process for a few minutes in my water bath canner? Would the pickles become soft in storage? I really don’t want to keep them in the refrigerator and take up all that space for such a long time. It’s just my husband and I, and will take us a long time to eat that many pickles! Also, I have a recipe for a cheese sauce, and it’s called Home Canned Cheese Whiz. Don’t even remember where I got it, but it’s good! Saves buying a #10 can and recanning it when opened!

Home Canned Cheese Whiz:
2 -2 pound boxes Velveeta Original
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups milk
3 1/4 cups heavy cream

Scald milk and cream (do not boil). Melt cheese in top of double boiler, then add butter or margarine and the milk/cream mixture. Stir well. Pack into hot half-pint or pint jars to within 1/2 inch of the top. Process for 60 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Adjust time for higher altitude.

…I received your new book last week, and have read the most of it! Love it! Just finished canning 25 quarts of vegetable beef soup, so now, I can finish the book!

Green Forest, Arkansas

Your pickles will re-can okay, but might possibly lose crispness due to the extra processing…not storage. Thanks for the Cheese Whiz recipe. I also have that one, and have made it successfully. I’m sure others will be glad you brought this to their attention!

And I’m really glad you like the new book. The funny thing is that I am using it often because it’s easier to find things than in some of my other canning books! It gives me a strange feeling, reaching for it on the shelf. — Jackie

Homesteading is hard work

I was wondering if you would consider writing a bit about how the long days of honest, and often hard work keeps you so vibrant? It just seems to me that people who don’t have lots of days of hard work seem to have a whole lot more “age related” problems. Maybe a whole article in the magazine?

Marshall, North Carolina

I’m not as vibrant as you think! Some nights I’m so tired that I can’t even shower. But you’re right. I do think that people that work, work for a living, do have a better life than those who waste their lives with games, parties, and TV. The exercise you get is so varied: one day I’ll be wrestling goats or donkeys, cutting up meat to can, digging out fence post holes, and figuring out my next article. You use a lot of different muscles, including that big one between your ears! People were MEANT to work to survive and really live doing it. God told Adam and Eve that they would work for their bread. It seems to me that a whole lot of folks, especially lately, don’t do much in the way of physical work and are suffering for it, both in body and spirit. I DO enjoy every day and always look forward to the tomorrows. I have no complaints about my life. — Jackie


The question that I have for you is about the salsa in Growing and Canning Your Own Food. Is that a mild or hot salsa?

Helena, Montana

The salsas in the book are relatively hot. If you prefer less hot salsa, simply omit jalapenos until the salsa is flavored to your taste. Start out with a quarter of the jalapenos (or even less if you like a very mild salsa), and work your way up, tasting as you go. Remember that the salsa will be a bit hotter than when you ladle it into the jars as the jalapenos and chiles “heat” up a recipe on storage. — Jackie

Shelf life of canned meat

I have just started canning meats – boneless, skinless chicken breasts and chunks of roast – I am wondering what the shelf life is for these foods – should I be eating them regularly and rotating with new cans or can they be stored long-term, say 7-10 years or even indefinitely?

Elizabeth/Lisa Montomery
Roswell, Georgia

Good news. Your canned meat will remain good nearly indefinitely! Keep your jars in a cool, dark, dry pantry and the jar lids will not rust and the food will stay perfect for years and years. That’s one big reason I can up about everything I am able to. — Jackie

Package seed deals

I have been looking at various companies that advertise a package deal of heirloom seeds, open pollinated and hybrid. These companies offer anywhere from 20-50 packets of seeds, usually with a special waterproof container to store seeds in for up to 20 years. They say they will help us grow an acre of food in crisis times so we can feed our families. Their costs vary from $69 to a couple of hundred bucks. What do you think about these package offers? Do you buy something similar? How do we know if the seeds will grow in our climate or zone?

Thomas Palumbo
Frankston, Texas

No, I don’t have the “canned” garden seeds. Like about everything else, I do it myself. Most garden seeds, with the exception of onions, will last for years if properly gathered and stored in a cool, dark place, in an airtight container. Many of my seeds are in gallon and smaller glass jars. This keeps them free from “bug” infestation and being eaten by rodents. It also keeps moisture away that will cause molding or very poor germination. In flood-prone areas, it also protects your seeds from being ruined by water.

You don’t know if the varieties of seed offered in the cans will grow in your zone. Or even WHAT varieties are contained. They usually say “carrots,” “corn,” “beans,” etc. I prefer to have more say about what varieties I grow than that…especially in an emergency situation such as a total economic meltdown or some such catastrophe. My life and the lives of my loved ones are at stake here. I want not only varieties that will grow here, but will be very productive and mature well here so I can collect more seed from them in the future to keep on eating.

Not only do I have garden seeds stored up, but also flint corn for cornmeal and wheat to grind for flour.

