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Archive for October, 2010

Jackie Clay

It’s wood splitting time on the homestead

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

With winter coming on us like a freight train, we suddenly have the urge to split wood. Although we have about four cords in the woodshed right now, left over from last winter, more wood is definitely a good thing. Who knows what propane will cost this winter? While the “big” wood is very nice, we also cut a whole lot of pole (small popple and ash) trees this spring/summer, when they were in the way of new fence lines, the barn and pen area, or where we needed trails to be wider. We had piles of these poles here and there all over. So we are not only spending time to split the big wood, but we’re also cutting up this little wood. Some people wouldn’t bother. But we sure get a lot of heating/cooking out of an armload of this “junk” wood. Now all I have to do is to stack it all…

Readers’ Questions:

Canning potatoes

I read in one of your articles a while back about canning potatoes, with the skins on, pressure canning, could you please explain again, how to do this? I know I wrote it down but can’t find it, I would be very grateful.

Marjorie Fox
Glouster, Ohio

To can small potatoes with the skins on, just scrub the potatoes very well with a brush or “green scrubbie,” then put in a pot and boil for 10 minutes. Pack hot in the jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp salt to pints and 1 tsp to quarts and fill with boiling water, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process the same amount of time you do with potatoes without the skins; 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts, 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 match your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Jelly, hot peppers, and loofahs

You ALWAYS have such a up beat attitude and I really appreciate that. I hope you don’t reach across the net and strangle me with the following questions: I tried your apple jelly recipe. Great!
1) Please explain why your recipe does not use pectin.
2) Why do we use pectin, anyway?
3)Are there any other jelly recipes that do not use pectin?
4)When was it decided that we had to process jelly? I can remember when we didn’t .
5)Who decided?
6) Are the seeds that fall out of hot peppers that are dried, good enough to plant, next year?
7)What causes the leathery look to the outside of jalapenos? The cream colored lines that run from top to bottom of the pepper? Are the jalapenos good or past use when these appear?
8) When you dry your jalapenos, how do you use them in cooking?
9) If you grind your dried hot peppers what do you use to grind them with?
10) I planted a loofah sponge plant, and the pkg. said 100 days. It has been ALL of that and they are just now blooming and setting on. Have you ever grown those and what success did you have?
FINALLY, Since my garden season was sooo bad due to the constant rain this past summer, what do you think of the idea of buying shorter seasoned seeds for plants and setting them out earlier (yes, I have Wall o Waters) so they can have a better head start before the rains set in again?

J from Missouri

1. You don’t use pectin in apple jelly because apples have lots of natural pectin.
2. You use pectin to make jams and jellies set without cooking them down. By using the pectin, you get more jam or jelly, as an end product, than you would, using the same amount of juice/fruit cooking it down.
3 Yes, there are. They are just basically fruit/juice and sugar, cooked down to the jelling point.
4. We began processing jellies and jams in a water bath canner to ensure the seal. Long ago, we used paraffin to seal the tops of jelly glasses. Unfortunately, the paraffin often pulled loose or the mice ate through it and the jelly molded. So we got “smart” and began using two piece lids and processing a few minutes in a water bath canner to ensure that the lids sealed. No more unsealed or mouse-eaten jams or jellies!
5. Smart canners!
6. They are if the peppers were just dried, not heat dehydrated. To test the seeds, just put several in a moist paper towel, in a bowl. Keep the towel moist; not wet. In about 2 weeks or less, the seeds will germinate…if good. Be sure to keep your bowl with the towel/seeds in a nice warm place, as pepper seeds need warmth to germinate.
7. That’s just part of jalapeño. Yes, the peppers with the lines are fine to eat.
8, When I dry jalapeños, I just crush a couple in a recipe, such as salsa or tomato sauce; they rehydrate quickly.
9, The easiest way to grind hot peppers is in an old blender. If you want them very hot, leave the seeds in them; if not, remove most of the seeds before grinding. Throw in a handful and give it a whiz. Grind as fine as you like, then pour out the powder and throw in more peppers until you have enough ground peppers.
10. No, I’ve never lived where I could grow loofahs. Although the package says 100 days, the kind of days is important. Loofahs like warm days and nights and plenty (but not too much!) water. I’ve either lived in the north or in high altitudes, where we never had warm nights. So I grew no loofahs.

