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Archive for September, 2010

Jackie Clay

Indian Summer has come; we’re feeling great and getting a lot done

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

Slowly, slowly, Will and I are feeling better and doing more every day. Besides the “getting ready for winter” stuff, (canning, and building projects), I took time to get the log siding on the new addition stained. It took awhile before I could stand on a step ladder to do the soffit and higher logs! But it’s done, a little at a time as I could, and I think it looks great. I’ve still got to go back and add caulking here and there around windows and between horizontal and vertical logs, but that’ll be child’s play after the rest. We didn’t have enough cash to do the whole addition or the south side of the greenhouse, but oh well, that’ll have to wait till next spring. It feels so good to be DOING again!

Saturday and Sunday, Will and David put the rest of the sheet metal roofing on the storage building. I wanted to help, but was forcibly evicted from the scaffold. So much for women’s lib… (Well, I wasn’t exactly “forcibly evicted,” but it felt like it!) It’s done now, and the woodshed and workshop parts will no longer rain inside! Today, Will’s putting on the finishing trim.

Readers’ Questions:

Caramel apples

As Halloween nears I’m hoping to bring caramel apples to our local farmers market fall celebration do you have a recipe for caramel and the method used to make these treats?

Arnold Barrie
Chicago, Illinois

Here’s a recipe for you. You can also just melt store bought caramels, although it’s nicer to make them from scratch.


Use the caramel in any recipe that needs melted caramels, also for ice cream topping.

6 apples, remove stems
1 c. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter
3/4 c. white corn syrup
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla

Wash and dry thoroughly each apple. Insert stick into stem end of apples. Combine sugar, syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and salt in a heavy saucepan. Mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to 230 degrees F on your candy thermometer, or until small amount dropped in cold water forms a soft ball (cook about 30 minutes). Remove from stove; cool slightly. Stir in butter and vanilla. Quickly dip apples in caramel. Coat well. Place apples with skewers up on a buttered piece of wax paper until caramel hardens.

Variation: You can roll caramel coated apples in crushed nuts, such as walnuts, pecans, or even peanuts, if you wish. Tip: if you refrigerate your apples, the dip will cling better to them without sliding off. — Jackie

Canning green tomatoes

My husband found a recipe online to can green tomato slices. You cut slices about 1/4″ thick, place in wide mouth jars and cover with boiling water. Process for 10 minutes in water bath. Use as you usually would for cooking. What do you think? We don’t really like piccalily or chow chow and need to use up our over abundance of green tomatoes.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Sorry, but I can’t see where canning slices green and only processing them for 10 minutes, where red, ripe tomatoes need to be processed for 45 minutes, would be safe. How about making some green tomato mincemeat? Or make apple pies from your little hard green tomatoes. It’s REAL good and nobody can tell it from “real” apple pie! You just treat the tomatoes like apples and make your apple pie as usual. Or dilled green tomatoes (taste like dill pickles, but are round). You can just pick your larger green tomatoes and bring them into the house in ice cream pails or baskets, and they’ll go ahead and ripen right up in a few days. We did that several times this fall, and I’m still canning tomato products like mad: barbecue sauces, spaghetti sauces, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, hot and mild salsa, chili, and chunky tomato sauce…not to mention plain canned tomatoes! — Jackie

Copper penny salad

Do you have a recipe for copper penny salad? And also can you stack your jars on top of each other in the pantry?

Robin Putman
Coolville, Ohio

Here’s a recipe for you:

2 lbs. carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp. salt
1 lg. onion
1 lg. green pepper, sliced
1 can tomato soup
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 c. sugar

Boil carrots in salted water 4 minutes until not quite done. Drain carrots. Add onions and green peppers. Heat soup, oil, vinegar, and sugar until it boils. Pour over vegetables and stir lightly. Makes about 4 cups. It will keep refrigerated for 4 weeks and is nice to have ready to serve anytime.

While you aren’t supposed to stack jars on top of each other in the pantry, I’ve done it for years, for lack of space, and have never had a problem with the bottom jars coming unsealed. I only stack them 2 high, and usually lay a piece of cardboard over the bottom jars to more evenly distribute the weight of the top jars on the jar rims. And I try to only put pint or half pint jars on the top layer. You may have an occasional jar’s seal fail, but, again, I never have had that problem. — Jackie

Crossing a Nubian buck

You mentioned crossing a Nubian buck with your 15/16 Boer does. If you do this, then what will the percentage of the offspring be? Would they be greater than half Nubian? I figure they would be 17/32 Nubian but don’t know if I am figuring correctly. What is your end goal? How many generations does it take to get the mix of genetics you want in your livestock? Maybe someone will be kind enough to bring the Nubian buck to you for the chance of meeting Jackie Clay. I know I would. Good luck.

Deb Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

Yes, they would be 17/32 Nubian. Our end goal is to have a terrific LARGE, yet heavy bodied and boned dual purpose homestead goat. We want to keep our gallon milkers, yet have wethers that weigh between 70-90 pounds at three months of age. This year, our 90 day kids, both doelings and bucklings, weighed in at from 60-70 pounds. Not bad. Heavier boned, thicker bodied milking does stay in the milking line longer than do dainty, fine boned, smaller bodied does, too.

We did have luck in finding a nice lady, Carol Miller, down in Staples, MN, who has a buckling. So on Wednesday, we plan on driving down 169 miles to pick him up. It was a real wrestle, finding a good spotted, large-bodied Nubian buck from good milking bloodlines, (I sell spotted kids much faster than “plain” colors!) — Jackie

Magic Button canning lids

Just found a bunch of Magic Button canning lids and heavy duty plastic rings at a thrift store. They are brand new in the box with plastic wrap over them. I have been canning for about 8 years now and have never heard of these. Are they okay to use? Don’t want to pass up a bargain!

Jared Hamilton
Buffalo, Illinois

Magic Button lids were made by Kerr, and were among the first to have the dimple in the center to indicate a good seal. My only concern is that the “rubber” compound on the lids may be hard and not seal well. But I’ve used many old lids, only simmering them for a few minutes to make sure the compound softened before use. I would probably give them a try, a few at a time, so if they don’t seal you won’t be too disappointed. My guess is that they’ll do fine, regardless of what new “common” expert knowledge advises today. — Jackie

Canning wild rice

We live here in Cook County and at our Co-op can get real wild rice–not the paddy grown stuff. I’m wondering if you’ve ever canned wild rice or any kind of rice. Would you cook it first or put it in raw and let it cook as it processed? I was in a pinch and didn’t have time to cook wild rice for a recipe so I bought a can of already cooked stuff. OUCH! It was over $3 for the can.

