Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Order from Amazon. Order from the publisher, save 10%, and get FREE shipping.

Archive for June, 2011

Jackie Clay

The barn is coming right along

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Will is making terrific strides with our new barn. Unfortunately, Eric couldn’t work with him these past few days so he’s been doing it mostly alone with a little help from David before he goes off to work. Thankfully, we bought a set of scaffolding from our friend Tom, and then borrwed another three sets. This means that Will can stand on planks to cut and notch the highest poles instead of teetering on the extension ladder way UP there. I like that better. (So does Will.) But the scaffold is heavy and hard to move from pole to pole, and it’s kind of slow work. I think it looks great!

I’m picking plenty of lamb’s quarter and red-rooted pig weed, both of which are great cooked greens. I’ve got photos below of both. Lamb’s quarter is more arrowhead-shaped in the leaf, with smoother, silvery centered leaves. Pig weed is a coarser plant and when you pull it, the root is red (i.e. red-rooted). Both are great to can as you would any green. However, don’t pig out on either as they do contain oxalic acid and too much could make you sick. Just eat it like spinach, a meal at a time and you’ll love it.

I’m also still staking, weeding, and caging tomatoes. I’m down to the last short row. Whew! I’m glad. I also planted more corn and two more rows of carrots for a fall crop as the “river” from the 6 inches of rain ran down one carrot row and who knows where those plants ended up! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Dehydrating dairy products, Food worries, and Mashing blueberries

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

Dehydrating dairy products

I have read that you can dehydrate cottage cheese and sour cream, but they say it only keeps for 1 week out of the frig and 6 months in the frig. I want it for long-term storage only. I dry everything very dry and vacuum pack all my dehydrated food, do you think this would help to keep it good for long term?

Connie Mellott
Brunswick Ohio

No. I would not try to dehydrate cottage cheese or sour cream. Sorry. There are a few foods that I buy dehydrated from preparedness companies and these are two of them. — Jackie

Food worries

Sometimes I am afraid to eat my fruit or vegetables raw because I am afraid I didn’t get all the bugs, eggs, dirt, etc. washed off of them. Is there any harm in eating a little of those things? Some of our mulberries have some spots on them that are swollen and are light in color. Do you know what that is? Are they safe to eat? Some of our blackberries have some light tannish/whitish drupelets on them. Do you know what is causing that? Are they safe to eat?

Cleveland, Missouri

I’ve never heard of anyone getting sick from home-raised vegetables and fruits (but I have heard of several cases of people getting sick from eating store-bought foods). We all take good care of our gardens and I’m sure you clean your foods well enough to make them safe to eat. I’m not sure what the spots on your mulberries are, but I doubt that they would cause problems if you ate them. The light tannish drupelets on the blackberries are usually ones that did not pollinate right. I eat them all the time. No problem. If we knew all the insects and insect parts, rodent dung, and hair we consumed eating store-bought food (along with tons of chemicals) it’d make eating home-raised, clean foods oh-so-much better! Don’t worry and enjoy! — Jackie

Mashing blueberries

I’ve been reading your book “Starting Over.” What a great book! My husband commented after reading just a few pages, “Shirley, you could have written this.” I enjoy so many of the same things you do. I would like some input on the Victorio Strainer please. I have trouble getting my blueberries to smash up enough to make juice out of them. Any hints? p.s. Your cookbook is amazing also.

Shirley Owens
Milton, Florida

Thanks, Shirley. I love my Victorio Strainer! If you pre-simmer your blueberries, the skins pop and let out more juice. The Strainer will remove the seeds and skins nicely and you’ll have lots of juice. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just had six inches of rain!

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

As if June wasn’t busy and we weren’t late enough with our projects (garden and barn), we just got dumped on all day by a torrential rain. All in all, it poured six to seven INCHES of rain on us! Will has been going mano a mano with the beavers, trying by hand to tear out just enough of their dam to reduce the water level in the creek in order to put his bridge in. The bridge frame is laying over the water next to the pilings but there has been too much water to finish putting backfill into the creek behind the pilings. So he has been going down to the dam every day — usually twice — with a hoe, pulling out branches, logs, and mud to let more water flow through. But beavers are very tenacious builders. They are working just as hard to patch up Will’s hole. They even cruise around while he works, slapping their tails at him. Spencer tries to chase them away but he can’t out-swim a beaver and they just laugh at him. We’ll see how this all plays out. So far the score is: Will-0, beavers 12!

And the rain washed gullies down the corn patch in the garden. The first corn is up nicely, but we’ll have to see how the second patch comes. One gully is right down a row! And it’s about 4 inches deep. I think I’ll have to replant that part of the row, for sure. And it’s getting late to plant early corn, up north.

