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Ask Jackie headline

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for August, 2010

Jackie Clay

It’s 10:40 p.m. and we’re still canning!

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Well, harvest is in full swing here. Luckily, all of your prayers are being answered for us, as Will and I continue to get better every day, although both of us are still plenty sore! The tomatoes and corn are doing very well, and we have buckets of tomatoes waiting on the porch. So David and Will volunteered to puree the second batch of 5 gallons of tomatoes. Will washes them in the sink, then pulls off stems and cuts them to go in the tomato strainer. David mans the crank, and out comes the tomato sauce!

This afternoon, I picked a basket of wonderful fat sweet corn while Will held the basket for me. (I still can’t bend over so hot.) Then I sat down in a recliner with two extra cushions behind my sore back and husked away. Out of this batch, I got 10 pints of corn, 5 pint jars, and 10 half-pints, which come in so handy for mixed recipes! No leftovers. With a small refrigerator, I love that!

When I get done blogging, we’ll have the tomato puree in the oven, in a big roasting pan, to gently cook down all night on very low heat. And in the morning, it’ll be ready…or about ready, to put in jars and process. Then we start all over again, with more corn, and more tomatoes! How neat!

AND the carrots are getting real big…so they’ll be next. Wow, we sure love harvest time!

Readers’ Questions:

Growing and canning pumpkins

I am growing pie pumpkins for the first time. Some questions:
1) How to tell when they are ripe?
2) I understand you bake them and then puree into pumpkin pie filling. Your book says not to can puree; to can chunks of pumpkin, instead. Do you bake it and then can the chunks? Your book calls for only heating the chunks and then processing. If I do it that way, do I need to do anything other than pureeing after the jar is opened?

Erica Kardelisk
Helper, Utah

Wait until the leaves have frosted and turned droopy black. Then pick your orange pumpkins and store them in a warm, frost-proof area for several weeks so they continue to mellow. If you use pumpkins too soon, they don’t develop the flavor they will after some storage time. To make a fresh pumpkin pie, you can bake and puree the pumpkin. We used to also do that to can the puree up. It was fast and easy. But now, experts don’t want us to do that, for safety’s sake, as the puree is a very thick, dense product, and it is possible that the center of the puree might not heat sufficiently to process safely, killing harmful bacteria, spores, and toxins possibly present in such a situation. So now we can up the raw chunks, then just open a jar, drain it out, puree the pumpkin chunks (which are now cooked and soft), and proceed with our recipes. — Jackie

Pole beans and using a wringer washer

Looks like your tomatoes went wild this summer. Can’t say the same for mine. My question is about pole beans. We used 3 poles and tied them together. That didn’t work and the first storm they all fell down. My husband then screwed them together and we pounded them into the ground several inches and that helped but now 4 of the 6 have fallen down again. Do you have a suggestion as to how to put up the poles to keep them from falling down? The bean plants have grown up to the top and are very heavy on the poles. Next year I may only grow bush beans as a result.

Thanks for all your advice. I have your canning book and it already has a couple stains on it from use. Hope you recover from your fall quickly. I noticed in your picture that you are using a wringer washer. My mother used one when I was growing up and one time got her arm caught in the wringer. Luckily her arm wasn’t hurt only bruised. What advantage do you find to using one of these machines over an automatic washer?

Ruth Ann Martin
Kalamazoo, Michigan

I use four or five poles for my pole beans, or else drive steel posts into the ground every 8′ or so and fasten either welded stock panels or woven field fencing to them, for the beans to climb on. Neither has ever blown down for me.

I’m glad my book has stains on it! Just yesterday, I was looking through one of Mom’s old cookbooks and saw stains on several of her favorite, much-used recipes. What memories that brought back for me!