Laurie Hill
Grand Marais, Minnesota

I have canned rice and wild rice, mixed with broth or tomato sauce. I don’t think it would be wise to can rice alone, as it makes a very dense product where the necessary heat might not penetrate the center of the jar, making it unsafe processing. I often can wild rice in chicken or beef broth, and it results in a very nice product. To do this, just heat your seasoned broth to boiling and ladle into a quart jar, leaving about 4″ of top space. Put in about 1/4 cup processed, but uncooked wild rice, then fill the jar to within 1 inch of the top, as the rice does expand a lot. Process at 10# pressure for 90 minutes. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions in raising your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. Enjoy your wild rice. We sure do! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re putting the garden to bed for the winter, but we’re still harvesting

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Although we’re hauling compost down to our garden by the tractor load, we’re still busily harvesting. I just finished the Swiss Chard. I plant Bright Lights, just because I love the pretty colors. Of course, when I can it up, it loses the color, but until then, I get to enjoy the brilliance. I just cut the leaves into larger pieces, then chop the tender stems up into one or two-inch long pieces, wilt them in a little water in a huge kettle, then pack them into jars to can. It takes a whole lot of chard to make a few pints of greens, but we like it and would miss it if I didn’t can some up for winter.

I’m also harvesting and canning carrots and rutabagas. When that gets done, there are cabbages to pull and the winter storage carrots and rutabagas to dig. We just finished digging and curing more than 10 five-gallon buckets of potatoes, both russets and Yukon Golds. They are very nice and larger than last year. But then, we planted them in May instead of the first of July!

I’m trying to find a spotted, very sturdy Nubian buck for our herd, which is crossed Nubian/Boer. We’re getting many 15/16 Boer does now and need to cross back to a Nubian. But wow, is it hard to find one to buy within reasonable driving distance. I found a nice one in South Dakota — 8 hours one way from us. But we just can’t be gone that long right now, so we’re keeping on looking.

The sun is shining today and we are making the best of it, cutting firewood and putting the finishing boards on the new training ring. Only 13 to go, when we get a little more cash, and it’s finished! Wow, does it look great. I’ll put it to good use soon.

Readers’ Questions:

Using baking soda in the wash

After a hard day working on the homestead, my clothes are a little sweaty (just a little here in Southeast Texas). We are on well water and after washing, my shirts smell fresh, but when they heat up they smell GROSS. Any tips? (We make our own detergent, but have used store bought also and we have tried a cup of vinegar) Help please.

Kevin Goats
Kountze, Texas

Try adding 1/2 cup of baking soda to your water before you add your detergent, and after you add your clothes. Then add your detergent. That should do the trick. I haven’t found many smells that baking soda won’t kill. Except skunk! Drying them on the clothesline will also do a lot to freshen your laundry. — Jackie

Jerusalem artichokes

I planted some Jerusalem artichokes. All the flower is gone to seed, and the branches look dead. What do I do with them now? I just planted them because my Mother used to and the next time I saw them, they were in a jar and were some good. However, I do not know how to fix them, will you help me, please?

Edwin Long
Plymouth, North Carolina

You’re in for a great treat! First, cut off the stems. Then dig the tubers. Leave the smallest ones to make plants for next year, which they will happily do, unaided. You can scrub the ‘chokes, then eat ’em raw, which we really like, or you can roast them with your roast beef, pork, or chicken, along with onions and carrots. They’re very good that way. Or you can pickle them, which is probably what your mother did. To do that, scrub and rinse the artichokes. Pick out a gallon of the smaller ones (reduce the recipe if you have less ‘chokes). Pack into jars. Make a pickling brine of 8 cups vinegar, 2 1/2 cups sugar, 1 clove garlic, 1 Tbsp turmeric and 3 Tbsp mixed pickling spices (put your pickling spices in a bag). Bring to a boil and simmer 20 minutes. Pour over artichokes, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your time to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Chest freezer storage

There is a large, nonworking chest freezer in the dirt basement of our 100+-year-old house. It seems like we ought to be able to use it for some kind of food storage because it’s dark and mice can’t get in there. Do you know what we could store in there?

Julie Hamilton
Lititz, Pennsylvania

As long as there is no condensation inside the old freezer, you could store bags of flour, sugar, dry beans, etc. in it. As an added precaution, I’d also put the bags in plastic bags — just to be super sure. You could also store your potatoes or apples in it. I’ve done that, with good results. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

With a tractor to help, our compost pile gets serious!

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

From a modest compost pile a few feet high and about 10 feet in diameter, we now have a compost pile thirty feet long and about five feet high…thanks to our wonderful mule, Domino, several goats, and a few calves…plus miscellaneous green stuff from lawn and garden. It got shoved and turned, and now is getting spread out on the garden with our wonderful helper, the Ford 660. Will has been carrying buckets full of rotted compost down onto the fall garden, tucking it to bed under the black gold. We’re being careful where the poop goes, as we don’t want to put too much where the peppers and tomatoes will be next year (we rotate our crops), or they’ll get too much nitrogen and go all to huge plants and no fruits. And potatoes get scab with too much rotted manure. But beans, corn, squash, melons, chard, cabbage, etc. LOVE all that compost. So we pile it on deep for those sections next year. When it’s all hauled, we’ll drag it all nicely level and disc it in.

We’re driving the tractor around the plastic tarps, valiantly trying to save our melons. They are ripening and are SO good we can’t bear to lose them now! Nothing beats icy cold melons, eaten right in the garden with juice pouring down your chin! This is what we garden for!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning vegetable soup

I am preparing to make vegetable soup. A friend told me that I could cook the soup first and then put it hot into the jars and then pressure can it in a very short time. Is this true? I will be using corn in it, too. No meat. Is this safe?

Penny Hughes
Jane Lew, West Virginia

Absolutely NOT. When you can vegetable soup, you must process it for the time required for the longest-processing vegetable — usually corn. Canning cooked soup for a shorter time is gambling with food poisoning. — Jackie

Pickled eggs

Could pickling eggs using city water cause discoloration of the eggs? I kept the eggs in the pickling solution after opening and they turned black.

Joe Spearman
Cameron, Oklahoma

The pickling solution should have been:
1 1/2 quarts white vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp whole allspice
1 Tbsp mixed pickling spices
If you used water in your mix, that may have been your problem. Chemicals in water do cause a lot of different pickling problems, but just cooking the hard-boiled eggs in it shouldn’t matter. — Jackie

Moving asparagus

I’m thinking about moving my asparagus patch and I’m wondering when the best time to move it would be?