But the potatoes and onions love the rain; we’ve got the makings of a great crop! Because of graduation and the wedding (and the preparation), I’m late doing everything in the garden. Just now, I’m pulling the Wallo’ Waters off my tomatoes. It should have been done two weeks ago, but oh well… The tomatoes look great though. Unfortunately, so do the weeds! Wow. The garden won’t be pristine this year! But we’ll sure have plenty of food from it. (After all, lamb’s quarter and pig weed make great cooked greens!)

After being planted for three years, my perennial flowers are just taking off. The peonies are wonderful! And my lupines and roses look great, too. For a couple of years, they looked pretty puny, trying to fight off weeds that I never had time to pull, it seemed. But I kept at it and this year the flowers are rewarding me. They are absolutely gorgeous and getting better! It goes to show you, our motto of “never quit” holds true in all things in life. Especially here in the backwoods! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Damp storage area, Reusable canning lids, and Drying onions

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Damp storage area

Congrats on your upcoming nuptials and I wish you all of the future happiness possible.
My question is: I have a sizeable quantity of Nitrogen Packed storage food and I have always had them stored in my cool basement. Some time ago a hot water pipe broke in the basement and it turned into a sauna, I discovered this about three days after the event. Some of the cans #2½ and #10 got damp because of the humidity and there is some rust on the exterior but not too bad. Can I use the contents in the future without problems as I am worried about the reduction of the lifespan. Also could you suggest a good book for cooking my storage food, most is Nitrogen packed and some is dehydrated.

Ed Leckey
Montross, Virginia

Thanks Ed. We had a beautiful wedding and our honeymoon was at the Energy Fair in Wisconsin. (Well, a WORKING honeymoon, at any rate. We had fun.)

I’m pretty sure your Nitro Pack foods will be fine. The containers are very moisture proof. Make sure they get dried off and you should be fine. Of course, it’d be a good idea if you would open one or two of them and use that food first so you can be positive your stored foods are fine. A book? How about my new one? It’s packed full of recipes using not only foods from your storage pantry, but those from your garden, and homegrown meats, too. Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook is available through both the website and the magazine. — Jackie

Reusable canning lids

Jackie – I’m a computer idiot (scared to death of the darn things) and after reading your past answers to questions I haven’t found an answer to my question. I’ve seen reusable canning lids for sale in several magazines, but you always say in every article and book of yours I’ve read that lids should never be used more than once. Do the reusable lids not work as the seller claims? Thank you for helping me.

Dinah Russell
Oviedo, Florida

Lids manufactured by Tattler are the only reusable lids I’m aware of. When I say to not use a lid more than once, I’m referring to using regular metal two piece Kerr and Ball type lids, not the Tattler lids. The Tattler lids are definitely reusable; I use them myself and have been very happy with them!  — Jackie

Drying onions

I could not find this on your blog, nor have I found it anywhere else, so far anyway. I am drying some onions (white) that I grew organically. I am going to grind these into a powder. My question is this: will drying and grinding destroy the vitamins and minerals found in the onions? If you don’t know, that’s okay. Everything you do is an inspiration to people like me. Some day I may be able to do the same. In the mean time I am doing small things to learn how to be more self-sufficient.

Robb Simer
Deer Park, Texas

Dehydrating and grinding will not destroy the nutrients in onions and other foods. Just be sure not to crank the heat on your dehydrator, trying to get done faster. This can reduce the nutrition in foods. Follow dehydrator instructions, use a simple solar dehydrator (keep watch of the temperature; you want to dehydrate between 140 and 160 degrees), or use your propane kitchen stove with only the pilot on.

Doing small things to learn self sufficiency results in huge results! Keep up the good work. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The barn starts to go up!

Monday, June 27th, 2011

After months of site prep work, moving tons of gravel to raise the barn site and level it off, Will is finally ready to begin building! He had sixteen holes, four feet deep, bored with the tractor auger, but he had to manually clean them out and enlarge them. What a job that was! We have rock, gravel, and clay. And more rock. He finally hired a new friend, Eric, to help with the heavy work so we could get the barn roughed in by winter. (We have two seasons in Minnesota: Winter and getting ready for winter!) With all of the festivities, including David’s graduation, open house, our wedding, then the MREA Fair, we both felt that we were losing ground this spring. I’m still planting garden!

Eric came yesterday and he and Will hauled 200 cedar fence posts home on the flatbed trailer, then began cleaning out holes. They finished today and began setting those huge used power poles in the holes. Today they got six of the biggest ones in the ground. Already it’s starting to look like something magnificent.

I’m madly trying to till and get more corn and squash planted and the weeds are laughing at me, I’ll swear. But when they get a little bigger, I’ll have the last laugh — I’ll eat them! They’re mostly pig weed and lamb’s quarter. They make tasty greens and can up nicely. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Killing the nasties, Canning bacon, and Wild strawberries

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

Killing the nasties

I’ve come late in life to food storage and I am still nervous. I have no problem doing pickles or jelly, but anything else, especially with meat in it, I’m terrified I’ll poison someone. Is there a way to ensure I don’t? Is there a temperature to bring it to when you cook it to serve that will ensure that the nasties are dead?

