Click here to ask Jackie a question!
Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.
Read the old Ask Jackie Online columns
Read Ask Jackie print columns
Archive for the ‘Cooking/Recipes’ Category
Thursday, August 21st, 2014
Canning with flour and apple trees with fire blight
I made your mustard beans the other day, but am wondering about the flour in it. I am assuming it’s safe to can, but am wondering what makes it safe? Is it the amount of sugar/vinegar?
Also, our 23 year old apple trees have fire blight. It is impossible to get all of it pruned from them as they are so large. Is this a lost cause? We trimmed as much as we could, but I still see some in the upper branches. Should we just cull them?
Miles City, Montana
The thing with recipes with added flour is that most of them make a recipe that is too thick to safely can. The mustard bean pickles have plenty of vinegar and sugar but the small amount of flour doesn’t make the “sauce” too thick, more like honey mustard dipping sauce, not like very thick gravy.
I’d try to give those trees a chance by taking off the top of the tree. You can use a chainsaw and whack off the entire top branches that show fireblight infection. In commercial orchards, many use a tree topping machine mounted on a hydraulic arm of a tractor; sort of like a brush hog to give all of the trees a periodic flat-top, making the trees spread out and be easier to pick. So don’t be afraid to be a bit drastic in your pruning. It just may save those trees. Be sure to burn the affected branches so you don’t spread the disease by leaving them lying around. — Jackie
While answering another reader’s question, you mentioned that you use sliced, dehydrated zucchini in many recipes. I’d love to know how you use it. You may have mentioned this in your cookbook, but I’ve loaned it to a friend and can’t check right now.
I toss a handful or two into my potatoes au gratin and scalloped potatoes. I also use it as an ingredient in mixed casseroles, stews, and soups to name a few. You can also rehydrate it and drain, then toss into a batch of fried potatoes and onions about halfway through cooking. The dehydrated zucchini is VERY versatile! — Jackie
Wednesday, August 20th, 2014
Should you pull green tomatoes after a heavy rain to keep them from splitting?
Kernersville, North Carolina
I don’t do this but if you’re having trouble with your almost ripe green tomatoes splitting, you could sure do this to avoid it. Don’t pull all your green tomatoes, however. Just the ones that are large and starting to show blushing color. — Jackie
I want to start making sourdough bread for my husband that loves it. I have your Pantry cookbook, and have read the whole section. I have a few questions though. The Grandma Eddy’s sourdough starter that is on page 127 does not have any liquid listed. It says 1 pkg. dry yeast, 1/2 tsp. sugar, 2 cups flour. Is there suppose to be a liquid for a binding agent? I have read so many posts in the forums and online about how to make good sourdough that it is overwhelming! It is better to try and get an established starter from someone else to use? Once I have a starter, are all recipes interchangeable when they call for so much of the starter? Is there a good guide anywhere that gives step by step instructions on maintaining the starter and making the bread? It is so hard now a days for younger folks as we no longer have grandparents or great grandparents around to teach us how to do these things or guide us. Thanks for any help on this you can give.
That recipe was an OOPs. There should have been 2 cups lukewarm water added to that recipe. (In the next printing that will be corrected.) Yes, once you have a starter, it is pretty much interchangeable with any recipe. A cup of starter is a cup of starter, no matter what starter or what recipe. Above the recipes, there is a bit about keeping the starter going. It’s really easy and is not rocket science. But you’ll have to monkey around until you get the hang of it. It is a skill, just like baking bread or making pies. But it is easy so don’t be afraid to try. There are recipes in the Pantry Cookbook for sourdough bread, pancakes, biscuits, and English muffins (pgs 128-129) to get you started. — Jackie
Saturday, August 16th, 2014
I just wanted to give you an update on the tomato plants that I grew from your seeds. All of them germinated and grew nicely until our wet summer has given my garden a bad case of the Southern blight. It killed all of my beans and tomatoes but the Mexican tommy toes (Punta Banda) were the last to succumb to the disease. I was able to get one picking off of all of the varieties but many pickings off of the tommy toes. So I believe we can say that the Punta Bandas are resistant to Southern blight. Thankfully my grandparents tomatoes are doing well so I am going to have enough in the pantry for the winter, though just barely. Now for the question, if you could only plant two or three paste tomatoes varieties which ones would you plant. I have only had my farm for one year so my garden area is small but expanding, so I can only plant 30 tomato plants. I have tried many different varieties but was wondering what your favorites were.