Nicole Bramm
Narvon, Pennsylvania

Best to wait until spring to relocate your asparagus. Be sure to mark your plants with small stakes, in case the dried ferns break off and blow away. You want to transplant it before it begins to break dormancy in the spring. That’s before you begin to see shoots coming up out of the soil. Asparagus transplants very easily and takes right off. Remember that it has very long, spready roots. — Jackie

Squirrels eating corn

How do we stop squirrels from eating our corn?

Sue Simpson
Brush Prairie, Washington

Live traps work wonders…eventually. We had trouble with squirrels in our garden, and I set a live trap out. I was catching up to four squirrels a day! Unfortunately, it took 8 trips up and down our mile + long, bumpy driveway, and another 2 miles on a county road to get rid of each catch. But after a week or so, we were squirrel free…relatively. No more damage. I don’t trap squirrels in late spring, when the females might have babies at “home.” But I DO trap any and all males. They eat too! I bait my trap with sunflower seeds, which work well. (You must take your captives at least 2 miles away from home or they’ll come back. And PLEASE don’t release them near human habitation where they could become a problem for neighboring gardeners!) — Jackie

Harvesting onions

The weather over the last two weeks has been warm and wet. My onions weren’t really ready for harvest, but because I knew that the wet weather was coming, I harvested them and hung them in a barn open on one side. Today I decided to cut the tops off and move them to the greenhouse in hopes of more drying time this week. I found gray mold between the layers of the dried skin of the onion. Do you have any suggestions on how to process the onions and keep the mold from appearing again.

Louis Roumagoux
Carlton, Oregon

Usually if you will air dry the onions well, the skins will paper up and the mold will die from lack of moisture. Be sure to hand-rub the loose paper skins off all onions before storage to get rid of any mold still present, so that it won’t rear its ugly head in your cellar. — Jackie

Thin egg shells

I have a small urban flock of five chickens. Four are three years old, one is two. For the last few weeks, our Grand Dame (a Delaware), has been producing fewer eggs, but they are HUGE. A few of the shells have been quite thin, and she’s laid a few in the main run, instead of in the nest boxes. We always keep layer feed and scratch out (free access), and supplement with oyster shells, grit, veggies, fruits, weeds and garden scraps. What should I do? Is it just because she is getting older? Are there specific foods I can supplement with to help her get more calcium?

Dina Kovarik
Seattle, Washington

It’s just an individual “chicken” thing; sometimes metabolism shifts cause a hen to start laying very large, although fewer eggs. To get a thicker shell, you might try adding crushed, dry egg shells to their scratch feed. The chickens like them more than oyster shell, and thus get more calcium; i.e. thicker shells. Another options is to add milk to their mash. I do this in the spring and summer when I have all that extra goat milk or whey. It does seem to keep thicker shells. Your hen is NOT old, as far as homestead production goes. I have several that are 7 years old and still laying well. — Jackie

Canning shredded carrots

Is it possible to pressure can shredded carrots? I use shredded carrots a lot, but of course have always kept them in the freezer. I’ve just harvested our carrots so I’m wondering about this.

Judy Sloan
Spokane, Washington

Yes, you can home can shredded carrots, using the regular directions for pressure canning carrots. The only thing you may not like is that shredded carrots that are canned get very tender and don’t hold their shape as nicely as do the frozen or fresh ones. Otherwise, the taste and color is great. — Jackie

Canning banana peppers

This is my first time at canning. I canned up some hot banana peppers and all went well, but the liquid looks cloudy after cooling. All jars sealed fine. Is this normal?

Elizabeth Carpenter
Nineveh, Indiana

Are these pickled banana peppers? I’m guessing they are. If you followed canning directions correctly, and the jars are sealed, they should be fine. But as with any canning, keep an eye on the jars; they shouldn’t get MORE cloudy. On use, make sure the jars are sealed, then open them and give the food a sniff. If it looks okay and smells okay, with the jars sealed, the food should be fine. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Squash, squash, and more squash…not to mention pumpkins!

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

When the sun was shining, a few days ago, prior to a predicted frosty night, we harvested all of our mature squash and pumpkins. WOW, did we get squash this year, and they were huge! Our main crop of Hopi Pale Grey squash were gigantic, many over 20 pounds and there were plenty of them. We also had Early Butternut, American Tonda, Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato, Mexican Calabeza, Carnival, and Magdalena Big Cheese squash and way up at the berry patch, we had planted Atlantic Giant pumpkins. While they are a C. maxima, like our Hopi Pale Greys, we figure that being way up the hill, through the woods, and more than 700 feet away, they shouldn’t cross.

While David and I harvested the squash in the garden, Will went up to the “pumpkin patch.” A few minutes after we came up the hill with our trailer load of squash, he came down with a HUGE pumpkin on the four wheeler. Now I mean HUGE. He ran in to get the scale and were we surprised when it topped out at more than 93 pounds. Now this is in northern Minnesota, and that pumpkin grew with several on the vine, with no extra care, feedings, or even decent weeding. Just imagine what it would have weighed if we had pampered it! Alternative housing…?

Readers’ Questions:

Freezing eggs

I have chickens and I wanted to know if you could freeze the eggs, and would they be okay for baking?

Robert Davis
Tehachapi, California

Yes, you can freeze eggs. You can either separate yolks and white, freezing a few in separate containers, or freeze the whole eggs out of the shell. When thawed, you can use the eggs for any purpose you’d use fresh eggs, but the whites don’t whip as good of a meringue as I would like. — Jackie

Using whey in canning sauces

I would like to know if I can use whey in canning sauces, like spinach dip.

Roger Berger
West Monroe, New York

You probably shouldn’t can thick sauces, like spinach dip, with or without whey, as they’re too thick to process safely and ones with sour cream will curdle on processing. — Jackie

Canning book and garlic

Not so much a question as a couple of comments. First, my husband ordered your canning book for me for my birthday! I’m 48 years old, and just learned how to use a pressure cooker. Which I would never bother with if I didn’t have a wood cookstove. I love it, and want to do more, so I asked for your book for my birthday. I can’t wait to get it. I’m sure there’ll be so much to learn and try.

Second, I read the question from your recent blog about garlic tops being dead, and the person dug up a bunch of cloves. Garlic should be dug when there are about 3 leaves left still alive, because the number of live leaves coincides with how many papery layers are on the head of garlic when it’s dug. I read that somewhere, it’s not my wisdom. However, I left some in the ground this year until the tops were completely dead, and sure enough, cloves.

