Top Navigation  
U.S. Flag waving
Office Hours Momday - Friday  8 am - 5 pm Pacific 1-800-835-2418
Facebook   YouTube   Twitter
 Home Page
 Current Issue
 Article Index
 Author Index
 Previous Issues

 Kindle Subscriptions
 Kindle Publications
 Back Issues
 Discount Books
 All Specials
 Classified Ad

 Web Site Ads
 Magazine Ads

 BHM Forum
 Contact Us/
 Change of Address

Forum / Chat
 Forum/Chat Info
 Lost Password
 Write For BHM

Link to BHM

Ask Jackie headline

Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

Order from Amazon. Order from the publisher, save 10%, and get FREE shipping.

Archive for September, 2014

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning dense foods and black cherries

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Canning dense foods

I put up many different things for our family. My rule of thumb is always process for the ingredient which has the longest time associated with it, such meat in pasta sauce 90 minutes vs 30 for plain based on the recipe. With that in mind, I have looked endlessly for many types of recipes to make store bought items at home. For instance, chocolate fudge sauce. All the references I could find said no-go for the home canner because commercial items are often done at higher pressures and that is why you can buy certain things, like pumpkin puree or refried beans, in the store but cannot do them at home. I have tried to find some reference for the “higher pressure” in commercially processed foods… haven’t found anything. Can you explain why we can find dense products to buy, but “experts” say they cannot be safely canned at home?

Angie Riggsby
Buckley, Washington

I don’t believe store foods are canned at a higher pressure but are pre-heated to certain temps before being packed. And in a factory, they are packed by machine, instantly, then move on down to the canner. At home we can’t work so precisely and some folks are pretty slow. So they make the recommendations for them, including us, too. I’ve never heard of a person getting botulism from home canned pureed pumpkin or refried beans. BUT I suppose it is possible, especially if they really cooled down prior or during packing then someone closed up their canner to build pressure BEFORE it had exhausted steam sufficiently, building up heat BEFORE pressuring up. Experts are trying to keep us safe from ourselves in every way possible, including home canning. — Jackie

Black cherries

I ordered some shrubs from my Conservation District since you are out of stock. They are called Black Cherry (Prunus serotina) are they the same thing? Boy I hope so I got 10 of them. Just wonder if it’s the same.

Brandy Gunderson

Sorry, but no. Black Cherry are not Hansens Bush Cherries but a tree that can eventually grow to 100 feet. Hansens Bush Cherries are a shrub topping out at about 6′ and about 8′ wide and bushy. It is known as the Western Sand Cherry or Prunus besseyi. We don’t sell any trees, shrubs or plants but we may be selling Hansens Bush Cherry pits next year, depending on the harvest as we’ve grown many from seed. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The pumpkin and squash harvest is finished

Monday, September 29th, 2014


Saturday was sunny and nice, above normal temps right into the high seventies. Wow, was it a perfect Indian summer day! Robert, a young man Will had met while getting a piece of sheet metal bent to form at a local metal fabrication shop, said he’d love to pick up some extra work at our place as he loves everything “farm.” So he came out and helped Will lug a very bountiful crop of pumpkins and squash in out of the garden and old pig pasture. And when I say “bountiful” I mean it in every sense of the word. There were several tractor bucket-loads of squash and pumpkins. We brought some into the house to store and the rest went to the new barn. We’ll bring a few at a time up to harvest seed and bury the rest in a cave of square bales to protect them from freezing.


We had one Howden pumpkin that weighed in at 58 pounds! Wow, were they ever productive. We’ll harvest seeds from them and then feed them to our goats and cattle. Of course, I’m going to make pumpkin pies from a couple of the Winter Luxury pumpkins — that’s what they’re famous for.


I’m really tickled at our Canada Crookneck squash as I’ve never grown them before. They are an ancestor of modern butternuts but have a very long neck, which is all meat and no seeds. They were very productive and made an excellent crop, direct seeded, here in Northern Minnesota. They also store very well, so I’m already planning on baking a few.