Is your soil well drained? Often folks mistake plants dying from wet roots for Southern blight. With Southern blight, you will have plants that suddenly wilt and die. On examination, you’ll find white mats of fungus at soil level and lesions on the plant stems right at soil level. It does affect both tomatoes and beans. (To help prevent it, pull and burn any affected plants then lay a sheet of clear plastic over the area and weight it down with boards or rocks. Leave in place for about 6 weeks. This will “cook” the disease spores and usually does the trick for next year’s crop.) Punta Banda is pretty free of early blight too. And it’s a very productive tomato. In fact, it is one of our very favorite paste tomatoes although it doesn’t look like a paste tomato, being round, not oblong. It is very meaty and its small size makes it perfect to pick and toss into our Victorio tomato strainer, which removes the seeds and skins. The purée requires much less cooking down than many other paste tomato purée. Another of our favorites is San Marzano and also the hybrid Super Marzano, developed from it. — Jackie
I’ve made elderberry jam for two days now. Need your recipe for elderberry pie, please. Looked through your books and anthologies, can’t find it. Do you use your canned elderberries for the pie?
Here’s one recipe for elderberry pie that’s very easy. Use fresh elderberries.
pastry for a 2-crust pie
1 quart ripe elderberries
1 cup sugar
a little flour
Wash and drain the berries. Stir sugar well into fruit and turn into a pie pan lined with crust. Sprinkle a little flour over the filling to absorb juice, and cover with an upper crust. Bake for 40 minutes (400° F for 15 minutes; 375° F until done). Serve cold with a little sugar sifted over top or with whipped cream..
To make an elderberry pie with canned elderberries, drain and reserve 1 cup juice. Make a paste in a saucepan using 3 Tbsp. cornstarch, 1 Tbsp. lemon juice, and reserved juice, a little added at a time until all has been used. Add 1 cup sugar (a little less if you canned the elderberries in a heavy syrup). Stir well and slowly bring to a boil and cook until thick. Remove from heat and add elderberries. Pour into a pie crust and top with the top crust. Bake at 375° F until done.
When baking an elderberry pie, it’s a good idea to put the pie tin on a cookie sheet as it will sometimes bubble over, making a mess of your oven, — Jackie
Friday, August 8th, 2014
I have kohlrabi coming out of my ears. Can I can them or would they be better frozen. I’m not sure what to do with them.
You can use kohlrabi in a pickle recipe, in place of cucumbers. But they really don’t can up nicely. I’d freeze the rest. One of our favorite kohlrabi recipes is diced in a cheese sauce. Mmmm. Or sliced on a salad. Darn, now I’m hungry! — Jackie
Bread and butter pickles
I made your bread and butter pickle recipe. However, I did not rinse the cucumbers/onion mixture after soaking them with the salt and ice. The taste seems salty to me. Should you rinse the cukes/onions as the recipe only says to drain well? What about other recipes that use salt to remove excess water in pickles or summer squash?
I don’t rinse my pickles, but I do kind of swish them around to make sure the salt is well mixed with the water. If you wish to rinse them, you certainly may. I don’t find my bread and butter pickles salty and as we don’t use much salt, I am quite sensitive to it. — Jackie
Monday, August 4th, 2014
Whole wheat bread recipe
Cry for help! I have and am a huge fan of Jackie Clay’s Pantry Cookbook. The whole wheat bread recipe on page 120 is giving me fits. I have looked far and wide for a decent all whole wheat flour recipe and I’m sure this fits the bill if done right. I have followed the recipe to the letter and still the dough is so sticky I have to put it on a cookie sheet in round loaves with spoons. I have tried adding flour so it is less sticky as suggested but I usually end up with a brick and have used 8 or even 9 cups of flour. What am I doing wrong?