I really feel that a person can do better for themselves by collecting seeds and putting them up than investing in X brand canned seeds. Like your storage pantry, it’s wise to rotate your stored seeds every year, using the oldest ones and refreshing the seeds with new ones.

You can do a lot to help your seeds last longer, too. Keeping them in a cool, dark place or even in the freezer will let them remain viable for years longer than simply keeping them at room temperature. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Mom is home from rehab!

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

I brought Mom home from rehab at the nursing home Friday. And we look on it as a major miracle. When she was in the hospital with a severe bladder infection, we were almost sure she wouldn’t be alive in a week; her kidneys started to fail and she slept nearly all the time. When she was awake, she barely knew us and was unable to speak a sentence. Luckily, with a good doctor and antibiotics I.V., she pulled through. And at 93, going on 94, that was something. Then she went to rehab, as she was still VERY weak and not eating well. But day by day, she improved!

Now she is back to the same old Mom, looking at her flower catalogs, planning on buying new plants for spring, and taking cuttings from her houseplants.

So NEVER give up! Even when the days look very dark ahead. Miracles DO happen from time to time.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning cheese sauce

Cheese in a can, for nacho etc. I can’t seem to find any smaller than a gallon in our area. Once opened it sours quickly even in refrigerator. Freezing doesn’t work well either, plus takes up a lot of space. Is there a way to “can” the excess in glass jars? I don’t have an adjustable pressure cooker. But I do have a pressure cooker, anyway to do canning even without a pressure cooker? I’m a 6000 feet plus.

Steve Launer
Cheyenne, Wyoming

Although canning cheese is still an “experimental” recipe (there are no “approved” methods by government experts), folks have been canning and re-canning #10 cans of cheese sauce successfully for years, me included. I open a #10 can of cheese sauce, then put it in my oven at the lowest setting until the cheese is hot (not cooked). Then I quickly fill hot jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace, wipe the rims, place hot, previously simmered lids on the jars and screw down the ring firmly tight. I process pints and half pints in a boiling water bath canner for 60 minutes. For higher than 6,000 feet (6,000-8,000 feet) altitudes, you will be increasing your processing to 75 minutes.  I use this cheese sauce a lot and we sure love its versatility. — Jackie

Gardening and preserving while working full time

I am particularly interested in canning some of the meal in jar ideas and ground meat and poultry…
Currently, our circumstances seem to mean that I may be taking on a full time job soon — including a long drive. If I’m hired I’ll be gone 5 days a week for about 11 hours a day. I still want to do my garden and do more canning — I’m just sure that having things like taco meat mix ready in a jar will make working so much easier on me. I guess that means canning will be relegated to days off, and I’ll need to get Hubby’s help.

My question is — if you had just a few days a month you could spare to do food preserving– how much do you think you could accomplish? Have you ever been in that situation? Do you think its nuts to try to do that AND work away full time?

Mary Thompson
Catawba, South Carolina

No I don’t think you’re nuts! You can accomplish a whole lot in your “spare” time. I have never been in that exact situation; I’ve worked outside of the home in my younger years and gardened and canned successfully, too. The great thing is that gardening and canning are very relaxing and pretty undemanding, as well. You can do other things while canning: the laundry, washing dishes, making supper, reading a book, or whatever. JUST BE SURE YOU ARE RIGHT THERE when the pressure canner is up to pressure and processing. Sneaking away then is foolhardy and can cause bad things to happen: over-processed food, a blown safety valve, or even (when the safety valve is plugged) a blown canner lid!

Start out relatively simple — smaller garden, less canning — then increase as your confidence increases so you enjoy your food growing and canning instead of becoming stressed out by it. By doing a little here and a little there, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how quickly your pantry will fill up.

It makes things much easier when you have help canning some of the more labor intensive foods. If your husband is willing, the two of you can accomplish much and enjoy it while you do! — Jackie

Organ meats

My husband and son just brought home elk. My son and his wife do not eat liver so I have a lot of liver and a couple of hearts in the fridge. We love liver and onions, but maybe not that much liver and onions. Do you do anything different with yours? How about the heart, got any good recipes for that?

Shirley Wikstrom
Stevenson, Washington

I’d can up some of that liver and onions! Just slice the liver into pieces about an inch thick, in pieces that will fit into a wide mouth jar. Pre-cook a bit to lightly brown the liver, then add your sliced onions. Pack into jars, leaving an inch of headspace. Make a broth out of your pan drippings and pour that boiling, over your liver, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts). If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.

I’m not a big heart fan; I usually just peel and grind the heart with my other venison and make burger from it. — Jackie

Wrapping trees with screen

You indicated that you cut screens to put around young trees. Do you put the screens tight around the trees or do you leave a little space and how do you secure the screening?

