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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 January, 2015

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sawmill and movable goat pens

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

Sawmill

I remember reading that you and Will purchased a sawmill. My husband and I are wondering what brand and model you purchased.

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

We bought a Hud-Son 121, which cuts a 21-inch log however long you buy or make rails for. We really love our sawmill and we paid roughly $3,000 for it. Will “flat-sided” log floor joists for the new barn and front porch rafters. We’ve cut boards and lumber for our training ring barn, tons of one-inch lumber for siding and the floor of our new barn’s haymow, 2″x6″ lumber for the new barn’s framing where the board and batten siding will go, and lots more odd jobs for ourselves. Will has also done minimal sawing for friends. He cut one-inch birch boards for someone in trade for the huge bus frame on wheels that he turned into a big hay transport that will haul 10-11 big round bales. The sawmill has been a VERY good buy and we’re not done, by far! — Jackie

Movable goat pens

A while back you mentioned that you folks had movable goat pens so that they could be pushed back to the walls so that Will could run the tractor through the barn to muck it out. This sounds wonderful and time and labor saving. Where could we get those plans or could you share how this was done?

Brad & Rhona Barrie
Strong, Maine

What we’ve done so far is to weld stock panels to the lighter weight livestock pipe gates. These are hinged and can easily be swung out of the way for manure removal with the tractor or other equipment. We also plan on having some plywood available to bolt on to these in case we want to keep certain pens warmer during kidding. We also plan on having more than one set of screw-in hinges for these gates to set on so if the manure pack gets too deep we can just lift the gates up a few inches and set them on the alternate pins. This keeps gates from being “manured” in as the deep litter gets too deep. We are also going to use this method on the front of the pens, using a narrower gate as the walk-in gate with a longer gate as the main front of the stalls. These, also, can be swung or even lifted completely away for quick, easy cleaning of the barn, come spring. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning beans with beef bones and dry canning ground beef

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015

Canning beans with beef bones

I have some great northern beans and I want to make some to can but only have beef bones. Will they work or do I need to get some ham bones? I need to use these beef bones up. I have a bunch from the three steers we butchered.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

Sure you can use beef soup bones. While ham or bacon is more commonly used, beef broth flavors beans very nicely. I usually also add some chopped onions and a few simple spices too. You’ll love them that way! — Jackie

Dry canning ground beef

I am not sure I understand the term “dry canning.” The person that was dry canning ground beef used this method. Does this mean not adding anything but the browned meat to the jars? No liquid?

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Dry canning IS kind of misleading. I’ve canned my ground meat for years by simply lightly browning it while crumbling it, then draining off the grease and packing it very lightly into pint jars with no liquid added. (There’s still plenty of moisture left over in the meat and remaining grease to create lots of steam for safe canning.) When you add liquid to ground meat, it often ends up looking like canned dog food — real unappetizing although still okay and yes, it is safe. I much prefer to not add liquid. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: making and preserving cracklin’s

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

Making and preserving cracklin’s

How do you preserve cracklings after rendering the lard, besides freezing?

Phil
Live Oak, Florida

I render the lard and separate out the cracklings before they get too brown. Then I spoon them into pint or half-pint jars and fill the jars with lard, covering the cracklings. (The cracklings and lard are VERY hot!) You can process these jars, after being sure to wipe the rim of the jar very well and adding a hot, previously simmered lid, for 75 minutes in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure. To use, simply spoon out, heat, drain off the lard (keep it for cooking, of course) and use your cracklings. Grandma and Mom just covered their cracklin’s with hot lard, put on a hot lid after wiping the rim of the jar, and screwed down the ring. The jars sealed and the cracklings stayed good. But I don’t think this method would be accepted by experts today! — Jackie

Since we are in the time of only having certain cuts of meat, you cannot find a cracklin’ in any store. If I were to make my own, without growing my own pig, how would I go about doing so? I have been wanting cracklin’ cornbread like the old days.

Paula Setzer
Huntersville, North Carolina

You can usually find “discarded” pig fat at local smaller processors. (You can ask folks who sell farm-raised pork in your area.) If you’ll go there and explain that you want to render some lard for the cracklin’s, they will often give you a bunch or sell you the fat real cheap. If you can get them to grind it, so much the better as it reduces the labor of having to either grind it at home or chop the fat into small pieces for rendering.

