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Ask Jackie headline

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

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Archive for July, 2011

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Pepper rings, Canning chicken, and Red ants

Sunday, July 31st, 2011

Pepper rings

I would love to have your recipe for pepper rings. I made some the other day and they tasted delicious but were kinda mushy. Not sure if I did anything wrong or if I had a bad recipe.

Florence, Alabama

This recipe is very easy and works for me. I just slice and pack the rings in hot jars, then pour boiling vinegar mixed with about 1 sliced garlic clove per cup over the rings, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. I immediately place the hot lids on and screw down the rings firmly tight. They are processed in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. If you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary. Peppers, like cucumbers, get soft if you boil them or process them longer than necessary. — Jackie

Canning chicken recipe

I make a dish my family loves and I am wondering if I could can it? It is made up of chicken breast, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and canned mushrooms, and garlic along with some spices. You are supposed to thicken it with cornstarch, but couldn’t I do that after I open a jar of it and heat it? After it is cooked you pour it over rice and serve with a wedge of lime. It really is good and a family favorite.

Cindy Baugh
Dandridge, Tennessee

Yes, you can home can your recipe with no troubles, providing that you can it for the length of time required for your chicken (you don’t say if it’s bone-in or boneless chicken; they require different times). Yes, thicken your sauce after you open the jars. It does sound good; I’ll make a Jackie-copy version tonight! — Jackie

Red ants

I have baby geese that are three weeks old, they live in the house now but I take them out in the yard. One of my geese was bit by red ants; I took the ants off and washed his foot. Can I use spray that’s for keeping bugs off children on my geese (just their feet)? I did try asking my vet first she says treat the ground, this year the ants are really bad and I don’t want to poison all my animals. I couldn’t find the answer in your veterinary book. My geese will have to move out of the house soon.

Lancaster, California

Usually when geese get larger, ants won’t bother them; they eat them! But if they still seem to be biting your goslings, you can use any non-toxic insect repellent on their legs. I wouldn’t use a DEET product. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Juice steamers, Rubbery carrots, and Carrot recipes

Saturday, July 30th, 2011

Juice steamers

Not so much a question, but a thank you for the little blurb about juice steamers. After reading your comment, I began my search online. The Swedish brand was out of my price range, but I found a much cheaper one on It is still stainless, $70.00, and works great! I wish I’d heard about this tool years ago. This was my first year of a great grape harvest, and I steamed out pounds of juice. We’ll have jelly forever! Again, thanks for all you do and mention, happy harvest!

Andrea Del Gardo
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you loved your steam juicer. After seeing how much more juice my friend, Jeri, gets from an equal amount of fruit, I certainly decided that I needed one, too! Enjoy your jelly! — Jackie

Rubbery carrots

What would make my carrots rubbery? They grew very big, but never got hard and crunchy.

Latisha Gordon
Cohutta, Georgia

This usually happens because of heat and/or not enough water. Often if you pull your rubbery carrots, wash and refrigerate them in cold water, they’ll crisp up. To crisp a larger amount, use a bucket of ice water in a cool spot to soak them. Usually, an overnight treatment will do the trick. — Jackie

Carrot recipes

I know how to can plain old carrots, and have a glazed carrot recipe. Do you know of any other canned carrot recipes?

Dinah Jo
Battle Ground, Washington

I use carrots in several mixed vegetable mixes that I can: corn with diced carrots, carrots, corn, rutabagas, summer squash and potatoes; carrots and peas; and large chunks of carrots, potatoes, and rutabagas for stew. I also use them in a mixed pickle and carrot relish. I make most of my carrot recipes after I have canned plain or mixed carrots. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning salsa, Root cellar, and Heirloom beans

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Canning salsa

Do you have to pressure can salsa? I have read some books say yes some say no.

