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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 August, 2013

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Pressure canner gauge and peeling winter squash

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Pressure canner gauge

I took the gauge from my older All American Canner to be tested. It read 7, 12.5 and 18. I had been canning with it (chicken, cubed beef both raw pack and ground beef, cooked). I canned somewhere around 10 to 12.5 pressure because the canner seemed ‘happier’ there. But now I’m concerned. I canned A LOT of food! Do I have to throw it all out since I’m not positive I maintained 12.5 as they suggested? If not, what do I look for or what do I do when I use the food? I bought new gauges there that tested spot-on. But only the Presto Gauges did, The All American gauges were all off, some worse than the one I took off my canner. She said it’s in the shipping, All American ships them all in a big box and Presto Packages each gauge in its own box and Styrofoam and she finds that they are always off. Wish I had taken my gauge from the new canner I bought this year, so I bought a new presto gauge for it too, which tested spot-on. Anyway, did I spend weeks canning for nothing and wasting money on all that meat?

Deb Peters
Olmsted Falls, Ohio

I’m a bit confused. Did you take the weight or gauge, as the gauge has indicator markings from zero to twenty pounds where the weight only has the 5, 10, and 15 pound settings. Canning at 10 pounds pressure is the recommended pressure for canning unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet. Then you must increase your pressure a bit to suit your altitude as recommended in your canning book. My All American gauge is always right on and it’s 11 years old. Where did you get the gauge tested? You can buy new gauges right at your local hardware that stocks canning supplies and those are shipped in individual boxes if you must replace a damaged one. I’ve only had to do this once as I stored my lid upside down and water got in it and ruined the gauge. You don’t have to throw away your food as you canned it at 10-12.5 pounds as your altitude is 774 which is under 1,000 feet so your recommended pressure is 10 pounds pressure.

As always check your seals, the appearance of the canned food, its smell on opening, then bring to boiling temperature for 10 minutes before eating. — Jackie

Peeling winter squash

We hope we have several weeks left for winter squash to continue to grow but are planning to save some and to cube and can some as well. Do you have any tips on peeling and cutting up the squash? My hands always get slimy, making it potentially dangerous to be working with a large, sharp knife cutting through the tough squash.

DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

What I do is cut into the squash with the point of a large, sturdy knife then rock it back and forth, forcing it down as I rock it, cutting the squash in two at its “waist.” I then lay aside my knife and scoop out the insides and seeds, saving the seeds on a cookie sheet if I’m going to save seeds, then discard the “guts.” I scrape out the inside of the squash with a large spoon to remove any strings. Then I wash my hands and dry them. I take up my knife again and cut each half in two crosswise, leaving me four pieces. I set each piece down on a cutting board and cut 1-inch rings from the whole piece. Then I take a smaller knife and peel each ring. From then on it’s easy to cut 1-inch pieces from each ring. Done deal! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning diced jalapeños and canning peppers

Thursday, August 29th, 2013

Canning diced jalapeños

I’m interested in canning diced jalapeños. I don’t want to pickle them. I want to be able to add a spoonful at a time to dishes I’m cooking later. Should I water bath or pressure can them? Can you recommend a method and timing?

Michelle

ALL peppers and other vegetables that are not pickled MUST be pressure canned for safety. If you want to can diced jalapeños, you can just remove the stem and seeds (if you wish) and dice the peppers. Pack into half-pint jars and add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. of vinegar or lemon juice to improve flavor and color. Pour boiling water over peppers, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw ring down firmly tight. Process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure for 35 minutes. Be sure to wear rubber or plastic gloves while working with hot peppers so you won’t burn the skin under your fingernails and do not touch your eyes! — Jackie

Canning peppers

I saw a method of canning peppers I’ve never seen before. The man cuts the peppers and cold packs them in a Ball canning jar. Then he pours in a solution of half vinegar and half boiling water. He claims the acid of the vinegar will keep any bad stuff from growing and that when the water cools the jar will seal. Is this method safe? If so how long will it keep in a cool/dark basement?

Michael Lowery
Dekalb, Illinois

Sorry but this isn’t safe. Everyone seems to have a “different” method of canning but often they aren’t safe. Better stick to the tried and true recipes and methods. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canned fruit turning dark and canning jam

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Canned fruit turning dark

Is there any way to keep canned apples and pears from turning darker after canning? I have used Fruit Fresh and they can up beautifully, but after a few months they start turning dark. They taste great just look darker. The canned pears in the stores don’t seem to turn dark. What am I doing wrong?