Valerie Blackketter
Hesperus, Colorado

Thanks for your comments. I hope you thoroughly enjoy my book. Interesting about the garlic. I usually pull mine when there are still a few leaves and get whole bulbs, not cloves; maybe that’s why! Sounds reasonable. — Jackie

Pressure canning peas and water bathing pickled garlic.

I pressure canned for the first time and canned peas. I cold packed them into hot jars, poured boiling water over them (did not add salt), sealed them with two piece lids and then processed in pressure canner for 60 min. This is the time my manual said for my elevation of 4800 ft. I think it is a typo as everywhere else I see, it says 40 min.

Towards the end of processing, I could smell pea smell from canner. At the end of processing, I let the canner go to what I thought was zero but it actually was slightly above and when I took the weighted gauge off a ton of pressure was released. So of course when I opened the canner, half the liquid was missing from each jar-siphoned out. When the jars cooled, they sealed but no ping sound. A week later, the peas are still sealed but the water is cloudy and getting white stuff in it.

Are they still good? Did I ruin them by opening the weighted gauge too soon?

Also, exactly followed your recipe to pickle garlic. I did it about 2 weeks ago. I was wondering if it is normal to smell garlic from the sealed jars. I have done the seal test and they are all sealed fine. Though they did not ping when I took them out of the water bath canner. The smell does seem to be mellowing a little.

Denise Madsen
Belgrade, Montana

I think what happened is that you “transposed” your increase for your altitude, reading the extra minutes needed for water bath canning, instead of the extra pressure needed for your altitude. You over-processed your peas, but not at enough pressure to make them safe. Sorry, but they’re probably bad. Peas process for 40 minutes at 15 pounds (weighted gauge), or 13 pounds (dial gauge) with your altitude.

As for the garlic. Yes, it’s normal to smell garlic; it’s so strong! As long as the garlic in the jars looks okay and the jars are sealed, it’s fine. I always wash my jars with soapy water after they are sealed, which reduces any stickiness or odors due to liquid seeping/boiling out during processing. — Jackie

Canning soup

I will be canning minestrone, I know that I should leave out the macaroni. If I fully cook the soup can I cut the processing time in half?

Leigh Stewart
Olympia, Washington

NO. That would be dangerous. Cooking does not equal processing time. That is only the time spent under pressure, in your canner. — Jackie

Canning dried beans

Could you please tell me how much less time in canning dried beans it would take to go from 10 lbs pressure to 15 lbs. I cannot find this information any where.

Darlene Strycker
Walkerton, Indiana

You can not increase your canning pressure to decrease the amount of time it takes to process a food. You need to process each food for the recommended time, at the recommended pressure for safe canning. — Jackie

Canning kohlrabi

How do you can Kohlrabi?

Rick Hanson
Plymouth, Maine

Although kohlrabi is not usually canned, it certainly can be. You would can them as though they were rutabagas. Wash and peel the knobs, then dice or slice them, as you wish. Cover with boiling water and boil 3 minutes. Drain, discarding liquid. Pack hot into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp salt to pints and 1 tsp to quarts, if you wish. Pour boiling water over them, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 30 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for instructions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Canning pickled eggs

I used your recipe to can boiled eggs. After the seal was broken, the eggs have turned black. Do you have any answer why they would have done this?

Joe Spearman
Cameron, Oklahoma

Did you keep the eggs in the pickling solution after you opened the jar? If not, they could discolor. Otherwise, I haven’t a clue. They usually turn out perfectly good. Give it another go and see how you do. — Jackie

Canning chicken

How long do 1/2 pints of chicken need to process in the canner? You mentioned using 1/2 pints in your new book but I can’t find processing time anywhere – even online.

Sheryl Hardcastle
Eufaula, Oklahoma

Half pints are processed for the same length of time as pints are. For chicken, that’s 75 minutes. I’ll add that when we reprint the book! — Jackie

Creases on canning lids

I am a first time canner, and have just canned 7 quarts of tomatoes, the lids seemed to have sealed, however on 3 of my jars there is a crease on either side close to the seal itself, I am a bit concerned that I have done something wrong and want to make sure I don’t kill anyone my first time out of the gate. Anyhow I would sure appreciate any information that you might have.

Trint Richins
Roosevelt, Utah

I had this happen with some Kerr brand lids, when pressure canning. The seals were all fine and the food kept perfectly. I’d assume this is something like what happened to your tomato jars. If they are sealed, I wouldn’t worry a bit. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got our first good freeze, and boy are we harvesting!

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Despite falling off our barn roof, we still got a great, productive (although very weedy!) garden this year. Our plants outdid themselves. Before the freeze, we’d already harvested and put up about four bushels of tomatoes. But as soon as we heard it would freeze, we set about picking everything large and ripe left in the garden, to finish ripening in the house. My friend, Jeri’s husband, Jim, came over and helped out. As my back still won’t let me bend to the ground for too long, it really really helped. As you can see from the picture (which is only half of the tomatoes!), we have plenty of canning to do in the days to follow. To top it off, after the freeze, we found and picked another big bunch that were hidden under the plants…as they always are.

So we’re spending nights pureeing tomatoes and days canning up different tomato products. So far, I’ve done spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, chili, and salsa. I still want to do two different barbecue sauces and much more salsa. Wow, is the pantry fattening up nicely!

To top it off, we had to pull the rest of our sweet corn, which I mixed with peas in one batch, carrots another, and potatoes, peas, onions and carrots in yet another, so we not only have canned corn, but yummy mixed vegetables, as well.

And SQUASH! But that’s another blog! See ya soon.

Readers’ Questions:

Introducing new chickens to a flock

I’ve been having problems with chickens and was trying to replace a flock that was ready to retire. So I incubated some eggs and out of 10 I got 2 one of which is blind in one eye, the other looks healthy. In the mean time a friend gave my wife 2 chicks. One died and the other is doing fine. There is an age difference between the one given to us and the ones hatched by about a month. So one is 3 months old and the 2 hatched are about 2 months old. They are actually together and getting along great (all Rhode Island Reds). Too add to the conundrum I purchased some Buff Orpingtons I’ve got them all in a large plastic container separated by fence. Where they can see one another but not get to each other. The problem is getting the RR with the BO together to make one flock. I’ve tried taking what I think is the least dominate bird from the BO and putting it with the RR and the BO is mean to the RR. Which I thought strange because they are supposed to be really docile.

I’m concerned she will kill the youngest. How would you introduce new chickens to a flock or get chickens to accept one another.