Teresa Moye
Fayetteville, Georgia

No, not with any of the recipes I’ve seen. It’s perfectly safe to can using a boiling water bath canner. Do use an approved recipe so that you get the ratio of tomatoes/vinegar or lemon juice/vegetables right to make it safe to can, as a high acid food, in a boiling water bath. — Jackie

Root cellar

My husband and I are making plans to build a new house and would like to have a root cellar in the basement for food storage. We have been doing some reading and are finding that root cellars are supposed to be kept at 32-40 degrees. We plan to have a safe room in our home that is concrete all around (floor, ceiling, and walls). We know this room will not be as cold as 40 degrees because ground temperature is about 55 degrees and there will be some residual heat from the house. Will this be “good enough” for a root cellar environment? What else can we do to make the room more friendly to cold storage?

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

Insulate your ceiling and walls, but provide for some ventilation to keep humidity down. We have openings above the door to let air flow through the cellar. While 32-40 degrees is supposed to be ideal, our winter temperature in our cellar is 40 degrees and the summer sometimes gets to 55 degrees and we still have potatoes that are good from our last fall’s harvest.

Don’t forget to include some blankets in your safe room. While 55 degrees doesn’t seem all that cool, if you’re down there, ducking a tornado or other emergency situation, you’ll appreciate some blankets to keep you cozy. Store them in covered plastic totes and they will be ready when you need them — hopefully never! — Jackie

Heirloom beans

We had read somewhere that Kentucky Wonder pole beans are all “heirloom”; is that correct?
We saved some seed from last years’ plants, & planted a trial sample this year- they seem to be producing well, with normal growth. We’d hate to plant the entire crop of beans with saved seed only to find out later that they’ve gone all wacky. The beans from which we saved the seed were store bought KW seed packets. Good bet or bad?

Mason, New Hampshire

Good bet, Deb. Kentucky Wonders ARE heirloom beans and will produce true to their parent stock. Now you’re started at seed saving. What will you save this year? Isn’t it fun? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Off-grid refrigeration and Honey in jelly recipes

Thursday, July 28th, 2011

Off-grid refrigeration

I know that you are off grid. What do you do for refrigeration? All the solar information I have read said that you can not use an electric refrigerator with solar. The propane refrigerators are very expensive. We live in the hot south and this is going to be a issue for us soon.

Kathleen Minkkinen
Cedar Bluff, Alabama

We have a propane refrigerator. Ours cost about $900, which is more than most electric refrigerators. Occasionally you can find a good used one, however. Like everything, you get what you pay for. Ours is a small refrigerator, compared to most electric ones. We’d like a bigger one, but have decided to buy another smaller one to go side-by-side with our existing one for extra refrigeration for meats at butchering time and also milk products being stored during and after cheesemaking. — Jackie

Honey in jelly recipes

May I use honey in jelly recipes? If so what is the substitution rate?

Joline Fleming
Rossiter, Pennsylvania

Yes, you can. Remember, though, that jellies made with honey have a different taste than jelly made with sugar. Some people love it; others find it strange-tasting. You can substitute honey for half of the sugar in your jelly recipes. For instance, if your jelly requires 6 cups of sugar, you can use 3 cups of sugar and 3 cups of honey. You can’t go higher than that as honey is a much moister product than sugar and the jelly will not set. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Scalding milk, Cleaning up mouse droppings, and Self-rising flour for dry mixes

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

Scalding milk

As I’m preparing to make your recipe for caramel pecan rolls, I thought I’d ask if you know WHY we scald milk? Is that a holdover from earlier days, do you think?

I quit scalding mine a good while ago and just heat it. Have you noticed a taste/performance difference?

Betsy Weible
Dallas, Texas

Yes, I think it is from the days when people used fresh, whole milk. I just heat store milk, but still scald our home-raised milk. No, I haven’t noticed a difference in taste or performance. — Jackie

Cleaning up mice droppings

We have purchased a home with a wonderful root cellar, complete with double entry doors and an air vent. It is well-made of concrete but has been sorely neglected, with mice droppings everywhere and a big mess. How would you go about cleaning it up? Is it safe to spray it down with Clorox to kill anything the mice may have transmitted, then sweep it all out?