Nobody can predict the weather. You shouldn’t have to grow short seasoned varieties, although there sure isn’t any reason you couldn’t. You might even get two crops. I’d mix both longer and shorter varieties and see which do best for you next year. I think the country’s growers all had goofy weather this year! Me included. — Jackie

Jar size and canning time

A friend gave me 3 dozen 1 1/2 wide mouth Ball pint jars. These are the perfect size for me to can meats, beans and veggies in, but am unsure of the processing time. Would using the time/pressure for the quart jars be okay?

Patsy L. Tampke
Big Lake, Alaska

That’s what I use for pint and a half jars. — Jackie

Drying tray setup

I would love to see more pictures of your drying ‘tray’ set up. I don’t know if you remember me earlier asking about food preservation ideas for a mission trip to Nicaragua, but I am still working on ideas for that. It is an agricultural school and feeding center for children in a very remote village. We are planning on teaching the women water bath canning, but of course that is only good for high acid foods. Pressure canning is out as they will be using open fires that I fear would be too hard to monitor the pressure, so dehydrating is the only alternative as far as I know. Electricity is not reliable so freezing is not an option. I would love to find a Spanish canning book, have you ever seen or heard of one? I can’t seem to get a response from Ball/Kerr company. The trip is in November, so I am getting desperate to find one – it would be so much easier/safer for them to understand if they could read it in their own language. A Spanish book on drying would be awesome as well. Thanks so much for all your generous help, I don’t know how you find time.

Jo Riddle
Vienna, West Virginia

All I do is to lay clean screens across boxes or on a table that I prop them up using a log so air can get under the food. If I use double screens, I just put a clean piece of wood across the bottom screen so the top one has air space under it. I called my librarian sister, who found us a Spanish language canning site with printable information that should help. Here it is:
I hope this helps in your very worthwhile mission! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our lovely onions join our other pantry food

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Our onions did so much better this year. Last year, most of our onions went double and many had soft neck rot, due to the rain and cold growing conditions. This year, we grew only yellow varieties, as the whites were most affected last year. And we grew in a different spot in the garden, as the soft neck rot could have been caused by disease. We had nearly all single onions, both the Copra and Yellow Stuttgarters. They did wonderfully, and we harvested about 60 pounds. As it has been a very rainy year, getting them cured was a challenge. We poured them on a tarp in the front yard during sunny days and gathered them up in the evenings and during rainy days. After about a week they were about ready. But we didn’t want rot, so we held them in a plastic tub, in the greenhouse, for another week, then cut the dry tops off of them and tossed a couple of soft ones into the compost pile. We put them in bushel baskets, then let them sit another week in the warm greenhouse. Now they’re perfectly dry and down in the pantry where I’ll go to pick onions out for recipes all winter. We DO love our onions. And they’re good for us, too! I’ve already harvested about 25 pounds, during the summer, both to use in the kitchen and to use in various canning recipes. Are we happy? You bet we are!

Readers’ Questions:

Remember readers, that you can search my old blogs to answer some of your questions quicker. Here’s how:
• Go to my blog
• At the top right of the screen you will see the date and time. Below that you will see a google search box. Below that you will see a box entitled “search blogs.”
• Type in key words to search and hit “enter” or “search blogs.”
• You now have a list of blog entries that address your search. Just click on them and start reading!

Stacking jars in the canner

I can butter in 1/2 pint wide mouth jars. Is it possible to put 6 jars in the jar rack, place a round metal cookie drying rack over the top and then place another jar rack with 6 jars on top of that if I make sure the top layer has 1 inch of water over the tops of the jars?

J from Missouri

Yes you can; I do it very often with all of my canning to get more done, quicker.  — Jackie

Pickled carrots and rhubarb pie filling

Do you have a canning recipe for pickled carrots and rhubarb pie filling?

Carole-Anne Hopkins
Riverton, Wyoming

Yes, I do. Here they are for you to try:

10 pounds small carrots
1 quart vinegar
1 quart sugar
Spice bag:
1 Tbsp stick cinnamon
1 Tbsp whole cloves
1 Tbsp whole allspice
Boil young carrots until skins slip. Slip skins, slice, or leave whole. Make spiced syrup of remaining ingredients and pour boiling hot over the carrots. Let stand overnight, then bring to a boil and boil 5 minutes. Remove spice bag. Pack carrots into a hot jar and cover with boiling syrup, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. 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 instructions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary.

