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Archive for September, 2012

Jackie Clay

Indian summer is here

Friday, September 28th, 2012

After very cold temperatures — 20 degrees at night and a HIGH of 42 degrees — the weather’s warming up to a pretty Indian summer. It’s still cold at night, down to the twenties, but the daytime temperatures are getting nicer, all the way up to the seventies. So we’re able to get a lot done. I’m finishing up harvesting the garden by pulling up our carrots and rutabagas. We’ve had better carrots, but the rutabagas are gigantic! And they’re sweet and solid — not woody at all. I sure wasn’t expecting that as I didn’t thin them as well as I should have. Bad Jackie!

As I’m processing tomatoes and we’re eating our melons, I’m also busy saving seed for next year. For the melons I just pick out the seeds and put them in a sieve, running it under warm water in the sink and encouraging the pulp to wash out with my fingertips. I either do the same with the tomatoes or I put the jell with the seeds in a cup, fill it with warm water, and let it set for three days. It forms a yucky white layer on top, but after three days of fermenting, the seeds sink to the bottom and the I can easily scoop the white layer off and pour off the liquid. I sieve off the seeds and dry them on a piece of wax paper with the name of the variety written on it in permanent marker. They dry in about three days, then I put them in a small, labeled envelope to store in a plastic tote bin.

Seeds are getting more and more expensive and many varieties are going missing every single day. So seed saving is definitely a homesteader’s skill that needs polishing up!

Our baby turkeys are growing fast. They now have wing feathers and can fly short distances. Unfortunately, they still fit through the 2×4-inch wire in the orchard and free range through the surrounding grass and brush, searching for grasshoppers and other goodies. We do worry that a fox may snatch one up, but so far, only our cat, Mittens, has caught one when they were much smaller. It’s hard to tell a cat that you CANNOT catch baby turkeys when their instinct is to catch mice and birds (even though we keep rescuing the birds). You can’t punish a cat for doing what its instinct tells it to. We do praise her for catching mice and squirrels and scold her and take away any birds she catches. It does seem that she’s catching fewer birds lately, so I hope that’s working. And so far, she’s not stalking the turkeys.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: drying corn, canning salmon roe, honey, and plantar wart

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Drying corn

We had some food grade corn given to us and are wanting to store for use later as corn meal. We have gotten a few rain showers recently and are wondering if we need to dry the corn before we store it in 5 gallon buckets.

David Elmore
Martinsville, Indiana

Yes, you definitely need to get that corn dry before you store it. If it is shelled corn, spread it out on a clean tarp in a dry, clean area. We are finishing drying down our sweet corn on the floor of our enclosed porch, away from rodents, dampness, and insects. I’m going to use it for cornmeal. If you don’t get it very dry, it will mold in storage. — Jackie

Canning salmon roe

I am interested in smoking and canning salmon roe, but have not come across any recipes. Any suggestions?

Spokane, Washington

This is one food I have not smoked or canned. Sorry. Any readers out there who have? — Jackie


I have honey from our bees, that we put in ball canning jars. I sent you some, was wondering if you ever received it. I put raspberries in one jar of the honey, cinnamon sticks in another, lemons in another, and rosemary in one. Someone told me that with the fruit that I need to be careful of botulism. I just put the fruit in, I did not can it under pressure. What do you think? I put the lemons in so if someone gets a cold over the winter I could just dip out a spoonful of honey with the lemon already in it.

Mokena, Illinois

Sorry, Lori, but I never got the honey. Maybe somewhere a post office had it break in shipment? (Boo hoo.) I also called the magazine and they never got it to forward on to me, either. I really doubt that putting fruit in honey would result in botulism as fruit is highly acidic and with all the sugar in honey I can’t see that happening. You wouldn’t have to process it in a pressure canner. If you did process it you would just use a boiling water bath canner. Having said this, I probably wouldn’t add the fruit as you aren’t processing the honey and there are no guidelines for processing honey with fruit in it. Add the fruit just before you use it — just to be safe. — Jackie

Plantar wart

While this is not a question I thought it might be helpful for some people. My sister used this for a plantars wart on her son and said it dried it up and they just pulled it out with a needle.