Rhona and Brad Barrie
Strong, Maine

I try to put the screen fairly tight around the trees, wrapping it so there are a few layers. I secure it with used hay twine; I wouldn’t use wire as it could possibly damage the trunk of young trees. Protecting the trunks of young trees, even those with a diameter of 1-3″, with wire is totally necessary as voles, mice, and rabbits WILL eventually girdle and kill your beautiful trees without it. Mom thought her 2″ trunk on her favorite crabapple was plenty big enough to resist the critters. Wrong. In the spring, it was girdled white three inches high and dead. That’s such a sad discovery! — Jackie

Canning soup

I made some beef vegetable soup with barley which was very good and would like to make more to can. I am using 1 cup barley in 8 quarts of soup. How long should I cook it before canning it? Also, how tightly do you pack your meat in jars? Would you mind showing a picture? I am starting to can more meat as I only have to pay for the electricity once and don’t have to wait for it to thaw.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

I would just make your soup and can it after the barley is barely tender; it doesn’t get mushy. I pack meats differently, depending on what they are. For instance, lightly browned ground meat is gently settled with a wood spoon; you don’t want it all mushed together or it will get like meatloaf. Diced meat can be more firmly packed, as are larger chunks. Just be sure to leave 1″ of headspace. Check out the picture on the blog of my canned smoked pork shoulder. Bear in mind that it shrank on processing, as the fat cooked out of it. To start with, it filled all but about half an inch all around it in the jars. (It was pre-roasted and hot broth was poured over it in the jars.) I LOVE my canned meats! — Jackie

Bitter bell pepper

I live in deep south Louisiana. Still have bell peppers growing in the garden and on the last picking they are bitter. What causes this?

Anne Martin
DeQuincy, Louisiana

The most common cause of bitter bell peppers is not enough watering. Try watering more, if this is the case, and you’ll quickly see an improvement in the taste. — Jackie

Deterring critters from the garden

I just read where you said to put wire fencing on the ground to deter critters from eating your garden. I was wondering if it might not work as well to just border your garden with it since the animals are apparently afraid to walk on it. Also, do you think it might deter fox and coyotes from going after my chickens if I border a large area with it where they range?

Southwest Ohio

No, I didn’t say to put wire fencing on the ground; that has never worked for me. My wire fencing is on 8′ posts, 6′ high, around my garden, orchard, and berry patch. I’ve had deer walk on wire, crawl under my deck, find open narrow gates, and, of course, hop over 5′ fencing to get in. I wouldn’t count on wire laying on the ground from getting your chickens, either. After all, they will dig under it, and even chew through light wire so walking on it wouldn’t be much of a challenge. Critters are a lot smarter than some people think! — Jackie

Making jerky, bologna, and how to prepare rhubarb for the winter

I know you are terribly busy, and may not have time to answer any or all of my questions. Do you have a recipe for deer jerky and deer bologna? Also I have first year rhubarb, what needs done to it before winter sets in here? We have had one hard freeze, hopefully it is OK. Take care, hope everyone is feeling better, my family had it too. Pretty bad stuff. Enjoy all your articles, only wish I had one-half of your knowledge.

Mary Ann Nelson
Franklin, West Virginia

Here are the recipes you wanted. With the jerky, you can substitute any spices and seasonings you wish, to suit your family’s taste. I make a dozen different jerkys and we like ’em all!


3 lbs lean venison or beef
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke

Remove all fat from meat and cut it into 1/2″ strips or rounds (I do this when I jerk backstrap or tenderloin). For more tender jerky, cut across the grain of the meat; for traditional jerky, cut with the grain for more chewy jerky. (For us old folks, I grind the meat without fat and make strips of that for even easier chewing; I use a “jerky shooter”…kind of a cookie press for meat available at most stores that carry canning/hunting supplies.

In a large crock or glass dish, combine the ingredients, except for meat, stirring well. Add meat, cover, and refrigerate. It helps to “slosh” the marinade over the meat a time or two during marinating time. In the morning, drain the meat and lay in your dehydrator, set at 145-150 degrees. Dehydrate until quite hard but still a bit pliable. Pliable jerky will NOT keep at room temperature for lengthy periods of time. Old-fashioned jerky was dried stick hard and would keep indefinitely. Store your jerky in airtight containers in the fridge or freezer if you plan on keeping it for a lengthy period of time. Ours never lasts more than a week!


25 lbs. of ground venison burger (mixed with beef fat for the fat content in the burger)
3/4 lb. Tender Quick
1 qt. warm water

Mix and let stand, covered, overnight in refrigerator

The next morning, add:

1 Tbsp. black pepper
1/2 cup seasoned salt
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. garlic
1 tsp. liquid smoke
1 qt. warm water

Mix very well and pack into hot, wide mouth jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars clean and place jars in a large roasting pan with warm water coming up to the shoulders of the jars. Insert a meat thermometer in the center of the meat in the center jar and turn on the oven to 200 degrees. Heat jars of meat until temperature in the center of the center jar reaches 170 degrees. Immediately place on hot, previously simmered lids and screw down rings firmly tight. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts). If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on adjusting your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. DO NOT USE THIS METHOD AND SKIP THE PRE-HEATING OF YOUR MEAT; IT IS NOT SAFE BECAUSE THE MEAT IS SO DENSE.

