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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.

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Archive for August, 2015

Jackie Clay

Q and A: saving seed from corn and water level in canner

Monday, August 31st, 2015

Saving seed from corn

I planted a small patch of rainbow earth tones dent corn this year. I have it isolated from our sweet corn by over 100 ft, and the house is between the gardens. Can I save seed from it? If I do will it grow (mostly) true next year?

Cathy O.
Amherst, New York

You can sure save seed, but the purity of it is subject to debate. Usually, corn that has crossed will show signs. For instance, your rainbow colors might have all yellow or half yellow if it has crossed with sweet corn. Or your sweet corn may have some colored kernels. Corn is wind pollinated and the wind can carry pollen up to a mile, so sometimes even if your neighbor half a mile away grows corn it can pollinate with yours. In a homestead situation this isn’t a huge problem; just save seed from the corn ears that most closely resemble your Earth Tones dent. — Jackie

Water level in canner

I was just doing some water bath canning of tomatoes and the water level went below the top of one set of jars. They seem to have sealed, but should I/can I reprocess them? Am I missing anything? Do I need replace the lids?

Michael Lowery
Dekalb, Illinois

While it’s definitely best to have at least 2 inches over the tops of the jars during water bath processing, if that dropped for a short time, the tomatoes should be fine. If it was for much longer, I’d reprocess them, using new lids. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had frost last night!

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

But, many thanks to God, it only was on the roof, not in the garden! You can bet we ran out to the garden first thing this morning after seeing it on the house roof.

I’ve been canning every day. Today it’s more corn but this time mixed with peas. We didn’t grow many peas this year so I cheated and bought some frozen peas (on sale, of course) to mix with the corn. I love doing the mixed corn because it gives us so much more variety in the pantry. I can Mexican corn, corn with peas, corn with peas and carrots, corn with carrots, and just plain corn.

Then there are the Dragon Tongue beans which are just starting to ripen. I think I’ll use them to make more mustard bean pickles — we sure do love them. They’re more like a side dish than a pickle.
This morning my friend, Dara, called and said they’d be picking crab apples in town. They had found a pair of trees that the homeowner never picked and when Dara asked if they’d trade potatoes for apples, the deal was quickly made. So I met Dara and her stepson, James in Cook and we spent a companionable morning yacking and picking buckets of apples. I’ll be making apple jelly, juice and sauce from my share. It’s amazing how many folks have fruit trees in their yards and don’t pick any. It sure pays to knock on the door and ask! Give it a try and you will be pleasantly surprised. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: laundry soap and giving spoiled fruit to livestock

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Laundry soap

Is your laundry soap recipe, found in BHM, safe to wash our baby’s clothes in? We are expecting our first child in October. One of the questions that was raised by grandma was laundry soap for the baby. We current make your recipe for our laundry soap. If it is not safe for babies do you have any suggestions?

Meghan Futterleib
West Windsor, Vermont

Yes, it is safe for babies. My youngest is now going on 24 and he, as well as my other kids, never had trouble with it at all. Just rinse well and you’ll be fine. — Jackie

Giving spoiled fruit to livestock

We live in fruit country — peaches, cherries, plums, etc. So, we have lots to dump at the end of season or the mush ones before then. Can I safely dump them for the cows? How about goats and pigs? Also have pears and apples which don’t have pits but do have seeds? Of course everything in moderation but it would save a lot on feed or hay if it is safe for them. Actually have already given them some but wondering if I can continue.

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

Due to the toxicity of the pits, I wouldn’t advise dumping stone fruits to the cows, goats or pigs with pits intact. Pears and apples are fine. You can dump stone fruits into your chicken yard and they’ll love the treats and you’ll save money on feed, too. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Jerusalem artichokes and adding lemon juice to tomatoes

Wednesday, August 26th, 2015

Jerusalem artichokes

The Jerusalem Artichokes are taller than I am and I’m looking forward to harvesting them. Do I wait until a hard freeze? Do I leave some in the ground so they will come back next year? Do you have any favorite recipe using them? I had a J.A. soup while in Norway that was wonderful.

My husband and I both read Autumn of the Loons and loved it! Can’t wait for the next two books to come out. Don’t know HOW you keep up with everything at home, plus the books, plus the blog but sure am glad you do.

