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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 September, 2011

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Wood burners, Peach preserves, Dry beans, and Pumpkin puree

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Wood burners

Have you used a wood burner with a chimney? They are supposed to be smokeless and put out twice the heat. I really like the concept of not letting all my heat go up in smoke and out the chimney. I talked to the guy who is making them and he will soon have the chimney available to add on to my present burner. Its in a test stage now and he said it looks promising.

I think I need to do one chimney on each of my wood burners — three for the house, one for the workshop and one full boiler burner for keeping the water from turning to ice in the barn. I have been using electric de-icers to keep the animal water thawed but our plan is to get off the grid by next spring…

I love the idea of the rocket mass heater design ( (where the jet stove design came from) but I live up north and when we burn, we burn 24/7… Last year we burned 5 cords for all the buildings — roughly 10 pick up loads. Sure, it only cost us $35 in gas to do it (chain saw, gas to haul and gas for splitter) but it took 22 days at 5 hours a day. If I can reduce that work load by any amount I would be a happy camper. And I don’t think a rocket mass barrel chimney would work because we’ve used a double barrel kit for the work shop and it really only lasted about a season before rust got it. The barrels just don’t take the heat like a heavy metal jet stove chimney unit could — at least, that’s my thought.

IF these really work as well as I think they would by burning off the smoke and releasing all the heat before it leaves the building, then there might be no end to the things it could do — make hot water, make a sauna (!), or even build a year-round greenhouse if we could run the chimney heat underground. That’s if it works as well as I hope. Are you familiar with these? I’d be very happy to hear experiences with using them!

Lyle, Minnesota

Sorry, Sherry, but we’ve never heard of either a jetstove or a rocket mass heater. How about it? Any readers out there who have? Please let us know how your installation works for you. — Jackie

Peach preserves

Having found this, it looks good to me. My question, canning time? I’m keeping the freezer as open as possible due to the recent power outages, and winter a few months away.

Evaporated peaches ingredients:

15 pounds peaches
5 pounds sugar
1 cup vinegar

Choose fully ripe, sound peaches. Do not peel. Wash and slice. Pour 5 pounds sugar over peaches and let sit overnight. Then add 1 cup vinegar and cook slowly until mixture cooks down and is thick. Mash with potato masher and sweeten to taste. Can add almond flavoring if you wish.

Can be canned or frozen. These taste like real dried peaches. Use as you would dried peaches for making fried pies

Philip McRae
Middleboro, Massachusetts

This is basically a peach preserve recipe with the vinegar ensuring acidity. Pack the hot preserves within 1/2 inch of the top of hot, sterile jars then process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. (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.

Harvesting dry beans

First I would like to say you amaze me! I garden, and process foods (freeze and can) on a much lesser level than you do, and I get very tired. I don’t know where you get your energy. I planted a couple of rows of “Painted Pony” beans to use as a dry bean. When is he best time to harvest them? Do I need to wait until after a frost?

Sherry Wilhelm
Paulding, Ohio

Not so much energy, but having learned to pace myself and just keep plugging along. Yes, I DO get tired, but it’s such a great feeling to look at all we have accomplished in a day, a week, that it makes it all very worthwhile.

Harvest your dry beans when the pods are tan and dry. If you wait too long, they’ll pop open and spray beans everywhere. But don’t harvest them when they are at all moist and soft or they’ll mold. The best way to tell is to pop a couple pods open and check the beans out. They should be shiny and hard and relatively loose in the pod. You don’t have to wait for a frost. Once harvested, thresh out the beans and then dry them in shallow layers on trays in a protected area to make sure they are very dry for storage. — Jackie

Pumpkin puree

I read that I could can pumpkin puree and process it in a water bath on medium heat. The expected process time is from 3 to 5 hours, depending on boiling point. Can I reduce the heat and process longer and still get the same effect? I know canning pumpkin puree is not recommended, however I have found many people who do it.

Shawna Gracia
Somerville, Texas

It is absolutely NOT safe to can pumpkin puree or any other vegetable in a water bath canner. No way, no how. PLEASE keep safe and use a pressure canner. It is also not recommended any longer that we can pumpkin puree. Instead, you need to can pumpkin chunks then run it through a sieve prior to using it to puree it. Pumpkin and other thick foods are so thick that the heat necessary for safe processing may not reach the center of the jar for long enough to kill harmful bacteria and toxins.

I know some people still waterbath vegetables and even meats, as it was the old way. But this is one “old way” that is best forgot! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just love our meals in a jar!