Your rhubarb will be just fine. It won’t hurt to cover the plants with a nice mulch, just to be sure. But rhubarb is a very, very tough plant! That’s one reason I love it so much. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

I just finished canning some smoked pork shoulder that friends brought up

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

It’s deer hunting season here in northern Minnesota, so I’m quickly canning up some great smoked pork shoulder that my friends, Pam and Joan, brought up to me awhile ago. They got a great deal on it and shared with me. I had taken it, frozen, to my friend, Jeri’s house. They’re on grid and had a nearly empty freezer. So I brought a case at a time home to thaw and can. And I just finished yesterday, and have washed and dried the jars tonight so they can go down in the pantry. How pretty they look! And pretty tasty, too. I love the variety of meat and poultry in my pantry. It makes for a wide choice of meals, which I love.


My oldest son, Bill, called last night and told me he had an “extra” deer for me. David and I have been hunting, but so far all we’ve seen have been does and fawns. Call me a fool, but I won’t shoot a mom with babies; they need her if the winter is bad, in order to survive. They haven’t learned the ropes yet. We’ll get a dry doe or a young buck. We aren’t trophy hunters and I prefer a tender, large deer to huge antlers any day. I love the hunt, especially this year, where the days have been above freezing and beautiful. I love the canning and eating. But I DO hate the killing. (Remember that I can’t cut the head off a chicken?)

But between hunts, I’m helping get ready for winter. I cleaned out the chicken coop and put the shavings on the flower beds, am pulling tomato cages and hoses from the big garden, and am splitting cedar kindling for the stoves. Will has been working on logs for the second part of our new hayloft, putting the bulldozer back together, and working out details for the stairway to the new loft. It’ll be much better than a ladder for us “older” folk! We not only plan for today but for ten or twenty years down the line.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning peach pie filling

I canned peach pie filling using a recipe I got off of Canning USA. It called for cornstarch. I heated the peach filling thoroughly and then water bathed them for 30 minutes. They seem to be OK. What do you think?

Can you give us your version of a good, safe canned recipe for peach pie filling?

G. Koskinen
Celina, Texas

We canned peach and other fruit pie filling for years, using cornstarch. Now there’s Clear Jel, a refined cornstarch product that is recommended instead. Plain cornstarch seems to thicken more and there is concern that the center of the jars might not heat thoroughly enough for safe processing. Personally, I wouldn’t toss my pie filling. But I would use Clear Jel in the future…just to be safest. Here is a recipe using Clear Jel, which is available in many health food stores and markets in Amish and Mennonite communities, or sometimes at your local extension office:

6 quarts, sliced, peeled peaches
7 cups sugar
2 cups + 3 Tbsp. Clear Jel
5 1/4 cups cold water
1 3/4 cups bottled lemon juice

For fresh peaches, place 6 cups at a time in a gallon of boiling water and boil for 1 minute to heat thoroughly. Drain and place in covered container to keep warm. Do remaining batches. Combine recipe water, sugar, Clear Jel in large kettle. Bring to a boil and stir until it thickens. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute more, stirring to prevent scorching. Add peaches gently and stir well. Continue to simmer for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Pack immediately into jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time, if necessary. — Jackie

Making a living in a new community

My husband and I are planning on purchasing land and moving to another part of the state where there seems to be a nice self-reliant community. Organic farms, dairies, herb farms, and naturopathic doctors abound. I’m trying to think of a way that I can contribute to that kind of community and hopefully bring in a little extra income. I’ve been thinking about what I’ll do for the past few weeks, and finally I asked myself, what would Jackie Clay do? I know this isn’t exactly your area of expertise, but I wondered, for a self-sufficient woman such as yourself, is there ever a service you wish existed that you would gladly pay for just to make life on your homestead a little easier? Perhaps not now since you’ve got your routines more or less down, but maybe when you first started? Or something that you wish you had time to learn that would save you time and or money on your homestead but you just keep putting off because you’re too busy with all of your responsibilities? I find you to be an extremely reliable and delightful source for information on many things I am up to lately, I thought it couldn’t hurt to see what you had to say about this.

Erika Fey
Milwaukie, Oregon

The one thing I can think of right off the bat is a nice, cheerful, dependable person to help with “grunt work” on the homestead, whether it be fencing, gardening, painting buildings, carpentry, barn cleaning, helping with elder care, etc. Wow, what a bonus. Especially if it was at a reasonable rate. For instance, I had to have help with Mom after she got out of the nursing home after a bout with pneumonia weakened her. We were paying $30 an hour for someone to bathe, dress, and help care for her! (I was kind of “force fed” that service by helpful social workers.) Luckily she got strong enough that the help was no longer needed.