I got the onions pulled but I’ve got to finish digging potatoes. I’m doing a little bit at a time to keep my post-surgery belly happy. But daily, it is getting less sore and I’m feeling better and better.

The goats are happily munching the squash and pumpkins that were too immature to store and the few that I’ve already seeded. I’m still picking tomatoes, which are continuing to ripen despite the frost. Luckily, many were not damaged by the frost which was a surprise as it was a pretty cold one. Our back porch is full of ice cream pail lids of drying tomato seeds and cookie sheets full of Hopi Pale Grey squash and Winter Luxury seeds and I’m still canning madly before it starts to turn winter. I feel like a chipmunk! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning juice and grain mill

Saturday, September 27th, 2014

Canning juice

I got an off brand steam juicer this year, and it is working fabulously. My question is about canning the resultant juice. I am not interested in making jelly, as we don’t use much jelly throughout the year, nor adding sugar to it, as I find the combination of apples I use, or the plums I use, are sweet enough to drink with nothing added. Is it necessary to can it in some way, or can I just put a lid on it and let it seal? I assume I need to can it.

I have a pressure canner that can WBC pints, but is not large enough to WBC can quarts, which is what I want to put the juice in. I have seen on the Presto website that you can pressure can quart jars of apple sauce at 6 lbs of pressure for 8 minutes. Is this what you would do for the juice? I am at 1500 ft elevation. Would these numbers change if I was doing apples vs plums vs pears?

Chrissy Mullender
Luray, Kansas

No, you must water bath your juice; you can’t just put a lid on the hot juice and seal it. Personally, I’d buy a water bath canner or at least a large stock pot that will hold quarts. (I’m a bit confused. You say your pressure canner will can quarts of juice but not water bath them?) Usually if they will do one, they will do the other. Just don’t latch down the lid. I often just put a cookie sheet over mine without the regular lid.

It is recommended that thicker juices such as pear and plum be processed in a boiling water bath for a longer time (30 minutes) than apple juice which is thinner. At your altitude, you’d increase your time by 5 minutes. If you pressure can your juice, you’d increase your pressure by one pound. — Jackie

Grain mill

Our family planted some non gmo corn for making cornmeal. Could you tell me what kind of corn grinding machine you think is the best to use? I also need to know where to order it.

Carolyn Adcock
Wake Forest, North Carolina

Good for you, Carolyn! While I have a hand turned grain mill that certainly does corn, friends from one of our seminars gifted me with a wonderful Nutrimill electric grain mill. I’ve used it for both wheat and corn and I simply LOVE it. It, and the same hand turned mill I also have are both available from Emergency Essentials. Have fun grinding cornmeal. Do remember that whole grains will become quickly rancid so I’d advise only grinding a few cups of cornmeal at a time or else keeping your cornmeal in the freezer. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: using canned cabbage and canning apple juice

Friday, September 26th, 2014

Using canned cabbage

I have read how you can cabbage. What did you use it for after? We like fried cabbage and cabbage and potatoes done in the crock pot.

Joline Fleming
Rossiter, Pennsylvania

Sure you can home can cabbage. Some “experts” tell you that it’s too “strong” to can. Phooey! I can it every year. When I go to use it, I simply drain off the liquid and gently rinse the cabbage in cold water. Drain and use. If you want to fry potatoes and cabbage in your crockpot, do the potatoes first (unless they are canned), then add the cabbage as it’s already cooked. I often just fry it, then add a bit of milk. Or I use it in boiled dinners (toward the end). We love our canned cabbage. — Jackie

Canning apple juice

I’ve made some sort of juice by boiling apples in water and canning the resulting juice. It’s the best I can do without a regular juicer. What do you think of that? Also I didn’t know about making apple sauce with the pulp.