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

After a long day of work around the homestead, I’m not always gung ho to create a sumptuous supper for us. Last spring I canned up a whole mess of baked beans and ham — jars and jars of them. The beans were bought in bulk from Homestead Mills, our local feed mill; the ham was less than $1 a pound, the tomato sauce and onions were from our pantry. It took an afternoon to can up dozens of pints. And tonight, I dumped two into a saucepan with a little extra chunk canned ham, brown sugar and catsup, heated it up and dinner was served!

Of course, we also had warm rolls and fresh, homemade butter I did this morning and big glasses of ice cold milk from our cow and slices of golden Jubilee tomatoes to go with it. Pretty darned good. And not a chemical in the whole works! Gee it’s great to be poor! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning meats

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Canning sausage patties

I processed 17 pints of sausage patties. I browned them and then put 4 Tbsp. of water and fat from the pan (as you suggested in an article I read) into each jar, which contains 4 patties. However, I did not fill the jars up with any additional water or other liquid. I thought that fat would render out from the patty and it would be sufficient. I processed the jars in my pressure canner at 11 lbs. pressure for 75 minutes. Everything sealed perfectly, but only the bottom patty is covered with liquid the other 3 are not. My question is are the patties good or should I throw them out?

Vero Beach, Florida

Your patties are still good. Most people cover the patties with broth to keep them soft, but I prefer them without it. When they are heated, you can add a little water while heating, if you wish, then let them fry down, evaporating the water. — Jackie

Shelf life of canned meats

I’ve been successfully canning meat for years but with money being tight, want to determine the best financial avenue for storing meat. Cans of meat from grocery stores have a 3-4 year shelf-life. What is the approximate shelf-life for properly pressure canned meats kept in a dry, 70 degree storage?

Ruth Knutson
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

Who says store meat only has a 3-4 year shelf life? I’ve kept it for a dozen years or more and it does nearly as well as home canned foods. Home canned meats will remain good for as long as the lids are solid; the most common cause for them going bad is rusted out lids (often caused by damp basements or leaving the rings on during storage).

In my opinion the “freshness dates” stamped on store cans are a marketing ploy meant to make people fearful and throw away perfectly good food and go buy more. It is true that foods stored for a lengthy time may lose a little of their nutrition, but they are still good tasting and definitely good to eat provided that the container is solid and store cans are not dented or bulging on the ends. — Jackie

Flavor of canned meats

It seams that all my canned meat — beef, pork, lamb, etc. tastes the same. Can you give me suggestions to help improve the flavors of the various meats or is there a different way to process the different types of meat?

Grover, Colorado

You process most meats the same, but you can certainly vary the flavor by using different flavorings and spices. For instance, we like our venison canned with a little powdered beef stock added to each jar. I add black pepper and onion powder to my pork, and beef gets nothing but salt or a combination of seasonings such as onion, garlic, black pepper, basil, etc. Flavorings do not alter the time or pressure necessary for safe canning but can dramatically alter the flavor of the canned meat. Be a little stingy on using the spices at first as some really get strong during storage.

Once you open a jar of your meat, get creative in using it. I don’t just dump my meat out into a saucepan and heat it up. I make such things as sweet and sour chicken, orange beef, tamale pie with Mexican seasonings in the ground meat, casseroles, stews, soups, and much more. (Check out my new book, Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook for tons of recipes for using your home-canned meats and hundreds of other yummy things from your pantry shelves and home garden.) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Tomato soup, Elderberries, and Pickling peppers

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Tomato soup

Do you happen to have a tomato soup recipe using dried powdered tomatoes? I have had a bumper crop of them this year and have canned a lot of whole, chopped, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce already. Now I am dehydrating a bunch of them. I have made the soup using chopped tomatoes but would like one using the powder.

Joni Warren
Canyon City, Oregon

You can try this one; it’s one we like.


1 cup powdered tomato
4 cups water
1 pint chicken broth
1 Tbsp. butter or margarine
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. chopped onion (fine)
1 tsp. dried basil
pinch of baking soda
2 cups cream (or may use milk)

Mix tomato powder, water, chicken broth, butter, sugar, onions, basil, and soda. Simmer 1 hour, stirring to prevent scorching. Heat cream gently, the pour cream into hot tomato mixture. Serve immediately. Hope you like it. — Jackie


I found some wild elderberries. I dried about a pint of them on my porch. I placed the dried berries in a jar and covered them. It has been several weeks now and when I looked at them today, there was a flour miller inside. Not only that, but when I poured the jar contents out on a newspaper, there were small worms in the berries. Yuck. How can I keep this from happening next time?

Could those dried berries (ones that were not wormy) be planted in small containers next Spring to create elderberry plants? Could I set them outside after the last frost and harvest berries next August?

