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!
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?
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?
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!
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!
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
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?
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
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!
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!
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?
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?
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