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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
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Archive for February, 2014

Jackie Clay

We’re looking at frozen water lines as preparedness practice

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Hey, we talk about preparedness day and night it seems, but how prepared ARE we? Water is always one of the biggest deals. Luckily, we feel we have it about covered. After all, even with frozen water lines, we still have more than 500 gallons of potable water in our basement storage tanks (which we are using VERY little of) and more than four feet of snow to melt outside.

We’re melting snow to flush the toilet and wash up with. This morning I washed my hair with some of it, heated on the wood stove to conserve propane, and Will’s coffee was brewed with some water I brought from the Idington spring yesterday, on the way home from town. The animals’ water is mostly melted snow. I’m only going to wash clothes once a week in our water-conserving wringer washer and that water will be mostly melted snow. By the time the snow’s pretty much gone, we’ll be able to get water from our spring as it won’t be wading through four feet of drifted snow to get at.


We feel fortunate to have plenty of firewood, food, and critter food on hand. If we get another couple of big snowstorms we may have to run the snowmobile out to the road. Knowing this is a possibility, we’re really stocking up on critter grub, especially. We have our bounteous pantry for ourselves, of course. A lot of folks we know have already gone through their entire winters’ worth of firewood and have had to buy more. But the firewood they bought is pretty green and really doesn’t burn well or economically. Green wood takes a lot of heat to drive off the steam in it from the sap and that burning eats up a lot of wood. And with propane getting scarcer and selling at $5 a gallon, I don’t know what folks will do. Luckily, we stock 2 years’ worth of firewood in the shed. But we’ve started dipping into our second year’s firewood already. We feel fortunate that it’s split and very dry, AND under cover…not out in the snowbank somewhere!


We’re plotting out what we’re going to grow to harvest for seed to sell in our mini-seed business next year. It’s fun but challenging as some crops such as corn and squash require extreme distancing to avoid cross pollination between varieties. We’ve got it about figured out and should be offering about 20 or more different tomato seeds plus many seeds from our old-faithful garden crops. (We still have plenty of seed for sale; just click on the green box pdf link above.)

Meanwhile, keep warm and tell us about where you live. Hearing about folks tilling their garden and running around in T-shirts gives us hope for spring! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

They’re calling it the “Arctic Vortex” we call it a pain

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Yep, at the risk of sounding same old same old, we got another 14 inches of snow with 40 mph wind. Now the temp’s going down way below zero this whole week! This is getting really tiresome! And to top it off, our water line from the well froze. So we’re out of running water for about 6 weeks. At first it seemed horrible. But, hey, we’ve lived where we never had running water at all. So we sucked it up and started melting snow for flushing the toilet and washing hands. And on trips to town, I come back past a flowing spring and fill water jugs for drinking and cooking water. Heck, it could be worse. We’re warm, have plenty of food, and the critters have plenty of feed. We’ll get by just fine but still hope for an early spring.


Meanwhile, it gives Will and me more time to work inside. We’ve been cleaning and hauling furniture out of the living room, dining room, and entryway in preparation for laying the laminate flooring.


We do chores, shovel, and snow blow to clear paths and clear around equipment, then we come inside to work, taking a “break.” Hey, it’s working. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning ham and dehydrated tomatoes for spaghetti sauce

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

Canning ham

I recently got a deal on canned ham; can I re-can this into glass jars? If so, how? Also, have you ever made carrot kraut? How?

Sandy Rowland
Linconton, North Carolina

You bet you can re-can canned hams. You’ll just can the ham up as if it were fresh ham with the processing time (75 minutes for pints or half-pints; 90 minutes for quarts). The broth can be either boiling water or ham-flavored dry soup base in water, according to directions.

No, I haven’t made carrot kraut. But I did find this recipe for you on

4 cups grated carrots
1 Tbsp. fresh grated ginger root
1 Tbsp. sea salt (or 2 if not using whey)
4 Tbsp. whey (optional)

1. Grate carrots using the larger hole setting on either a box grater or your food processor.
2. In a medium-size bowl mix grated carrots, grated ginger, sea salt, and whey (if using). Once all ingredients are evenly distributed move them to a quart-size canning jar or other non-reactive fermenting vessel.
3. Press mixture down tightly into vessel with either a wooden utensil or your fist. Be sure to pack them down tightly enough that the liquid (brine) covers the shredded carrots.
4. Seal with a lid and allow to ferment at a cool room temperature (60° to 75°F degrees being optimal) for 5 to 10 days or until bubbly and tangy to your liking.
5. Move jar to cold storage.

