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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 December, 2011

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Odd chicken egg

Friday, December 30th, 2011

Odd chicken egg

I got the craziest egg today. It is perfectly round, only the size of a yolk and the shell is very thin. Is there a reason a hen will lay an egg prematurely? Is this something to worry about? And should I pitch it or use it?

Erica Kardelis
Helper, Utah

This is just one of those things — some blip in the hen’s reproduction cycle. It’s nothing to worry about and you can certainly use the egg. I got a rippled, lopsided egg the other day that made us all laugh. I think the hen hiccupped when forming it! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning walnuts and citron melon

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Canning walnuts

Are the instructions for canning walnuts the same as pecans? Dry in the jar and then pressure can at 5 pounds for 10 minutes for quart jars? Should I preheat the jars in the oven? Walnuts aren’t usually toasted, so they just go in room temperature? And should I up the time or the pounds for high altitude?

Erica Kardelis
Helper, Utah

Yes, you can all nutmeats the same way. Preheating the jars in a dry location, such as your oven, is a good idea. Your walnuts ARE toasted; it helps reduce the moisture that can cause them to become rancid. Use pint or half-pint jars to can your nutmeats; they stay fresh in the jars for years that way. Quarts, maybe not so long. Yes, if you live at a high altitude, consult your canning book for instructions on how many pounds to add extra. Your walnuts will turn out great! — Jackie

Citron melon

My mother used to can Citron preserves and I would like to continue this tradition. Do you have any citron melon seeds for sale or know where I might purchase some? Just looking for enough to plant 3-4 hills to get started.

Canton, Georgia

Several seed catalogs carry citron melon, which is used for citron preserves. (They don’t taste sweet like other melons do, but make great preserves and candied peel.) Baker Creek Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange both list it. I’m glad you’re carrying on your mom’s tradition! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning pecans and duck confit

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Canning pecans

In canning pecans, how much water should you put in a pressure cooker before you set your jars? I’ve never canned pecans before. Love your blogs, and pictures, and your cook book on Growing and canning your own food. I’ve learned a lot, about canning from you, and making cheese, and soap.

Estes Mills
Texarkana, Texas

You put the same amount of water in your canner as usual; most canners take about 2 inches of water in the bottom to generate the steam which processes the food. Pecans and other nuts can up perfectly. I used some that my friend Juanita Saunders and I canned back in New Mexico, more than 14 years ago for my Christmas pies. They were awesome! — Jackie

Duck confit

Do you know if it’s possible to pressure can duck confit? I’ve done it the old French way for years of cooking it in its own fat and then packing into jars warm although ‘theoretically it’s supposed to be safe I’ve always kept it refrigerated. I’m hoping that it can be done in my canner so as to be properly shelf stable but am a little concerned as most of the canning advice says to minimise fat in a product but confit is all about the duck fat.

Huddersfield, Yorkshire

This is one food I’d probably not can. Like you said, fat often causes seals to fail, so I’d not advise canning your duck confit. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We hope you had a very merry Christmas

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

We did, here at our homestead. My sister and nephew came from the Duluth area to share Christmas dinner with us. As usual, I cooked much more than we could eat, but that only means we get to eat leftovers for days! Not a bad thing. My son Bill, his wife, and my grandson, Mason, are coming this Saturday for a second Christmas dinner so I get to do it again. Lucky I lost the six pounds I gained over Thanksgiving!

Meanwhile, Will’s been busy building his new trailer, made from the old mobile home frame. He’s been cutting lumber and bolting it down to the frame. It’s coming along nicely, with more than 2/3 done already. He’s even making another trailer from the rest of the frame to use to haul firewood logs out of the woods when there isn’t enough snow to use the dray. Not bad from “junk,” eh?

Our weather continues to be mild for the Northwoods. Yesterday, it was more than forty above, and we have only about 3 inches of snow on the ground. We’re waiting for the other shoe to fall, though, as usually it’s well below zero this time of the year, plus we usually have several feet of snow on the ground. I remember moving here in February of 2003, having to have a bulldozer clear a trail in — all 1.3 miles — through three feet or more of packed snow. This year it’s much easier on us, for sure. The unseasonable temperatures make it feel like spring so we continue to drool over seed and nursery catalogs, just waiting for spring.

Have a very Happy New Year! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Rancid pecans and raising meat

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

Rancid pecans

I was making some Christmas candy and found a 2# bag of pecans on the shelf that I bought last year this time. I opened them to use them up but they are slightly rancid. Do you know of any way to freshen them up or will I have to throw them out. Hate to because they are so expensive. What’s the best way to store nuts long term so this won’t happen again?

Adell Struble
Aledo, Illinois

I can up all my nutmeats. It works perfectly and they never get rancid. I’ve got some pecans my friend Juanita and I canned down in New Mexico, twelve years ago, and they’re still perfect. (Pressure canned dry, toasted at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes.)

Once the nuts get rancid, they can’t be restored. BUT they can be used for stronger tasting foods, such as chocolate (brownies, fudge, etc.). If they are barely rancid, they can also be used in cookies. I prefer to can ’em and not worry about just how rancid a bag is! — Jackie

Raising meat

My husband and I just recently bought a 100 acre farm. We want to make it into a hobby farm but feed us also. We want to purchase one cow for the beef. My questions are: is it okay to raise just one cow? How long do we raise it for? What age should we buy it at? We will also be buying to pigs for eating also. We currently have 7 chickens and 1 rooster that have been laying eggs since they were 3 months of age. Someone told me I was doing something right with them so maybe I’ll have great luck with a cow and 2 pigs.