While now I have a helping partner, Will, on the homestead to help with “grunt work” around the place, it would have been nice to have someone come a couple of days a week to help out while things were hectic.

You’ll have to search your talents and likes for things you could offer. Everyone has them and it just takes a little creativity to get going. — Jackie

Making candles

I don’t know if you would think that this falls under the self reliance category or not, but I have a question on candles. Every time I go to make candles in a glass container the middle always sinks in. At first I thought that it was because I was cooling it off too quickly so I tried to cool it down slowly, but still does the same thing. Any advise on this?

Alissa Ray
Morganfield, Kentucky

I used to make candles to sell at art and craft fairs. This dip is called a well and as your candle cools and the well forms, simply reheat wax from the same batch and fill in the well. With less wax that is hot, it will make a nice flat surface. — Jackie

Canning olives

How do you re-can olives? We got a real good deal on some gallon cans, and want to put them in 1/2 pint jars.

Daryl Kaufman
Seymour, Missouri

I got a bunch of #10 cans of sliced black olives given to me by dear friends and I searched for two days to find canning directions! I finally did from the University of California. I canned up a can of them and they turned out great with no softening at all. I drained the olives and brought the brine up to a boil, then packed the olives into hot half pint jars, poured the boiling brine over them and processed them for 90 minutes at 11 pounds pressure. This is for pints or half pints. If you live at an altitude of 1,000 feet or lower, you can use the standard 10 pounds, as I live at 1,500 feet and need to boost my pressure up a bit to compensate for a little higher altitude. — Jackie

Corn relish

I just got the special on your new book with the older Recession-Proof Your Pantry book, and figured I’d start with the older one first. There’s a recipe in there for a corn relish that I can’t wait to try, but our fresh corn is all gone for the season, so I plan to try it with frozen whole kernels from the store. Think it’ll work?

Howard Tuckey
Lisle, New York

Yes, you can certainly make corn relish from frozen corn from the store, but of course it won’t be as good as when you use fresh corn from your garden! Enjoy it. — Jackie

Canning ground meat

I was watching a video on line where a guy canned ground beef/venison. He did a raw pack and processed it for 75 minutes at 10 lb pressure. I decided to try it his way with my venison. I opened a can and it was still reddish on the inside, like it was raw. Is it safe to use or do I have extra dog food?

Thomas Boyd
Mountain City, Tennessee

Canning ground meat this way is not recommended, especially if it is not heated first in open canning jars placed in a roasting pan containing the jars of meat and water to evenly distribute the heat. The meat needs to reach 170 degrees in the center of the jars BEFORE the lids are put on and the jars placed in the pressure canner. While your meat MAY be okay, I, personally, would be leery of it. If you have just canned it, I would open the jars and freeze the meat. (If you freeze it in the jars, the expansion of the jars with only 1″ of headroom, may crack the jars.) The same if you use it for dog food, which would be a shame. Next time, why don’t you lightly brown your meat or make meatballs out of it, then can it in broth. You’ll be much safer and have a nicer end product. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will’s fixing Old Yeller and I’m getting the orchard and garden ready for winter

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Our beloved old 1010 John Deere crawler, nicknamed “Old Yeller,” is finally getting fixed. Because Will knew it would be a rough job, he kind of put it off. Parts were very hard to find because it’s a 1962 machine. We looked and looked, all across the country, only to find them, just this week, less than 100 miles from home! We drove down and two days later, Will has the whole right final drive and clutch pack out of the dozer and is now cleaning everything up and re-assembling things. Wow, what a lot of parts!


Because I’m not much help (usually), I’ve been putting screen around the trunks of all our fruit trees to keep voles, mice, and rabbits from girdling them in the winter. So far I’ve done more than thirty trees. Wow, I didn’t realize we had so many. Not complaining, though.

I also tarped the pile of hay in our new hay loft. Just in case. We’ll be getting more square bales of hay and a few of straw too, but for now, I wanted to be extra careful of our hay; a little moisture and it begins to mold real quick.


And we finished stacking the wood shed part of the storage barn. So far, we have 11 cords of dry, split wood on pallets in there. It looks SO great. We’ve also got two cords in the unheated enclosed porch next to the greenhouse, so we can bring in wood for the stoves, even when it’s night, raining, or snowing and nasty outdoors. What a great feeling!


No, we aren’t ready for winter yet, but we’re getting so much closer to being ready. The big truck’s snowplow is all fixed up and next to the storage building, ready to hook up, and we’ve been moving stuff out of the way in order to plow when we need to. This time of the year you never know when a foot of that white stuff might drop on our parade.

Readers’ Questions:


I am looking for kohlrabi recipes. I never knew they would get so big!

