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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 June, 2012

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canned milk separating, cabbage, and canning green beans

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

Canned milk separating

Just last week I followed the directions in “Growing & Canning Your Own Food” for canning milk. After I took the jars out of the pressure canner & they sat for a few days, I noticed that the milk looked like it had settled to the bottom of the jar, leaving a yellowish liquid at the top half. I turned the jar to the side & the white “milk” on the bottom was real thick, kind of like sour cream & clotted looking. Is this normal? I strained my milk (goats milk) like it said in the instructions & processed it at 10lbs pressure for 10 minutes. Thanks for all of your advice in BHM. Great magazine!

Teresa Clepper
Hamilton, Texas

Yes. Canned milk … especially pressure canned milk is NOT like fresh milk. It is more like condensed milk. It is good for cooking and baking or to use to feed baby animals. It isn’t tasty to drink. To use it, shake up a jar to mix it together then measure and use as needed. Using the boiling water bath method results in milk that is less thick and less caramelized. — Jackie


I adore keeping up with your blog and articles in Backwoods Home Magazine. I have 77 pounds of cabbage that I grew this spring for our family of four! We actually picked into our boys’ kiddie pool! My question is what to do with all of it! When cabbage went on sale for $.15/lb this St. Patty’s Day, I made 50 pounds of kraut, so any other suggestions would be great. We are so excited to get this bounty stored up! Thank you,

Fort Wayne, Indiana

I can up a lot of cabbage wedges, make pickled cabbage, and also make lots and lots of Amish canned coleslaw, a family favorite for years now. To make it, here’s the recipe:

1 large head of cabbage
1 cup diced celery
1/2 cup diced onions
2 cup shredded carrots
4 cup white sugar
4 cup vinegar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. mustard seed

Cut cabbage as for coleslaw, mix together all vegetables. Mix vinegar, sugar, and spices and pour over slaw. Pack into jars adding 1/3 jar of vinegar mixture, ladled from big slaw bowl. Fill, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

I use this canned coleslaw not only for slaw but also, drained, in stir fry dishes. It’s very handy!

Don’t be afraid to can the cabbage. We eat a lot of canned cabbage, year ’round. I drain off the processing water then add fresh or even milk to bring it to simmering before serving. It’s really good! — Jackie

Canning green beans

I canned my first green beans using your canning book! I was so excited, but I have a question regarding the water content. I used the hot pack method, but after I removed them from the pressure canner the water content was almost ½. Will this affect them? Did I do something wrong?

Susan Schoettlin
Elkton, Kentucky

Congratulations! Your beans are fine. Water blowing out of the jar during processing usually happens for one of these reasons: The jars were filled too full, the pressure varied quite a bit during processing (a little too high then quickly returned to the correct pressure), opening the lid before the canner was totally at zero (let it stand for 5 minutes at zero before opening petcock or removing weight). You did nothing wrong. As you can more, you’ll get better and better and have more confidence. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning caramel and chocolate sauce, planting corn, and yields for canning recipes

Friday, June 29th, 2012

Canning caramel and chocolate sauce

I have easy and delicious recipes for Caramel Sauce and Chocolate Sauce that I’d like to can for Christmas gifts. Both have cream, butter, and vanilla; the caramel has brown sugar and the chocolate uses chocolate chips. Can I process them in a boiling water bath or must I use the pressure canner and how long should jelly-sized jars be processed?

Becky Calcutt
Charleston, South Carolina

There isn’t an approved method of canning either sauce, unfortunately. Sorry. — Jackie

Planting corn

We are in the midst of a drought, down about eight inches of rain. Does not help my garden but I’ll be back there on Monday to water everything and hope it survives. The corn came up sporadically so I soaked more corn overnight and filled in the bare areas. Do you think it will get pollinated okay as it is ten days behind the rest? I put in six rows.


Your later-planted corn will probably catch up to the first corn you planted. I’ve had that experience frequently. In fact, I just re-planted six rows of corn that was evidently bad seed as the other 14 rows of a different variety germinated well and came right up. I do expect that to catch up. I’ve planted different corn varieties that I didn’t want to cross-pollinate two weeks apart but then had them pollinate at exactly the same time. So much for that! — Jackie

Canning recipe yields

I wanted to let you know I have enjoyed your canning guide and so far this season, have canned 26 pints of sweet corn. More to come. I’d like to share a poem I wrote as a result, and you and the readers can think on it and laugh while putting corn by.