Carrots are often added to regular sauerkraut making a different tasting and appearing kraut, as are caraway seeds and ginger. Variety is so nice! — Jackie

Dehydrated tomatoes for spaghetti sauce

I have seen lately on blogs and facebook that folks are using dehydrated tomato skins to thicken up their spaghetti sauce to cut down on the amount of time it takes to cook down. Have you ever tried this method? How did it taste? If you wanted to use this method and can the sauce, would it be safe to can if you did not thicken it too much? Would you use the same times and methods as canning regular spaghetti sauce?

Gwen Koskinen
Gainesville, Texas

I’ve added sliced dehydrated whole tomatoes to spaghetti sauce but I really can’t say I like the result as well or better than reducing the puree by either cooking it (I use a turkey roaster in my oven at its lowest setting overnight; some folks use a crock pot on their counter) or by simmering on the stovetop. Last year, I reduced the liquid first by putting my whole and quartered tomatoes in my Mehu Liisa steam juicer first, draining off the tomato broth (it’s watery looking but makes great soup base) then running the tomatoes through my Victorio tomato strainer. The puree was MUCH thicker. And of course, if you use meaty, paste-type tomatoes to start with, there is always much less cooking down time.

If you did want to use the method you discovered, it would be safe. Just don’t thicken it down to tomato paste consistency. If it should get too thick, just add a bit of tomato juice to thin it a bit. Times and methods would be the same as if you were canning “regular” spaghetti sauce. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: cooking on a wood burner and butchering older roosters

Saturday, February 22nd, 2014

Cooking on a wood burner

I always thought I’d be able to cook on my wood burner, but I decided to give it a try and the top of the stove only gets about 130 to 150 degrees. I have the damper full open yet this is as hot as it gets. I read that food isn’t safe at this temperature for more than two hours, so even if the food eventually cooked, it would be full of bacteria. Is there anything you can suggest to help me? I’d be so grateful!

Deborah Sutorius
Elyria, Ohio

Does your wood burner have a cabinet around it? Some do, for instance the Ashley cabinet model that was very popular in the ’70s and ’80s. These never do get as hot as a wood stove that is simply an enclosed “box” of cast iron or sheet steel. The top of any wood burner is hottest when the damper is nearly closed, not open, as the majority of heat goes right up the stovepipe when the damper is open. Also, the type of wood has to do with how hot the stove top gets. Dry, seasoned hardwood or pine will burn hottest with green or unseasoned wood burning sometimes barely at all. I’ve cooked on several wood stoves from my ever-present kitchen ranges to the living room wood burner. But all of ours have been cabinet-free.

Temperatures from 140 to 150 degrees are the recommended internal temperatures for medium rare steaks and other slow cooked foods done in slow cookers such as crock pots. So I don’t think bacteria would be a big issue. But, personally, I would like to see you simmering your foods at about 180 to 205 degrees F, just to be safest.

If you do have a cabinet-type wood burner, many have a lift off top so you can more easily use it to cook on. Or there is a hinged door on top for this purpose. When the pot of food is on the iron stovetop, there should not be a problem getting the food plenty hot. I do it all the time. — Jackie

Butchering older roosters

We have numerous chickens, along with now, 4 roosters. One came from a friend, the others came from a batch of 9 chickens we bought — there were FOUR in there! Anyway, the newest 3 are Buff-Orpingtons — and big and beautiful. But, they’re starting to realize they’re bigger, and are beginning to fight with the original rooster. I don’t want them to kill each other, but I also don’t want to just give them away. They’re over a year old, so are they too old to butcher? Will they be too tough? They are fed very little feed each day, and for the most part, are free-range. What would you do with them?
Toni McDonald
Jasper, Texas

No, your roosters aren’t too old to butcher; I’ve butchered roosters that were quite a bit older than that. However, if you just cook them, they’ll probably be a bit tough. So, instead, why not can the meat? You can make broth and then can both the broth and broth with meat. Out of each rooster, you’ll get many jars of tasty, tender meat. That’s a pretty much win-win solution. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Despite our latest snowstorm, my first peppers are up

Friday, February 21st, 2014


Yep, ANOTHER snowstorm! The weather radio, which we live by, is calling for a major winter storm with up to 14 inches of blowing, heavy, wet snow falling today, tonight, and tomorrow. Sigh. Just when we’ve been enjoying temperatures of 40 degrees above, sunny, and melting. It felt like spring.

So we went into the “getting ready for the blast” mode: give extra hay and bedding for the critters, fill the chicken feeder, get to town and get extra gas for the plow truck and bulldozer, not to mention the snow blower. And the snow is starting to fall heavily. Maybe I’ll bake bread. I always feel like cooking when it’s storming. Blizzards make me hungry!

But to perk us up, we found that our very first peppers of the year have germinated! The Early Jalapeños were, indeed, early! They popped up in seven days. So cool.