Okay Gretchen, I made up a batch of that whole wheat bread last night, just to be sure it’s not the recipe. (I haven’t been making/eating a lot of bread lately as I’m trying to cut down some weight and we LOVE our homemade bread.) I used the recipe right to the dot. This recipe makes a sticky “batter” that’s thicker than a regular batter as you can “kind of” knead it but your fingers will get sticky. Most folks just mix it well with a spoon and let it rise in the bowl, covered. When it’s risen, the dough is much less sticky and with lightly-oiled fingers you can minimally knead and shape it. I made mine into a single loaf and let it rise until a bit more than doubled (it keeps the whole wheat bread much lighter).
It rose wonderfully and I baked it. (When you bake any pure whole wheat bread, bake a little longer than recommended. If the crust starts to get too brown, cover it with aluminum foil. Pure whole wheat bread is quite dense and if you under-bake it the center will still be doughy when the outside looks perfect.) As you can see, it looks great and I ate two slices last night while it was hot and another two this morning — can’t help myself! So don’t add more than the recommended amount of flour. I added 5½ cups for a middle-of-the-road amount. You don’t want it like “regular” bread dough. It will be sticky. I hope this helps with your next batch. Good luck. — Jackie
Thursday, July 31st, 2014
Pickles with alternative sweetener
I would love to try your pickle recipe, however I am allergic to processed sugar and need to know if I can use Splenda or other sweetener to make them?
Yes, you can use artificial sweeteners such as Splenda or natural sweeteners like Stevia powder in your pickles. I would boil the pickling solution and spices first, then stir in the sweetener just before adding the cucumbers/vegetables for peak flavor and sweetness then pack as usual. — Jackie
Canning teriyaki sauce
Back in February or March I wrote you about canning my teriyaki sauce. You could not answer me as I didn’t have the exact amounts of the ingredient and I couldn’t find my recipe. I have found it now and hope you can help me! I also have a few more of my favorite sauces I’m hoping you can help me with to see if I can, can them up? I need to know which canning method to use on which sauces and processing times for each one? I realize the sweet chilli sauce and the lemon sauce have cornstarch, I will be taking that out and doing some experimenting with my pectin.
2 cups soy sauce
2 cups sugar.
4 cloves garlic (chopped fine).
2 tsp. ginger (grated).
Combine soy sauce and sugar in saucepan on medium heat cook until sugar is dissolved. Add garlic and ginger, remove from heat. Use on meat or vegetable.
Sweet and sour sauce:
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vinegar
1 tsp. garlic (chopped fine)
Add all ingredients to pan and heat till sugar is dissolved.
Sweet chilli sauce:
3 large garlic cloves
2 red jalapeño or Serrano peppers, deseeded.
½ cup sugar
¾ cup water
¼ cup white vinegar
½ tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoon water
In blender, puree together all the ingredients, except the last two. Transfer the mixture into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Lower heat to medium and simmer until the mixture thickens up a bit and the garlic and pepper bits soften, about 3 minutes. Combine the cornstarch and water to make a slurry. Whisk in the cornstarch mixture and continue to simmer another minute.
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons butter
1½ tablespoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
In a saucepan stir sugar and cornstarch. Add water gradually. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil 2 minutes and remove from heat. Add butter and stir until melted. Add lemon juice and nutmeg.
You can process your teriyaki sauce in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes. The sweet and sour sauce is fine processed in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (pints or half pints). I don’t feel that the sweet chili sauce has enough vinegar/sugar in it to offset the amount of water and vegetables in it to be safe to water bath process. You could pressure can it for 35 minutes (pints or half pints) at 10 pounds pressure. The lemon sauce is safe to can but I would substitute Clear Jel for the cornstarch — just to be safest. That would process in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes (pints or half pints). Remember to increase your processing time (boiling water bath) or pressure (pressure canning) if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet. Consult your canning book for directions on this. — Jackie
Canning baked beans
I made a recipe of baked beans cooked in a crock-pot. It was for a party. We ended up with a lot of left-overs. I’m wondering if I could can them, so they are not wasted? How long should I pressure can them? If they seem a little dry is it safe to add some water?