I use a wringer washer for several reasons. First of all, it saves me a ton of water, literally! With less than 30 gallons, I can wash and rinse 5-6 loads…and they come cleaner than with an automatic washer. I can also wash dirty clothes longer than in an automatic, with no more fussing than just leaving them to agitate longer. Or take out cleaner, washed items while the rest continue agitating. Plus, that old Maytag brings back plenty of warm memories of Mom and Grandma’s old washers! — Jackie

Growing and preserving garlic

This is the first year I’ve ever grown garlic, and I have a question. The stalks of plant seemed to die back way too early, and so since the stalks were gone now, I dug it yesterday. When I dug them up, I was surprised to find a bunch of loose cloves of garlic, without skins. Like, already peeled garlic. They aren’t in heads (although there were a few heads of garlic, most were loose, skinless cloves). So, I got quite a bit of these loose cloves, probably enough to last me half a year, but, how do I keep them?

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

Your two best bets are to slice and dehydrate your skinless cloves or else freeze them in small batches. If you elect to freeze them, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet to pre-freeze them. Then package them in freezer containers. That way, they won’t clump together and when you want to use only a clove or two, you have them right there, easy to use. Dehydrated garlic is great! I slice the cloves in half (unless they’re very large), then dry them. After they’re dehydrated, I often whiz them in the blender to make coarse garlic powder. It’s amazing at how many uses I find for it!

Garlic does best planted in the fall, so you might want to plant a row or bed soon, for harvest next year. You’ll find that you’ll have more heads of garlic, not loose cloves. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Take time to smell the flowers

Thursday, August 19th, 2010

We’ve been so hugely busy lately, especially with our fall from the roof, that it’s unbelievable! But between canning green beans, lying down to rest, canning tomato sauce, writing, etc., today I finally took time to walk through our front yard and smell the flowers! How gorgeous they all are right now! The lilies are in full bloom (and full scent), the purple coneflowers are huge, morning glories and clematis climbing wildly everywhere. We’re really enjoying our flower-walks in the morning!

Readers’ Questions:

Growing good tomatoes

WOW, your tomatoes look superb!! Did you have the heavy amounts of rain and humidity that we had in Central Wisconsin? My plants for the most part look icky. Too much rain. So how did you get your tomatoes to do that in a rainy year?

What can I do to improve my chances of good tomatoes for next year? Should I put a cover crop on the soil? I use lots of chicken manure mixed in with bedding. Did you cover the ground under your plants so the plant doesn’t touch the ground?

I appreciate any advice you may give to improve the tomato situation. I am not the only one around here with problems either. For miles around here people are complaining their tomatoes are poor or non-existent.

Thanks so much for any advice! I am glad you are doing much better. I thank God you and Will didn’t break your necks!

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

You aren’t alone with the flooded, crappy garden. All over the country, folks with gardens that aren’t perfectly drained are complaining of poor yields and non-existent crops. Tilling in well-rotted compost is ALWAYS a good idea and can help with drainage. But don’t put in too much manure or you’ll get huge plants and little fruit. Our tomatoes and other crops did so well because we’re on a huge gravel ridge, with better than perfect drainage. Of course, we’ve worked in lots of rotted manure and other organic material through the few years we’ve been here, so the soil is now a nice gravelly loam. I usually mulch my tomato plants, but we got behind this year, with so much to do that we didn’t get her done. Oh well…Next year…

You’re right! We’re very thankful we DIDN’T break our necks…or worse. We both narrowly missed a metal garbage can and a pine tree trunk about 4″ thick! — Jackie

Canning pickles

Reading you has inspired me in so many ways, and I am gradually learning self-sufficiency techniques. I think I’m doing pretty well, but I’ve hit a snag.

I followed an old recipe that was my great grandmother’s…spicy pickles. My first ever canning! They tasted great fresh, but I canned them according to her method, which I’ve since read isn’t safe.

According to her instructions, I poured boiling hot pickling brine over cukes cut and packed into boiled jars, then lidded them, flipped them upside down and left them ’til morning.

When the jars were cool, I checked them, and the ones that didn’t seal we refrigerated and ate, but most of the jars sealed. I took off the rings and picked the jars up by their lids to check the seal.

My sons had been eating those pickles, but I’ve recently read that they could be tainted, and I stopped them. Should I toss the remaining pickles? Or can I re-can them, with new lids and a water bath?