Having been to your seminar last fall, I have seen first-hand all the work you and Will accomplish and am in awe. Thank you for providing the rest of us with such reliable advice.

Des Moines, Iowa

You can harvest them at any time. They don’t keep well, so I’d let them stay in the garden as long as you can. They do freeze pretty well but they do lose their crispness once out of the freezer. Yes, you leave some of the smaller ones in the ground to provide more next year. (It’s about impossible to “get rid” of them, as they usually leave some behind on their own. Love those permanent crops!

I’m glad you liked Autumn of the Loons. (Don’t forget that reviews on Amazon help out the book sales!) Sometimes we do feel under pressure, like now when everything’s coming in from the garden, seemingly at once. But thank God for that! — Jackie

Adding lemon juice to tomatoes

We are water bath canning tomatoes and add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice to make sure the acid level is high enough. Sometimes I stir the lemon juice in and other times I just add it to the jar before putting on the lid. Does it matter? Will the lemon juice work ok even if not stirred in?

Michael Lowery
Dekalb, Illinois

You just have to ladle it into the jar. It gets mixed well during processing as the juice boils hard. No need to stir it in. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The corn is in!

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

On top of our fabulous bean harvest this summer, our sweet corn is ripe. This year our garden corn is Espresso, a SU hybrid that we grew last year. Boy, is it ever a nice, very sweet, albeit hybrid, corn. The ears are averaging nine inches long with plenty of tender kernels on each cob. So I’m canning like crazy. Yesterday I did Mexican corn (corn with mixed sweet green and red peppers) and today I’m doing plain old sweet corn to get ‘er done!
Unfortunately, the cows got into the old pig pasture and ate nearly all of Will’s highly prized Seneca Horizon sweet corn. Boy, are we ever disappointed! Talk about a crop failure! We have friends that are also raising this variety so we’ll have to see if we can buy seed from them for our seed business. Tough break.

Our tomatoes are beginning to ripen. The Hanky Red, a small to medium-sized very early tomato beat the pack. We thought Moravsky Div was the winner but then found our Hanky Reds were actually ahead of them. We even have a Bill Bean getting ripe that will weigh about 2 pounds. Pretty early for such a big tomato. We can hardly wait.

We’ve had very cold, rainy weather. Yesterday was 55 degrees and today the HIGH is 52, with rain and wind. Brrrr. Will hauled our last hay home from our second farm and the hay storage area is full. One more farm to go but he lost the brake rotor on our pickup near home so will have to do some repair work first. It’s always something but we just keep plodding along. Then some wonderful thing happens to surprise us and we perk right up. That’s homesteading! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: mushy pickles and tomato juice

Saturday, August 22nd, 2015

Mushy pickles

With dill pickles, why are cucumbers raw packed into jars and then filled with brine solution while sweet pickles (like B&B’s) are brought to a boil first with the brine and then packed into jars? My dills are always very crisp but my B&B’s aren’t the same way. Can B&B’s be raw packed?

Jill Kelby
Eden Prairie, Minnesota

Because the experts tell us to. I’ve personally gone back to Mom and Grandma’s method of doing all cucumber pickles; I pack the raw cukes, then pour the boiling pickling solution over the pickles and, working quickly, seal the jars. No water bathing. They, too, now stay crisp. But experts want to keep us safe from ourselves and would shoot me on sight for even suggesting such a thing. — Jackie

Tomato juice

Got the latest issue of BHM and saw someone asked about making homemade tomato juice. I have been making it for about 20 years putting up 75 quarts a summer. Husband drinks a glass of it every morning.

Wash tomatoes and take stems off (no need to core or peel). Place in a glass (microwave safe) casserole with a lid and microwave for 3 minutes. Put tomatoes in a cone-shaped colander with a wooden pestle over a bowl. Press the pestle on the tomatoes to mash the juice and some pulp run through the holes. When the tomatoes are down to mostly skin and some flesh, rotate the pestle around the colander to mash out the rest of the juice and pulp. Discard the seeds and skins. Pour juice into jars or a pitcher and repeat the process. Add 1 TBSP lemon juice per quart and 1/2 tsp of salt or whatever to taste.

I can in a 4 quart pressure canner. Process the jars at 5 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.

