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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 September, 2013

Jackie Clay

Q and A: washing butchered meat and “best by” date

Monday, September 30th, 2013

Washing butchered meat

Can I wash home butchered goat meat with lemon water or vinegar water to clean it before I cut it and grind it? What can I wash it with?

Ann Hazelett
Litchfield Park, Arizona

We just rinse our meat, if necessary, with cold water to rinse away any clinging debris. Using vinegar or lemon water will not do more and costs more, too. After cooling the carcass for at least 24 hours, I can easily pick off any clinging hairs, provided that I took care while skinning. If you haven’t had goat meat before, be sure you bone it and remove all fat for best taste. — Jackie

Evaporated milk “best by” date

I have 2 dozen cans of evaporated milk. Some have a “Best by” date of April 4th 2013. I didn’t notice, and have been using them with no problems. How long is store food generally Ok (Canned stuff) after the “Best By” date? I know home canned is good for a very long time so I was wondering if you know why things like canned milk have such a short sell/use by. It seems like a waste to throw it all out. I fully intend to use it. Have you ever used store-bought canned items past their date? Ever had a problem?

Cathy Ostrowski
Amherst, New York

The “best by” date is purely a marketing ploy to encourage you to throw away perfectly good food and buy more “new” food. Yes, I’ve often used store-bought canned items way past their “expiration” date with no problems whatsoever. I’ve found that as long as you store your store-bought food in a dry spot away from excessive heat, they will remain good for years. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: salve for goats, bush scallop squash, and freezing weather

Sunday, September 29th, 2013

Salve for goats

I am making this salve. Is there anything in it that would hurt my goats?
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dried comfrey
1/4 cup dried calendula
2 oz beeswax (equals out to two of the 1-oz bars or 4 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons of honey (optional)
10 drops lavender essential oil (optional)

Ann Hazelett
Litchfield Park, Arizona

Nope. Your salve won’t hurt your goats a bit. It sounds great. — Jackie

Bush scallop squash

I planted some white bush scallop squash this year for the first time. I assumed they were winter squash when I planted them but now I’m reading that we should have been harvesting them as summer squash for a better flavor. Now that we have waited and have so many of them, will they store like our butternut squash will? Should we cure them? We have quite a few and hate for them to go to waste. We enjoy your columns and your Q&A’s. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

Even though scallop squash are considered a summer squash, I’ve found that they will store well over winter. Not as well as many winter squash, but good enough. You only have to pick them following a frost then store in a warm, dry location until you use them. They’re fine to eat. Not as good as my Hopi Pale Greys, but pretty good and as you said, you sure hate to waste food! — Jackie

Freezing weather

I have been watching the weather in Angora and see that it is down in the 30 degree range at night. How has this impacted your canning, harvesting, etc.? Any recent pics of the homestead? Did you get the corn and tomatoes canned? All the best and happy harvest.

Deborah Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

Yep, we got a hard freeze! We covered everything we could but it froze under the plastic anyway. Luckily the food (tomatoes, peppers, etc.) is okay. So I’m canning, canning and canning! I’ve been doing corn every day for two weeks now and guess what I’m doing today? Canning more corn. The tomatoes are late this year, so we’ll be picking them as they ripen then picking the whole bunch (a truckload!) if a freeze threatens. We’ve never had a better garden and we’re so thankful. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning tomato products, Mehu Liisa, canning fruit, and canning zucchini recipe

Saturday, September 28th, 2013

Canning tomato products

We have been subscribers for years now and enjoy your articles and cook books. We just found out that the Iowa Home extension office advises that tomato products be water bathed for 90 minutes now instead of 45 minutes for quarts. What do you think? They advise pressure canning tomatoes for 25 minutes on quarts.

Cindy Allbee-Peterson
Blanchardville, Wisconsin

I know the Extension offices recommend this but several folks I know did the 85-90 minutes and blew the liquid out of the jars! I feel very comfortable with the old times and water bathing tomatoes. I do make sure that we grow and can only acidic varieties of tomatoes. The reason the times changed and pressure canning became recommended is that many folks started growing low-acid “sweeter” tomatoes and the fact that they are low acid made them more unsafe to can with the old times. — Jackie

Mehu Liisa

Please help me understand the Mehu Liisa that you referenced in a posting on making crabapple sauce and juice. Isn’t the Mehu Liisa a steamer used to get juices for jellies? I’m a little confused, because when you make applesauce, you use the fruit’s liquid to keep the sauce from getting too thick. Doesn’t extracting the juice from the crabapples make the resulting pulp too dry for sauce? Also, I thought the Mehu Liisa was just for soft fruits, like berries. Aren’t crabapples pretty hard, even when ripe? Please help me understand.