I render my lard in a turkey roaster in the oven so I don’t have to stand over it all afternoon. Just put it in, leaving plenty of room so it doesn’t melt and run over. Render it at about 250-300° F and keep an eye on it as it gets pretty much done. Then dip off the clear, hot melted lard and strain it through a clean cloth into a bowl. Then you can dip the melted lard right out after straining, while it’s still very hot and put it into hot, clean jars, wipe off the rim very well and put a hot, new lid on it and screw down the ring firmly tight. Now you have nice lard to put in your pantry. The cracklin’s and some lard are still left in the roasting pan and you can dump more out of the straining cloth into the roaster. I usually finish my batch on the stovetop so I can stir it and make sure it doesn’t scorch. When most of the lard has been taken off, you can scoop your cracklin’s out into pint or half-pint jars, cover with hot, melted lard, wipe the rim of the jar very well and add a hot, previously simmered lid. Process for 75 minutes in a pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure. Done deal! We love cracklin’s in cornbread, hoe cakes, and in corn fritters! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference was a big success

Monday, January 26th, 2015

Friendly-folks

I flew down to Aberdeen, South Dakota, on Wednesday afternoon as my first workshop was on Thursday. It was an all-afternoon session on gardening and canning. I’m always amazed at how many folks have similar interests! There were hundreds of people attending the conference, many more than in years past. And my workshops were very lively and pretty full. People asked dozens of good questions and we had intense sessions.

Full-workshops
My second workshop was on canning mixed foods and the third was on canning meat, poultry, and fish. The final workshop was on Saturday morning — growing fruit for cold climates. That one was filled to overflowing and folks were standing in the hallway, listening.

Sitting-down
Now I’m playing catch-up! Will and I went to town Sunday and bought the last four kitchen cabinets for our house. Wow! Now all that’s left is the center island where all the food preparation takes place and we’ll be done. That’s D-O-N-E!

We spent until 11 p.m. last night filling the seed orders that arrived on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while I was gone and I took a big bag to the post office this morning.

I’m feeling relatively caught up now. So it’s back to “normal” (if I know what that is …) Whew. I’m so glad to be home. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

What do you get when you cross a Hopi Pale Grey and a Marina Di Chioggia squash?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

Crossed-squash
Nothing like you’d imagine! Hopi Pale Grey is football shaped with a “belly button” on the blossom end. Marina Di Chioggia is pumpkin shaped, dark green and warted. My friend grew the two C. maximas, which crossed and resulted in a plant that produced nine unusual orange w/green squash with a big “belly button.” We both kept a squash, then this week, we tried baking them. They were quite good. So we saved our seeds and will play around with them this spring and see if we can stabilize the characteristics such as taste and color, creating a “new” squash of our own. What fun!

Monday, a UPS truck came rolling into the yard and the driver handed me a flat box. I had not ordered anything so was puzzled. On opening it, I was surprised to see two copies of my Western, Summer of the Eagles. They were proof copies for Will and me to check over for mistakes before the real deal hits the presses. We were pretty excited to see what the (nearly) finished package would look like. So we’ve been busy editing for mistakes (typos, etc.) and finding just a few. Soon it’ll be ready for the presses to run! How cool is that?

New-book
I’m getting ready to fly to Aberdeen, South Dakota, early Thursday morning. Whew! Canning when I get back will seem like a vacation! Hope to see some of you there. Come up and say hi! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: using dried apricots for jam, canning bacon, and canning ground beef

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Using dried apricots for jam

I have a number of bags of dried apricots that I’d like to turn into jam. Should I rehydrate them, then chop and measure for my recipe? Tried just chopping them in the food processor but that didn’t work very well. Thought I’d ask for your advice (oh wise one!)

Wendy Hause
Gregory, Michigan

Yep, rehydrating works a lot better than trying to make jam from dehydrated apricots. Rehydrate, then drain well, chop, and measure. You’ll be good to go. Wise one? I’d better let you talk to Will…

Canning bacon

I have wanted to can bacon but so far haven’t tried it. I saw instructions that said to cut the bacon into 1-2-inch pieces, fry until almost done and place in canning jars. Pour some of the bacon grease into each jar, filling until about ¼ full. Process for 90 min. at 11 lb pressure. Would you consider this “simple” method safe?