J from Missouri

Next year, freeze your berries before drying them for a few weeks. You can initially freeze them by laying them in a single layer on a cookie sheet and when they’re frozen, pour them into freezer containers. Then they won’t clump up in the freezer. Or if you’re like me and don’t have a freezer, dry your berries quickly, then put them in your oven on its lowest setting. This will kill any insect eggs present so you won’t be “surprised” again by critters in your berries.

You can try planting some of the dried seeds, but often tree and shrub seeds become too dehydrated to germinate after purposeful dehydrating or long storage in the house. What you might do is to plant several seeds now, in a spot in a raised bed or in your garden soil and see if you get sprouts in the spring. Elderberries, like many fruit seeds, must undergo a period of chilling called stratification, before they will germinate. If they don’t germinate in the spring, just remember to harvest some more seeds next summer and plant some right off the bat. They most likely won’t pop up before fall but if left undisturbed over winter, should sprout up nicely, come spring. — Jackie

Pickling peppers

I am looking for a way to pickle peppers without having to waterbath them if possible. They become so soft when doing that. Also I am wondering if I have to take the seeds out of the small peppers before pickling? We usually just eat them fresh but this year I have MORE than a bumper crop!

Deming, Washington

If you pack the raw peppers in hot jars and pour boiling pickling solution over them, then only water bath them for 10 minutes, they will remain quite firm. The longer you “cook” any vegetable, the softer it becomes. No, you don’t have to remove the seeds, but with sweet peppers, the flavor will be a little better by removing the seeds and ribs. With hot peppers, the seeds and ribs left in the peppers will result in hotter peppers after pickling. Do remember to cut several small slits in each pepper to allow the pickling solution to reach the interior of each pepper. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The calf stable is done and the calves have moved in

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

After spending a couple of weeks on the new calf stable, we moved the weaned calves in yesterday. I bedded down the 12’x20′ building with straw and the calves followed Will and David, who were luring them with bottles while I brought up the rear. The move went smoothly and now the calves are happily grazing on the clover that’s in the training ring and munching on the big round bale in the center. They have plenty of room and a nice new house with a view of our woods, horse pasture, and new barn. How good is that? Will’s tired, but we are so happy with our new structure. I’m hoping to get a couple of gallons of barn paint Friday to seal the sides. The paint makes the OSB last so much longer. One day we’ll put home-sawn siding over the OSB, but that’s down the road a few dozen projects!

Today I canned some Amish coleslaw, ham (from an on-sale, $1 a pound ham), and several quarts of boiled dinner (ham, ham broth, carrots, potatoes, onions, and cabbage). Boy does the house smell great! I’m getting hungry. I sure want to get a couple more of those hams. I got a good yield from the one I did today, making it well worth the $7 I spent. Besides the 4 quarts of boiled dinner, I canned five pints and four half pints of ham dices in broth, plus one quart of plain ham broth to use in bean soup. That’s 14 meals for $7. Not bad. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Pickled vegetables and canning butter, Canning candy, and Processing low acid tomatoes

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Raw packing pickled vegetables and canning butter

My husband loves the hot pickled jalapeno, carrot and onions he gets from a local restaurant, so I decided to can some this year. I used a recipe that said to raw pack cut vegetables into jars then add boiling brine solution and process in water bath. Now I see that your recipes call for hot packing. Are mine still safe to eat? Also, last year I canned up butter and used an oven method recipe I had found, so they did NOT get a water bath. Is the butter still safe to eat and if not can I re-can it?

Shawna Sisk
Show Low, Arizona

Yes, your recipe is still safe. The simmering in the recipe I included in my canning book only tenderizes the vegetables. Many mixed vegetable pickle recipes call for raw packed vegetables. You’re okay there. But the butter…The only way I’d use it is in cooking where I was sure it was cooked at temperatures above 240 degrees for 15 minutes (baking, frying, etc.), which would kill any possible lurking bacteria or toxins that could make you sick. No, you can not re-can it. — Jackie

Canning candy

Have you tried canning candy? I’m thinking about making pralines with some of my pecans and canning them. I just don’t know about any problems that may come up. They would sure be yummy this winter. Also, maybe make some pecans with the recipe I have to make a chex party mix. I think that the seasonings in that would taste good on pecans.