In two weeks I’ll be starting our tomatoes. As our fledgling seed business is doing so well, we’ve decided to grow and save seed for more than 25 heirloom, open-pollinated tomatoes this year in addition to several other crops such as beans, squash, and cucumbers. (here’s still plenty of seed left so if you’re thinking about ordering from us, please feel free to click on the button above to see what we have. And we have quite a bit of all of the seed offered (even the Bill Bean tomatoes, which I thought I was out of but then discovered I’d saved another envelope of them). Spring WILL come this year; I promise. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got hit with another major snowstorm

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

We spent all day yesterday shoveling out. Will plowed the drive with the plow truck and I used the snowblower to clear paths to the barns and pens. But there was just too much snow! Instead of the 2-4 inches forecast, we got clobbered with about 16-18 inches with wind. Wow. So today, Will’s out with Old Yeller, our bulldozer, shoving back the huge snowbanks on both sides of our mile-plus long driveway. There’s just no more room to plow more snow!


I’ve been busy planting peppers in Jiffy pellets which I put in small containers to help keep track of the 18 different varieties (or so!) of peppers we’re planting this year. I plant and water the seeds, then I put each container inside a plastic shopping bag to keep the humidity inside. It makes all the difference in germination. Another thing that makes a difference is warmth. Since we’re off grid (using heat mats under the trays isn’t possible) and because our greenhouse is only about 65 degrees at night, I place my planted flats on shelves around the wood stove in the living room.


As Will’s working on the rock work, getting ready to clean it up to seal, I had no shelves to put them on! But I’d picked up a small metal shelf unit on wheels on a Do-Bid auction very cheaply and brought that in to use. It works great and I’m waiting for my peppers to germinate. If they’re kept warm and moist, they usually germinate in about 5-7 days, much under the “usual” germination time. Just putting the flats in a sunny window is fine IF the sun doesn’t cook the seeds in the daytime or chill them at night. It’s the chilling that happens here as some nights are still below zero. However TODAY the sun’s out and the temperature is over 40 degrees ABOVE zero! Hooray! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: prickly pear cactus and canning eggs

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Prickly pear cactus

My prickly pear gets a green bud at the bottom and at the top of the bud it is red, about 1½ inches high then turns into a leaf later. Do you know is this an edible prickly pear? It has prickers and oval shaped about 8″- 10″ pads. It is all about 10 feet tall.


I don’t know of a prickly pear that isn’t edible. You can eat the young, tender pads with the fat, new prickers, or the red fruit that forms after the blossoms fade. — Jackie

Canning eggs

For canning hard-boiled eggs, can I use some honey in the vinegar for a sweet and sour taste? If so, may I add honey to taste or is there a specific proportion of honey to vinegar to maintain the proper acidity for the canning?

Elizabeth, Arkansas

I wouldn’t add honey to your canned hard-boiled eggs. If you want, once the jar is opened, you could pour out the brine and add honey to taste, then pour the brine back on the eggs and keep the jar in the refrigerator until eaten. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: oven canning and canning nuts

Saturday, February 15th, 2014

Oven canning

Is this recipe safe to “oven bake” to seal? Would this be good for storage?

2 cups instant mashed potatoes
1¾ cups powdered milk
2 Tbsp. instant chicken or veg bouillon granules
1½ tsp. seasoning salt
2 tsp. dried onion flakes
1 tsp. dried parsley
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. dried thyme

In a medium bowl mix dry ingredients well and pour into a 1 quart jar. Seal and attach ring. Place ½ cup of soup mix in a bowl. To prepare add 1 cup boiling water and stir to smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Boy, Judith, I’d wonder about the bouillon granules becoming rancid after a time. Otherwise, it should “oven can” pretty well. You might try a couple of pint jars to see how it does. — Jackie

Canning nuts

I was gifted 8 pounds of pecans and walnuts and decided to can them per your instructions. For some mindless reason I used quart jars instead of the pint jars recommended. I pressured them for the 10 minutes called for at 5 pounds of pressure. Will they be okay and how long can I expect them to last? And why is it that you want to only use pint or half-pint jars? Also what should the head space be? In your canning book you recommend leaving 1 inch of head space while in some of your back articles I see 1/2 inch head space. Thanks so very much for taking time to answer these questions. I am learning so very much from you and being retired … it is really helping out a lot!

Lettie Cain
Inkster, Michigan

I’m so glad to be of help, Lettie. Your nuts will be fine and can be expected to stay good for years. I’m still using the pecans I canned while living in New Mexico 15 years ago. The reason you use pint and half-pint jars is that once you open a quart, it is then prone to getting rancid, just like fresh nutmeats. With a pint or half-pint, you usually use the nuts up soon enough before they go bad.

The headspace really doesn’t matter although I use 1 inch to make absolutely sure none are touching the underside of the lids which could possibly cause a chemical reaction, darkening the lids. (The nuts would still be okay.) At the price of nuts today, getting 8 pounds gifted to you is really great! Enjoy them. — Jackie


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