Angela Daivs
Auburn, Kansas

CONGRATULATIONS! What a bonus! I’d wear a mask to shovel out the “mess,” then sweep it out as well as possible. Use extra fans to keep the dust down. When done, spray the walls/shelves with a bleach solution, then also saturate the floor and scrub it with an old broom. When dry, sweep/shop-vacuum it out and let dry. You’re good to go! Enjoy your new homestead and root cellar! — Jackie

Self-rising flour for dry mixes

Can I use self-rising flour to make the dry pancake mix and other mixes in your pantry cookbook? Catfish — can I can them using your recipe for salmon?

Joyce Pierce
Greenville, Alabama

Just use all-purpose flour; the self-rising flours have added baking powder/soda, which would throw off the recipes in the pantry cookbook. (All-purpose is cheaper, too!) Yes, you can substitute catfish (or any other fish) for salmon. I’ve even used sucker to good advantage! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Onions, Canning pudding, and Cutting hay

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011


I have been reading about how onions can be used to trap bacteria. Recommendations include using raw, unpeeled onions as well as onions cut in half. The recommendation is to never re-use a cut onion even if it is kept in a plastic bag in the fridge. How do you keep stored onions from attracting bacteria and making you sick when you eat them?

David Read
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Sorry, but I don’t buy the “trapping bacteria” thing. Nearly every non-acid food, onions included, have the possibility of becoming contaminated, when left out or in the fridge for lengthy times. (Of course, the longer and the warmer the temperature, the sooner this will happen.) Stored onions will not make you sick when used when they are firm and nice. If you eat one that is mushy and discolored, you could get sick. — Jackie

Canning pudding

Can you can pudding?

Phyllis Shear
Plains, Montana

This is one thing that doesn’t can well; it’s sort of like the “cream-of” soups. Cook it up fresh, instead, using your pantry foods and home-raised milk. — Jackie

Cutting hay

So glad to hear you baled some great hay but it reminded me of a question I have had for some time. What is the difference between a first, second or third cutting of hay? Which is best?

Also, when feeding, which animals do you feed alfalfa and who gets the timothy? What type of hay did you just bale?

Deborah Motylinski
Brecksville, Ohio

First crop (or cutting) hay is usually taller and has more stems. It’s great for horses, donkeys, mature goats, and cattle. Second or third cutting hay is usually more clover or alfalfa, as the grasses, such as timothy and orchard grass, don’t re-grow as quickly. Second or third hay is more leafy and less stem. It is finer hay. While I’ve fed this to horses and cattle, it’s usually more expensive if you buy it, so when you have a choice, due to cost, reserve the second or third cutting hay for dairy goats and cows that are milking heavily, calves, kids, lambs, and even pigs. Very little alfalfa is raised here, as it often winter-kills, due to our cold winters. As a substitute, many farmers grow bird’s-foot trefoil, a similar legume with small leaves and stems, like a yellow-flowered alfalfa. The hay we just put up is timothy, alsike clover, and bird’s-foot trefoil, mixed, with several patches of reed canary grass. (Reed canary grass is a tall, quick growing grass that likes damp spots, which our country has plenty of! It has tender, large leaves, which the animals LOVE. It is a productive grass and we may get a second cutting off these spots.) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

War on weeds

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Due to several reasons (excuses?), the weeds got ahead of us this year. I’m talking severely ahead of us! So as the weather has finally cooled down to tolerable, we are spending hours a day hauling, chopping, and otherwise getting rid of weeds! So far, the peppers in the hoop house are the weed-winners, with only an occasional weed popping up. We’ve finally got the tomatoes (all 75 of them!) weeded and heavily mulched with reed canary grass hay (without seeds). I finished doing the cucumber row and the two rows of bush beans yesterday. And I pulled weeds from one carrot row, too. Hopefully, today, while Will is busy putting fence posts in on the west line of our new 40-acre pasture, I can get the carrots finished and start in on the potatoes. They need a hilling, but I’ve got to get the darned weeds pulled first. I need to get them out before the pig weed goes to seed, which it’s threatening to do pretty soon. We don’t need kazillions of little pig weeds next year! YUCK!

