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Archive for December, 2013

Jackie Clay

It’s -35 but spring’s just around the corner. Sort of…

Monday, December 30th, 2013

One thing about cold weather is that you get caught up on a lot of stuff in the house (not that our house could use some cleaning and straightening up). And in between times, I’ve been making extra bread, rolls, and other baked goods. It seems that when it gets cold our primal instincts force us to make lots of food! Or it’s just a good excuse…

I picked up a couple of on-sale 5-pound bags of flour before Christmas and opened one to make some bread. Did you know that nearly all commercial flour now contains malted barley flour? I’ve become a label reader because it seems like every company is getting sneaky about what they put into our food. The first bag I noticed was Gold Medal unbleached. Then it was the whole wheat. Even Dakota Maid was guilty! Talk about depressing. I guess it’s because barley is cheaper than wheat.

Then there’s the seed catalogs. Did any of you notice the price of seeds and plants in a lot of catalogs this year? The worst were Burpee and Henry Field, who offered a seedless grape vine for an “on sale” price of $97.99. One Vine! Wow, I guess I won’t be buying! Luckily, many others like Baker Creek, Pinetree, and Fedco are still fair on their pricing.

With it being so cold, Spencer doesn’t go out and help with chores and Hondo jumps up on the hay bales in between pens to keep his bum and paws warm. Smart dogs!


Will and I also want to wish each and every one of you Happy New Year!– Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had a small but wonderful Christmas

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

This year it was just Will, David, and me for Christmas, but it was still great. Very quiet and laid back. We slept in, then enjoyed watching each other open a few packages under the tree. Well, kind of under the tree. Because of very active Hondo, who likes to crash around, be naughty by chewing things, and generally act wild, we not only put our tree up on top of a sturdy coffee table but put the presents on the antique vanity that Will is turning into a bathroom vanity. Just in case. It turned out that Hondo did NOT bother the tree one bit! Wow, were we shocked and surprised.

The highlight of the morning was when Will opened several packages from some of the “girls” who had come to our seminar two years in a row. Now when they gifted me with a beautiful Nutrimill grain grinder (complete with a bagging attachment!), Will jokingly put on a pout and said “Gee, why does JACKIE get all the toys?” Now the girls couldn’t let that one go by. So they got together and each sent Will a Christmas box with a toy tractor in it! So now the boy’s got his very own toys. How funny that was, watching him open those boxes!


Today, it’s business as usual. Will is starting to poly the new bathroom vanity-to-be after removing the old varnish. He started out using a regular varnish/paint stripper but ended up using carburetor cleaner instead! (On the can it says not to get it on varnish or paint, so he gave it a try in an inconspicuous spot.) It worked much better than the stripper! I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Now if I can just zip my jeans after eating all that food on Christmas: ham, deviled eggs, baked squash, carrots, rolls, and scalloped potatoes, with pumpkin (really Hopi Pale Grey squash!) pie, apple pie, and Will’s cheesecake for dessert. Then there was fudge and cookies, too. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

And a partridge in a pear tree…

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

Okay, here in northern Minnesota, they call Ruffed Grouse “partridge,” and the one I saw tonight was in our birch tree in the front yard, not a pear tree. But I thought it was cool. The grouse come up and eat the catkins off the birch trees in the winter. And this one didn’t seem to mind me taking his picture. I thought it was seasonal!


So let me take this opportunity to wish each and every one of you a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and holiday season! We have been truly blessed this year with good health, happiness, achieving many of our goals, having a bountiful harvest, and meeting many new friends. May the same be for you and your family at this season and in the new year! I truly appreciate each of you and enjoy helping you through the blog. You’re all family, you know.

It’s been cold here, and tonight they’re saying it may dip down to -30. Brrr. The critters are all snugly bedded down, we have lots of firewood both in the house and in the woodshed, and Will’s working on the new bathroom vanity. As vanities are very expensive and poorly made with staples and particle board, we bought an antique cherry vanity with a beautiful mirror on a local online auction, Do-Bid, for $85. Will had to re-glue some separated laminate. But now he’s stripping off the old varnish. We’ve bought a drop-in sink and he cut the hole in the top of the dresser for it. In a few days we’ll have a beautiful bathroom vanity. And we won’t have to wash our hands in the bathtub any more. Wow! Civilized! Hey, it doesn’t take much to make us happy around here.


Again, let me wish you a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and an exciting New Year! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: salt in pickles, making vinegar, and oven canning white rice

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Salt in pickles

How much salt do you absolutely have to put into a pickle recipe?