James Gilliland
Mansfield, Texas

The most important in introducing new poultry is to make sure that the new birds have enough room to get away from the dominant ones. By having a large enough coop, with a large outside run, you’ll very seldom have any serious pecking. And if you put ALL the chickens at once into a strange place, i.e. their permanent coop/run, the chances of having them peck each other seriously, further is reduced. Then when you do put them out, stand around for awhile to make sure a bossy bird doesn’t get serious about the pecking. Expect some pecking, chasing, and flapping of wings. Birds DO establish a “pecking order,” as do all critters. — Jackie

Gardening at high altitudes

How hard is it to veggi garden at 8000 thousand feet? My wife and I are looking for a homestead in New Mexico and the acreage we like is rather high. I remember you saying you had a place in New Mexico so I thought perhaps you had some insight.

Kenny Linderoth
Buckeye, Arizona

Well, gardening at 8,000 feet IS a challenge. We lived at 7,400 feet in Montana, yet still had a good garden. I used Wallo’ Water plant protectors, then grew tender veggies under row hoop houses to protect them from late and early snows, as well as sneaky frosts. We did have snow one June 27th, but you don’t get that in New Mexico. We were at 6,000 feet and had a great garden, but sure missed GREEN. We had green grass in June, but it quickly turned tan, and remained tan for the rest of the year. As we were on the high plains, we also had only the trees around the house and those we planted. You can certainly high-altitude garden, but you’ll have to really work at it. — Jackie

Leek plants

A friend gave me some leek plants, I am not quite sure what to do with them. Any ideas? Also do you can sugar snap peas, or pea pods? Hope you guys are still mending and are starting to feel better everyday.

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

I’ve really liked slicing my leeks and dehydrating them, much like onions, to add to soups and stews. Or to just plain make leek soup! They’re good that way. I also use them along with corn, peas, and potatoes, in addition to soup and stew vegetable mixtures that I can. It makes a great casserole, soup, or stew mixture, making fast, tasty meals. No, neither snap peas or sugar pod peas can up well; they’re both better used fresh. — Jackie

Canning chicken strips

Can you fry chicken strips and then can them? I have canned chicken for soup recipes but was wondering on the fried chicken. I know that flour is an issue in the canning books that I have.

Becky Campbell
Samantha, Alabama

Yes, you can, but I’ve not been too happy with the result because of the taste and texture. The flour issue is more with gravy, as too much flour thickens the gravy enough that it might not allow the heat to sufficiently penetrate to the center of the jar during processing so that the food maintains a safe heat for processing. A little flour hurts nothing. — Jackie

How much lye?

I was reading your article on making lye soap and thought I would try it. My question is, Lehman’s sells lye in a ten pound container, the article said to use 1 can of lye and 10 cups of fat. Is the one can this ten pounds Lehman’s sells? If not how much is in the one can you spoke of?

Liz Welcher
Indianapolis, Indiana

NO! You don’t use a 10# can of lye, you use the regular Red Devil store can, which is 12 oz. Out of the 10# can, you would use about 1 1/4 cups of lye. You’ll like the results a lot more, and be a lot safer, to boot. That’s a LOT of lye! — Jackie

Drying popcorn

I have grown my own popcorn this year. How long do you need to let it dry before it pops good, and what is the best method to dry it?

Terri Starrett
Dow, Illinois

I let my popcorn dry on the cob, with the husk removed right after harvest to prevent mold. I lay the cobs out in a single layer in a warm, dry place, free of dirt and critters. The kernels should pop well after about a month of storage. Try a few kernels sooner, if you’d like, as often it does pop sooner. Store it in an airtight container that is bug and rodent proof, such as a glass jar. — Jackie

Abundance of eggs

My Chickens are producing very well and although I can sell some eggs, I’m getting quite a few dozen in reserve. I have made your lemon curd recipe to use some of the extra eggs and it is wonderful (Xmas presents). Can I substitute orange juice for the lemon juice to make orange curd? Also do you know of any other recipes using a lot of eggs, like custard, etc., that I could make and can? I don’t have the space to freeze eggs.

Bradley Barrie
Strong, Maine

When I get excess eggs, I gear us up on egg recipes. I make potato salad, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, lemon meringue pies, Meringue drops, which are drops of meringue on a cookie sheet, which you press down in the center with a damp spoon. When the cookie is done and cool, you add a spoon of jam. I also make cakes, rolls, and cookies, using eggs. Yes, you can substitute orange or lime for lemon, to make different curds, but other than pickled eggs, I don’t have other canning recipes using eggs. — Jackie

Canner gasket, “63” lids

Jackie I have dabbled in canning for the last several years usually just making jellies, jams, and salsa. I recently purchased a Burpee brand canner at an auction along with a box lot of jars. So that leads me to my question. I have done some research only to find parts are no longer available for a Burpee. There are mixed opinions on the safety of this canner. I read on several blogs of people making their own gaskets. What is your view on the Burpee and making a gasket. Second in the box lot jars there are a lot of narrow mouth jars that use “63” narrow mouth caps and snap lids. Are these still available and if so where can they be purchased?

Swain Keaton
Trenton, South Carolina

Sorry, but I’m not in favor of do-it-yourself pressure canner gaskets. Too much chance for error there. What I’d do is put your Burpee away for awhile, and pick up a common brand, such as an All-American or Presto, whether used, in good condition, or new, then keep an eye out for another Burpee you could buy cheap and exchange the gasket and other parts with the one you have now. If you get it cheap enough, you’ll have two working pressure canners, with only a small cash outlay…always a good thing.

I’ve bought #63 lids and other hard to find homestead items from Troyer’s Bargain Store. Here is the address:

2131 County Road 70
Sugarcreek, OH 44681

They sell mainly to the Amish and other plain folk and the merchandise and prices are good. — Jackie

Canning in a bath tub

My comment to add to Jackie’s blog: my parents bought land 25 years ago in central Kentucky. The landowner’s wife did all of her canning, in one fell swoop, in an old claw-foot bathtub that sat in her front yard. She prepared all her jars, built a fire under the tub, then the family sat by all day and all night, if necessary, and did their canning. I don’t remember whether neighbors were invited, but once the fire was built under the bathtub and the water was boiling, the canning for high acid canning for the year was started and completed in 24 hours. Such an unconventional approach kept the house cool. Thought I would share, to see if Jackie or anyone else has heard of or can benefit from this technique.