Kate Bastedo
Lawrenceville, Georgia

The main reason we water bath our pickles is to ensure the seal…something that inverting the jars didn’t do a real good job with. It seems like a few always didn’t seal. If your jars are sealed, I wouldn’t be afraid to eat them, but of course I can’t tell you to eat them, for fear of liability! — Jackie

Germinating elderberry seeds

Do elderberry seeds have to go through a bird to germinate? My mom says some seeds have to go through a bird.

Ed Taylor
Fieldon, Illinois

No, they don’t have to go through a bird, although that’s how many wild elderberry bushes got their start. They DO need to be cold stratified. That just means that they have to undergo a period of chill before they’ll germinate. If you plant a patch of seeds now, they won’t come up until spring. Then you can transplant them, as you wish. — Jackie

Waterbath spaghetti sauce

Can you water bath spaghetti sauce (no meat) but has mushrooms in it (the store bought/canned type)? I made lots, added about one tablespoon of lemon juice to it, and water bathed it for 40 min. but someone said I should have pressure cooked it.

Meredith Wendt
Rockford, Illinois

Most recipes for meatless spaghetti sauce, including those with onion, peppers, and/or mushrooms, can safely be water bath processed. Don’t try it with meat, however! And do be sure your tomatoes are an acid variety or add 2 Tbsp lemon juice to each quart of sauce…just to be safest. — Jackie

Refrigerator pickle

Can I make a simple “hot mix” by placing sliced peppers, carrots, celery, etc. in a jar and cover with apple cider vinegar? For fridge only, not for pantry.

David Keefer
Willard, Ohio

Yes, you can. Just make sure it stays covered with vinegar in the fridge. This is one form of refrigerator pickle. — Jackie

Using tins to store dry goods

First of all, Jackie, I’m sorry about the accident and I hope you heal up quick! That has to be painful!

In the latest issue of BHM, in the article about pantries, you mention using tins (what I call popcorn tins) to store dry goods. Do you line these tins with something before putting in your dry goods? I realize they are pretty well rodent proof, but I’m concerned about rust.


Thanks for your concern! Yes, we’re healing…although much slower than we’d like, of course.

No, I don’t line my popcorn tins. I don’t use any rusty ones for food storage, and some of mine are over 19 years old and are still in fine shape. I have absolutely no complaints about using them. — Jackie

Overwintering rosemary

I live in NW Illinois, zone 5. What would be the best way to overwinter my newly planted (this Spring) Rosemary plant? Wish I would have planted two then I could try one outside and one in.

Orion, Illinois

After the weather turns cold and your rosemary goes dormant, what I’d do is to turn a flower pot/landscape pot over, upside down, to protect your plant. Anchor it with a couple of rocks, then gently heap up some mulch, such as straw, around the pot. It should winter fine. In the spring, be sure to uncover the plant fairly early, so it can re-adjust to the weather normally. — Jackie

Spiced crabapples

I made the spiced crabapples from your book. (LOVE THE BOOK). I had more crabapples than liquid so I just put them in a jar and lid and put in the frig. Can I make a small amount of the liquid (I figure 1 cup of vinegar to 1 1/8 cup of sugar) for the one jar and either refrigerate or can with something else?

Kathy Vilseck
Coldwater, Mississippi

Yes! You can certainly do that! All too often, our produce doesn’t fit the “normal” size, juiciness, etc., so we end up with more fruit or syrup. So to make it match up, just make up another partial batch of syrup, add the apples, bring to “hot” and pack the apples, then ladle your hot syrup over the apples. You’re in business! Process as normal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re still hurting, but getting back to doing

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

Will and I are still much feeling the effects of our fall off the roof, but we’re keeping on plugging along. Today, I’m washing clothes. As it’s raining, I’m cheating and using our propane dryer; don’t think I could handle hanging clothes yet — too much bending and straightening up. But soon, I hope. The clothes just smell so much better when I hang them on our lines outdoors.