9½ cups cut up rhubarb stalks
2 cups water
2 cups sugar
5/8 cup ClearJel
1 cup water
4Tbsp lemon juice

Wash rhubarb then cut into ¾ inch pieces. Place in stock pot. Pour 2 cups of water over the rhubarb. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat. Drain the rhubarb reserving the liquid. Set hot rhubarb aside. Combine sugar, Clear Jel, 1 cup water, and reserve liquid in sauce pan. Heat on medium high while stirring until mixture thickens. Remove from heat. Stir in lemon juice. Stir the thickened mixture into the hot rhubarb pieces. Ladle into hot jars leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims. Adjust two piece lids. Process in boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. Enjoy your new recipes! — Jackie

Reheating home canned foods

In regards to the rule that home canned food be heated for 10 minutes before serving…..does that apply to applesauce? My family likes it COLD so do I cook it and then chill it? What about applebutter? Haven’t we cooked those poor apples enough? And can you tell me how long to water bath butter? Hope you are making headway with all your canning.

J from Missouri

Because apples and applesauce are high acid foods, they do not need to be heated before eating. This just applies to low acid foods, such as vegetables and meat, that must be pressure canned for safety. I water bath process my butter for 60 minutes.

Yes, I’m finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel with my must-do canning. Our garden was tremendously productive this year, and my pantry is getting nicely fat! Now I’m thinking about canning up more dry beans and making more meals-in-a-jar. — Jackie

Canning lard

What are the proper times and methods for canning lard, tallow, and bear grease?

Farmington, Missouri

I’ve never canned tallow or bear grease, but with lard, if you ladle off your hot lard, following rendering, pouring it into hot canning jars, then wipe the rim of the jars clean and put on a hot, previously simmered lid and screw down the ring firmly tight, the jars will seal and the lard will remain fresh for a long time in a cool, dark place. I’m sure both tallow and bear grease, rendered, would be the same. — Jackie

Failed seals on jars

I had canned hot peppers and hotdogs with a ketchup sauce, the jars came unsealed after a week or two. Is there any I can do? Should I dump them all out? I did not use a hot water bath, just made sure the jars were hot and the sauce I put on.

Michele Shay
Rowlesburg, West Virginia

Sorry, but you should dump the jars after they came unsealed. You really need a good canning book (you can click on mine in this blog). The hot peppers and hotdogs both need to be canned in a pressure canner, in order to seal and be safe to eat. Just heating the food and putting them into hot jars is NOT enough. — Jackie

Canning pumpkin for pies

I really would like to can some of our pumpkins this year to use in homemade pumpkin pie. I have heard that you can only use pie pumpkins for baking, canning, etc. Is this true? If not, are there any varieties of pumpkin that are not good to eat and/or can?

Shanna Craft
Pleasant Lake, Michigan

Not true! You can use about any pumpkin or most squash (which is commercial, store-bought pumpkin pie filling is made from!) to make pumpkin pie. The only one that is a little “not good for pies” is Atlantic Giant or the other giant pumpkins. This cans up fine and tastes fine, but it has a high water content so you’ll need two quarts of pumpkin chunks to make a pie, where most squash and pumpkin varieties have less water in the flesh, so you only need about a quart. Remember to drain the liquid off of your squash/pumpkin before you mash it for pies. — Jackie

Training puppy not to kill chickens

How do I get my German Short Hair puppy to stop killing my chickens without totally ruining him on birds. I can’t have him killing chickens, but I want him to hunt quail and pheasant when the time comes.

Joy Goepfert
Alba, Missouri

First things first. First get him to stop killing chickens. To do that, what I do is go out with Pup. When he starts eyeballing chickens or running toward them, yell real mean. If he doesn’t stop, grab him by the scruff of the neck and shove his head to the ground. (That’s what Mom dogs do to reprimand their pups.) Scold him while holding his head down. Do this each and every time you take him out by the chickens. Our Lab, Spencer, didn’t actually kill chickens; I did the training before he got that far. But it stopped him from running after them, but good. Just be sure you are religious with the training; go out EVERY time with him, when he can be in the chicken area, to make sure he gets the message loud and clear. It worked for eating eggs too.

Your pup will stop killing chickens. How to get him to hunt after this? Same way, in reverse. Take him hunting without your gun a few times. He’ll be confused when he smells birds or flushes them. Constantly “help” him flush and encourage him to hunt/flush. Spencer first turned his head away when he saw birds, “ignoring” them to be “good.” It took awhile, but with us praising him when he accidently flushed birds and walking through the woods, telling him to “hunt ’em up,” he got the message. Now he hunts and doesn’t kill chickens, either. Good luck. — Jackie

Runny salsa

I just finished reading the posts on your page and I have a question of my own. How do I thicken cooked salsa? I made 3 batches this year and my last batch was really runny. Can I open the jars, reheat, add tomato paste, and re seal? I’ve only been canning for a couple years and have never had this happen before.

