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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 February, 2015

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning on a ceramic top stove and testing a used canner

Saturday, February 28th, 2015

Canning on a ceramic top stove

I have been canning for a couple years now and I keep coming up with a few questions that I can’t find answers to. First, I can on a ceramic, flat top stove. One of the burners is supposedly designed to be extra large for canning. I have used it without much problem for canning, although I know that it is not the ideal stove. Because of the cycling on and off of the stove, I am constantly adjusting the temperature. I have a difficult time keeping my pressure at 11 pounds (dial gauge canner and less than 1000 feet above sea level). My canner always wants to easily go up to 15 pounds pressure and seems to be able to maintain 15 pounds pressure without any problem. I have seen an old recipe for canning green beans that gives a time for canning at 15 pounds pressure. That time is less than the recommended time for canning green beans at 10 lbs pressure. Can I pressure can at 15lbs pressure for less time? If so, do you have a resource to recommend for times for various items? If I can’t reduce the time, is there anything wrong with canning items at 15 pounds pressure when the recommendation is 10?

Secondly, after I finished canning chicken broth this morning, I realized that one of the jars didn’t seal (I do seem to have a difficult time with that). So, I wanted to reprocess it. I know I can’t use the same lid again, but is it necessary to heat the broth up again or can I just leave the broth in the same jar, wipe rim off, replace the lid, stick the cool jar in a cool canner and process?

Rebecca Whisonant
Chester, South Carolina

Have you tried other burners to see if one of them might give you the 11 pounds you need? If so and that didn’t help, I think I’d just go ahead and can at 15 pounds pressure but for the entire required time, as there really isn’t much reliable information on canning at higher than required pressure for shorter times. But I really would try to find a sweet burner so you can process at 11 pounds as 15 pounds may tend to overcook some foods such as carrots or potatoes.

Sorry, but you should bring your broth up to boiling, then pack the chicken and broth back in the jar and process as if it were the first trip through the canner. — Jackie

Testing a used canner

I recently purchased a beautiful vintage Windsor A Montgomery Ward Canner #8. The problem is it only fits 3½ quarts instead of the recommended 4. I did a trial run and it works great! It took about 23 minutes on high to start to vent (I usually don’t vent on high but I wanted see how long it would take at that temp). I tested it for 15 minutes and the pressure maintained with the gauge and the weight I had put on (I added an all American vent and weight like I’ve done to my 2 larger gasketless canners). The weight jiggled like normal 3-4x/min at 10lbs. Once I turned off the heat it took about 23 minutes to reach zero. Apparently the recommendations are because a smaller canner would come up to pressure too fast for heat to penetrate, but this canner appears to come up and cool down like a larger canner. I only tested canning water for 15 minutes and it didn’t seem fast. Would like to use this one when I just want to can small amounts. Let me know what you think.

Michelle Neal
Buffalo, New York

Although I can not, obviously, say for sure, but I think you’ve got the canner all set to go. My All American takes about 25 minutes to exhaust and about that long to cool down, depending on how full it is and if it’s a cooler raw-packed load instead of a hot-packed load of jars.

You do know, don’t you, that you can process as little as one half-pint in a larger canner? It isn’t as economical, but it sure can be done. I often do not fill my canner but just process what is ready to go at the time. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: wide mouth jars and buckboard bacon

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Wide-mouth jars

I have been using wide mouth jars almost exclusively because they are easy to fill/wash. It occurred to me today as I started a batch of strawberry star fruit jam that there may be a reason for the 2 sizes. Am I to use them as I wish for anything I am canning? I know wide mouth jars are a little more expensive for some mysterious reason … is that the only difference?

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Yes, you can use either wide mouth jars or regular jars, as you choose for any canning. The wide mouth jars are easier to fill with certain foods like larger pieces of meat and they are also easier to get some foods out of after processing and storing them. Of course the lids of the regular jars are a lot cheaper so this is why I use more of them than the wide mouth lids. But as the Tattler lids are becoming easy to find, that’s not such an issue anymore. — Jackie

Buckboard bacon

I want to can buckboard bacon, made from the BHM article in an older issue. I assume I pressure can it at 10 PDS for 75 minutes for a pint and 90 minutes for a quart. Also no liquid. My question,do I need to cook it first? If I don’t cook it, is it edible from the jar when done canning or does it need to be cooked after?

Karen Armstrong
Watkins Glen, New York
No, you don’t need to cook it first as canning at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes (pints) will cook it in the canner. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We delivered four quarters of beef

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

Our beef is starting to sell well and we’ve been delivering, all the way down to Duluth with some 90 miles away! And in the morning we do it again with the second four quarters. Yep, back to Duluth, but also two deliveries closer to home.

People are really happy to get naturally-raised beef with no hormones or antibiotics and from animals that have lived on pasture and good care.

We got home to find our cat, Mittens, stretched out on the sofa, having a siesta in the sunshine. (It was 7 degrees out, so the sun felt good!) Mittens DOES live a rough life, doesn’t she?

I’m having fun signing copies of my newest book, Summer of the Eagles. Requests are coming in from all over the country and it’s neat that so many different people are reading it. Not just “Western” fans. But, hey, it has something for everyone … even romance. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It “warmed” up so Will got the old tractor started

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

On Saturday we were hauling hay to the horses and cattle. On the very last big round bale, the Oliver ran out of fuel ten feet short of the gate into the training ring. Luckily, the cattle did have some hay left, they were just getting more. We had to wait until we went to town to get diesel fuel.

After getting fuel, Will filled up the tractor and primed the injectors. Then he gave it a shot of starting fluid and cranked it over. But because it was still below zero, no dice.