Yes, you can raise one steer for beef. (Steer, not cow; cows are female and are usually used for breeding, raising calves and/or milking.) Most folks buy a calf between 3 days old and three months old to raise for beef. At two months old, calves are usually off the bottle and weaned…but cost more than when they were babies. But then, it costs about $70 a 50 pound bag for powdered milk replacer, too. It takes a bag of milk replacer to raise one calf to weaning, and baby calves are more tender and can become sick with diarrhea (scours) quite easily. If you can, I’d advise getting a weaned calf. It doesn’t matter much what breed. Most young calves are dairy breeds, usually black and white Holsteins, the most common dairy breed in the country. Jersey calves are cheap, but it does take awhile longer to get them up to butchering weight of about 1,000 pounds. The meat is just as good, regardless of breed. It usually takes about 18 months to raise a calf to butchering weight, again, depending on breed and care.

Pigs are a good investment for meat, as a spring weaned pig will be ready to butcher in the early winter, weighing about 250 pounds. And they eat a lot of waste garden produce, weeds, scraps, etc. too.

With larger animals, like steers and pigs, just make sure that you have adequate fencing. It is NO fun to chase down runaway critters! You’ll love your animals and the meat they provide. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Storing fuel and making butter

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Storing fuel

Just curious if you put anything in your gas for storage. We need fresh gas when we use it; and do you know how long stored gas should last before it is no good other than to start a burning pile?

Michelle Chapin
Fresno, Ohio

We don’t keep gas long enough to require additives as we use it in our equipment, generators, and tools. If gas is stored for a month or more, it should have Stabil added to it to keep it fresh. And that is only good for about a year. Gas is not a long-lasting fuel, as is propane or diesel fuel. — Jackie

Making butter

I am a hunter/fisher and live a subsistence lifestyle. I get raw milk from my farmsteading neighbor 62 miles away every week. I separate the cream and churn it to make butter. My butter turns out white and crumbly — not smooth, and it will not turn soft and spreadable even in room temp. It will not even stick to the butter knife. How can I make it smooth and spreadable without the “flaky” texture?

Robert Gibson
Cooper Landing, Alaska

I’ve never had hard, crumbly butter, so I don’t know what’s happening with yours. Here’s how I make butter. Maybe you can figure out what’s wrong with yours.

Using fresh, raw milk that has been sitting in the fridge for 2 days in gallon glass jars, I scoop out the cream which has risen to the top. I let it sit in either my churn jar or a quart jar to take the chill off for about half an hour (no longer in the summer or it’ll sour). Then I either churn it in my hand churn or shake the quart jar until the butter “comes.” Then I strain off most of the buttermilk and add ice cold fresh water, shaking or churning to rinse the butter and clump it nicely. I rinse until the water is nearly clear. Then I gently strain off all the water and dump the butter into a bowl. I work the butter with a wooden spoon, pressing out all the water I can so the butter will keep unrefrigerated longer without smelling sour. I add salt to taste, working it in well with the spoon. Then I press into a square plastic refrigerator container and refrigerate until it is solid. To use, I remove from the fridge about half an hour before meals; it softens nicely.

I hope this will help with your problem. Do you freeze your milk? If you do, that may contribute to the problem. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning suet and canning pecans

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Canning suet

Can suet be canned for long term storage?

Gary Ostby
Lincoln, Washington

Although I personally haven’t canned suet, I’m quite sure you can render it, like you do lard, fill sterile jars, put a warm lid on the jars and store in a cool place. Lard keeps for years this way, and I can see no reason suet wouldn’t also. — Jackie

Canning pecans

I finally got enough pecans to try canning them. When I cracked them I put them in the freezer. My question is should I do anything different than what your book states? I am supposed to be getting some more after the first of the year; would you like to have some?

Joyce Pierce
Greenville, Alabama

Just thaw your pecans and then toast them as usual. They will turn out great. Yes! I’d LOVE some pecans! Thank you so much for offering them. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Bread in a jar and mastitis

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Bread in a jar

I recently watched a cooking show where the chef made an applesauce quick bread that he baked in a wide mouth pint jar. He greased the jar, filled it about half full with the batter, baked the bread at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, then placed sterile lids and rings on them when they came out of the oven. He claims they will seal and keep up to a year. Have you ever done anything like this? Can it be done with yeast bread? My wife has become a canning fool since reading your column and would love to try this.

Bruce Schneider
Hinckley, Ohio

I used to make many different quick breads, canning them in jars as you describe. But experts now advise against this practice, citing that it is possible for botulism to grow in these jars. So I cannot recommend this practice any longer. Sorry. And no, yeast breads never worked using this method. — Jackie


My nubian goat just had her baby, at 1:00 on the Dec.19th. This is not her first time to have a baby but it is the first time for me to be there when she kids. I am afraid I might have done something wrong because one of her bags is hard. We read we needed to give her penicillin so we have but I want to know is there anything else we can do? How long between kiddings?

Lynne White
Lacombe, Louisiana

If your doe has mastitis (usually evidenced by abnormal milk and a hard udder), a week’s course of penicillin injections will do a lot to help. Milking her several times a day (much as you’d drain an abscess) will also help clear the bacteria out of her udder. To provide relief from the swelling, try massaging the udder and using warm compresses on it twice a day. Improvement should be seen within a few days.

I’m not sure what you meat “between kiddings.” Does usually kid once a year. The time between kids in a birth ranges from a few seconds to about half an hour. — Jackie


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