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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.

Jackie Clay

Q and A: livestock crops, scorched stew, and pressure canning meat

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Livestock crops

John and I want to plant as many crops for the animals as we can this year. What do you recommend for fresh eating and storage foods?
Frazier Park, California

It depends chiefly on how much tillable/irrigated land you have available. Traditional livestock crops like field or silage corn are high producing but need quite a bit of acreage. (We don’t have it so we don’t grow field corn or silage corn which you can also manually harvest to feed green on the stalk.)  So we grow plenty of extra pumpkins, squash, and rutabagas. All take relatively little land and give us lots of both people and animal feed. Other useful crops are comfrey, which we harvest all summer and fall as a cut-and-come-again crop for the cattle, goats, pigs, and chickens. It is rampant and perennial, requiring little care and having no pests.  It is also invasive so be careful where you put it if you decide to grow it! We planted ours behind our training ring, way down by the new barn so it can’t get into our garden. It’s also handy there to cut. We also cut our sweet corn stalks while they are still green to feed the critters after we harvest the ears on the stalks to eat or can.  Every little bit helps. — Jackie

Scorched stew

I made a 10 qt. pot of Brunswick stew and it scorched. What can I do to get rid of the smell and taste?
Shirley Kendrick
Hampstead, North Carolina

Sometimes you can get rid of scorched smell and taste by gently removing all the stew and NOT disturbing the burned-on bottom layer, and then pouring it into another clean pot. Then peel a large potato and add to it along with 1 Tbsp. vinegar. Slowly simmer the soup for about 45 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t scorch again. Remove the potato, take a sniff, and taste.  Sometimes this works; sometimes it is too badly scorched for the taste to be removed. Stuff happens sometimes. I sure hate for this to happen to me but it has. — Jackie

Pressure canning meat

Recently I have begun pressure canning our own meat. I did ground beef for the first time (cooked it, drained off the fat, packed in hot jars, covered it with stock, 1 inch headspace, processed pints for 55 minutes at 15 pounds per the canner’s manual) and now I’m not sure if the meat is good. The seals pinged, but most of the liquid is not in the jars any longer and the jars themselves were greasy feeling when they came out of the canner. The meat looks fine, but looks can be deceiving. So is the meat safe to eat?

Bound Brook, New Jersey

Your canner said to process at 15 pounds for 55 minutes?  The normal recommended processing pressure is 10 pounds unless you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet and the time is 75 minutes for pints of meat. The liquid may have blown out of the jars because of the higher pressure. This, in itself, is not usually anything to be worried about, but I would be concerned about only processing the jars for 55 minutes which is 20 minutes less than the recommended time. Personally, I’d refrigerate the jars and use them as soon as it is convenient. And I’d pick up a canning book (you could pick up mine by clicking right here on the blog) for future use. Just wash the jars off with hot, soapy water to remove the grease on the outsides of the jars. — Jackie

2 Responses to “Q and A: livestock crops, scorched stew, and pressure canning meat”

  1. Laura Says:

    Jackie, in your reply to Mia,you mention comfrey for your livestock, I’ve never
    used it because I understood that it was toxic, am I missing out on a good thing?

  2. jackie clay-atkinson Says:


    While there are studies showing that excessive consumption of comfrey, which does contain certain toxins hard on the liver, folks have been feeding comfrey, in reasonable moderation to their livestock and chickens for generations with no ill effects. Sometimes “scientific studies” get a little overboard in their testing of a food. I remember when we’d simply die if we ate lard and butter. Not to mention eggs. Now they’re good for us? Sometimes I wish they’d make up their minds. I remember when DDT was “good for us”! And sick robins dropped out of the elm trees after being sprayed for Dutch Elm Disease, never to fly again but for in heaven.
    Personally, I rely on generation-old wisdom and moderation in all things.


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