Shirley Toney
Liberty, Mississippi

You aren’t doing anything wrong except storing them where there is some light. Even a light bulb on frequently will cause light-colored canned foods to darken. Store-bought canned pears are in tin cans which exclude all light. The ones in jars have been recently canned and stored inside cardboard boxes (cases) until put on the store shelves. Keep ’em dark and the pears and apples will remain lighter in color. — Jackie

Canning jam

I made 2 dozen pints each of peach and blackberry jam. I used my pressure cooker as a water bath pot. I could not get it to a heavy rolling boil on my glass-top stove — even leaving it on high the entire time. It was boiling but not what I would call rolling. Is this hot enough? The jam is so yummy and all jars did seal properly.

Judi
Brandon, Florida

As long as the water was boiling, you’re good to go. Did you set your lid on the canner? That retains heat and helps get the water boiling faster and hotter. Of course you don’t lock it down, but just set it into place. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our August 2013 homestead seminar was a huge success

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

Seminar-2013_01

We’re getting rested up from our seminar held this last weekend. We had fourteen people attend plus our oldest son, Bill and friend Eric who videotaped the whole thing. (We hope to make a DVD.) Then there were our two wonderful cooks, Linda and Jeri, who fed us all scrumptious home-cooked homestead meals every day.

Seminar-2013_02

Seminar-2013_03

We had a busy weekend canning, processing chickens, learning about homestead tools and tax benefits, food storage, and a whole lot more. There were smiles galore. What a wonderful bunch of people! And we had folks from all over the country: Linda and Allan from Florida, Sheryl from Virginia, Deb from Ohio, Jose and Teresa from Texas, Jessi from Alaska, John and Mia from California and, of course, our Minnesota attendees — Melinda, Larry, Beverly, Phillip, and Katie. All are already talking about coming to next year’s seminar! We think we’ll be having two seminars so more folks can come too.

Seminar-2013_04

Now, it’s back to canning as the garden is doing terrific. We were worried that we wouldn’t get any sweet corn or squash as our season was so late coming this spring. But with our scorching heat lately, I’m pretty sure we will harvest both. Whew! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning jalapeños, cherries for chickens, and canning roasted Hatch chiles

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

Canning jalapeños

I’m interested in canning jalapeños, but I don’t want to pickle them. I want to chop them and can them for later use in various dishes. Can I just add lemon to water and water-bath? Or will I need to pressure can them? My only alternative is to chop and freeze. Any ideas on this?

Michelle

No, you can’t add lemon juice to the water and water bath can the jalapeños. What I do is pickle the rings. Then if I don’t want the vinegar flavor when using the peppers in other recipes, I just rinse them well and they’re tasty as can be. If you really want to can them, you’ll need a pressure canner. To can them, I’d cut in halves, then pack into half pint or pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Then add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice to each pint and pour boiling water over them, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Process pints at 10 pounds pressure for 35 minutes (also 1/2-pints). If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. — Jackie

Cherries for chickens

A friend and I have a discussion on whether cherries that are not pitted would be good for chickens. I think if they ate the pit they’d be fine. She thinks not. Would they eat the pit? Does anyone out there know?

Louise

I wouldn’t feed my chickens cherry pits as the uncooked pits contain cyanide and could harm them. — Jackie

Canning roasted chiles

Hatch Chiles are here. The store will roast them for us and I usually seal them in bags and freeze. I would like to can these rather than freeze them this year. How would you recommend canning these?

Jamie Vertrees
Las Vegas, Nevada
 
When we lived in New Mexico, I’d buy bags of Hatch chiles every fall and can ’em up. What a wonderful smell it is when chile roasters are going! Just take them home in the bag, then dip the peppers in cold water as you pack them into jars. Peel the peppers and remove stem and seeds. I used mostly half-pint and pints. Pack, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. vinegar or lemon juice to improve flavor if you wish. Pour boiling water over peppers, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean; place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process for 35 minutes (pints and half-pints) at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude for safe processing. These canned chiles are great! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Using dill and breeding chickens

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

Using dill

Can I use the flowering heads of dill in the pickle recipes? I have lots of that, but none has yet gone to seed? This year’s Hope Pale Grey crop is “running” all over the place. It’s been suggested that I cut off the runners. My father-in-law always gave his tomatoes a “haircut” in the late summer to prevent the plants from putting energy into green fruit that would never ripen by the killing frost; I can’t bring myself to do that, either. Do I trim or let things be?