Jennifer and Stephen Riley
Cary, North Carolina

Wow, that’s a huge canning bee! I’ve never heard about using a bathtub (I’m assuming it was an old cast iron tub.), although anything that will hold water, deep enough to cover the jars and take the heat will function as a water bath canner. My grandmother used her old copper boiler to water bath tomatoes, peaches, and pickles in. The main thing is to use a rack of some sort, or even a folded towel, to keep the jars up off the bottom of the improvised canner. If you don’t, the bottoms of many of the jars will crack and break out, due to the intense bottom heat from the fire.

I couldn’t can all my high acid foods in one session because, 1, I’m not that super strong (that’s a lot of canning!) and 2, because all high acid foods don’t ripen all at once. Jellies and jams usually come first, then pickles, then tomatoes and/or peaches if you have them. And I also can up a huge variation of tomato products: spaghetti sauces, barbecue sauces, salsa, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, and plain tomatoes. The prep work for each variety is different, so I need to do separate batches. But many hands make lighter work. I enjoy having a mini canning bee, with Will, David, and some of my friends. We get a lot done, have fun talking and laughing, and aren’t too tired when we get finished. — Jackie

Well pump

We have purchased our acreage in the country, have had a well drilled (280 ft deep) and now want to ask: do we have the power run to the well or have the pump for the water put in first? Each one will cost us around $2000, so we need to make sure we do it right.

Ruth Ledford
Rocky Face, Georgia

I think I would run the power to the well first. That way, when you put the pump in, you can immediately hook it up to make sure that it is functioning right. I’m glad to hear you do things like we do; one chunk at a time as you can afford it. It sure beats the heck out of going into debt! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will and I took an afternoon off…to visit the bears

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I finally talked Will into taking the afternoon off and driving with me north of Orr, to visit the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary. It’s only open during the summer, from Memorial Day until Labor Day weekend, evenings from 5 p.m. till dusk. You drive in a long, wooded driveway, then take a bus down another long wooded trail to a viewing platform. Here we got to watch wild black bears of all ages and sizes for several hours. There are no fences and these bears come and go, as they wish, knowing they are only safe when they come for the natural feed that is put out for them. Once they leave the sanctuary, they are on their own. In no way are they “tame” bears. Started many years ago by Vince Shute, a former bear hunter and logger who finally decided feeding the bears beat killing them, the sanctuary now has many improvements for both bears and viewers. We had a great time watching and learning about these fascinating animals, which movies and magazines often portray as savage man-killers. Both Will and I have lived in bear country for nearly all our lives. And neither of us has had a “bad” encounter with a bear. We really enjoyed our visit and will certainly be back next year to see how those nine little cubs have grown!

Of course, we are also canning like mad, as we just had a killing frost. We had pre-picked all we could, but there are lots of veggies out there yet, waiting to be put up in the pantry.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning tomato sauce

My tomatoes didn’t do well this year and I need tomato sauce etc. For this Fall/Winter. Can I buy the large cans of tomato sauce and diced tomatoes from Sam’s and then re-can them into half-pint and pint jars. If so, do I need to add anything to it or just heat up and pour into hot jars? And how long do I process the jars? (Same as canning home grown tomatoes?) How about large cans of Ketchup (which take up a lot of room in the frig.) can it be re-canned into smaller jars and do I process the same as above?

Maria Day
Greenville, Florida

Although a lot of “experts” say you can’t re-can food, I’ve been doing just that for years. (Come on, now, why should it be dangerous to re-can food, using the same processing methods/time as if it were raw, just because it has already been processed?) I heat the tomato product to simmering, then pack as if it were a freshly made recipe, processing for the time required. I don’t re-can tomato paste, however, as it is VERY thick, and it is possible for it not to heat sufficiently in the center of the jars. Instead, I mix it with tomato sauce, making a thick tomato sauce that will pour slowly, as it will boil and WILL heat thoroughly in the center of the jar. — Jackie

Canning hot peppers

I am pickling some hot peppers using the recipe from your book Growing and Canning Your Own Food. Is there any stage that I could slice the peppers into rings? We like to add jalapeno slices to our food and I was hoping I could make the slices out of a jalapeno, hot banana, hot Hungarian wax pepper blend.

Marlana Ward
Mountain City, Tennessee

Yes, you can slice your peppers into rings instead of pickling them whole. Just slice them up raw and proceed with the recipe. The form doesn’t matter. Enjoy your peppers! — Jackie

Hens not laying

I have some chicken issues I hope you can help me with. I have 4 older hens, well…2 have recently died (not quite sure of their age, may be 1 1/2 – 2 years old?) that have provided me with eggs almost every day…until early this summer. In March I got 6 new baby chicks which to my dismay I believe are mostly roos. Anyway, since early summer we have not gotten one egg. I’m sure the stress of moving 6 new chickens had an effect on the older gals, but I thought by now I’d have eggs again. They are not eating them as there are no signs whatsoever of any yolk or shell in the nest boxes. My new hens should be laying soon, but I’m thinking it’s all the roos I have that’s causing them to not lay. I saw this morning the roos attacking the other ones (even the older gals) when they came out into the run. Plus the heat we are having isn’t helping either. Just wondered if you had any advice and if you think I’d be wise to get rid of my roos (I don’t plan on hatching out our own chicks).

Jeannine Sikora
Panama, New York

I would reduce the rooster population in your coop by about six, I think, since you aren’t going to hatch your own chicks. (But I DO love to hear a rooster crow, so you might save one…) I think when the weather cools down and the pecking stops, your girls will again reward you with eggs. — Jackie

Making peach jelly

I canned peaches last weekend. After dropping the peaches into the water with vitamin D in it to keep them from browning, I thought I could use it and the peach juice to make jelly. I boiled it way down and followed the directions in your book. It won’t jell. It sealed but no jell, can I re-boil it with new pectin?

Jeff Gaskin
South Point, Ohio

Sorry to tell you that the watered down juice will never jell. It is just too watered down. Even if it did, the taste would be yucky. You can either make peach jam, preserves, or jelly, using chopped peaches, simmered down in a little water; emphasis on “little” water! Look on it as a learning experience. We all have them! — Jackie

Canned pickles “pinging” in the pantry

I am trying my hand at canning this summer. My first batch of pickles taste great! All the jars appear to have sealed properly but for the last three days in a row I have heard “pinging” in my pantry. It has been really hot and it happens in the afternoons. I cannot tell which jar is doing it. Have you ever had this happen? Are they safe to eat?