Lois Lara
Corbett, Oregon

Unfortunately, you have to put the amount of salt designated in each recipe in pickles as it does have something to do with preserving them, unlike the salt suggested in canning vegetables and meats; there it’s optional and just for flavor. If you check out many pickle recipes, you’ll find a wide variation in the amount of salt so I’d shop recipes if you need to cut down on salt. Generally, sweet pickles have much less salt than do dills and many sweet pickles only have salt as a pre-soak before packing. This salt is drained away so they are really low sodium in the end. — Jackie

Making vinegar

Strange question time? I want to be prepared in case, God help us, the SHTF. One thing that really worries me is vinegar for canning. I know I can make low acid vinegar. But what do I do for 5% for canning? Do I buy concentrated acetic acid and dilute it? If so how? All the stuff I find online is written for chemists…
We look forward to your column! That is where we found out how we were screwing up the Tattler lids. Now we have no problem with them — thanks!

Mark Richardson
Yale, Michigan

Well Mark, it’s really quite easy if you want to take the time. All you have to do is pick up a pH meter or even litmus paper will do to check the acidity of your vinegar. Our grandparents just tasted it. If it has little “bite” it’s way too mild. If it “bites” just right, it probably is. If it attacks you, it has gone too far! But hey, if the SHTF, we probably won’t be making all that many pickles. And how about brining them and fermenting them, instead of using vinegar? All old fashioned methods that really work. I just finished up a batch of sauerkraut and it was sure enough sour enough — and no vinegar needed.

I’m glad you found out what you were doing wrong with Tattler lids. I was embarrassed when I was told what I was doing wrong when I first used mine! (Screwing the ring down on the lid snuggly before putting in the canner instead of very lightly, then tightening the ring after processing.) — Jackie

Oven canning white rice

In reply to oven canning white rice, you stated that you keep yours in tins for as long as several years. I purchase large bags for storage, and store it in jars for maybe a year. Yet when I open it the rice smells somewhat rancid. I can taste the “old” flavor when I cook this rice. What am I doing wrong? I have also sealed some in vacuum bags but have not tried these yet.

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Are you using long grain white rice? That’s what I use for storage and I haven’t had any trouble. However, in Florida you may have more of a problem with humidity. You might try one of your vacuum bags as that should sure improve your storage, as would oven “canning” your rice in jars. Brown rice just won’t store well unless you freeze it. Another tip: Keep your rice in it’s plastic bag until you need some, then put the rest in storage containers. In the plastic, it is protected from air, humidity, and insects. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning chicken broth, drying garlic, and apple cider vinegar

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Canning chicken broth

I recently canned up some chicken broth, and now I’m “second guessing” myself. I decided to see if you could make the issue clear for me. If there is meat in the broth, it must be pressure canned for 75 minutes, but if it is just “broth” it need be canned for only 20 minutes. My broth always has some tiny meat bits in it, although I try to get all the meat out to can in other jars. What is the definition of “broth” and how do I tell if it needs to be processed for the longer or shorter time?

Sarah Axsom
Natchitoches, Louisiana

When there is just a little meat in the broth, such as unstrained broth, it is fine processed for 20 minutes. However when you add pieces of meat and can chicken with broth, for instance, then you must process it for 75 minutes (pints). Don’t worry if there are a few small pieces of meat. Just make sure there are just a few little ones and you’ll be fine. — Jackie

Drying garlic

I “found” some garlic bulbs in the basement from two years ago. I sliced and dried as you recommended. The center of each clove had a “stem” in it that was a dark green. Should I remove that stem or just coarse-chop it with the rest of the cloves? They did dry, just as the regular clove did.

Sandra Agostini
Nixa, Missouri

Don’t worry about the sprout trying to form in your clove. It will taste just the same as the clove itself. No worries. — Jackie

Apple cider vinegar

So much has been written about the healing power of apple cider vinegar with the “mother.” We buy this in the health food stores but wonder if it can be homemade safely.

Margaret Baker
Valleyford, Washington

Yes, you can make apple cider vinegar at home safely. The one catch is that you shouldn’t use it for pickling as you won’t really know the acidity of the cider vinegar or if it is acidic enough for pickling (or maybe too acidic, making the pickles really sour.) In issue #143 (September/October 2013) of BHM there was an article about making vinegar from peelings with explicit directions and photos so I won’t repeat. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask away. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: oven canning rice and everlasting yeast

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

Oven canning rice

Can you oven can raw rice?