The tomatoes are ripening very quickly, so tomorrow we plan on making a big batch of spaghetti sauce. I can’t wait. Luckily, Will is going to turn the tomato strainer crank for me. We can well together!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning peaches

I am canning peaches. When I put them in the canner the quart jars looked full. When I took them out they were 2/3 to 3/4 full. Apparently the juice inside leaked out during the water bath canning. Am I filling my jars too full or is it something else? How do I correct this? I don’t know about the area you live in but in Southern Michigan peaches are very expensive this year due to the spring freeze. I told my husband good reason to plant some trees. Would you recommend the semi dwarf trees or the standard?

Ruth Ann Martin
Kalamazoo, Michigan

I’d guess you are filling your jars too full. I’m guilty of that one, especially when I have a lot to do in a hurry. Your peaches will be fine, as long as the jars are sealed because peaches have plenty of syrup in the jars, even when some has blown out.

As peaches are normally semi-dwarf in size, I’d go ahead and plant standard varieties, as the rootstock is often quite a bit hardier and less prone to wind-blown damage. — Jackie

Blood in goat milk

My problem is a goat who first time kidded 3 months ago, she had twins 7 hours apart, second kid was dead. She refused to nurse the kid which was okay since we would milk her and bottle feed the kid. There is blood in the milk on one side. Vet says she does not have mastitis. The milk does not taste bad. She gets milked twice daily. Is this something I should give up on? We have 4 other hand milked goats that give great milk.

Sandie aka exasperated
Cocoa, Florida

Did your vet check the milk with a mastitis test kit? Some vets don’t consider an animal having “mastitis” unless the milk is chunky like pieces of cottage cheese, or stringy. And if he didn’t test it, there’s no real way, other than guessing, to tell. Pick up a California Mastitis Test kit at your local farm store and test her milk. If it’s okay, she might just have a tiny broken blood vessel, like when you have blood in your mucus when you blow your nose. Then the milk is okay, although I milk into two containers, saving the non-bloody milk to use. A lot of people just use it, but I’m fussy, I guess! Some mastitis cases don’t develop the chunky/stringy milk, but respond well to a course of antibiotics. — Jackie

Canning horseradish

Yesterday I canned 4 lbs. of horseradish. I washed it, I ground it and then canned it in vinegar and a bit of salt. It was soooo potent my eyeballs were on fire. Today we opened a jar and it is absolutely tasteless. The only taste is vinegar! No bite at all, not even a little. What happened?

Karen Chakerian
Breckenridge, Texas

I don’t have a clue! I’ve never had that happen before. I’d wait awhile and taste it again; perhaps it will develop more fire as it mellows in the jars. — Jackie

Canning meat recipes

I just started canning meat and was wondering if I could make up my own recipes or do I need to follow the Ball canning book? I know the times are important but I would like to do my own recipes.

Stephanie Sheriff
Eastanollee, Georgia

If you process your recipes in the method and for the length of time required for any one ingredient (usually meat), it will be fine. Almost all recipes containing meat need to be processed at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes (pts) or 90 minutes (quarts). If you live at an altitude above 1,000, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude if necessary.

You also might take a look at my new canning book for a whole lot more usable recipes than found in many other books, including the Ball Blue Book. — Jackie

Canning peppers

Jackie, It’s funny, I never thought I’d ever really need to ask you a question! Not pride, but I’ve been doing this for a while and never had this happen. I pickled pepperoncinis today and some chili peppers separately. I slit the pepperoncinis a few times and packed them tightly in the jars. Filled with the vinegar mixture and topped them off with some EVOO. After processing the liquid went down at least a cup! First what happened? Secondly, are they ok or do I need to refrigerate and do them over? It’s only 2 qts and they can easily be stored in the frig…but what went wrong? Did the peppers soak up the vinegar mixture? Thanks. I’ve also been enjoying your new book!