Lori Hagert
Satint Ansgar, Iowa

I wouldn’t add the tomato paste to salsa you already canned. Just drain off some of the juice when you open a jar. You can add the juice to meatloaf, taco meat, or any soup or stew you wish. Next time, just add the tomato sauce or paste to the heating salsa before you put it into the jars. — Jackie

Canning salsa

The tomatoes we grew are Golden Girl, Superbeefsteak, delicious and large Mennonite which I want to make salsa with. I just lost my wife and I can’t let our hard work go for not, so my question is can I use the golden girls with the others in the salsa without any problem, this is the first year I’ll be doing this alone so I want to be sure. We always froze them and waited till January when things settled down to do the salsa. Just don’t want to get anyone sick.

Richard Kuntz
Carson, North Dakota

Rich, I truly know how you feel right now as I lost my husband, Bob, suddenly, five years ago. You hurt like hell, but by keeping on doing things like your salsa, you are not only connecting with your late wife, but helping yourself heal. YES, you can use all of your tomatoes for salsa. If you are unsure about their acid content, just be sure to add vinegar or lemon juice, as in the canning recipes, to cover your bases. If the salsa is too “watery” you can thicken it with tomato sauce or paste. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest continues and a new crop is growing INSIDE

Monday, October 11th, 2010

I saved a turkey roasting pan full of sliced pumpkin pieces from our huge pumpkin to dehydrate. As the temperatures were hot and dry (unusual for this time of year in northern Minnesota!), I just put the pieces out on large screens. For good airflow and to separate the screens I used a couple of pieces of peeled fir poles. All in all, I had four screens full. And just three days later, those pieces are shrunk down to less than a quarter of their initial size and are now ready to pick off and put into jars to store. I not only use this dehydrated pumpkin for stews and casseroles, but I throw a handful into mixed grain bread after grinding it up into flour. No one guesses and it makes the bread taste great!

Just when harvest is finally winding down (I only need to dig a few more carrots, harvest the celery, and the rutabagas), we have a new, young crop growing in our greenhouse. This time it’s LEMONS! This spring Mom bought a Ponderosa lemon from Logee’s Greenhouse. Dad’s grandmother had one on her heated sun porch that was old and huge. It also furnished her with lemons for baking — in Michigan! We figured if she did it, so could we, so Mom’s lemon bloomed and now has two lemons set on it. One is already large and the other is still pretty small. Mom would really love that! And I’m happy to find just another way to be more self reliant. We DO like lemon meringue pie and lemon bars.

Readers’ Questions:

Expelled broth during canning process

I canned some sloppy joe mix from your recipe in your canning book, which is quite wonderful. My problem is that the jars expelled some broth during the canning process, because there was red grease in the canner when all was finished and the jars were greasy. All jars sealed. My question is, do you think that the contents are safe to eat, or could the grease prevent a good seal even though the lids appear to be sealed?

Judy Gold
Fredericksburg, Texas

As long as your jars sealed, the mix is good to go. Usually the broth/juice expels due to fluctuating pressure or because the canner has not quite returned to zero before you let steam escape through the petcock or valve. (I have been guilty of this on occasion, when in a super hurry. “Oh it must be zero,” I think…when it’s actually 1, not zero. And oh how the jars bubble and hiss on taking them out! Just wash off your jars with warm soapy water, remove the rings and you’ll be fine. Enjoy your sloppy joe’s! — Jackie

Storing butternut squash

We are just getting ready to harvest our Butternut Squash. We have read different ways to get ready to store. One way is to dip in a Clorox solution and the other way is just to set out for a couple of weeks before you store.

Joni Warren
Canyon City, Oregon

I just cure my pumpkins and squash by leaving them in the garden after ripening to develop a nice hard skin. I’d just as soon not use bleach on my food, even though I don’t eat squash skin. I’ve never had trouble keeping squash and pumpkins unless they were frosted/frozen a little. Then they go bad quickly. I recently gave my grandson, Mason, a huge pumpkin that we harvested LAST year and just kept in our entryway for decoration. No special care and it was as hard as a rock. — Jackie

Canning potato soup

I want to can my potato soup but will it be alright? The ingredients consist of milk, cream of chicken, bacon, and potatoes etc. My question was about the milk and I know that in your canning guide it contains the experimental milk recipe but I didn’t see any soups that contained milk in the book. I think 75 minutes for pints and it should do fine what do you think?