Vala Johnson
Harlem, Montana

Yes, you can use the dill before it sets seed. Just use a little more and it’ll work just fine.

I just let my squash run till they’re done. You can trim the vine ends if you wish but I really haven’t seen that make much of a difference in the ripening of the squash. — Jackie

Breeding chickens

I have a question about chicken genetics and breeding. I probably could find an answer through an online search, but I’d like to have your perspective based on your experience. I’m trying to breed Welsummers, Black Minorcas, and true Ameraucanas because they are good layers of dark brown, white and blue eggs, and they tend to do fairly well in our 115+ heat here in the Phoenix area (although I did lose two older Minorcas on a 120-degree day and a 118-degree day this year). After that spiel here is my question–and it has nothing to do with temperature, sorry. Would it be better to breed the hens with their brothers/half brothers, or back to their fathers? I know getting roosters from another flock for genetic diversity is ideal, but if I am stuck with only related roosters, would brothers or fathers be better mates for my layers in terms of reducing potential genetic problems?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

Personally, I’d go with the half-brothers rather than brother or father. With chickens, it takes more than one generation of inbreeding to see genetic problems. Just choose a good rooster — one with straight, not crooked toes and bill, a nicely built body and good disposition. Maybe in a year or so you can trade unrelated roosters with a homesteading neighbor to cross back on your new hens. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Oven canning and Hopi Pale Grey recipes

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Oven canning

I oven can my dry goods like rice and such, but can I oven can things like homemade jerky or sun dried tomatoes?

Crystal Misiak
Millboro, Virginia

I’d say yes to the sun dried tomatoes, provided that they are fully dry. But no to the jerky as most folks don’t dry their jerky enough for safe storage. If there’s any moisture in a product dry-sealed, such as oven “canning,” it won’t go away and will eventually cause the food to mold. — Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey recipes

I am wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing some recipes for Hopi pale grey squash, also when do you know they’re ripe?

Vern, Kari and Peyton Wittenberg
Gonvick, Minnesota

You can harvest the Hopi Pale Greys after a light frost, as they’re usually ripe then, turning a light grey-blue. If they are green in color, they aren’t ripe yet. You can use these squash just like other winter squash –stuffing them with fried, crumbled sausage, a mix of vegetables, or just butter and brown sugar, baking on a cookie sheet until done. Or you can grate them fresh on a salad. They’re sweet and good, even raw. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our seminar is only two days away!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

With folks coming from as far away as California, Florida, and Alaska, it promises to be a great time and we’re busy getting ready. (Did you order the porta-potty? How about the tapes for the video camera?) We, as homesteaders, tend to ignore some of our messes. But when we’re expecting company, we suddenly see them as others would and rush around to sort of straighten them out.

Porch-framework

Will had planned on baling hay today but last night we got a real banger of a thunderstorm. Not too much rain though, and it’s hotter than blazes today so he’s out raking it so it will dry and be ready to bale tomorrow. Seminar or not, homesteading must go on! After all, we’re just plain folk like all of you.

The garden, even though late, sure looks great. The corn’s seven feet tall and we have dinner-plate-sized cabbages and broccoli. The onions average about baseball size and some are softball-sized with no sign of shutting down. Carrots look great too and the bush beans are pumping out beans like crazy. Now if it doesn’t frost for a few weeks, we might get squash. A year like this enforces our feeling that when we get a bumper crop, I can up all I can. You never know when you’ll get hit with hail next year or have a goofy summer where you just don’t get a good crop.

Relaxing

I laugh when “survivalists” say that if TSHTF they’ll just dig up their yard, plant their survival seeds, and live off their garden. First off, when you don’t have the experience gardening, things just don’t go that well. Nor does a first…or second year garden, either. And what if that year is like this one? A big challenge even to us experienced gardeners. If you want to eat, you’d better get at it NOW! — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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