Louise Sandy

Before I had a steam juicer, I used to cut up my unpeeled apples, remove the stem, then add a little water and cook them gently, covered, until the apples were soft. Then I strained off the juice with a jelly bag. Once done, you can then either put your apples through a Victorio tomato strainer or use a sieve or Foley mill to separate the pulp from the skins, seeds, etc. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’re still madly harvesting (and having fun)

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

We’re still hauling in our garden treats and enjoying it so much. I still can’t get over the productivity of our garden squash patch. I counted over 37 BIG Hopi Pale Grey squash and that’s from only six hills! And both the Winter Luxury pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo) and Canadian Crooknecks (C. moschata) have produced very well. I haven’t counted them yet, but there are a lot.


Will harvested a couple of buckets of ears of our Painted Mountain flour corn and for the bad situation in that new patch (17 inches of rain on white clay, minimal manure, and weeds from hell) we were real happy with what we got. There are still more ears to harvest, too. We’ve got the Painted Mountain out on a table in the living room to finish drying and Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn on a long table in our enclosed porch to finish up.


I’m still harvesting tomato seeds every day and we are talking about some new varieties of tomatoes to add next year (and maybe a corn).

This afternoon, I’m pulling in our onions. They weren’t as good as last year but we are happy with them anyway. The carrots are huge and, boy, do we have lots. The goats are loving all those carrot tops! They see a white bucket and come running with no calling needed. Yesterday I took a machete and chopped off the spent cauliflower leaves and the goats thought that was REAL nice. Munch, munch, munch!

We’re expecting kids this fall with four does getting fatter and making nice bags. It’s nice to have some fall kids as then we have winter milk.

I’ve got to go cut another head of broccoli to dry. See you in a few days! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning in an autoclave and canning lard

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

Canning in an autoclave

My SIL found me a nice All American canner at a yard sale, or so we thought. It seems it may be a sterilizer. It does not have a weight, it has an autoclave. Can I still pressure can in it?

Dawn Norcross
St. Charles, Michigan

If this is the old large All American autoclave that sits on a burner, it’s probably just like mine which I canned with for more than 30 years and still works fine. It has a gauge and two petcocks on top. You can call the company at 920-682-8627 for verification. Some folks claim you shouldn’t can in an autoclave but I’m sure it depends on the autoclave; I wouldn’t can in an electric autoclave. You should have the gauge checked to be sure it’s accurate. Many County Extension offices will do this for little or no charge. Remember to use a rack on the bottom. My autoclave/canner has a separate solid aluminum kettle that drops down into the canner body, holding the jars off of the bottom of the canner. Without the rack, you will break the bottoms out of jars due to the intense heat on the bottom of the jars. — Jackie

Canning lard

In the process of moving my canned goods from my old root cellar to my new one I discovered that a number of my jars of lard, which I had canned this year, had not stayed sealed. I usually wait about 24 hours to remove the rings after canning. The lard appears to be fine. Is it likely to have gone bad? Can I remelt it and can it again? It was really nice lard and I hate to lose it.

I know it is hard but it won’t be long before the doctor lifts your restrictions and you can go “full tilt” again.

Hightown, Virginia

Your lard is probably fine but I would re-can it. Open the jars and sniff it. If it’s gone rancid I wouldn’t re-can it. But if it smells fine, just scoop it out into a kettle, melt it until quite hot (about 275 degrees), then pour out into hot, clean jars. Wipe the rims well with hot water and a clean dish cloth, put a hot, previously simmered lid in place and screw down the rings. You’ll be good to go.
Isn’t it exciting moving to a new pantry?