You sure can can up those beans. I’d stir in enough water to make them slightly soupy (they’ll absorb water as they can), heat them thoroughly, then ladle out into clean jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process them as if you’d just made them (65 minutes for pints and 75 minutes for quarts) at 10 pounds pressure. As always, if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet consult your canning book for instructions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. — Jackie
Thursday, July 17th, 2014
Canning spaghetti sauce
We like to use Prego and Ragu sauces and add meat for our pasta meals. Can we pressure can the store bought/meat added sauces? If so, what times and pressures would we use at sea level?
Yes, you can but I much prefer to make my own spaghetti sauces from scratch as not only are they MUCH cheaper but you know exactly what’s in your food. To re-can store-bought spaghetti sauces with or without meat, simply dump them in a large pot and bring almost to a boil then ladle out into jars and process for the same times recommended for freshly made sauces. For spaghetti sauce with meat, that would be 60 minutes (pints) or 70 minutes (quarts) at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie
My home is on a water well. I have several water storage containers for emergency uses. I use 1/8 tsp of Clorox per gallon for sanitation. (1) Can the treated water be consumed without further filtering or boiling? (2) Can the treated water be used to water vegetables? (3) I assume the treated water should not be flushed into the septic system. (4) How long will each Clorox treatment last?
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Rather than adding the chlorine bleach to the storage containers containing water, consider just keeping an unopened gallon of relatively “new” unscented bleach in your water storage area. Then if it becomes necessary, add the 1/8 tsp of bleach to each gallon. Yes, you can consume the water without further filtering or boiling. And, yes, you can water vegetables with the water but if you don’t add the chlorine to the water in storage, you could use the untreated water for vegetable watering. Once treated, the chlorine water should stay pure indefinitely if left unopened. But, again, I’d opt for treating the water if and when needed. Sanitize the containers first, before adding the water. — Jackie
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
I started growing horseradish a few years ago, but had a hard time getting it to take off. Similar to the problem with my asparagus, but that’s another issue. I have found that turning this southern Ohio clay soil around has been a longer than expected process. The chicken manure and bedding each fall and kitchen compost have helped. My soil is starting to have some ‘color’ to it!
This year, wow, the horseradish is crazy-big and has spread. My question is: Other than grating it to use table side, or canning small jars (even for gifts), what way can I make this root an asset to our table? Suggestions or recipes?
Thanks for your dedicated blogging and wonderful articles in the magazine. I started as a magazine subscriber, and now a kindle subscriber and feel like I know you from your articles. For me as a part time homesteader/hobby farmer you are the inspiration I need to keep working for the lifestyle balance of work, home, and family that I need to be happy and healthy! It is worth it.
Thank you Jennifer. I really do enjoy helping people be more successful at homesteading.
Horseradish is useful in so many different ways. I use it as an ingredient in many dishes, adding it to sauce over baked fish and chicken, using it in sandwich spreads, making a cheese, mayo, sour cream, bacon, and horseradish chip and veggie dip, casseroles, and of course cocktail sauce (ketchup and horseradish mixed). You can also mix it with sour cream and top baked potatoes. There are dozens of recipes available online, too. — Jackie
My daughter opened a jar of ham she canned this past winter, she dumped it along with the broth in the jar into her skillet and boiled it for 30 minutes, cooked off the broth and let it fry a little. Her family ate half of it, promptly put the remainder in the refrigerator and two days later when her husband went to warm it up, he noticed tiny little worms on it. He opened the ham strips and they were inside it too. When initially canned, the ham was pressure canned for 90 minutes. On top of that it was a precooked ham to begin with! How is it possible for anything to survive being browned, processed for 90 minutes, sealed, boiled for 30 minutes and fried again? Have you ever heard of this? I sure haven’t and I have been canning for 35 years. She didn’t add anything other ingredients to her ham when she cooked it for supper, so just the ham and broth. It was delicious though, but, ech, stomach turning upon the gruesome discovery.
Vienna, West Virginia
Nothing will live through pressure canning then boiling/frying. The worms were probably fruit fly or housefly maggots. Evidently flies laid eggs on some of the meat and the refrigerator wasn’t cold enough to prevent the eggs from hatching. The tiny worms would be just-hatched larvae. Tell your daughter that they didn’t eat wormy canned food. At least that’s something. This is very rare but I’ll bet they really check their food in the future! Ech! — Jackie