Lebec, California

If processed properly, once a jar is sealed, it remains so, no matter what. Do you have any boxes of new jars in your pantry? I’ve noticed that the new Kerr jars, which come in flat boxes, topped with plastic wrap, with the lids screwed down on the jars, ping when sitting in my kitchen! I thought, at first, that it was my processed food doing that, but found out that it was the new jars! You won’t get sick from unsealed pickle jars, should one possibly seal and unseal. Just look at each jar before you open it, to make sure it looks fine. Then check the seal, which should be sealed. Open the jar and look inside; give it a sniff. If all seems fine, your pickles are good to go. — Jackie

Pumpkin preserves

I just love your canning book. I am getting ready to use up last years canned pumpkin in your pumpkin preserves recipe and the process time says 5 minutes. Is that correct or is it a typo?

Carole-Anne Hopkins
Riverton, Wyoming

This recipe is an old one and, yes, 5 minutes is the correct time. More recent recipes have a 10 minute processing time, I suppose for greater safety. A longer processing time won’t hurt anything if you choose to use that, instead. — Jackie

Canning cream of celery soup

You mentioned it was very easy to can cream of celery soup. Please give me a recipe and directions.

Deanna Rider
Hanford, California

Sorry, but what I do is to can up the chopped celery in water then make the soup as I want, later on. Cream of whatever soups usually get curdled/separated appearing, which looks unappetizing. To make the soup, add 3 tbsp butter/margarine to a sauce pan and melt. Stir in 2 Tbsp flour. Then slowly add milk and heat until thickened, adding more milk, as needed to get the thickness you want. Drain celery and pour into soup. Gently simmer (don’t boil) for 10 minutes and serve. — Jackie

Canning juice from elderberries

I was wondering if you ever canned the juice from elderberries? My husband had cancer twice, (from agent orange) he is in remission. I have read that drinking elderberry juice everyday is so good for you!

Janet Williams
McDonough, New York

Yes, I have. To make elderberry juice, add cleaned elderberries and a little water (I use apple juice.) to a large pot. Turn up heat and gently simmer the berries until tender. Mash them with a potato masher and continue simmering 5 minutes. Strain through a jelly bag into a bowl. Heat juice 5 minutes to simmering (don’t boil). Add sugar if desired, to taste. Ladle hot juice into hot jars, leaving 1/4″ of headspace. Process pints and quarts 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 on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest continues on the homestead

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

The last week has been very busy. Will baled 300 more square bales for our friend’s daughter and husband. They have sheep and goats on their homestead and round bales are inconvenient for them. It IS much easier to feed smaller animals square bales in the barn, which is why we bought a baler! Will even gave them a hand stacking the bales on the wagon and trailers, to make sure the hay stayed on the load on the way home.

You wouldn’t believe how our asparagus, planted this spring from Nourse Nurseries, has grown! I’ve never had asparagus take off like that, EVER. Instead of one or two spindly stalks, each plant has produced more than a dozen vigorous spears. Some are large enough to harvest, and the plants are continuing to send up spears, even though it’s fall. WOW! Maybe the plastic mulch or all the rain is helping but I know I’m buying more plants, come spring.

And we’ve continued canning — dill pickles, bread and butter pickles, more pizza sauce, and last night, 28 pints of mixed vegetables. David and Will picked while I went to the doctor for a check up. Then I cut up vegetables all afternoon — carrots, green beans, corn, summer squash, and potatoes. And those were last fall’s potatoes! David and Will were going to carry up the last of the potato bins, which was about half full, yet. (We did have 550 pounds!) And lo and behold, the potatoes, although sprouted, were still hard and good! We picked out about a peck to use, then I called my friend, Jeri, to come get what she and her husband could use. I’ve never had potatoes store that well. We used plastic totes with lids in our basement. The temperature now is about 59 degrees, and all winter, about 40 degrees, without heat. I guess they liked the combination. We will repeat that again!

Our tomatoes are burying us right now and I’m really impressed with the Mexican wild tomato, Punta Banda, from Native Seeds/SEARCH. I’ve grown it before and liked it. This year it’s fantastic. It’s a small tomato, but very clean and meaty for sauce. And hugely productive, although ugly and sprawly. I can live with that. It’s food that counts on this homestead!

Readers’ Questions:

Preserving garlic

I am a new subscriber and a fellow reader told me that you had a way of canning garlic instead of letting it sit in my SMALL pantry over the winter for use. I use a lot of fresh garlic in my cooking and my mother in law gives me garlic every fall. The problem is that when I go to use it toward February it is bad.

Darcy Reuterdahl
Missoula, Montana

Check out the prior blog to see another alternative, which I often use, and that’s dehydrating garlic; it’s quick, easy and the garlic takes up very little room in your little pantry. If you wish to can it, it’s best pickled, as pressure canned garlic can lose a lot of flavor. To pickle it, here’s a recipe:

12 heads of garlic, separated and cloves peeled
3 cups white vinegar
1 tsp pickling salt
1 cup sugar

Mix vinegar, salt, and sugar in large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add garlic cloves and boil 1 minute. Fill hot, sterilized jars with cloves to 3/4″ of top, then ladle boiling pickling solution over them, leaving 3/4″ of headspace. Process for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Food floating in jars

I am ordering your book today, so maybe the answer is already contained therein, but I’m canning tomatoes and pickling peppers again this week and there’s something that happens to me every time no matter what I do. I don’t know if I’m packing my tomatoes (or peppers or pickles) too tightly or too loosely, or if something else altogether is to blame, but some of the jars come out looking half full, like the pickles or tomatoes are floating on top of half of a jar of water. It’s safe, I’m sure, but not very appealing. Especially for giving!

I used to pack loosely, and this happened. Now, I pack more tightly, and I also noticed that after I add the hot liquid, after a few minutes, the ones I poured first, the vegetables have started to shrink or compress and now there is more room in the jar. So, I have begun adding more peppers/tomatoes to fill it back up, instead of more liquid. I am also pushing them down in and adding more as I go. This does seem to help, but it still happens! Is there something else I should be watching out for or doing?

At least if I shake the jars a little the next day, they seem to remix and it doesn’t look quite so unsightly, but sometimes they will separate again over time.

ALSO, I often see a lot of little tiny air bubbles after they’ve finished sealing. I’m apparently not stirring the jars around the sides enough with the little plastic knife… but I’m wondering if they are still safe to eat? Will those air bubbles cause a problem?

FINALLY, I have always wanted to know why some recipes call for 1/2″ of head space, others 1/4″, etc. Why is this important? What if I’m not accurate–what is the potential consequence? I would really love it if books would explain why when they are telling you to do something. If it’s for looks or efficiency, etc., then I don’t have to worry about safety. Obviously, if it’s about safety then I want to know that, too!