Anyway, this is the recipe for the plantar wart recipe: Grate a bit of peeled potato (I use the red-skinned variety) — 1 or 2 Tablespoons will be plenty. Mix in powdered ginger, about 1/4 teaspoon per Tablespoon (or whatever looks right to you). Apply mix to wart, cover with gauze, and tape it up. The next morning, the potato will be black and dry and look nasty. Discard the poultice. Replace with new. Repeat for a few days until wart disappears. Actually worked overnight on him.

Marshall Owen
Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Thanks for the tip, Marshall. I’m always up for a natural remedy that works! As a child I had a plantars wart and the doctor burned it off. Not fun! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: making pickles, preserving squash, and growing squash

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Making pickles

Do you have a recipe for making dill cucumbers with lemon juice instead of vinegar? It just sounds healthier, if it is possible.

Nancy Hoppe
Cinebar, Washington

You could use a substitution in your dill pickle recipe, using 6 cups of water and 4 cups of lemon juice in place of vinegar, if you wish. But it will be more costly. And if you have health concerns, use apple cider vinegar in place of white distilled vinegar in your recipes as it is a natural product. — Jackie

Preserving squash

I thought maybe someone would like a quick way to process squash. Maybe it isn’t correct, if not, please let me know. I wash the exterior. Then poke a few holes in it with a knife. I then microwave it till tender. Let it cool completely. Cut it in half, remove seeds. Put it in food processor and process till smooth. Can either use it then for pie or can it. I started doing it that way as didn’t have strength enough in my hands to cut it!

Floyd, Iowa

Sorry, Lorraine, but it is no longer considered safe to can pureed squash or pumpkin. You sure can do that to make pies or puree for any baked goods. You could partially microwave your squash, then cut it into cubes instead of pureeing it, then can it, covering it with boiling water. Dense products like pureed squash, might not heat enough in the center of the jar for safe processing. — Jackie

Growing squash

This is the second year I have planted the Hopi Pale Grey squash. Last year I had planted green hubbard and buttercup that didn’t do anything, except for a few sickly squash that I threw out. The Hopi Pale Grey did well, but were only about 30 feet from the other squash. Now I have two small green hubbard looking squash in among the Hopi Pale Grey, which was the only type I planted this year — from the seeds I saved. Not remembering my genetics class from long ago, will the seeds from those Hopi Pale Grey that seem true to “form” be good to save for next year, or should I just start over? It looks like I will get only one mature squash per plant. Is this normal for the shorter growing season areas? I sent seeds to my daughter in Utah. She is impressed with her squash. She wanted to know when she should harvest them. I said to treat them like pumpkins. Was I wrong on that? I saw the pictures of your squash on the 4-wheeler after the recent freeze you had. Last year I’d brought mine into our shop after it got down unexpectedly to 25 . Still have one out there. So I assumed they could stand a “light” freeze.

Final question: In reference to canning — your two books arrived in the mail yesterday. I am just starting this endeavor. What other canning book would you recommend?
Vala Johnson
Harlem, Montana

Hopi Pale Grey squash will happily cross with any C. maxima squash or pumpkin/squash such as Atlantic Giant. Hubbards and buttercups are C. maximas and as you found out, they will cross. You can slowly breed back to a true strain — relatively so, by choosing correct type Hopis, saving seed from them and continuing through the years, weeding out (not saving seed from) “off” types. I’ve grown these squash on the high plains, in the mountains of Montana, and here in northern Minnesota and they usually have plenty of squash, per plant. They can stand a light frost but freezing can damage them, causing early rotting in storage.

Yep, you harvest the squash like pumpkins, bringing them in when a hard freeze threatens, leaving them on the vine until then to completely mature. I even have one immature Hopi Pale Grey that had not turned blue-grey yet and it has stored for over a year now on our greenhouse floor!

The Ball Blue Book is always an old standard, but if you’ve got my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, you won’t need another! It is the most complete canning book out there with not only canning information, but freezing and dehydrating also, and there are more recipes to can up more different foods than any of the others, combined. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

There’s more than one way to skin a cat

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Our friend, Eric, lives off grid. He works hard and enjoys a solar shower every evening. But now it’s getting colder and the sun isn’t out as much and the water barely gets lukewarm. So Will helped him make a wood-fired water heater so he can quickly heat up enough water for a nice long…and hot…shower.