Nashville, Indiana

Yep, crab apples are hard, just like eating apples are. When I use the Mehu Liisa, I only remove part of the juice, leaving much in the sauce. (If I should take too much out and the sauce is too thick, all I’d have to do is mix in some of the juice that was extracted.) The steam softens the apples and extracts as much of the juice as you wish; I stop after about an hour or so and find that’s about right. The resulting applesauce can be mixed with sugar or made into apple butter very easily to can up. — Jackie

Canning fruit

Your instructions for canning peaches without a syrup worked GREAT! Best peaches I have ever canned. Can the same thing be done with apples & pears or are they too dry?

My tomatoes are barely starting to get ripe & it is going down to 29 degrees tonight. Should I just pick the ones I know the frost will ruin? The ones on the bottom should be okay for a while. Is there a way to can the green tomatoes to make mock apple pie later & how low can the sugar go in both canned apple pie filling or mock apple pie filling.

I did pick most of the peppers, still have Thais to go. Also, green beans from the barrel need to be picked. We dried at least 20lbs of carrots last month from my volunteer crop. Left some nice large ones for next years seeds and spread out the small ones to have room to grow larger.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Any method you use for peaches will work for apples and pears.

I’d pick all of the decent-sized tomatoes at around the 29 degree mark, even covering them may not do enough. Tomatoes will continue ripening in the house with no special treatment. We just store ours in plastic totes, buckets, washtubs, etc. until they ripen. I do sort them as I pick; yellow ones in one bucket, light green in another, and dark green in another. That way I don’t have to dig through all the tomatoes to find ripe ones to can.

I haven’t had any luck trying to can mock apple pie filling yet. And I wouldn’t cut the sugar in the regular apple pie filling recipe. If you wish to use less sugar, how about just canning up the apple slices in a very light syrup, then just using the slices as your filling, mixing up the recipe of your choice as you make the pie. That’s what I usually do.

It’s great to hear about all your dehydrated carrots. They are so easy to do and are really useful later on. I plan on dehydrating a bunch of ours as we had a bumper crop of carrots this year. — Jackie

Canning zucchini recipe

I enjoy zucchini cooked with tomato filets, garlic, and white wine, and I would like to can this. I have not seen a recommendation for processing this concoction. Could you please help? We live at 6000 foot elevation.

Tom Sanguigni
Snowflake, Arizona
I’m afraid I don’t have a recipe either, but I really doubt that you’d like the results. As you are trying to can zucchini with the tomatoes and the rest, you’d have to process in a pressure canner for 30 minutes (pints) or 35 minutes (quarts) and your tomato slices will get pretty soft. This is one dish you probably should enjoy fresh. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fruit flies and canning with dehydrated powder

Friday, September 27th, 2013

Fruit flies

There are always fruit flies swarming around my compost. Is this a problem? I can’t see how to avoid it, given that there is often a layer of fresh scraps on top. I compost in a black plastic barrel with lots of 1.5-inch diameter holes cut into it for aeration. There are no regular flies, and the compost doesn’t smell.

Secondly, my dry beans always develop a black mildew on the pods the drier they get on the vine. Does this affect the bean in any way?

K. D.
Wellesley Hills

No, it’s not much of a problem. But if you want to avoid it, just keep a good pile of leaves, peat moss, or other dry organic material handy to throw on top of fresh fruit scraps. Fruit flies can’t dig!

Those black spots only affect the pod, not the beans inside. The beans are fine in most cases as long as they look fat and shiny. — Jackie

Canning with dehydrated powder

They say that when canning a soup to always use the longest processing time required for any of the ingredients. What about for dehydrated powder? I made a big pot of vegetable soup, using tomato juice, potatoes, green beans, and carrots. I also added oregano and then some home made dehydrated swiss chard powder (about 1 tbsp). Would I can it using the time for the potatoes (35 minutes for pints) or for swiss chard (70 minutes)?