Shirley Owens
Milton, Florida

No, I haven’t tried canning candy yet. But I’m afraid your pralines will melt during processing, as will many other candies. As for the pecans with seasonings — that’ll work. Just dust the raw pecans halfway through the toasting process (lowest setting in your oven, single layer on cookie sheets) then continue toasting to bake on the seasonings. — Jackie

Processing low acid tomatoes

How long do I need to process low or no acid tomatoes in a pressure canner?
(yellow tomatoes)

Pat Lemieux
Toledo, Washington

The recommended time for tomatoes in their own juice, processed in a pressure canner is 25 minutes at 10 pounds, but do be sure to add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to each pint and 2 Tbsp. to each quart. Not only does this ensure safe canning for low acid tomatoes, but it also helps preserve color and improves the flavor. No, it doesn’t make them sour or lemony. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning smoked meat, Canning corn and tomatoes together, and Canning tuna

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Canning smoked meat

We enjoy smoking turkeys, chickens, brisket, etc, in our smoker, then we normally package and freeze the meat. This year we have come into several extra chickens, once the meat is smoked we would like to can it. I would like to know if we can “dry can” the turkey and chicken meat, my husband is afraid we will not have good heat transfer due to no liquid.

Team Riggle
Madison, Alabama

With small smoked foods, such as salmon and other fish, you need not add liquid for safe canning. However, with thicker meats like chicken breasts, I’d advise adding broth to ensure both safe heat penetration and tenderness of the end product. You don’t want to end up with chunks of chicken jerky. — Jackie

Canning corn and tomatoes together

You mentioned canning corn and tomatoes together and I was wondering what proportions you use and what processing procedures. I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of your Pantry Cookbook.

Carol Bandy
Hightown, Virginia

I use about 2/3 tomatoes with 1/3 corn, but that’s sure not set in stone. I process the jars in a pressure canner for the time required for corn — quarts for 85 minutes and pints for 55 minutes. I hope you’ll like the Pantry Cookbook and get lots of good use out of it. — Jackie

Canning tuna

I just ordered your cookbook earlier this week, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, and am anxiously awaiting it. My question is, do you have a recipe or instructions for canning fresh tuna? We may be getting a few fresh tunas from a friend in the coming week (possibly before your book arrives) and I’d like to put some aside and heard that you can can tuna at home for a similar flavor to a metal canned tuna.

Carrie Timlin
Scranton, Pennsylvania

Yes, you can home can tuna. It’s easy to do and you’ll love the taste. It’s better than store bought tuna!

Raw pack: Fillet tuna. Remove skin and lightly scrape flesh to remove blood and any discolored meat. Cut into quarters, removing all bones. Discard dark meat (or can it for your cats). Cut quarters crosswise into half-pint or pint jar length, allowing for 1 inch of headspace. Pack fish into hot half-pint or pint jars only, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to each half-pint jar and 1 tsp. to each pint jar. Pour boiling water over tuna, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean and place hot, previously simmered lid on jar. Screw ring down firmly tight. Process half-pints and pints for 100 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner.

You can also hot pack tuna but most people choose the raw pack method for speed and ease of canning. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Pickled beets, Canning blue cheese, and Canning horseradish

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Pickled beets

Yesterday I made canned pickled beets. This is the first time I have ever canned and I am paranoid about botulism! Should I worry about this? I boiled the jars for 10 minutes prior to canning. Cooked the beets. Stuffed the jars with beets, onions, and spices and poured the vinegar mixture over top (3/4 cup water to 1/4 cup red wine vinegar 6% to 1/4 cup white vinegar 5% ) Then sealed the lids and reboiled jars for 10 minutes. The jars all sealed. How does that sound? And also if I store the jars in the fridge is there less a chance of getting botulism?

Esther Mackinnon
Vancouver, BC Canada

This does not match any of the tested recipes for pickled beets that I have. Most of mine have at least half water/half vinegar…some more vinegar than that. And all of them recommend 30 minutes processing time in a boiling water bath canner. You can store a few jars in the fridge and they will be safe to eat if eaten relatively soon. Don’t store a bunch, however, keeping them for months and months. That could get dicey. Next time, use a tested recipe and enjoy your safe pickled beets — Jackie

Canning blue cheese

I have been canning for about 35 years but have never tried canning cheese. I have purchased your two cookbooks and love them, however I was wondering if it is possible to can blue cheese? I have been given a large amount by a friend and was wondering if this is possible?

Martha Hubler
Ashland, Pennsylvania

I have never tried canning blue cheese, but I doubt that it would can up as nicely as we’d like, due to much of its character being from the streaks of blue mold running through the cheese; these would all melt together when canned. Freezing in small containers will probably give you much better results. — Jackie

Canning horseradish

I have quite a large area of horseradish plants which have not been harvested in at least 8 years, can these roots be canned? I remember Mom grating them and adding vinegar but I would like to store them long term.

Alecia Lee
Washington Court House, Ohio

Yes, you can home can your horseradish so you can enjoy it year around. Grate up your clean, peeled horseradish with a fine blade or the fine holes on your hand-held grater. Measure half as much vinegar as horseradish. Place in large bowl and mix well. Pack into half-pint jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. — Jackie


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