Diane Coe
Glenwood, Maryland

Probably, the closely packed peppers filled some spaces that the vinegar needed to boil in, and thus, the vinegar solution boiled out of the jars near the end of the processing. I would probably open the jars, add more vinegar, then refrigerate them. Sometimes, dry peppers, such as these, can turn an ugly color, when left out of the vinegar. — Jackie

Pomegranate hot pepper jelly

I have been trying to find a pomegranate hot pepper jelly recipe, to no avail. So I thought I could just make a pomegranate jelly and put one or two hot peppers in. The recipe I would use is 4 cups of pomegranate juice, 7 1/2 c. of sugar, juice of 2 lemons and 1 box of pectin. Then I would add 1 or 2 chopped hot peppers to this recipe. Would this work? I am only in my 2nd year of doing this and I feel I don’t know a thing!

Bea Ward
St. Paris, Ohio

Yes, you can. I added chopped jalapeno peppers to my pin cherry jelly, boiling the peppers in the juice, then straining them out when tender. It added a great, spicy, sweet taste to a couple of batches of my cherry jelly that we love! — Jackie

Canning Hungarian goulash

I just read your recipe for Hungarian goulash. It sounds good but do you have to remove the vegetables? I can understand the bay leaf but why the vegetables?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

You remove the bay leaf and discard it. Then you dip out the vegetables to pack into your jars. Ladle the “juice”/sauce over the vegetables to cover them. It’s easier this way than trying to dip out vegetables with the sauce, in order to get a more uniform end product. Sorry if this was confusing to you. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Can you find Jackie?

Monday, August 16th, 2010


With the heat and rain, our tomatoes have run amok. Although I put the rows four feet apart, staking and caging the plants, you can hardly fish your way though the plants. Yesterday, I canned 8 pints of tomato sauce, and there’s probably another 10 gallons of tomatoes ready to do it again!

And the day before yesterday, two friends, Dianne and Jeri, came over to help me cut up green beans. From three rows, Will picked five huge baskets full of beans! While we cut, Will picked, and we got 28 pints done, plus I sent each of my friends home with a basket full, making 13 pints for each of them! It was a long afternoon, but we had fun and it felt good, getting back into the swing of things. My body still hurts all over. And so does Will’s, but we’re hanging in there and waiting for less pain in the (near, I hope) future!

Readers’ Questions:


I started subscribing to BHM this year and have bought several anthologies. I can’t believe I’ve lived this long without you guys. It’s great to read and learn from other people who think the same way you do. I have two questions, one that is serious and one that is not. Are buckeyes good for anything? (The nuts not the people from Ohio.) And is it possible to homestead in Illinois? When I think of homesteading I think of remote places like Montana, Alaska, etc.

Kankakee, Illinois

If buckeyes are good for anything, it’s chucking at the squirrels in the walnut trees. (Anyone have a better use?) You can homestead ANYWHERE you want. A lot of folks think you can only homestead in remote, difficult places. But in reality, very few people actually succeed in them for those very reasons! I’ve met a lot of very self-reliant folks, living on an acre or two, in relatively urban places. Of course, I, personally, feel the “need” for more land (to do more things!) and to hear the cry of nature. But it’s amazing at what you can do when you put your mind to it…no matter where you homestead!

One thought — if you plan on building your own place, you’d best check out building regulations/codes in any area you plan on homesteading. Some locations have so many rules, it makes doing it yourself very difficult…and expensive! All the best of luck and welcome to the family! — Jackie

Processing time for pickle recipe

I have been trying to find a recipe for Giardiniera to can. I found the following one, and it does not list the time to process. Can I just process it like another vegetable pickle recipe? Thanks! Maybe you would include a recipe in your next cookbook hint hint.

Italian Giardiniera

1 large head of cauliflower, separated into small florets
6 large carrots, peeled and cut into coins
4 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into 3/4 inch chunks
1 cup pearl or button onions, peeled and left whole
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced into thin strips (use more if more heat is desired)
1 cup chopped green pimento olives (optional)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
8 bay leaves (1 per jar)
2 quarts white vinegar
1 cup salt

Combine all vegetables (except for olives) in a large bowl with salt. Cover with water and refrigerate overnight. After soaking overnight, drain the vegetables and rinse lightly with fresh water.