Challis Moffitt
Ramseur, North Carolina

The trouble is that when you can a recipe with milk, it tends to look curdled. That’s why I don’t can any recipes with milk in them, although I DO can milk. I don’t know why that happens, but it seems to. You can can your potato soup with “cream of” soup, diluted with water, then add milk after you open the jar. — Jackie

Mouse-chewed sweet potatoes

I dug my sweet potatoes and the mice have eaten on several of them(1/2 bushel) can we cut off the eaten part and cook the other part?

Sue Wilson
Russell Springs, Kentucky

Yes, you can. But sweet potatoes really need to cure awhile before you use them to develop a nice sweet taste. Watch your sweet potatoes carefully for signs of shriveling or mold. At the first sign, I’d recommend beginning to eat them. Don’t cut the mouse chewed parts off until you cook them, though, as they’ll probably cure better uncut. You can also can or freeze your sweet potatoes, if you need to use them up quickly. — Jackie

Canning pumpkin

I looked up the time to can pumpkin chunks in your new book. It lists 90 minutes for quarts. Is this the correct time? Also, if it is and you don’t have a canner full, you can home-can dry beans with them as they require 90 minutes for either pints or quarts. I only use 1 cup beans for quarts and 1/2 cup for pints. I use less for Lima beans, black beans, 15-bean soup and garbanzo beans as they can up thicker. My husband likes mixed beans (pinto and great northern) with some hot pepper added in or just mixed beans and onions.

Your book is great. I will be ordering another one for my mother soon. Looking forward to the next book you are going to produce.

Teresa Parker
Evansville, Wyoming

Yes, the time is correct. And yes, you can also can up anything else that requires the same (or a little less) processing time as the pumpkin. True, the food that requires less processing time will be a bit overcooked, but generally it doesn’t hurt anything and you’ll get more done quicker! Don’t try it with potatoes or anything with pasta in it though or you’ll end up with mush.

Glad you like the book. I’m working like mad trying to make my new book the best homestead recipe book for self-reliant people as possible. — Jackie

Canning beef stroganoff

I want to can some Beef Stroganoff. Can I can it with the sour cream in it or should I do so without it and add the sour cream when I want to use it?

Troy, Montana

To can beef stroganoff, I’d make it with cream of mushroom or other “cream of” soup, with water added to thin it out well. Don’t add too many noodles; they swell and expand. You don’t want so thick a food in the jar that the heat doesn’t penetrate to the center safely. Add your sour cream when you heat to serve it. Adding it before you process it may result in curdled appearing sour cream. — Jackie

Canning squash soup

I have a wonderful recipe for squash soup.
2 T. butter
5 C. peeled squash
2 C. 1/2 inch cubed potatoes
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 C. chopped onion
4 C. chicken broth
1 C. Milk
Saute squash, potatoes and onions, in butter, add salt and pepper. Add broth and boil until tender. Process in a blender or food processor. Return to pan, add milk. Heat and serve.

I would like to can this soup and am wondering at what point should I do that. Can it be preserved as is with the milk added? If so, how long would you pressure cook this? It is a wonderful recipe!

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

I think this is one recipe I’d just enjoy fresh. Canning pureed squash isn’t recommended. I know that it isn’t as thick as “pumpkin pie filling” squash, but I’m not sure just how thick it would be without the milk. I haven’t had much luck canning any recipe with milk in it, as the milk seems to either darken a lot or look curdled in a recipe. Plain canned milk is okay, but in a recipe it isn’t so hot. — Jackie

Finding parts

I got one for Will. I was wondering where ya’ll find parts at a good price? On-line or local? The motor on the tiller final died on us, so we need a replacement. It was an 8 horse Wheel Horse. I was told 400 bucks for one? Sounds high to us.

Shawn & Karen Moore
Ada, Ohio

We get parts wherever we can find a good deal. For an 8 horse (Briggs & Stratton?), you might try Northern Tool or go on your nearest Craigslist (online). If you don’t know about Craigslist, just type in your nearest big city, followed by craigslist. A menu will pop up. Choose Farm and Garden. Often there will be parts machines or engines at a good price. You might also only need a short block (half of the motor), so the price would be less, too. Good luck! — Will

Corn cob jelly

I have just tried the corn cob jelly recipe in Issue 106 p.49. This is the 2nd time I have tried it, the first I thought I did the measuring incorrectly. But this time I KNOW I did it alright. I canned 10-4 but today, 10-5 it has not set up. Last time, I added more sugar/pectin and re-batched it and some of it jelled, not all. What can I do…is the recipe incorrect?