Jean Groen

Yes, it keeps well in sealed jars. But I save time and money by just storing bags of rice in my used popcorn tins. I’ve never had rice go bad yet after years in them. Brown rice is another story; it doesn’t keep well, even when oven canned although that does buy it some time. Freezing large quantities is a better option. Or can it as you would nutmeats, shortening the time heating in the oven on a cookie sheet, but thoroughly heating it before placing in dry, hot canning jars then pressure canning it at 5 pounds for 10 minutes. That’s much surer than oven “canning.” — Jackie

Everlasting yeast

I was wondering if you could tell me the difference (if any) between sourdough starter and everlasting yeast?

Cynthia Morgan
Hudson, Florida

Everlasting yeast is simply a “fed” handful of bread dough that you put into a crock, add water and flour, and let work for a day or two, covered. Each time you make bread (every couple of days), you hold back a handful of dough to start your next batch of dough. If left to work too long, it will become sourdough and can be used as any other sourdough starter. It is usually initially started with a yeast dough and you propagate this tame yeast by retaining a chunk and “feeding” it to make your next dough. Sourdough proper is usually started and kept going, fermenting in a crock. You use a certain amount to make your bread, retaining much of it and “feeding” it with water and flour to keep it alive and ready to use next time. As sourdough is fermented, it keeps going forever with decent care. The everlasting yeast dough also can be kept going, but in a different way; you just keep back a handful of dough and use that to start your next loaves of bread. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our winter continues — cold and snowy

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

For us, winter is kind of a rest-up for spring because of the intense cold. Will and I do our daily outside chores but find time for inside stuff that doesn’t happen when we can be outdoors working.

I just baked three loaves of honey whole wheat bread (recipe in my cookbook) and boy was that yummy! What great toast it makes too. Since it’s cooler in the kitchen now than in the summer, the bread doesn’t mold before it gets eaten up. Store-bought bread is so awful and getting so expensive. I figured that my bread cost about 50 cents a loaf to bake. Not bad, huh? And it’s real wheat, real honey, real food.


I just took out my bucket of sauerkraut and skimmed off the yuck on top. Then I tasted it — just right! Tomorrow I’ll be canning it up. I was planning on doing that today but we took two more steers in to butcher and wow, were the roads bad! It was snowing hard, five degrees and the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. Ice built up on them in a heartbeat and we could hardly see to drive. The plows hadn’t been out so there were nearly whiteout conditions. And we had to drive about 22 miles, pulling a 16-foot stock trailer. If we had known it would be that bad, we would have called and taken them later. But we didn’t know it until we were five miles away from home and there was NO turning around. Will drove about 30 miles an hour, finding the road by mailboxes along it and by plow berms. Every so often we would have to stop right in the road (when there was nobody behind us!), let the defrosters heat the wipers and windshield, jump out and pick the ice off the wipers. Whew, were we glad to get to Al’s place with the steers and us in one piece.

We’ve got 3½ steers’ meat sold already and if we don’t sell the other half, we’ll split it between my son, Bill, and ourselves.

Meanwhile, Hondo and Spencer have been having fun playing. Did you ever know dogs that had a toybox? Well they do, full of “babies” (stuffed animals from the thrift store), balls, and chew toys. Every day we pick them up and then they go stand there and pick through their toys to figure out what they want to play with next … until they have a dozen toys out of the box.


Will’s been working on transforming an antique cherry dresser into a bathroom vanity. He first had to glue the laminate back into place, then cut the legs off a few inches to vanity height. Now he’s got the hole marked where the sink will drop in. Next he has to cut down the drawers so the sink and plumbing will fit. Boy, will it be nice not to have to wash our hands in the bathtub! I haven’t said much but it has been nine years without a sink in the bathroom. But, hey, there have always been more pressing places to put money. That’s homesteading! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Hey, spring’s just around the corner (isn’t it?)

Monday, December 16th, 2013

Spring must be getting closer because I’m getting lots of seed catalogs. I’ve already gotten some of my favorites such as Pinetree Garden Seeds, Totally Tomatoes, and today, my favorite of favorites, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. What a totally GORGEOUS catalog! Beautiful format and wonderful photos of so many great varieties! I had to sit down and thumb through it right away. I’ve already found things I MUST order. I was disappointed this year though that they’ve discontinued Hopi Pale Grey squash seeds. Bummer. They were the last commercial source of this super squash that I know of in the country. That’s a huge loss.



Meanwhile, while I went to town for dog food, Will finished the stone work on our rock wall behind the living room stove. I think it looks absolutely stunning. And after a few days, Will is going to pull off the 2×4 framework/form and will be putting on the rustic wooden shelves. Then after a month or so of curing, we’ll coat it with sealer to bring out the color of the rocks, making them seem wet. I can hardly wait. — Jackie


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