Heat vinegar, garlic, and all herbs and spices together in a large stockpot until boiling. Turn off heat and add vegetables, stirring thoroughly. Set aside for 15 minutes. In the meantime, sterilize 8-12 pint jars in boiling water or in the oven on 250 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Pour hot giardiniera into jars, leaving a half-inch headspace. Make sure that some of the spices get into each jar along with one bay leaf. Secure lids and can using the water bath method.

Natalie Dimitruck
Los Alamos, New Mexico

I’ve made a very similar pickle, though in the final directions, I pour the drained vegetables into the pickling solution and bring just to a boil, then pack into hot jars.

Note: it is not recommended to heat/sterilize your jars in the oven, although many people do. They can break from dry heat, I’m told.

You would process your pickle for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions for increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Squash vines dying

It has been very hot here this summer and my winter squash vines are dying fast even though I water them. The squash are not ripe, how do I get them ripe after the vines die?

Charles Britton
SouthWest City, Missouri

Once the vines completely die, you won’t ripen your squash further. Keep watering and hope that the vines will pump out enough nutrients to ripen the squash, even though the leaves are drying up. — Jackie

Rose hip jam and syrup

I have a couple of recipes for making rose hip jam and syrup. Can I can these using the water bath method? If so how long? The syrup includes the watery mush of the hip and honey. The jam is 2 c. of pulp, 1 c. sugar and 1 tsp. lemon juice.

Bea Ward
St. Paris, Ohio

Generally, you can water bath process all fruit syrups and jams/jellies to ensure a good seal. You would process for 15 minutes. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions for increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary.) As neither of these recipes is a “tested” one, I can’t recommend you canning them, but, personally, I wouldn’t be afraid to do either. — Jackie

Canning pickles with hot peppers

Jackie, My brother and I have been canning pickles from our homegrown cucumbers like mad the past few weeks. We decided we wanted to utilize an abundance of cayenne and jalapeno peppers. We pureed 17 large jalapenos and 10 large cayennes in vinegar and substituted this liquid for one-half of the water in a bread & butter recipe as well as a polish dill recipe. We wanted HOT, expected HOT and received superb quality pickles but very little heat. We only made a small batch (7 pints of each recipe) to test our heat…..What did I do wrong? What do you recommend for MORE HOT and still maintain a quality pickle. This is our first year at homecanning….so far pickles, beans, potatoes, peach and plum jelly and preserves adorn our pantry. Thanks for all you do and the information that you so willingly share with all your readers.

Kevin Davis
Elk City, Oklahoma

What I do to increase the heat in pickles is to slice up very hot peppers in place of some of the cukes or green/red sweet peppers in a pickle recipe. I’ve never had wimpy hot pickles yet. You might try this. Don’t remove the seeds, as a lot of the heat is in them. I’m always nervous replacing a vegetable (pepper) puree for part of the water in a recipe; the sliced peppers pickle safer. — Jackie

Growing and Canning Your Own Food

After reading the last “Ask Jackie” I made the correction to the Amish Relish recipe. Was hoping, for those of us who have already purchased your canning book, if you would pass along the other corrections so we can update our canning book. Thanks so much for taking your time to pass along your knowledge.

Betty Anderson
Berryville, Arkansas

The corrections we’ve found so far, but for the alphabetized index and yields of each recipe readers want, the errors are: The Amish Relish recipe needs 3 pts. of vinegar. The salt listed for the mustard bean pickles is only the salt added to the water in which the beans are simmered to become tender. It is drained off with the water prior to pickling. Also on pg. 150, you might like to add “pour boiling water over peppers, leaving 1 inch of headspace”. Other than this, I can’t think of any boo-boos. — Jackie

No-sugar jellies

My question is related to the fact my husband is a diabetic and I want to prepare jellies, preserves and other sweet things using Splenda. Can I do this? If so what is the shelf life?

Resa Sharit
Gardendale, Alabama

Better yet, use low-sugar or no-sugar powdered pectin products, such as No-sugar/low sugar Sure-Jell or Pomona’s Universal Pectin. This doesn’t affect the shelf life, when water bath processed properly. Welcome to the family! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

One of the nine baby turkeys went missing!