Very easy and pretty fast. If a person didn’t have a microwave, the tomatoes could be steamed until they were hot through and then do the colander part.

Love your canning and other recipe ideas. Hope this might add to your advice to tomato juice makers.

Dawn Martin

For 20 years I used the Foley Mill, such as you use, until Mom bought me a Victorio Tomato Strainer more than 30 years ago. Now I get through a bushel of tomatoes with no boiling or heating; just pull the stems, quarter tomatoes and feed ’em into the hopper of the Victorio and turn the crank. Tomato puree comes out the side chute and the seeds and skins out the front, into a bowl. For tomato juice, I just use my juiciest tomatoes, not paste types.

I’ve got to mention that you’re under-processing your tomato juice. The recommended pressure for tomato juice in a canner with a gauge is 6 pounds and the time should be 20 minutes for altitudes below 2,000 feet and that’s for juice that has been heated before pouring into the jars.

Thanks for sharing your method as I’m sure many readers don’t have a tomato strainer…yet. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Hopi Pale Grey squash, canning corn, and canning bones

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Hopi Pale Grey squash

Not a question… planted the Hopi squash I bought from you. OMG! The plants are about 20′ wide. In fact, all my squash are huge this year. (With a little help from some fertilizer) they are all loaded with squash. I think it’s going to be a great squash year. Thank you so much… can hardly wait to taste the Hopi.

Joni Warren
Canyon City, Oregon

Thanks for the update! Our Hopi Pale Greys are climbing the back fence, up trees and heading for the woods. In the “squash patch” the plants are over five feet tall, on the flat. Boy, is that something. — Jackie

Canning corn

I had pressure canned corn on Friday. I realized by reading that I did not pressure it long enough. I pressured for 20 minutes. Looked at the wrong vegetable for the process time. What can I do? I have read everything and can’t seem to find out what I should do. Can you please help?

Mary Perkins

Oops, that happens. I’m just glad you caught your mistake right away. What I’d do is dump out your corn into a large kettle, bring it to a boil, then repack it into hot, clean jars and process for the correct time. Open each jar and smell it to make sure it hasn’t started to ferment or spoil before you heat it. Then smell it again as you bring it to a boil. It could have gone bad by now. Don’t cut the time because you already processed it. Just treat it as if it were fresh corn. — Jackie

Canning bones

Can a person can beef bones? I wanted to can the bones left over to have for soup.

Lisa Clark

It’s a whole lot easier and won’t waste so many wide mouth jars if you put your bones in a big kettle with water and boil them to get your broth, then can that. You can just use the basic broth as a soup base. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

As usual, our beavers were right

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

We had a very hot, dry summer. Around here, some swamps are dry and even rivers are showing more rocks than water. Yep, we got rain. But only about 1/10 of an inch or less at a time; not enough to counteract the hot temperatures. Finally it is cooling down and we are getting some real rain. Luckily, we’re about done haying, with a good crop in, too.
This summer our poultry has been running crazy, nesting, hatching eggs, and raising chicks! We just had a White Laced Red Cornish hen come off a nest with a big batch of chicks. Our momma turkey must have been sharing her nest with a chicken because she just hatched nine baby chicks. She has her own turkey eggs in her nest too, so Will grabbed the turkey eggs (at great bodily risk!) and brought them in to put in our little incubator. As turkey eggs take about a week longer to hatch, they would have never hatched left outside in the cold as the mom abandoned the nest after hatching the chicks. So we’ll see if we can finish the job she started.
Our tomatoes are going crazy. Due to our cold, wet spring, all of them are late this year as are most of our neighbors’ tomatoes. But boy, do we have tomatoes! We just discovered the Farthest North plants are totally covered with tomatoes. We’ve never seen that many tomatoes on any plant before. It’s so productive. They are a cherry tomato but I use them in sauce and they do very well. Such a pretty plant, too!
Today it’s cloudy and rainy so we get a break. Our Subaru has been in for wheel bearings and other expensive repairs. And I ran over some broken glass on the road and ruined a tire recently, so this afternoon, I have to pick up a pair of tires for it. Oh well, we can’t complain as it’s been a very dependable vehicle and our rough, bumpy mile-long driveway is hard on vehicles. — Jackie


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