Ode to Corn:
Oh corn so sweet,
so good to eat,
but getting you from field to table,
is better left to those who are able,
to withstand the muck of shucks and silks, and endure the sticky milks,
on the cob or off the cob,
putting up corn is a messy JOB.

My question has to do with the amount of jars your recipes will make in the canning guide. Is there any way we can find that out ? It helps to have enough ready to fill.

Carla Baker
Wendell, North Carolina

I love the poem! Thanks for sharing it with us.

Unfortunately there are a lot of variables in gauging the amount of jars to have ready for a certain food. With corn you have to consider how many rows there are on each cob, how fat the kernels, and how much you pack them (you shouldn’t pack them too much of they’ll quickly take up the headspace). I just eyeball it and have extra jars ready each time … just in case. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The wild lady slipper orchids are blooming

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

We have a secret spot where the wild lady slipper orchids bloom abundantly around June 24th. Not just one or two of these rare orchids (that are the Minnesota state flower), but dozens and dozens of plants growing in clumps and singles all along a low spot. The blooms are huge and delicately tinged with pink and white.

I discovered them many years ago and yearly make a pilgrimage to this special place to gaze in awe at their beauty. It doesn’t take much to “entertain” a true homesteader; I just enjoy nature’s beauty.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning with broth instead of water, fertile eggs, and corn tasseling early

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Canning with broth instead of water

When canning low acid foods, can I use flavored broths instead of plain water for the liquid? For instance, I want to can some pinto beans. I would like to use flavored broth that consists of water, smoked ham hock, onion, bay leaves, salt and a bit of garlic. I would strain the liquid of course so the only thing going in the canned pinto bean jar would be liquid only, no bits. Is that okay? Same question with chicken broth. Can I use chicken broth instead of plain water to can some of soups, veggies, etc. (again, the broth will be strained, not bits).

Melissa Godfrey
Maumelle, Arkansas

Yes, you can substitute flavored broths for water. Just be sure to process each batch for the length of time required for each ingredient needing the longest processing time. — Jackie

Fertile eggs

I have added a couple roosters to my flock. They are just starting to become ‘interested’ in the girls. Their job is to protect the girls as they free range. I’m not looking for them to make little chicks. Do I need to do anything special to the eggs now that there are roo’s on the scene?

Dawn Norcross
Orion, Illinois

Nope. You’ll have fertile eggs which could be used to produce chicks, but that won’t change anything regarding the egg’s care. Do be careful that there aren’t predators around. Roosters will try to protect their flock but are no match for a hawk, the neighbor’s dogs, or a fox. — Jackie

Corn tasseling early

We planted sweet corn May 1st (we are a month ahead in MO this yr). It is 2½ feet tall and starting to tassel! It is NOT short corn. It was Peaches and Cream. Should we pull it out now and re-plant in hopes that we get late corn? Our second planting was June 1st and it is 4 inches high and looks pretty good despite the drought we are experiencing. We are watering the best we can but it isn’t rain.

J from Missouri

Yep, I probably would do that as it probably won’t produce much for you. Corn usually does this from lack of either fertility or water — probably water as you are in drought. Try an early variety (60-65 days) to play catch up. Then try to keep water on it. Mulching it as soon as you can will help to hold in the moisture so it doesn’t evaporate. I’d sure like to send you some of our 8 inches of rain! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning alfredo sauce and hoop house

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Canning Alfredo sauce

Can you make your own fettuccine Alfredo sauce and can it? If so, do you have a recipe and how do you can it?

Sherry Bailey
Tallahassee, Florida

This is one thing I haven’t canned yet. As it has both milk and cheese, I’m thinking it may try to curdle like cream-of soups do when you try to can them. Any readers out there who have canned it? — Jackie

Hoop house

Do you have plans anywhere for your hoop houses? I love your ideas and have been wanting my husband to make one for years.

Bambi Tomaszewski
Ashley, Illinois

Sorry but I don’t have plans for the hoop houses; each one is a bit different. Basically, they’re framed on the ground with 2x4s with uprights to hold a doorway and to support the ridge beam (2×4) on the other end. The hoops are ¾-inch PVC, 10 feet in length, joined at the top with a 45 degree elbow…or not. You can also skip the 45 degrees and cut one 10-foot piece in half and bend the other 10-foot piece over the ridge beam and join it to the 5-foot sections with a coupler midway down. (If you join them on top, the coupler will eventually break due to the strain.). The PVC hoops are attached to the inside of the 2x4s with metal EMT clamps screwed over the PVC. Below the clamp, you drill a hole in the PVC to be able to screw the PVC to the 2×4, keeping it from moving up and down in the clamp. There is a hoop every 2 feet all down the hoop house.

