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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Jackie Clay

Q and A: Canning strawberries, dry summer, harvesting rhubarb and proper range when pressure canning

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Canning strawberries, dry summer, and harvesting rhubarb

My grocery store opened a dollar section. I found a jar of WHOLE strawberries in lite syrup. How did they can them and not have them turn to mush? BTW they were delicious.

You said the beavers were indicating a dry summer. What are they doing to show you that?

My rhubarb plant is producing. It is my first experience with it. It is a two year old plant. How do I know when it is ready to pick and use? One plant has an asparagus like thing coming up in the middle. What is that?

J in Missouri

I think what they’ve done is to pack the whole strawberries in hot jars then pour a boiling light syrup over them then process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes (pints). This, however, often results in strawberries that float badly. Maybe when they are packed tightly to start with, they don’t?

Yep, the beavers are building their dam higher and a new lodge with a lower entrance (under the water line). They want to trap all the spring rain moisture while it’s there so they have something left at the end of summer. We’ll see how these furry weather forecasters do this summer. I wouldn’t feel too bad if they were wrong this time!

Your rhubarb will form nice stalks — from the size of your finger to much larger. Young plants are smaller than older ones. You can pick it at any time, but I’d wait until the stalks are at least a foot long to get a better harvest. Don’t try to eat the leaves in any form; they are poisonous but fine for compost. The asparagus-like thing may be a flower cone or it may, in fact, be an asparagus that got “planted” by nature. The flowering stem starts out as a cone, light colored and tightly bunched with leaves with short stalks. Then the stalk shoots up with branching short stalks attached. When left to flower and form seeds, the plant will stop making nice stalks for you and make seeds instead. To stop this from happening, just break off the flower heads as they form. To harvest your rhubarb, pull the stalks right out of the ground; don’t cut them off. Your plant will like you better and won’t be prone to disease. Don’t over-harvest your young plants. You should be able to harvest several pullings from a two-year-old plant that is well grown. Then let it rest until next year when you can harvest more. A four-year-old plant that is grown well will stand many pullings of big, fat stalks. — Jackie

Proper range when pressure canning

When pressure canning, what would be an acceptable range to stay within. For example, if pressure says 11 lbs would a range of 10-12 lbs. be acceptable. Or how high or low is acceptable?

Brad Barrie
Strong, Maine

Don’t go under the recommended pressure. If you can’t hit it and stay on it, opt for a slightly higher pressure for safe canning. A couple pounds higher pressure is fine. — Jackie

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