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

What I’ve always done is to can pieces of sides of bacon instead of strips. But I’ve done strips too. Thick strips can up better than the thinner ones. Yes, you can certainly do it the way you indicated. If you’re doing pints or half pints, which I’d recommend unless you are cooking for a big family, you’ll only need to process for 75 minutes. I also can up cracklin’s this way. They’re great in cornbread! — Jackie

Dry canning ground beef

I did the dry canning for ground beef. I “lightly” browned it in pint and ½-pint jars and canned for 90 minutes. When I opened one, the meat in the bottom was kind of pinkish like it wasn’t done. I was afraid to eat it so the dogs got it but I hate to throw out the whole batch. Is it OK? The jars sealed and the time was for quarts. Should I have thoroughly cooked the ground beef before canning? The USDA wouldn’t respond because they don’t “recommend” dry canning so I really look forward to your response

Mikey
Carbondale, Kansas

Lucky dogs! Your meat was perfectly fine. When you’ll be using it, you’ll probably be frying it 10 minutes to melt the grease and heat the meat anyway. The pink meat was not raw! Canning it totally cooks a food. You will only be reheating it to boiling temp for 10-15 minutes, usually by frying or adding to soups, chili, or casserole-type dishes. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We just installed our next batch of kitchen cabinets

Monday, January 19th, 2015

New-cabinets

After many months of cabinets being on the back burner, we saved up and bought three more kitchen cabinets. (They’re cheaper because they’re not as deep as the base cabinets, so that helped.) This weekend, Will and I put them up. They proved a bit difficult as they didn’t want to fit square in the corner or go up tight to the log wall. And the corner cabinet was HEAVY. But with some props made out of 2x4s and a few one-inch wood blocks, Will finally got them to hang well. We’ve got one more to the right of the right hand upper cabinet, one 18-inch cabinet in the corner by the sink, and two narrow ones above the propane stove. Then, other than the island, the cabinet work will be done! Wow. I think they’re turning out beautiful and will sure de-clutter my kitchen a whole lot.

Cabinets
I have to laugh at Mittens. She goes with us everywhere. She even goes with Will out to the woods to cut firewood. But she was pretty miffed when Will went into the bathroom to shave and shower. AND shut the bathroom door! She sat right by the door all the while until he came back out. Then she wanted to go to bed and announced it by saying “NOW!” I swear it’s true.

Mittens-waiting
I’m packing for my trip to Aberdeen, South Dakota, as I have to leave home at 5:00 Wednesday (that’s a.m.!) to catch a flight to Minneapolis where I have a 5-hour layover. Now why couldn’t I have that 5 hours at home? (I’m doing several workshops at the Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Conference on canning and growing fruit in cold zones.) If any of you can come, I’d love to visit with you there! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: adding eggshells to your compost and canning chili peppers

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Adding eggshells to your compost

Do I need to pre-treat eggshells before adding them to my garden as compost? I feel like I’m wasting something when I just burn them or throw them out. We have our own chickens, which are pasture raised — and the eggs are wonderful.

Ellie Schubert
Alton, Missouri

No, you don’t need to do a thing. You can just set them out in an old carton until they are nice and dry then crush them and put them in a bucket until you can sprinkle them on your garden or dig them into your compost pile. Crushed egg shells add calcium to the soil and help prevent such problems as blossom end rot in tomatoes and squash. Good for you for thinking of it! Waste not; want not is our motto. — Jackie

Canning chili peppers

I want to know if I can water bath Anaheim chili peppers and be safe? I would use half-pint jars.

Troy Stafford
Gold Hill, Oregon

No, all vegetables and meats MUST be pressure canned. You can pickle peppers such as Anaheims or dry them safely too. When pickling peppers, you will be using a water bath canner. They are awesome, canned, so if you don’t already have a pressure canner, maybe this would be the time to invest. You’ll be so glad you did! — Jackie

 
 
 


 
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