Kathy Vilseck
Coldwater, Mississippi

Neither did I. But then we usually eat them up when they are a lot smaller! I use them for a lot of different recipes. One of my favorites is to slice them raw into sticks and serve them with a dip. We really like them that way — nice and crispy sweet. I steam or boil them diced then serve with a cream or cheese sauce, use them in stews, casseroles, and any other mixed dishes; they fit into everything so nicely. I even grate raw ones into my salad and coleslaw. Such a versatile vegetable! — Jackie

Pantry inventory

I am currently wondering how to catalog all the stored goods in the pantry and root cellar. How do you do this? Do you keep a list of what you put up each year and then cross one off when you use a jar? Or just go take a look on the shelves to see what’s left? Or is there some other way to keep track? If there is a nice, simple way to do this, I’m sure you thought of it long ago. Please tell me your method.

Sandy Stone
Central Minnesota

No, I don’t keep track of things in my pantry. I probably should, but just don’t have the time. What I do is to keep things arranged in sections: beans, carrots, fruits, ham, chicken, etc. Then when I add new stuff, I move the old jars to the side and add the new food to the rear, sliding the older jars to the front to be used first…kind of like a kid’s puzzle. I do the same when I add new dry goods, like flour and sugar to a plastic garbage can they are stored in. That takes a little more work, but I don’t add new bags too often and in that way I keep the new foods down lower, using the older up first.

For my canned goods, I just look on the shelves and mentally keep track of what I have there…especially when I’m planning a garden. That way I am sure to plant plenty of the food I’m running lowest in…say sweet corn, carrots, or rutabagas.

Eventually, I would like to keep a little notebook down there and mark down how many jars of whatever I have, but my life will have to slow down a lot to have that much extra time! — Jackie

Breeding goats

I read your blog about Thor, your Boer buck, and was wondering why you would breed a meat-type goat with a dairy goat? My instincts tell me that there might be a decrease in your milk yields with the offspring as they are no longer pure dairy goats. He is a magnificent looking animal and I hope you have much success. How does one go about determining how to improve a herd?

Deborah Motylnski
Brecksville, Ohio

Although Boers are “meat” goats, I’ve seen many who came from real milkers. My old buck, Rocky, had a mother who I SAW milked and she gave two quarts at an afternoon milking. She also had a great udder…and I used to show dairy goats! The reason I am crossing my dairy goats with Boers (from good milkers) is that many dairy goats have light bone and not a whole lot of body substance. Therefore they don’t make kids with much meat and they don’t seem to have the subsistence to milk and survive for a long time.

I’ve had great success by crossing Boer with my Nubians. I still get the flashy colors, gorgeous ears, and lots of milk. But the resultant offspring have heavy bone and a large barrel (for eating more roughage and turning it into milk), as well as heavier shoulders, neck, and rump, where the meat is if you want to eat your extra wethers.

Rocky is a tall, great looking buck, but a little light in the rear. We bought Thor because he is from good milking lines and has a great, very thick rear and shoulder. He IS shorter than Rocky. So we figure that between the two…breeding Rocky’s daughters with Thor and Thor’s daughter (that we also bought) with Rocky, we just might get great offspring.

To improve your herd, always look at them with an impartial eye. Is your doe’s udder too long and dangly? Does she have weak legs? Could she give more milk than she does or milk strongly for a longer time? Breed your does to a buck who either has the traits your doe lacks or has a mother and female siblings who do. You’ll never get the perfect goat, but the harder you try to breed in better traits, the better your overall herd will be. — Jackie

Canning apple pie filling

I am going to can apple pie like grandma used to do. Since she is passed on, I am not sure of the time to process in the canner. I am thinking 15 min. at 10 pounds. How does that sound?

Viki Mowatt
Everett, Washington

Grandma probably used corn starch or flour to thicken her apple pie filling. Neither is recommended today, as both can make so dense a product that the heat can not reach the center of the jar, making safe processing unsure. Now it is recommended that you use a refined corn starch product, Clear Jel, which is safe to use in canning. To use this as a pie filling, use 1/4 cup Clear Jel to 6 quarts sliced apples, spices, 3/4 cup bottled lemon juice, 5 1/2 cups sugar, 5 cups apple juice, 2 1/2 cups cold water.

Peel the apples, slice them and drop in water containing ascorbic acid (powdered vitamin C) to prevent browning. Place 6 cups at a time in a gallon of boiling water in a large pot. Bring to boiling and boil 1 minute. Drain but cover in a bowl to keep warm. Repeat with other apple slices. Combine sugar, Clear Jel, apple juice, and water in large kettle. Bring to boil and boil until thickens, stirring to keep from scorching. Add lemon juice and boil 1 minute, stirring to keep from scorching. Add drained apple slices and immediately fill hot jars with mixture, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 25 minutes (pints and quarts). If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on adjusting your time, if necessary.)