Sherri Sachs
Chicago, Illinois

I promise you that if you follow tried and true canning methods you won’t have any “nasties” to worry about. For all vegetables and meats it is always recommended that you bring the food to boiling for at least 10-15 minutes, just to be doubly sure. This can be boiling or baking (in a casserole or soup), just making sure you raise the temperature to boiling. If you don’t already have a good canning book, check out mine — it’s full of great how-to, plus tons of good recipes to can up safely. — Jackie

Canning bacon

I’ve been canning bacon per the instructions in Enola Gay’s article in #127 with great success. I’d like your opinion on trying something different: I cook bacon in the oven and it comes out tasty and flat (un-curled). Would there be a problem wrapping this cooked bacon in parchment and canning it “dry” (as 90% of the grease is gone) for the same amount of time?

Dan Norgard
Prescott Valley, Arizona

There would be no problem, processing-wise. You’ll just have to try it and make sure the bacon doesn’t turn to hard sticks during processing after cooking. Let us know how it turns out so we know too. (Do try a small batch at first as you are experimenting.) — Jackie

Wild strawberries

My question is I have wild strawberries that are threatening to take over my small vegetable garden and yard as well as my neighbours. Are they worth relocating? or should I do something else with them?

Jonathan Kean
Trenton, Ontario

Unless your wild strawberries make a berry bigger than mine do, I’d treat the strawberries as weeds. I know it hurts, but unless you have a large piece of ground and can transplant them to a useful area to establish, it wouldn’t be labor effective. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Pickle brine in stainless steel and Sourdough starter

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Pickle brine in stainless steel

I was making cucumber pickles and radish pickles. Made up a triple recipe for brine, processed the first batch, then I had to interrupt the whole thing to take care of a kid (goat) with health issues. By the time that was finished, it was late, and I decided to wait until morning to put up the rest of the jars.

Well, next morning, I realized my mistake — all that vinegar brine sitting in my new stainless steel stockpot all night! Of course, the stockpot (an expensive one, too) was grossly discolored, but I went ahead and processed the rest of the pickles. The brine was greenish tinted, but I assumed it was from the heads of dill I left in the brine.

Later, I noticed that dried spills and splashes on the counter had a faint greenish-blackish edge to them. The pickles look okay, but I haven’t opened or tried them… I’m wondering if the greenish color was not from the dill as I assumed (this is the first time I put the dill in the brine instead of in each jar), but from the steel? If it is, is this residue or whatever it is, unsafe?

Lynn of Moss Hollowe
The Dark Corner, South Carolina

It’s never a good idea to make up a double or triple batch of pickling solution. One reason is the one you found out. To tell the truth, I don’t know if it’s unsafe, but the flavor will probably be affected. The greenish color is from the discoloration from the reaction between the steel and vinegar, not the dill. I hate to waste, but I’d dump the pickles, if it were me, and re-can some fresh ones. — Jackie

Sourdough starter

It was so good to meet you all at the MREA Renewable Fair this weekend. I love your new cookbook. As we discussed, here is a reminder of the page 127 liquid omission in Grandma Eddy’s sourdough starter. Thanks for the great recipes and information.

Marc T. Preradovich
Oshkosh, Wisconsin

I double checked Grandma’s recipe and there are 2 cups of 110 degree (very warm) water in the starter recipe #1. I’m so sorry for this omission in the new book! We were happy to meet you, too! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Processing elderberries and Dry ice storage

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

Processing elderberries

I saw in Issue #102 a question about “green sticky residue” left by processing elderberries and how to remove it. This is the resin of the plant. We thought we were going to have to throw out Lehman’s food processor until I called my mom and she told me to wash the sticky parts well with plain mineral oil. Then wash the oils off with hot water and soap. The resin is water insoluble but binds readily to the mineral oil.

Jim Willard
Waiteville, West Virginia

Thanks for the information, Jim. I’m sure other readers will be glad for the tip. — Jackie

Dry-ice storage

Have some info about long term food storage (beans, rice etc) that is good for 20 years. I’m sure you know this trick but didn’t see in any of BHM’s issues so figured I better send info just in case. Never tried this process but going to soon. Sure looks like a win win to me. It involves using 1 lb of dry ice per 18 gallon barrel, lid and a ring clamp to tighten. Instead of my explaining the process I am going to give you the web address where I learned this method. It’s… I also think BHM is one of the finest magazines on the market. Been with you all for quite a while also.

Steve Trembly
Eureka, California

I’ve seen the dry ice used, but to tell the truth, I’ve stored beans, rice, and other dry grains with NO dry ice, for more than 20 years, and they’ve turned out just fine. I’m a why-do-it-if-you-don’t-have-to kind of person, so I’ll just keep doing it my old way. I store in containers that are airtight, waterproof, and vermin-proof. And I keep the containers in a cool, dark location, usually in my cellar or another cool, dark area. — Jackie


Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.