D. McIlwain
Lowman, New York

You’re using the Swiss chard as a “seasoning” as you’re only using 1 Tbsp in a big pot of soup, so you can get by with the 35 minutes for potatoes. If you use more, I’d go with the 70 minutes for greens to be safe. Or add the Swiss chard each time you open a jar and heat it to have for dinner. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning salsa and Victorio or Sqeezo?

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Canning salsa

Can I alter a salsa recipe to whatever I want if I use a pressure canner? Seems like if you are pressure canning then it would not matter what ratio of ingredients you use.


Not really, as when you don’t have a tried and true recipe to follow you don’t really know times to process. Generally, you process for the ingredient in the recipe that requires the longest processing time in a pressure canner. In a salsa, this is usually beans or peppers. If you like a thicker, chunky salsa, when you pressure can for a lengthy time it gets mushy. You CAN substitute varieties of peppers and still water bath. For instance, it doesn’t matter if your peppers are bell, Italian, or hot peppers. Likewise, seasonings, such as spices can be altered with no change. But when you add vegetable ingredients not called for in a recipe, that can get dicey. — Jackie

Victorio or Squeezo?

I am looking to buy one of these. Reading reviews on Amazon, I see a lot of people disparaging the Victorio because of the plastic parts. However, the Squeezo is more expensive. I see you use the Victorio and seem happy with it. Money will probably determine which I buy. Should I worry if I decide to purchase the Victorio?

Cindy Baugh
Dandridge, Tennessee

Not if my experience with my Victorio is any indication! I’ve used mine for 30 years now and have never had a problem. Other than a slightly worn spiral, you can’t tell it from new even though it does have plastic parts. I’ll sure buy another. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: straw bale garden, freezing peppers to use later, and dry canned chicken meat

Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Straw bale garden

Do you have any idea how well the straw bale gardens work? My garden is covered in bindweed. I am not physically able to keep up with hoeing and can’t bend or kneel enough to pull it. I’m hoping the straw bales will work so I can still have a garden. I’ve researched how they work and with lots of water they seem to do well. I’m thinking if I use two bales stacked on top of each other and surround them with pallets to hold them in place I could garden without bending. I would put weed cloth under the bales and cover the empty ground with heavy mulch or cardboard to block the bindweed. Spraying chemicals is not an option. Raised beds of lumber are beyond my budget. What do you think? Thanks for any ideas you have.

Franci Osborne
Ignacio, Colorado

I’m not so much a fan of straw bale gardening. The gardens seem susceptible to hot weather, regardless of watering and the bales will start to degrade, often before you harvest the crop. You might better try container gardening — you’d be surprised what you can use for containers! Some suggestions are: used stock tanks that have small rust holes in the bottom, tires stacked up, firewood logs (not cut and split but cut to whatever length you wish), doubled plastic totes with holes cut in the bottom, 5-gallon plastic buckets (I get mine for $1 each at the bakery department of our grocery store), used untreated lumber salvaged from neighbors or the dump, and pallets lined with black plastic to hold in the dirt. You can get very creative: friends have even used old bathtubs, 55-gallon drums cut in half, and livestock mineral tubs after farmers discarded them.

We had very bad bindweed in our garden in New Mexico. By covering half the garden one year with black plastic, weighted down by straw bales each year, then watching for seedlings every spring, we finally got rid of it. It IS a nasty, nasty weed! — Jackie

Freezing peppers to use later

I have a recipe for chili sauce that calls for a lot of tomatoes and peppers. My problem is that the peppers are seldom ready when the tomatoes are prime. My thought was to freeze peppers this year to use next year in my chili sauce. Do you think this would affect the quality?

LeeAnn Wicker
Manson, Iowa

That’s a very good option for any recipes calling for peppers in a sauce. Good thinking! — Jackie

Dry canned chicken meat

I canned 20+ quarts of chicken breast meat (chunked) when it went on sale last fall, and we’re now just starting to use it. I raw packed some of it and hot packed the rest, but boy, both are REALLY DRY! I made chicken noodle soup with it and found myself eating everything BUT the chicken meat… THAT’S how dry it is! What a disappointment! Is this how canned breast meat comes out? Should I stick to dark meat, even though I’m not a big fan of it? Any ideas for recipes where I could mix the meat in with something else in order to hide it, I mean, to make it palatable?

Nashville, Indiana

Chicken breast isn’t usually dry when canned. I’m assuming you canned in a broth? Often when folks raw pack, broth is not recommended and included, which can result in dry meat. Also, when you hot pack chicken breast, only minimally cook it, don’t cook it completely as this can result in dry meat.