J from Missouri

This was a recipe Linda Gabris had in BHM. I think there might have been a typo, as my corn cob jelly recipe has 4 CUPS of water, ending up with 3 cups of juice. Here’s my recipe:

12 large corn cobs
4 cups water
1 package (1-3/4 ounces) powdered fruit pectin
4 cups sugar
Yellow food coloring

Cut corn kernels from cobs and reserve for another recipe. Or use clean field corn cobs, broken into pieces. In a stockpot, place corn cobs and water; bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes.
Discard the cobs; strain liquid through cheesecloth. Liquid should measure 3 cups. Add additional water if necessary.

Return to the kettle and stir in pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil. Add sugar and bring back to a boil. Skim foam and add a few drops of food coloring. Pour into hot jars. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. I hope you have better luck the next time! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our new Nubian buckling

Tuesday, October 5th, 2010

After months of searching, we finally found a new spotted Nubian buck out of good milking bloodlines. His daddy is a huge, gorgeous black and white spotted registered buck and his mother is a pretty doe with a lovely udder. Not only did we find a beautiful buck, but a new friend in the owner and her sister, who is also a Backwoods Home Magazine subscriber! We had to travel 169 miles to get our goat…actually two goats, because I fell in love with one of her purebred Boar doelings, too. Carol Miller really has some nice goats! In fact, I hope to buy a registered Boar buckling from her in the spring and also bring home a huge red Nubian doe, too. I should have brought the trailer!

Yesterday I discovered that our 93 pound pumpkin, sitting in the front yard for decoration, had been frosted badly. It had dark frost spots on the top. Oh oh! I couldn’t bear to lose all that pumpkin, so I called my friend Jeri, who wanted some pumpkin to can, and she came over. We spent the morning cutting up the pumpkin and cubing the thick meat. She ended up with 19 quarts and I got 18 quarts, plus a turkey roasting pan full of slices to dehydrate. Wow. All that from one pumpkin. We’re pretty happy. (I guess it doesn’t take much to make a homesteader ecstatic…a goat or a pumpkin!)

Readers’ Questions:

Homesteader burnout

Will you please write an article on how to prevent/deal with homesteader/ prepper burnout? We retired & bought a place in Montana with the goal of living the homesteader lifestyle. Our home needed MAJOR renovation (still working on it after 9 yrs), we’ve built outbuildings, put in a small orchard, a garden and this month 75 berry bushes. We hunt & butcher/can/freeze our own meat plus we (I) can extensively. On top of all this, there’s bills to pay, meals to cook, laundry to do, shopping (2 hrs away), pets to care for/doctor, etc. We’ve been at this now 9 yrs. & it seems like all we do is work. In fact, I’m working harder now than I did when I worked full time with my career. We’ve not had a vacation since 2000 (too much work to do). We’re starting to feel our age and things, like gardening, are becoming ever harder on us physically. My husband has had 4 major surgeries in the last 4 years. We know hard times are coming and want to be prepared…but gosh, we, especially me, feel overwhelmed. I’m sure other homesteaders have faced this. We sure would welcome some advice/suggestions cause what started out as fun seems to be controlling our life and virtually all our time.

Rexford Montana

Yes, I will. This happens to a lot of homesteaders. Fortunately, there are things you can do to relieve that drowning feeling I know you have. I can’t do justice to it in the blog, but look forward to an article on this very soon. Hang in there. You can feel better! — Jackie

Processing pumpkins

How do you process pumpkins for later use?

Ralph Notch
Eagle Bend, Minnesota

To store your pumpkins, first let them lay outdoors until a threat of freezing weather. Covered, they’ll be okay in a frost, but when freezing threatens, bring them indoors. Pumpkins store best in normal household temperatures; homesteaders often stored them in the attic, which was quite warm. We recently gave our 54 pound pumpkin we raised last year to our grandson, Mason, for a jack ‘o lantern. I just kept it in our new addition all winter and summer as a decoration! And it was as solid as a rock, too.

If you want to, you can remove the seeds from pumpkins, bake them until tender, then puree and freeze the puree. But if you wish to can it, you should can up chunks, as the puree is too dense to safely can. — Jackie

Storing sweet potatoes

We just got a couple of bushels of sweet potatoes just out of the fields. What is the best way to cure them and store them?