You’ll like your apple pie filling in a jar. — Jackie

Canning chicken gravy

I made way too much home made chicken gravy. It’s good and I will freeze it if that’s the only thing to do but, I was wondering if canning is an option. The gravy isn’t too thick, just a little flour and a lot of good broth. What do you think?

Liz Davey
Brighton, Michigan

The thickness of a gravy is the key to safe canning. If in doubt, add a little more broth to make it a light gravy, then thicken it upon use. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve had snow and freezing, but harvest continues

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Today I finished up the last minute harvest in our garden. It was windy, wintery, and raw, but I pulled two five-gallon buckets of rutabagas and another one of carrots. That’s it. I’m done. All but putting the garden to bed for winter. If it gets done, this year…


I’m busily cutting old screens I saved from the dump to make protective sleeves for all our fruit trees so the sneaky voles don’t tunnel under the snow this winter and girdle them. It’s pretty disheartening to have the snow go away, only to find chewed, white bare circles around the bark of your treasured fruit trees and knowing that they are dead. And as we have more than 35 fruit trees now, that’s a lot of cutting and tying! I finished the orchard trees and now have to do the dozen plum and cherry trees on the edge of our big garden. Whew! But it’s a good feeling to know that they are safe.

We had a few kohlrabi that didn’t get pulled this summer and they got HUGE. I left them, as I had other things to do. Today I noticed that the huge bulbs had little bumps on the sides; new little kohlrabis! How weird. Leaves and all! We’re going to have them for dinner tomorrow night and I’ll let you know how they tasted.


The pantry looks great with all those potatoes, onions, carrots, and rutabagas, along with all the other great canned food. How comforting!

Readers’ Questions:

Using grey water to water vegetables

If you use the wash water from washing clothes to water turnips, carrots, and spinach, will it make them have a soapy taste?

Becky Mangum
Ethridge, Tennessee

It could. Instead, use grey water to water such crops as tomatoes, peppers, corn, squash, or others that you don’t directly eat from the root. You could eat spinach if it’s not directly watered so the grey water gets on the leaves. You not only have to think about the soapy taste, but possible bacterial contamination. It’s been found that grey water often has traces of E. coli in it and you could become sick from eating salad greens sprayed with your own grey water. — Jackie

Outdoor stove for canning

I am interested in purchasing an outdoor propane stove for canning or possibly cooking in case of an electrical outage. I read with great interest the article in BHM on how to organize an outdoor canning party. However, even after consulting the experts at Penn State recommended in that article, I cannot determine the best outdoor stove to purchase. In the guidelines to the Presto pressure canner, they recommended no more than a 13,000 btu stove, yet other articles suggested nothing short of 35,000 btu’s to get such a large pot boiling and keep it going at the correct temperature. Some articles even say large pots should be positioned between two burners. Though you did not write the article, could you give me some guidelines that I could use when purchasing a propane cooker for outside cooking and pressure canning?

Ann Stoner
Port Matilda, Pennsylvania

Several catalogs carry a very simple L.P. stovetop that is very inexpensive. Among them are Northern Tool and Harbor Freight. Both of these work very well for canning. You don’t have to position the pot over two burners; one is very adequate and they turn up or down just like your kitchen range, making pressure canning very easy. They hook to a larger propane tank, such as a 20#-100# tank so you get by much cheaper and get more uses before you need a refill.

The one thing I don’t like about canning outdoors is that if there is a stiff breeze, it can crack hot canning jars, right out of the canner. I even close my kitchen window near my kitchen table while removing jars from the canner as long ago I lost four quarts to breeze-related cracks while they were just out of the canner. In the old days, we had summer kitchens outside. These were screened shelters with a kitchen range in them, large tables, and sometimes even a sink. We could get together and process lots of food in a short time without heating up the house. But the windows were able to be closed against a breeze from one side or the other so the jars did not crack.

Now, jars will not crack MOST of the time when you are canning outside, but believe me they can. So watch those breezes! Maybe you could set up in the shelter of the side of your garage or house. I’d hate to see anyone lose precious food! — Jackie

Underground root cellar

I want to build an underground root cellar. The only thing that I can find on the subject is having one in your basement. I don’t have one. Do you know of where (or who) can tell me how to make a root cellar. I know that BHM is selling a book on root cellaring but I am not sure that is what I am needing. I am looking forward to my birthday so I can get your new book. I know that I am going to LOVE it!

Alissa Ray
Morganfield, Kentucky

Yes! Buy the book by the Bubels on root cellaring. It’s really good and gives plenty of alternatives to having a root cellar in your basement. It’s a total coverage on the subject and you’ll get plenty of help there. I hope you like the new book. Happy Birthday! — Jackie

Basic canning video

Totally enjoyed the latest video, Jackie! You know maybe in your spare time (hahaha) a video of some basic canning for the newbies to canning! Enjoy your books, have ’em all!