Will made this from a gas hot water tank he got from the dump. He cut the top off then cut a section out of the middle. Then he cut about 12 inches off the middle section and welded it to the bottom of the tank, making the firebox. Onto the bottom of the firebox, he welded a flat, circular piece of scrap steel. He then cut an access door into the firebox. The piece that was cut out became the door and Will welded a pair of hinges (from the dump) onto the tank and door and the heater was finished except for the bolt Will welded on for a firebox door handle.

Because this was a GAS water heater tank, there was already a chimney/vent in place, which he left in place to draw the smoke from the firebox up through the water and tank.

Eric intends to place the heater on an elevated platform and plumb it into his shower, indoors. If he had a pressurized water system, he could bring the heater back and Will would weld the top of the tank back on. As it is, he will pour cold water into the top of the tank, start a wood fire in the firebox and soon he’ll have a hot shower after a long day’s work.

A shower for free, made from discarded “junk.” We love it!

Jackie Clay

Our pigs love harvest time!

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Although our pigs have been getting garden waste since mid-summer, it consisted mainly of hail-damaged tomatoes, rodent-chewed melons and squash, weeds, and other such goodies. But now that we’ve had a freeze and have harvested all of our freeze-sensitive crops, the pigs are in hog heaven. Their troughs are filled with small melons and squash, frosted smaller tomatoes, damaged tomatoes, tomato skins and seeds, and pepper seeds and stem ends. The pigs have so many goodies that they can’t eat it all. They sigh then go lay in their houses to sleep it off.

We had a strange harvest off of our huge compost pile. Early in the summer a squash or pumpkin started growing on it and soon took over the pile. We harvested the squash and I haven’t seen one like it. It was hugely abundant, white with green stripes and kind of pumpkin-flatish. Anyone know what it is? We haven’t eaten one yet; most winter squash get sweeter with at least a month’s worth of storage. I’ll keep you posted.

We finally had a good rain, but today it’s cold, windy, and damp out. Brrrr. Feels like winter’s just around the corner. Will’s down on the barn, pounding nails like mad. We’re almost ready for the roof now, but we have to put it on hold until some cash comes in. There’s always another project waiting in the wings, however! That’s how it is on a homestead.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: green detergents, making pickles, and pear jelly

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Green detergents

I am trying to go green and would like to ask for help with effective detergent recipes that can help me accomplish this.

Shonah Melton
South Africa

For detergent to use in a dishwasher, you can mix equal parts of borax and washing soda in the wash compartment. Use about 2 Tbsp. Then fill the rinse compartment with vinegar.

For washing detergent, you can mix one part washing soda, one part borax, and two parts grated dry soap (I use homemade soap or Fels Naptha). You will use about 1/2 cup in each load of laundry. Mix and store this detergent in any sealed container to keep from getting hard. Or you can easily make a liquid (gel) detergent by mixing four cups of boiling water with your soap flakes and stirring until dissolved. Then stir in 2 cups washing soda and 2 cups borax. Add 2 gallons of hot water and mix well. You can pour this into used, clean liquid laundry detergent bottles or any other smaller container for convenience. Shake well and use about 1/4 cup for each load of clothes.

For window washing, you can simply use distilled white vinegar or use dishwashing detergent first in warm water and follow with the vinegar in a rinse — it works well. — Jackie

Making pickles

I was just reading your blog tonight, and you mentioned that you make pickles according to your Grandmother’s recipe. Every time I make pickles, they turn out limp, and my family refuses to eat them. I have an old canning book, but no instructions on how to put up pickles without water bathing them. Could you share the way your Grandmother made pickles? I’d really like to enjoy homemade ones again. I won’t buy store bought, because they all contain food coloring now.

Lisa Graves
Georgetown, Indiana

I’ll probably get hung here by experts, but Grandma made her pickles by packing the fresh, sliced pickles/onions/peppers, etc. in sterilized jars then pouring boiling pickling solution (usually vinegar, sugar, spices) over them and immediately place a previously simmered, hot lid on the jar and tighten the ring firmly tight. I’ve done that for two years now and all my jars seal and the pickles are very crisp. But I don’t dare put that in my books because of the “safety” flack from experts who try to keep us safe from ourselves. — Jackie

Pear jelly

I have been making pear butter using your recipe, but I use my slow cooker to cook the pears down instead of the stove top. I do this with my apple butter also and it works great. My problem is with the pears. They don’t seem to want to break down like the apples do and so I run them through the food mill and add the syrup/juice to make it as thick as it should be. I am having syrup left over though and would like to make jelly with it because it tastes just like the pear butter and I hate to waste it! The juice left over is like syrup, I would like to not add any more sugar if I don’t have to. I have regular pectin I buy in bulk from the Amish store near us. Can this be done? Do I need to get low sugar pectin? If it can be done, can you give a recipe?