He waited instead of grinding the battery down since it was supposed to warm up. Once it warmed up a little he put the propane heater under the tractor for an hour or so, then repeated the sequence. It fired up and before I could get down the hill, Will had delivered the bale of hay and parked the tractor in its spot by the storage barn. Now when I say “warmed up,” that means that it was above zero today — ten degrees to be exact. But with a 30 mph wind, it was still COLD. Only the dogs like the weather.

We’ve got another weasel hanging around. Yesterday I saw his tracks coming from the orchard to the side of the chicken coop, around to the door where he stood with his feet up on the door sill. We’re hoping he’s thinking about MICE, as there is no better mouser in the world, not even Mittens. But after having my purebred rabbits and pheasants wiped out entirely by a weasel in one night years ago, it gives me the shivers. I’m glad we shut the birds in every night!

I’m waiting for my petunia seeds to come in the mail so I can get them started. They stay small so long and this year I want to get my hanging baskets planted with petunias early enough that when I set them out they’re flowering nicely.

Peppers go in tomorrow! Springtime when it’s 20 below! It’s a start, anyway. It’s sure nice that the days are getting so much longer. Darkness can get depressing. Even a couple more hours of daylight is SO welcome. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Colorful summer pictures are our answer to cabin fever!

Saturday, February 21st, 2015

I know we are all getting pretty darned sick of winter. We’ve decided that the weather forecasters are always predicting warmer weather at the end of the week, yet it never comes! So we decided that summer photos are simply a cabin fever solution to give folks some hope to cling to as the snow blows and the temperature falls. Again.

I decided to look back at September 6th photos of our place and share the COLOR with you. We are SO color-deprived in the winter! When you look at bright summer photos, your eyes can’t absorb what they’re seeing!

I’m starting petunias and peppers next week and have already dug out my potting soil and containers. That should help. Hang in there, guys, spring IS coming! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We’ve found plenty to keep us busy this winter

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

With our new mini-business, Seed Treasures (, we keep hustling, sorting, and packaging seeds. Will does that while I package envelopes and fill the orders. We used to be kind of bored this time of the year, but not anymore.
It’s such fun, too, as we get letters from a lot of different people all over the country and they share bits of their lives and gardens with us. I can’t wait to hear how some of our crops perform for them.

I got back from Duluth and Federal Court jury selection late Tuesday and all day yesterday I played catch-up. I wasn’t too sad to find out that the case finally settled out of court, allowing us jurors to get back to our lives. My bed never felt better than it did last night!

Are any of you rabbit breeders? I’m working on a “secret” project and would like to hear from you. I especially need photos of your rabbits, hutches, etc. As we’re not raising rabbits now, I don’t have access to these and hardly anyone raises rabbits, other than a couple of pets, up in our area.

Thanks! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: footings for retaining wall and eating collard flowerettes

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Footings for retaining wall

Will’s work on the barn and retaining wall has turned out to be so beautiful. We are wanting to build a retaining wall also about 18-24 inches high. How deep did you all put in the footers before starting the rock work?

Nana from Texas

Our footings are 8 inches deep with plenty of rebar and wire, and are twice as wide as the wall is thick — 12 inches wide as our walls are 6 inches wide. In the barn, our walls are 8 inches wide so the footings are 8 inches deep and 16 inches wide. When building a retaining wall, you should lean the wall into the bank ⅛ inch per foot, bare minimum. If your soil is not sand and gravel, you should install drain holes along the bottom so that any moisture doesn’t get trapped behind the wall, eventually cracking it. Our soil is 100% rock, sand, and gravel so this isn’t a concern, especially beneath the house. — Jackie

Eating collard flowerettes

I read with interest your reply to the reader asking if broccoli leaves can be used like kale or collards and you affirmed that indeed they can be. I also want to tell you the opposite can be true. Down here in the lower South I let my collard plants overwinter and they normally do quite nicely, but the time comes, especially when sitting in the garden for almost a year that they go to seed. What I noticed was that the flower stalks look remarkably like broccoli or broccoli rabe so I cooked some up as broccoli spears and were they ever good! In fact, they had a delightful taste and texture almost like asparagus and broccoli together. I continued to pick the spears as they appeared and got a harvest of about 3-4 weeks from them, for multiple pounds long before the spring-planted broccoli was ready. The spears grow faster and longer than broccoli spears and because of that fast growth were exceptionally tender. My next project is overwintered kale flower stalks!

Dave Franklyn
Tallassee, Alabama

Thanks for the information, Dave! What a creative bunch homesteaders are. I know I find myself continually experimenting with this and that to see just what would happen if… I know a whole lot of folks will be eating collard flowerettes in the future! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Tomorrow I get to do my civic duty

Monday, February 16th, 2015

I got a jury summons a while ago and was kind of hoping that the trial would be cancelled. (I live 90 miles north of Duluth, where the Federal trial will be held and have to report at 7:15 a.m.) It’s going to be -18 tonight and the parking lot is three blocks uphill from the Courthouse. Bad knee and that cold wind whipping up from Lake Superior right down the hill means I’m not looking forward to it at all.

Actually, without a fully informed jury, it kind of scares me, basically deciding without all the information on a person’s future. Justice is not always just. I know from experiences of loved ones.

AND our Subaru is out of commission. Old ‘Ru is starting to have a really bad vibration in the rear end and New ‘Ru is at the mechanic’s getting a heater core leak fixed. It was fogging up the windshield and driver’s window and antifreeze fumes like that can kill you. So there was no putting that off. Luckily, I can borrow David’s truck for the drive.

Hopefully I’ll be home tomorrow evening and get back to my life. It’s been a stressful week, knowing that jury selection is coming up. I’ll be in the shower at 4 a.m. and on the road by 4:45. — Jackie


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