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

Will went out to do chores this morning and counted baby turkeys. There were only eight! We’ve been seeing mama fox and her half-grown babies quite near the buildings, so we just assumed that finally she’d gotten brave and snatched one of the babies, who are now ranging all over, even though we clipped the mother turkey’s wings so she can’t fly over the fence anymore.

All day we were going about with a drooping lower lip. Will and David caught the turkeys and put them into the little chicken coop so “the fox” wouldn’t get them all. (It’s interesting to note that the little turkeys fly over a 6′ fence now! Talk about self-reliant buggers!)

Well at chores tonight Will kept hearing a peeping from around the chicken coop fence. But it sounded like a turkey poult. He looked and looked and couldn’t find the source. Finally, it dawned on him; the chipper sat there with the bin open to the top. And way down inside was the turkey baby! Evidently, it had flown over the 6′ high chicken pen fence and landed in the bin, falling to the bottom. We were VERY happy to see him, and I think he was glad to be rescued and put with his mother.

So we are all happy tonight and the fox family is back in good graces again.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning tomatoes with blight

With all the rain we have had this summer our tomatoes have blight. Researching on line indicates we shouldn’t can them after cutting off the bad spots but can you cut off the bad spots and make spaghetti sauce or something else and freeze it or should we just let them go?

Charles Wiedmaier
Mondovi, Wisconsin

I just cut the bad spots off and can ’em. I know some of the canning books say “only sound fruit,” but that’s kind of protecting dummies from canning rotten fruit, I think. I won’t tell YOU to cut off your bad spots, but only that that is what I do. — Jackie

Canning corned beef

Is it possible to can corned beef that I get from the deli rather than making it from scratch and canning it? Would I just heat the corned beef up in water after I chunk it and then finish the process in a pressure canner?

Nita Holstine
Hawley, Texas

Yes. I would make my chunks an inch thick, as thicker chunks might possibly not heat thoroughly into the center. Pack your jars with your chunks, leaving 1″ of headspace, then pour in the water you boiled it in, leaving 1″ of headspace. It will finish “cooking” in the canner. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Canning previously frozen beans

I was wondering if I could can green beans previously frozen. I had a bunch of beans and a short amount of time so just blanched them and froze them. I would now like to get them out of the freezer so wondered if I could can them? Pressure of course. Frozen or thawed/cooked?

Katherine Jordahl
Fergus Falls, Minnesota

Yes, you can home can frozen green beans. Thaw them out, bring them to boiling, then ladle in your jars, as if they were fresh and process for the same time and pressure as if they were fresh. — Jackie

Tomato juice canning tip

Tip for making pizza or spaghetti sauce: For thicker tomato juice before cooking down, put juice in blender, blend very well, let juice set for 20 minutes or as long as possible (overnight in fridge). Set pot on corner of something to let water collect at the low point. Use turkey baster to suck water from bottom of pot. Use a fine screen pot skimmer (pampered chef makes one that is perfect) to skim thicker juice from top into another pot, do not stir. If you do NOT use the blender, the water rises to the top. If you use the blender, the water goes to the bottom and releases 2 or 3 times more water.

Hard water stains on canning jars, add 1/4 cup vinegar in canning water during processing, jars come out cleaner plus pressure canner or waterbath canner is cleaner also.

Michael Armstrong
Little Hocking, Ohio

Thanks for the tips Michael. I use the vinegar in my canners, as we do have hard water too. — Jackie

Heating canned meats before serving

How long should you heat your canned meats before serving?