Gayle Rush
Eugene, Missouri

I honestly don’t know. All I can say is to give it a try and see what happens. At worst, you’ll have great pear syrup. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: preserving prunes and pigs in winter

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Preserving prunes

I have about 40 pounds of prunes in 1-pound bags. I am not sure if I can eat that many before they go bad.

I have the nine tray Excalibur dehydrator. But, I think the prunes would have to be cut up or mashed to get them dry. I don’t mind making prune powder. Or, I could can them. I have a water bath canner and a pressure canner. I really don’t want to add sugar since when I stew prunes, I never use sugar. I can freeze the bags but they will not last as long as it will take me to eat them.

Is it possible to pack them in jars as they are and pour water over before processing?

Cullman, Alabama

Are these prunes, as in store packaged prunes? It sounds like it. If so, just store them in their bags, inside a rodent-, moisture-, and insect-proof container and they’ll stay good for decades. Just like raisins. Much less work, too! — Jackie

Pigs in winter

How did your pigs do during the winter, Jackie? How cold did it get there? We are heading into winter here with snow on the mountains but not yet on the ground and we just added 3 young pigs to our farm. We’re still working on their winter pen and I was wondering what size of house you would recommend. The outside open area is 28 x 38 feet. The plan is to build a straw bale winter den for them and secure it on the outside with pallets and rebar. I’m picturing in my head how much room a 200-pound person would need to lay down x 3. Any suggestions?

Shannon in Chickaloon, Alaska

Pigs do fine in the winter. We have plenty of snow and it was -35 several times; below zero most nights all winter. We made a pallet pig house using a pallet on each end, one side of the barn for one side and another pallet on the other side with a door open to the south. We stuffed the pallets with straw, top to bottom. Then we added a scrap plywood roof. For more insulation, you could stack straw bales on top. Pigs will tear a straight strawbale house apart for fun. With plenty of bedding, the big pigs do fine. They love to crowd together for warmth and togetherness. Use plenty of bedding throughout the winter and they’ll do fine. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fruit flies and canning pizza sauce

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

Fruit flies and canning pizza sauce

We have a question about getting rid of fruit flies. We have been canning peaches like crazy and the pests are everywhere. Do you know how we can get rid of them?

My mom has a great pizza sauce recipe I was hoping you could go over and tell me if it is safe to can and for how long. It calls for 10# tomatoes peeled, cored, chopped in a food processor or blender, 3 medium onions chopped, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 3 Tbs. olive oil, 1 Tbs each basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, 1 Tbs. salt, 1 tsp. red pepper, 1 tsp. black pepper and 1 tsp. sugar. It says to saute the onions and garlic in the oil, add the rest of ingredients and simmer for 2 hours. Put through a food mill, return to heat and cook till thickened. It recommends using pints, leaving 1/4 inch head space and processing for thirty minutes in water bath canner. How does this sound? Should I change anything?

Mia Sodaro
Frazier Park, California

Ahhh, the fruit flies! I get ’em too. Especially when I can fruit or tomatoes. I’ve had pretty good luck using the fruit fly traps that are available in many stores and online. You can also punch a nail hole in a canning jar lid, put a cup of vinegar and sugar into a pint canning jar, put on the lid and ring and trap flies that way. They go in but drown in the vinegar. To keep them from getting out of hand, store your fruit, before you can, in an out-of-the-way spot — on a porch, in the basement, or in the garage. When you can, quickly remove all seeds/pits/skins, etc. out of the house. They will go away after canning. Mine always do!

The pizza sauce sounds great! It’s about like my pizza sauce. I process mine for 35 minutes in a water bath. Otherwise, you should be good to go! Does this mean you have tomatoes this year? I sure hope so. — Jackie


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