The 4 mil plastic is draped over the hoops and secured to the bottom 2×4 with lath screwed down tightly over the plastic. You also use this to secure the plastic over the ends, folding it as needed to fit.

It isn’t rocket science. And it’s just amazing the difference this small project makes in your garden! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Death and new life

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

On our homestead, just like any other homestead, we have death as well as new life. After years of breeding goats, this spring we finally got a beautiful doeling from our best doe that was wonderfully colored. Gremlin was black with gray and white “hail spots” and long Nubian ears. We were so excited to have her and turned several people down who offered to buy her. Yesterday morning I found her dead. She was fine the evening before. I was so stricken I could not even think. Don’t feel much better today.

It happens. But we sure don’t like it! Just like when my late husband, Bob, died suddenly. The pain will ease away, but I’ll be many days before I go out to take care of the goats and not look for bouncy Gremlin.

When you have animals, you’re going to lose some once in awhile. That’s a fact of life. We don’t know what happened with Gremlin and will never know. The rest of the goats are fine. Was she fatally injured during playing? It’s only a guess.

But this morning, our watermelons that we planted in the old hoop house sprung up lustily, heralding new birth. And I planted the second new hoop house with muskmelons. Life goes on, as it must. We’re late planting, but we hope that the extra heat and protection will still give us a nice crop of melons. The peppers are simply awesome, with several plants having peppers set on them already.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: All-around homestead rifle and saving corn seeds

Tuesday, June 26th, 2012

All-around homestead rifle

Is a 12 gauge shot gun an all around best buy for the money and for survival?

Johnny Small
Fort Lawn, South Carolina

It is if it works for you. When you’re talking about survival, are you meaning personal protection? Or are you talking about shooting food animals? While the 12-gauge IS awesome for some personal protection, it is heavy to carry around and sometimes slow to get up and shoot when you need a gun quickly. A pistol works best for this, in my humble opinion. The 12-gauge is a good all around gun as you can load it with birdshot to shoot upland birds and small game at relatively close distances, heavier waterfowl loads for ducks and geese, or even slugs for deer and larger animals. I, personally, love a .22 rifle for an all-around homestead/survival gun. It is cheap to shoot, has no recoil (making it a good choice for children and women who are leery of a heavier gun), and will fill your pantry with small game (even a deer with well-placed shots…in a survival situation; it is illegal to hunt deer with .22s in most states), defend your garden and homestead from most varmints, and even stop a human with well-placed shots. You might ask Massad Ayoob his opinion; I’m just a homesteader! — Jackie

Saving corn seeds

I just finished reading your article in the July/August issue on “Incredible corn.” It was great. I love your in-depth articles. There’s just one thing. There was no mention of how to save corn seeds, and if there is a difference between saving seeds for open-pollinated, hybrid, sweet, dry, flint, or popcorn.

Glenn R. Catt
Chesapeake, Virginia

All corn seeds are saved the same; you let them dry on the stalk then shell the hard corn off of the cobs, just as you would popcorn, flint, and flour corn for grinding. Hybrid seed will germinate fine but will not produce the same corn that you enjoyed fresh from the garden; you need open pollinated corn for this. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: slugs and headspace in canning jars

Monday, June 25th, 2012


Help! My garden is being eaten alive by slugs! I’ve tried making yeast traps (hot water, yeast, a bit of sugar) and that does seem to attract them, but there are still many more out there! I plan on eventually letting my guineas in there, but right now they are too small. What can I do?

D. McIlwain
Lowman, New York

Slugs sure can be frustrating! But there are several things you can do to get rid of them. First, mow the grass and weeds around your garden; they love to hide there. Then lay boards down between the rows where the most slugs seem to be. In the morning, turn the boards over and pick up the slugs and destroy them. Using slug bait such as Sluggo helps a lot. It is a natural product and has an iron base so it adds nutrients to your soil. Also, placing pie tins or other shallow dishes full of stale beer attracts a lot of slugs. They imbibe and drown. When your garden gets older, you can try turning in your guineas to see if they’ll enjoy the slugs. Ducks really love to eat them, as well. — Jackie

Head space in canning jars

OK, short and sweet. What importance does the head space in canning do. Can less than full jars be processed?

Sunfield, Michigan

Head space allows room for foods to expand during processing. It is not necessary to completely fill jars in order to have them process and seal well. But filling the jars to capacity saves jars. — Jackie


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