Lynn Hurst
Landrum, South Carolina

Congratulations on the BIG step Lynn! Once you do it, you’ll laugh at how easy it really is! I promise. As to your floating tomatoes — fruits float when cold packed. To get fruit that doesn’t float, tomatoes included, pack them hot. I don’t know why, other than tomatoes do cook down a bit, even when cooked for awhile, and when you can them, the raw tomatoes do lose juice and get smaller, AND float. The food is perfectly safe, but just different looking. Don’t worry about the bubbles, either. If the jar is sealed, your food is perfectly good.

The difference in headspace is this: Some foods, like meat and corn, will swell on processing and if you don’t leave, say, 1″ of headspace, the food will get right up to and push on the lid, compromising the seal. Foods that just swell a little require only 1/2″ of headspace. Others, like pickles and jelly, don’t swell at all, and only require 1/4″. Also, some foods, if touching the lid, will leave a dark stain on it as the acid reacts to the metal of the lid. So you don’t want the foods to possibly touch the lid.

I hope you like the new book and get plenty of ideas from it! — Jackie

Canning salsa

I’m trying to find a recipe for a pressure canned salsa. Could I safely pressure can this?

3 quarts peeled, chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup hot peppers
2 1/2 cup green peppers
4 cups chopped onions
1/3 cup garlic
1/3 cup cilantro
3 Tablespoons lemon
2 tablespoons lime
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 black pepper
1 tsp cumin
1/2 coriander
1 tsp salt

Cook 10 minutes.

I think I could process it at 10 Lbs pressure for 40 minutes? What do you think? What if I were to add a can of tomato sauce to get it more thick? How does that effect a recipe like this?

Mrs Jo Bolin
Elk River, Minnesota

I process most of my salsas, including ones that I use tomato paste to thicken, for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. — Jackie

Canning turkey

I recently lucked into 2 or 3 pound turkey tenderloins. (I didn’t know that turkeys had tenderloins) I would like to can these. What would be the best way — cut into 1 inch thick filets and hot packed or jar length pieces and raw packed? I ‘m glad that you and your sweety were able to walk away and not too badly injured from your fall

Robin W.
Sumter, South Carolina

I didn’t know turkeys had tenderloins, either. It seems that the meat cutters are making a lot of “new” cuts lately. I’m assuming that these are large breast strips? If so, I’d pack them as hot-packed breast strips, cut to fit conveniently in pint or quart jars. I’d boil the meat in seasoned water, till nearly done, then pack hot in the jars with the cooking liquid covering it. Process as for all meat: 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie

Mexican bean beetles

Probably the biggest problem I’ve had this summer in my vegetable gardens is Mexican bean beetles. What a battle. I always grow beans of many varieties, both for green beans and for hard winter beans; each season I’ll expect to see a bean beetle here or there, maybe find a mess of eggs to squish, but it’s really not that bad. I just squish what I see and keep on going. This year the population is terrible. Squishing dozens of members of all 3 parts of the life cycle daily for the last month. My beans are badly affected. Have been spraying Bt hoping that at least I can poison the caterpillar stage. My question for you is the future: from your experience, would you say that this is just a bad year for these for my area and that next year might be a more normal year, or should I take a year off from beans next year? My research suggests to me that they won’t overwinter here. Any suggestions?

Jeanne Allie
Storrs, Connecticut

I would go ahead and plant beans again next year and be very aggressive in spotting any first beetles in your plantings. Dust your plants right away with rotenone or pyrethrin powder, then keep a vigilant watch. It’s probably just a bad year for bean beetles but sometimes you’ll get a couple bad years, so keep watch and get them under control right away. Be sure to remove and burn all bean plant debris to ensure that no beetles overwinter in your garden. You can never tell when they may survive! Planting early bean varieties will also help, as bean beetles are usually worse in late summer to early fall. — Jackie

Copra onions

You recently said that you like copra onions because they are one of the best for long-term storage. I’ve been looking on the Internet for copra seeds, and there aren’t a lot of places that sell them. For those that do, the postage is much more expensive than the seeds. Two questions in this regard: are copra onions heirlooms from which seeds can be saved? If not, do you have a good source for seeds? We plant our onions here in October or November, so I’m already looking for a good onion seed source. I know we’re one of the ‘short-day’ areas, but I’d like to experiment with the copras if possible.

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

Copra is a hybrid onion, but it IS a great storage onion. I got my seed from Jung Seed Company, but Johnny’s Seeds and Territorial Seeds also carry it. — Jackie

In-ground storage

We visited Old Williamsburg, Virginia.  In their garden they have a hole in the ground w/glass for lid & is a sort of cold storage. Any idea what they would have used it for? We have ours dug, looking for some glass & want to use it? Not sure what to do with it. I loved the idea, & it looks so unique I just had to have one. It requires you to get down into it about two feet in the ground & stands 2 feet above the the ground ..I am only 5’2″ so confused how to use it. I would need help out if I went in! Hah! hope you can help. I did inquire of Colonial Williamsburg as well but would like your ideas as well. Have not heard from them yet.

Judith Cahow
Monterey, Tennessee

The dimensions are strange, so I’m not sure. I’ve used in-ground cooling on several homesteads where we had minimal refrigeration. As the underground temperature, especially on the shaded north side of a building, is much cooler than in the house, it allows you to keep many foods fresher than if you just left them in a cupboard. I used a large cooler. To access it, I just lifted the lid, kneeling down over the hole. Let us know if you find more information. It’s interesting, with the glass cover and the two feet above ground thing. — Jackie

Canning meatballs

How to can meatballs in mushroom soup.

Greg Pongrac
Stoystown, Pennsylvania

Greg, here’s a recipe from my new canning book that I use a lot:

5 lbs ground meat
3 C cracker crumbs
5 eggs
3 C chopped onion
1 sweet green pepper (optional)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 family-size can cream of mushroom soup plus 1 can water

Mix ground meat, cracker crumbs, beaten eggs, onion, pepper, and seasonings. Then form into meatballs the size of a golf ball. Gently brown in a large frying pan with minimal oil. Turn as needed to brown evenly. Pour mushroom soup and water into frying pan with meat drippings and heat, stirring well to mix in drippings. Pack hot meatballs gently into hot wide-mouth pint or quart jars to within an inch of the top, then ladle on hot sauce to just cover the meatballs, leaving an inch of headroom. Carefully wipe jar rim clean. 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 match your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie


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