I’m glad to get rid of the gallbladder but it IS hard after most of the pain’s gone NOT to lift! Soon though… — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: converted woodstove and wild plum pits

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Converted woodstove

We have a woodstove that the prior owners turned into a gas “fireplace” type of stove. They put a hole in the bottom for the gas line, etc. Is it possible to change it back to a wood burning stove? If so, is there a resource to help us through the process? The stove is a Wonder Warm stove (dunham lehr inc./Richmond, Indiana serial #7452). There is no fire brick. It is flat on the bottom — no grates. The stovepipe is still in place — needs to be updated and cleaned! We are in the process of getting the gas line pulled and the gas source capped.
Kristi Phipps
Holdrege, Nebraska

You can have a welder weld a patch on the stove where the gas lines passed through. I would probably add firebrick to the bottom as it’ll help keep it from warping or burning through. You can get firebrick at most big box lumber stores such as Lowes. Be sure the stove is far enough from the back (36″ is usually recommended) and any side walls (36″ is recommended), with a fireproof backing and hearth underneath. You can use patio blocks under the stove and a larger stove board behind it. And, as you said, clean out and/or replace the stovepipe if necessary. Do be sure that it’s installed properly as more house fires in the winter are caused by improperly installed and maintained wood stoves than you really want to know. — Jackie

Wild plum pits

I mailed my check today for some of your plum pits. I’m very excited to get them!
Can you post a few pictures of your plum trees? I would be interested in knowing how high they get, how wide they spread, how big the fruit is, how long from planting until the first fruit, etc. As well as some planting instructions/tips.
Lowman, New York

I’m sorry to tell you that we’ve about run out of plum pits! We had no idea of the HUGE response we’d have for this listing. Next harvest, we’ll be sure to save many more pits! We’re substituting a pack of our more requested seeds for the plum pits and hope this is okay. If not, we’ll refund payment.

These plums are about the size of a peach tree at full growth, maybe 20 feet tall at most (you can prune them shorter) and perhaps as wide. The fruit is about the size of a half dollar, sweet and yellow flesh inside and a tart red skin. You plant in the fall, water well, and protect from squirrels and chipmunks who will dig up the pits for themselves. In the spring they will sprout. They begin to fruit at about 3-4 years with good care. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Food time at Jackie and Will’s homestead

Monday, September 22nd, 2014


It just dawned on me this morning — our entire homestead is about food right now! Will is hauling in the last of our round bales of hay for the animals. We are madly harvesting the last of our corn before it becomes too starchy to eat and can (right now I’m canning some of Will’s wonderful Seneca Sunrise open pollinated sweet corn). Every day I’m canning something or somethings. Yesterday it was Mexican corn, which is a mixture of sweet corn, onions, and red and green sweet peppers and more enchilada sauce. I’m bringing in baskets of different varieties of tomatoes to harvest the seeds from each day.


The dried seeds are accumulating slowly, drying on ice cream bucket lids marked with each variety. On the front porch, I have set up a bench and chairs so I can work outside on nice days. It’s a lot easier to wash away the tomato juice and dropped seeds from the porch deck than from my living room floor!

I have two dehydrators set up in the dining room and they are full of broccoli. Yesterday I harvested the first Winter Luxury pumpkin for seed saving. Boy, is it wonderful. It has glowing yellow flesh two inches thick. Today I’m baking it whole, after taking a bounty of seeds. Then I’ll make it into a pumpkin pie. They have the reputation for being the very best pie pumpkin in the world. We’ll see; Will and I really like our pumpkin pie made from Hopi Pale Grey squash.

When I get off the computer, I’m pulling all of our onions so they can dry before being brought in to store. And there’s three big rows of nice fat carrots plus potatoes to harvest. Mmmmm. Food. Food. Food!

NOTICE: ALL OF THE WILD PLUM PITS HAVE BEEN SOLD. We had no idea that so many folks would want them! Next crop we’ll harvest many more. I’m so sorry for those who got disappointed and I’ll substitute with another pack of one of our favorite crops.


Our fall colors are simply gorgeous right now. I never realized how many maples have come up on our land until this fall as they’re turning color! In a few years our driveway will be flaming reds and oranges, come fall. But we cringe as we know full well that it’s only a few weeks until the pretty leaves have fallen and that white stuff starts. Stack that wood, Will! — Jackie


Copyright © 1998 - Present by Backwoods Home Magazine. All Rights Reserved.