Ginger Cornell
Sweet Home, Oregon

That sounds like a great idea, Ginger. The trouble right now is that in my spare time, I sleep. Maybe on down the line we’ll figure something out if Dave and Annie think it’s a good idea. — Jackie

Waterbath canning

Have read your new book cover-to-cover twice and absolutely love it. In a lot of your canning recipes with high acid foods, you use the water bath method. Exactly what does the water bath canning do? I have canned tomato juice, pickled beets, salsa, peaches, pears among other things very successfully without using the water bath method–just fill the jars with the hot food and let them cool. I make sure the jars and the food are very hot, but I have canned this way for 30 years with complete success, all jars seal, and no spoilage. Of course, I use the pressure canner for green beans, canning whole tomatoes, and a host of other low acid foods. Am I missing something?

Barbara Ford
Mount Washington, Kentucky

The method you use was common in years past. It can certainly work. BUT it has “holes” in it. The food is not heated long enough to kill certain molds, bacteria, and other “spoilers” that could not only spoil the food but make you sick. Just like canning green beans or other foods in a water bath canner, for long periods, can work, but it’s not safe, by far. For some foods, such as jams, jellies, or pickles, using the hot pack method that you use, is safer as there is either a very high acid content…like in the pickles or a high sugar/acid mix as in your jellies and jams. Usually these foods, if not properly sealed, will soften or mold, not make you sick. But for others, using the boiling water bath is much safer. If I didn’t feel it was necessary, I sure wouldn’t do it! — Jackie

Large canner

I’ve been researching and shopping (getting a headstart for Christmas!) for a second canner and I’ve all but decided on an All-American. I’m writing to ask your opinion though on if the All-American 930 that boasts it can hold 14 quarts would be the way to go or to stay with a smaller one that can hold only 7 quarts. I know that I want to have a canner tall enough to stack pints but I hadn’t thought about stacking the quarts. I knew you could lead me in the right direction. Thank you for all that you do!

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

I love my old, clunky, huge canner that holds 16 quarts or 22 pints, but it is terribly heavy, even empty. I use that when I’m canning large amounts and want to finish quickly. But I’m now using my smaller canner more often. I can double deck pints and half pints and I still get a lot done at one time — and the clean-up is easier on my back! It’s totally a personal choice; you spend less time doing a batch of canning, or have a lighter canner to handle that will do a decent batch at one setting. — Jackie

Great advice for self-reliance

Love your column and blog. Based on your advice and the instructions in my Ball Blue book, I started pressure canning and dehydrating this summer. Now as I walk into my kitchen, I see the following: home canned veggie-beef soup simmering on the stove, a loaf of homemade bread, a bar of homemade soup by the sink, a very active sourdough starter on the counter, and surplus apples my hubby brought home from Arkansas in the dehydrator. Thanks for being such an awesome mentor for all of us who hope to be as self-reliant as possible!

Marianne Williams
West Monroe, Louisiana

Such letters keep me writing! I’m so happy that you’re so actively becoming more self-reliant. Keep up the good work. — Jackie

Trimming rabbit teeth

I need your help. We are trying to raise rabbits (for pets), but we are running into trouble with their teeth. Right now our buck has teeth that are about 1 1/2 inches and the tops ones are curling back into his mouth, and the lower ones are just too long. He is having trouble eating and I have to help him get his water daily. What can I do? I’ve tried giving him wild plants to eat, but that didn’t help keep his teeth trimmed. Can we do anything ourselves, or do we need to take him to the vet?

Sheila Devane
Seffner, Florida

Unfortunately, this condition is often hereditary. While you can take him to your vet and have his teeth trimmed/filed, I would not use him for breeding because he will likely pass this genetic defect on to his babies. If you still want to keep this buck for a pet, have his teeth trimmed, then keep some wood in his cage for him to chew on. Rabbits like chewing on such wood as apple, pear, aspen, cottonwood, or young willow. Give him wood that is at least a couple inches in diameter, not little twigs or branches. You want him to wear down his teeth naturally, if possible. This may or may not keep this problem from recurring. — Jackie

Off flavor in boar meat

I was reading about domestic boar pigs and that sometimes their meat has an off flavor etc. How can someone have a breeding program and still use the meat from boars? Also for young male pigs, does castration prevent the off flavors in adult meat?

Todd Goodnight
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Yes. The meat from boar pigs often does have a bad flavor and smell when cooking. What I did when we raised many pigs was to use a young boar to breed my sows, then when they were safely bred, I would castrate him. After feeding him for a few more months, he would be butchered while still weighing about 250-275 pounds. There was never any off taste or odor and the meat was delicious. By using a young boar, he could be castrated when still light enough to be manageable, then butchered at a little above “ideal” weight. It worked well for me

And yes, again. Castrating young boar pigs while they are still on the sow or thereafter, prevents this off taste. — Jackie


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