Jim Bennett
Pelzer, South Carolina

You cure your sweet potatoes by keeping them in a very warm area for about 10 days (80 degrees), if possible. After that time, continue storing them at about 55-60 degrees. After about eight weeks, the sweet potatoes will develop their sweetness and be ready to use. Before this time, they won’t be as sweet. — Jackie

Salsa too juicy

I am making salsa from your recipe. The first batch was very good. The second batch wasn’t – too tomatoe and juicy. I redid it and poured off a lot of juice and added some brown sugar and another hot pepper and it was much better. My question is what kind of tomatoes do you use or recommend to use in making salsa? I am making some more now and using romas to try as they aren’t so juicy. I don’t use a cup of hot peppers as it is too hot for us but only a couple per batch. I have used your canning book all summer and its great and I have written a lot of notes in it. You would think I had it for years – its dogeared already. Canned tomatoes, green peppers, corn, peaches, veg soup, cherries, squash, and some other things.

Ruth Martin
Kalamazoo, Michigan

Romas and other meaty paste-type tomatoes, such as Rocky, Opalka, Polish Linguisa, and others make the best salsa, but I’ve sure used a ton of others. I thicken most of my salsa, even then, with tomato paste, which makes a bigger batch of thicker salsa. I’m tickled to hear you like my book and have already gotten lots of use out of it! (I’m working on another one, right now, full of recipes for all your storage pantry and homegrown foods!) — Jackie

Canning Polish sausage

I would love to can some pickled Polish Sausage. Do you have a recipe and/or suggestions?

Vickie Staples
Skowhegan, Maine

Sorry, but I’ve never canned pickled Polish sausage. Are there any readers out there who have and can help Vickie? — Jackie

Canning tomato juice

I have been canning for years, but it’s been awhile. I am trying to can tomatoes into juice/sauce and have been getting a good amount of acidy water on my jars. What would I be doing wrong? I have raw packed them and also hot packed them. I have cooked them down in a roaster oven. All of these methods still seem to give me the acid water.

I would love to be able to serve tomato juice to hubby without this acid water.

Marla Borders
Attica, Indiana

I’m not sure what you mean by acid water on your jars. If you mean a white film on the jars and lids, that is from minerals in your water; just wash it off with soap and water after the jars have cooled and you remove the rings. If you mean the yellowish “water” that settles out in tomato product jars, that’s just tomato juice. Just mix it up with the rest of the tomatoes when you serve it or drain it off, should you want to. You get less of that when you hot pack your tomatoes/juice, rather than pack them cold. You shouldn’t get any when you cook down your tomato sauce, as the end product is too thick to separate much. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Drying herbs

Monday, October 4th, 2010

As I am still canning tomatoes, in one form or another, I’m still really busy because I don’t want them to rot. But at the same time, fall is lengthening, and I simply HAD to harvest the herbs and get them drying. So today, I cut my last oregano, thyme, sage, chives, and mint. I had already cut my basil, as it doesn’t handle freezing well, and it’s already done that. I laid the herbs out lightly in a large basket, turning them several times a day, pickling out dead leaves, grass, and other debris as I turned it each time. When it was nearly dry, I laid them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet to finish. I rub most of my herbs by gathering a handful between my palms and rubbing them back and forth, crumbling the leaves and tender stems.

Today, I finished up the last of my basil, both lemon basil and sweet basil, and picked out the last of the tiny, hard stem pieces. Then I gently poured it into jars for storage. Boy, do my hands ever smell great after rubbing herbs!

Readers’ Questions:

Dealing with freezing pipes

I have moved a 14 by 80 mobile home to my secluded 10 acres. I am off the grid as we are building up a larger battery bank as Money allows. So for right now we can not use the stock furnace that came with the house. Actually we would prefer to burn wood in our wood burning stove. How do I keep my pipes from freezing without heat in the Duct work under the house?

Mark Beyerchen
Silverwood, Michigan

THAT is a problem. We lived in an old 14’x70′ mobile, off grid, during the second and third winter we lived on our new homestead. We simply didn’t use the plumbing, opting for a simple composting toilet (bucket, lined with a plastic bag & shavings) and hauling water inside to use. We used an outhouse during the day, and the bucket toilet for night use. It really wasn’t that bad. We also used a battery-operated camp shower, which wasn’t the best, yet did the job while we were “camping” in the mobile home.

You might have to do this for the winter, after draining your pipes. For heat, we added two wall propane heaters. A wood stove isn’t real safe in a mobile home, as there isn’t usually a safe place to install one. A better choice would be to add on a 10’x10′ addition off one side to hold the wood stove. In this way, you can have the heat, yet not worry about the safety issue of having a wood stove in a mobile home. The best of luck on your new venture. Remember, what you have today won’t be what you end up with — after a lot of hard work. Been there. Done that! — Jackie

How to tell when pumpkins are ripe

So, I tried my first pie pumpkins. They were all orange, hard to the touch, and the stems were very hard but still green. The insides were still a bit green. Does this mean I picked them too soon and will the puree I made still be okay?