Betty Anderson
Berryville, Arkansas

You should heat all low acid foods, including meat, to boiling temperature, for 10-15 minutes before eating. This may be boiling, baking, roasting, or whatever method you choose to make them safe, should there be any possible bacterial contamination. — Jackie

Planting cole crops

Thank you so much for the answer to the reader whose broccoli was not producing. Mine wasn’t either. When I pulled up the short, dying plant the roots were still square from the container. After pulling them all up the only semi-decent root ball was from the one which was crushed soon after planting. I also pulled up the non-growing chard which was also root bound. I’ll try planting some seeds to see what happens.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

This happens a lot. It’s best to grow your own plants, planting the seeds of cole crops only a month before you want them in the garden. That way, they don’t get root bound. The ones in the stores are often way older than that. They look great in the nursery, but just don’t produce. On the homestead, production is our top priority. If you do plant “store” plants, buy ’em early, buy small, vigorous ones and “squish” the root ball to separate the roots before planting. — Jackie

Saving bean seeds

First of all, we’d like to thank you very much for suggesting Kentucky Wonder beans when we asked! They are doing amazing! The question we have relates to them in that we’d like to try to save some seeds (they are heirloom and organic) but we’ve never done that and aren’t sure what to do.

Tracy & Bill
Kenmore, New York

I’m glad you like Kentucky Wonders. They are a valued heirloom for good reason! They are easy to save seeds from. Simply let a portion of your row of beans “go”; don’t pick any more beans from them. The beans in the pods will soon get fat, then the pods will begin to dry. When the pods get very dry and tan, the seeds will be mature. Open a couple pods to make sure the seeds are, indeed, dry. If not, let them go awhile longer. Then just pick the pods and thrash out the bean seeds. I’d let them dry awhile longer on a pan in a dry location, then store them in an airtight container. You will have now completed the circle. Your next year’s bean seeds are right in your hand! — Jackie

Storing acorn squash

How do we store acorn squash?

Rat Jenkins
Coal City, Illinois

Of nearly all winter squash, acorn squash is the shortest storage squash. Squash likes to be stored at cool room temperature; it lasts for a shorter time in a cold root cellar. You can expect acorn squash to last until early-mid winter if you’re lucky. When you pick it, pick it with the stems on, and only store the ripe, unblemished fruit. You might consider trying a longer storing squash next year, such as Hubbard, Hopi Pale Grey, or Kubocha. Even Atlantic Giant pumpkins store a long time. For an experiment I kept one we raised last year, and it is STILL rock hard, laying on the floor of our addition! Wow! — Jackie

Storing honey

Is there anyway to can or preserve honey for long term storage?

John Bull
Everett, Washington

Luckily, honey is a near perfect food. It will remain good for decades with no special treatment. If you pour hot, liquid honey into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ of room at the top of the jar, then wipe the rim off and put a lid and ring on it, This honey will store for a long, long time. If it should get solid, due to cold, simply warm up a jar when you want to use it. It will re-liquefy and be ready to eat. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Yep, we’re getting over our fall

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

Well, after quite a scare, Will and I are sore, stiff, and slow, but on the mend. Two days ago Will baled and help stack 634 bales of hay. Luckily, David and his girlfriend’s family were on hand to help stack on the wagon and in the barn. Will’s plenty sore today, and so am I. But our fall could have been a whole lot worse and we’re grateful it wasn’t. We hurt, but that’ll pass with time. Thank you so much, my Backwoods Home Family, for all your prayers and good wishes for the both of us.

Yes, we’re taking it “easy,” but still doing. If you don’t, you don’t heal very fast. I’ve learned that from many past experiences. Right now, my “doing” is baby steps, but I’m confident I’ll take bigger ones as I heal up. I’ll do my blog questions tomorrow evening and try to get caught up!

Jackie Clay


Friday, August 6th, 2010

Dave posted an update from Jackie on the Behind the Scenes of Backwoods Home Magazine blog. — Lisa, Editorial Coordinator

Jackie Clay

Mishaps in roofing

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

As you may have noticed Jackie has not blogged this week. While working on the roof of the storage building Jackie and Will both fell off. Will is banged up and bruised and Jackie broke her sternum and has a few other minor injuries.

Will called us here at the BHM office on Tuesday to let us know about the situation and said Jackie would most likely be released from the hospital Wednesday or Thursday. She will be back to blogging as soon as she feels up to it. However, it may be up to Will to get the canning done this year while she sits and gives him instructions. He will be learning a lot this year!

All of the Backwoods Home family of readers and friends wish her a speedy recovery. — Lisa, Editorial Coordinator


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