I’d use the dry breast in such things as pulled/barbecue chicken sandwiches (the barbecue and shredding will help the dryness). Simmer the shredded chicken in the barbecue sauce for quite a while. Or use it mashed or pulled and make chicken and dumplings or chicken and biscuits with plenty of good gravy. Or make up a stir fry and add pulled chicken, simmering it in sauce first. Or use it shredded in chicken enchiladas. I’m sure you can figure out good uses for your dry canned meat and hopefully next time it’ll come out more moist! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re making good use of a beautiful week

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013


Our weather turned into a glorious Indian summer. Temperatures are in the high sixties and dry. Will made use of it by cutting the new seeding down below the goat pasture. Three years ago, it was a brushy wet area full of stumps and rotten logs. With Old Yeller’s help Will cleared it off, then we disked it and seeded it in to birdsfoot trefoil, clover, and orchard grass. We used it for pasture for two years. Since we didn’t have it well fenced, we didn’t pasture it this summer as the cattle were on the new forty. So here was all that beautiful feed, just standing there. Hopefully, we’ll be able to square bale it tomorrow. There are just a few acres, but whatever we get is all gravy and I’m sure our animals will love it.


Meanwhile, I’m madly trying to get our harvest canned up. Yesterday it was spaghetti sauce and Hansen’s bush cherry jelly. Today it’s going to be more spaghetti sauce and carrots. Our carrots are getting so big that they ARE like 2x4s, which is their name. I did plant some Tendersweets and even they are very big. Then there are the onions to pull today so they can dry in the sunshine we are forecast for several days.


Today, Will’s working on the front porch again, trying to get a roof on it before winter hits in October. He got it stained yesterday and today he’s doing the final fitting and screwing it together with 10-inch log screws. I think it looks very nice!


Saturday I’m speaking in Mt. Iron to the State Horticultural Society about self-reliant gardening and Sunday we’re hosting a potluck for local homesteaders.

I never did get my flower beds all weeded and cleaned out but oh well, maybe next spring. You NEVER get all you “need” to get done, but you just keep pecking away at it. That’s life. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning vinegar and canning pizza sauce

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Canning vinegar

Have you ever made fruit scraps vinegar and is it okay to can it(water bath canner)? Also, have you ever made crab apple jell? Can you explain how?

Upstate New York

Yes I have. I’m sure you saw the good how-to article in the latest issue of BHM (Sept/Oct 2013, Issue #143). Yes, you can easily can it. Just bring a large pot of it (stainless steel or enameled, not bare metal) to a simmer then pour hot into hot, sterilized quart jars, leaving 1/2″ of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes and it’ll stay good for a long time in your pantry.

I make crab apple jelly every year as it’s one of Will’s favorites and so pretty when you use red crab apples because it is a beautiful clear pink. Here’s a recipe from my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food: About 5 lbs crab apples, making 5 cups juice (Less if you use a steam juicer, as it gets more juice from less fruit!) 1 pkg. powdered pectin, and 7 cups sugar.

Remove blossom end and stems of crab apples and cut in half or quarter, depending on size of apples. Add a small amount of water with the crab apples in a large pot and slowly simmer until fruit is soft and juice is running. Drain in a damp jelly bag or several layers of cheesecloth overnight or for several hours. Measure juice.

To 5 cups juice, mix pectin and stir well as you bring to a rolling boil. Add full measure of sugar, stirring well, as you return to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly so it does not scorch. Ladle hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar clean; place hot, previously-simmered lid on jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (I use both pint and half-pint jars; processing time is the same.) — Jackie

Canning pizza sauce

I have a pizza sauce recipe that I want to water bath but it has 1/2 teaspoon of anchovy paste is this ok. Jackie I’m sorry to say I killed your squash it was going great. We had some winds that broke a few of them off at the stem, the ones that didn’t break died a slow death the winds here are bad but this was unbelievable — lost all my peppers too.


I’d skip the anchovy paste as water bathing recipes containing a fish product can be dicey. Some folks have canned recipes such as antipasto salad for generations in a water bath canner but it is usually considered unsafe. I’d add the anchovy paste just before you make your pizza, stirring it in well.

I’m so sorry to hear you had nasty weather for your squash and peppers. Try, try, try again. It’s our homestead motto! — Jackie


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