Will’s been busy and has gotten the entire west and north lines cleared with the dozer on the new forty acres and the first strand of barbed wire stretched straight from corner to corner. In this way, when he puts in fence posts, they will be perfectly straight, making for a longer lasting, tight fence. Barbed wire has a bad name for cutting up animals. But when it’s put up, at least four strands high, stretched tight on good strong corners, braces, and line posts, it’s very rare to have an animal injured. Most are hurt by getting in loose wire that has sagged because it takes some work and time to make good strong corners which hold the wire tight for years. Having too few wires also causes injuries, as animals try to eat through and under the wires, leaning on them, which makes them sag. Four or five closely spaced, tight wires will make a strong, quite safe fence that will last for years and years with minimal maintenance. We like that. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning dry beans and sauerkraut, Bread and butter pickles, and Canning pork patties

Monday, July 25th, 2011

Canning dry beans and sauerkraut

My computer went on the fritz and I had to take it to the Dr., when it came back I had lost alot of information that I had saved and my Jackie file is GONE! There was a person that had written to you and told you the exact formula on canning dry pint beans. They told you the exact amount of beans to put into the jar and the canning pressure time. Do you happen to know this?

Also, I am getting ready to make kraut, after the fermentation is complete, I will heat it up as recommended in your canning book, my question is, will that kill all of the beneficial bacteria or enzymes?

Tonya Bowles
Paoli, Indiana

The archive recipe is this: 3/4 cup dry beans in pint jar, fill with boiling water, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

Canning sauerkraut will reduce, but not totally kill, all the beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the kraut. But it will taste wonderful for years! — Jackie

Bread and butter pickles

Do you have a recipe for bread and butter pickles. I just ordered your pantry cookbook about a week ago, but it does not have any recipes for making pickles.

Janet Wilmoth
West Carrollton, Ohio

Sorry, but the pantry cookbook is a recipe book, not a canning book. My last book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food has several bread and butter pickle recipes for canning. Here is one for you:

Bread and butter icicle pickles:

4 quarts medium cucumbers, sliced
6 medium onions, sliced
1/2 cup pickling salt
1 quart cracked ice (or ice water)
3 cups white vinegar
1 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. mustard seed
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. celery seed

Rinse fresh cucumbers thoroughly, remove stem and blossom ends. Slice thin. Do not peel. Slice onions. Mix cucumbers, onions, and salt. Add cracked ice and let stand for 3 hours, then drain thoroughly. The ice-salt mix helps make crisp pickles. Combine remaining ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Add drained vegetables. Heat just to boiling, stirring to ensure even heating. DO NOT OVERCOOK. Pack hot pickles in sterilized hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Ladle hot pickling syrup over pickles, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
Note; I often add chopped red and green peppers to the vegetable mix and add 1 cinnamon stick and 1 Tbsp. whole cloves in a spice bag to the boiling pickling liquid; we like the spicy taste. — Jackie

Canning pork patties

We have been given several packages of frozen ground pork patties, 12 to a package. Since there are only the two of us, and we have to unthaw all 12, do you have any suggestions of what to cook? We had “pork”burgers today and I browned the remaining patties in the skillet and seasoned them for tacos.

Longdale, Oklahoma

Are the patties separated by paper? If so, you can partially thaw a package, then pry whatever you want apart to use in a meal, then re-freeze the balance, packaging them in individual meal-sized packages. Some suggestions for recipes? Thaw them, bread them, then fry them and top with chicken gravy for “chicken fried steak”, dice them, fry them, then use in a stir fry with onions, peppers, celery, snow peas, and whatever vegetables you choose. Serve over rice with sweet and sour sauce. Crumble, fry, then make enchiladas using the meat, enchilada sauce, and corn tortillas. Crumble, lightly fry, then top your favorite pizza with them or crumble and use in your favorite chili recipe. Hope that gets your creative juices flowing. It made ME hungry! — Jackie


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