If I picked them too soon, how to do know when to pick them?

Erica Kardelis
Helper, Utah

Most squash and pumpkins need to finish ripening during storage for a few weeks before they are completely ripe enough to eat or can. Your puree will probably be fine; I wouldn’t worry a bit. Next time, just store your pumpkins for awhile before you use them. (Remember that it isn’t currently recommended that you can pumpkin puree, as it is such a dense product that sometimes the center of the jar might not heat sufficiently for safe processing. I canned pumpkin puree for decades before this information came out, but I guess better safe than sorry.) — Jackie

Stewed tomato recipe

Got your book! LOVE it! I have a question about your stewed tomatoes recipe for canning. I can’t find it, and I know I saw it, either on your blog or in your book. Can you give it, or tell me where I saw it?

Valerie Blackketter
Marvel, Colorado

The recipe is on page 162 of Growing and Canning Your Own Food. I know, I need to add an index to the next printing. I had to look for it too! — Jackie

Canning dried beans

I managed to discard an issue of Backwoods Home without first clipping the info I wanted on canning dried beans. I have Jackie Clay’s Canning Book and tried her directions today when canning navy beans, but would like to try canning the black beans using the dry method as one reader wrote in and discussed. I neglected to write down the directions for canning the beans dry without soaking or partially cooking first. I would appreciate it if you could give them in your blog.

Linda Barnes
Logan, Utah

I had to hunt too! But I found Cal Hollis’ method in Issue 125. He puts 1 1/2 cups washed dry beans in a quart jar or 2/3 cup in a pint, then adds any spices or ham and fills the jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace, with boiling water. Pints are processed at 10 pounds for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes, the same as soaked dry beans. 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.
I hope this helps. — Jackie

Canning dried beans

I love your picture of the Swiss chard. What great color. I hope my question will make sense. I planted some pinto and Christmas pole lima beans and waited until they were dried to pick them. I know I can keep them dried, but I would like to can them so it would be convenient to just open a can when we need them for soup. Like canned kidney beans you buy at the store. Do you have a recipe for that? Would it be a different recipe for pinto and Lima beans?

Becky in Iowa

Dry beans are very handy, canned up, as you don’t have to soak them overnight or cook them for lengthy periods to eat them. All dry beans are canned the same way. Although I haven’t tried the recipe by Cal Hollis, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. But I first boil my dry beans in plenty of water and let them sit for 2 hours. Then I pack them and process them as usual. This means heat the beans and liquid to boiling, then drain, saving liquid. Pack jars 3/4 full with hot beans, add small pieces of fried lean bacon or ham, if desired, then fill with hot cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. — Jackie

Expense of homegrown

More of statement than question.

With all the discount stores now for almost anything, when you figure in the time and labor involved to grow or make your own whatever, it really is no longer cheaper to do it yourself. However, when talking quality and KNOWING where the end product came from, then it’s a different story. I can’t make soap of any kind cheaper than I can buy it, nor can I grow any vegetable cheaper either, when I am employed somewhere, and then need to spend a considerable amount of time growing, cultivating, weeding etc.

I really did not save by doing it myself. But in the event the unforeseen happens, it is a good idea to at least know how!


I beg to differ with you, Steve. I’ll match my household expenses with anyone buying their own food. When you first begin to garden, you CAN spend a lot of money. On the other hand, once you get your garden up and going, you actually have to spend very little money and/or time, if you keep at things. I doubt that I actually spend half an hour a day in my garden on an average, during the spring through summer season. Of course, some days, I spend two hours…others, I just look out there. And seeds/plant expense? You can have a great garden, growing heirloom varieties that are available for less than a dollar a pack. In fact, the dollar stores usually carry 10 for a $1.00 varieties. I have other favorite varieties I can’t get there, and I pay more. But I save a lot of our own seeds, so I don’t need to buy each year.

I put no chemicals in my food, nor do I have any unsanitary processing practices. (I’ve been in canning factories, where they stand in the peas, tomatoes, or whatever and shovel them into a conveyor.) My produce is harvested within minutes of eating or canning, and at its peak ripeness. Much store food is overripe, then shipped, to be put up days after harvest…losing nutrition and taste.

Speaking of taste, homegrown and home canned food is better than gourmet food; you simply can’t buy store-bought food that tastes anywhere as good as fresh homegrown.

I know what has been put on my land, know what I do to take care of my crops, and just how I harvest and process it. Make mine homegrown…not grown in China, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, or Africa. — Jackie


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