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
Wednesday, February 10th, 2016
Have you ever canned posole (or pozole)? I like it, especially when its cold outside, but you just can’t make a small amount. My recipe includes pork loin, red chili, oregano, bay, soaked dry hominy, onions and garlic. I can’t find instructions so I’m hoping you know. What I’ve figured out so far is to make it as usual, chill to remove excess fat, bring it to a boil and fill jars to within 1 inch of the top with plenty of broth so its not too thick and processing it 90 min for quarts at 14lbs pressure. (I’m at 7000′ so need the extra pressure) Any advice will be appreciated.
Yes, I have canned posole. And you’re right, it’s really good! Just make up a big batch, but don’t cook it as long as you would if you were making it for dinner. Chill and remove excess fat, then reheat to boiling and fill your jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 14 pounds pressure, as you would any meat recipe, because of your altitude. You can even use previously canned hominy as it doesn’t get mushy when re-canned by itself or in other recipes. — Jackie
Reading over the years about your petunias, I am encouraged to try growing my own from seed. I have the same little greenhouse you do, although it sits by an East window and doesn’t get as much sun. Can you suggest best places to purchase petunia seeds (preferably pelleted)?
I’ve gotten nice pelleted petunia seeds from Veseys Seeds, 800-363-7333. Jung Seed (800-297-3123) also has a wide variety of petunia seeds. Petunia seeds are like dust so you’re wise to get pelleted seed if you want to grow the more expensive Wave Series petunias. As you can imagine, the baby petunia plants are tiny, too and they do require plenty of light so they don’t get leggy. You may get by with the east window greenhouse or you may end up having to put some light directly over them. Good luck. They are quite easily home-raised but you’ll want to get them started pretty soon as they take longer than you’d think to bloom. — Jackie
Friday, January 29th, 2016
I have a questions about elderberry syrup for the flu. All the recipes I have found on line start with either fresh or dried berries. I have a ton of juice I steamed and canned. Do you make syrup and if so, can you advise me about how to make it with juice? Sure hope all is well and you are staying warm. Loved the picture of Hondo on Will’s shoulder.
Newport News, Virginia
Sure! Elderberry syrup is easy to make from your juice. Just pour the juice into a stainless steel pot and add cinnamon, cloves and ginger to taste, and as much raw honey as you wish.
You’ll just have to add some and then taste. If you use ginger root, whole cloves and cinnamon sticks, chop the ginger root and put the other whole spices in a spice bag then heat to simmering and hold for a few minutes, tasting as you go, adding honey to taste. Some folks like lots of spices and not so much honey; others the reverse.
Once you reach your desired flavor, remove the spice bag and pour boiling syrup into hot jars. I’d recommend half-pints or pints. Water bath for 10 minutes to ensure a seal. Now you’re good to go when you feel a cold or the flu coming on.
Yep, we’re nice and cozy warm. Our winter has been so good so far, unlike parts of the East Coast. — Jackie
Candied dill pickles
Do you have a recipe for Candied Dill Pickles?
This is my grandmother’s recipe for candied dill pickles. Nearly all candied dills are made from already processed dill pickles. If you add too much sugar right off to cucumber pickles they’ll shrivel badly.
Candied Dill Pickles
1 quart whole dill pickles
2¾ cups sugar
½ cup vinegar
2 Tbsp. pickling spice
Drain the pickles, cut them into ½-inch slices, and place them in a deep glass bowl or ceramic dish. Refrigerate. Mix sugar and vinegar in a bowl. Place the pickling spices in a spice bag and tie it closed with a string. Add the spices to the vinegar/sugar. Let the mixture stand covered at room temperature until sugar is dissolved, approximately 4 hours. Remove spice bag. Pour vinegar mixture over pickles, mixing gently but well. Place in a quart jar, cover and refrigerate. They will be ready to eat in about a week and will remain good in the fridge for a long time. — Jackie
Growing sweet potatoes
I live in Ohio. I read your articles all the time in Backwoods Home Magazine. My wife and I like to grow our food and can it. Every year I like to try something new. This year I would like to grow sweet potatoes and have done research online on how to start them from the potato. The question I have and could not find online is when should I start the potatoes in the water? I don’t want to start too early and then not be able to transplant them outside.
Although I have certainly started sweet potatoes in water by inserting four toothpicks into the “waist” of the potato and letting the bottom hang in the water with the toothpicks holding the whole potato from falling down into the water, I’ve begun starting my sweet potato slips by filling ice cream buckets 2/3 full with good potting soil or rotted compost, laying a pair of sweet potatoes on the soil, then covering by an inch or little bit more of soil. Water well (punch a few holes in the bottom of the bucket for drainage). Water well and place in a very warm, sunny window location. The sprouts seem stronger via the soil method. When they are nicely grown, cut the bunch of sprouts free, separate them and plant out into warm soil, after all possible danger of frost is past. We have to use hoop houses and black plastic to keep sweet potatoes growing. You can usually start your sweet potatoes about 7 weeks before you plan on setting them out. — Jackie
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
When canning with chicken or beef stock would I consider this meat and use the higher canning time required?
No. If you are canning just broth with no meat, you would only process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes for both chicken and beef broths. Of course, if you add pieces of meat, you’d then process for the higher “meat” required time of 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts, all at 10 pounds pressure unless you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet. — Jackie
I’ve also been doing some catch up canning. Mostly broth. My beef broth and ham broth both turned out cloudy. I’ve never had that happen before. They smell and taste great, and canned up fine. I’ll do the sniff test, but am wondering what may have caused this. I used the same pot, and added carrots, onions, and celery. Cooked on the woodstove overnight. 3 batches of each, and 2 of the beef and 2 of the ham look more like gravy, though not thick like gravy. The other batches turned out nice and clear. Do you have any ideas?
Miles City, Montana
It may just be that because you cooked the broths on the wood stove overnight, there may have been more tiny pieces of meat/veggies broken down by long cooking. If the broths were processed correctly and are sealed, along with smelling fine on opening, I wouldn’t worry a bit. — Jackie
I’m new to canning and canned some Yukon Potatoes a few months ago. I used a small amount of ascorbic acid with some of the batches but not all. Now I notice that some of the jars have a grayish color to the water. It looks like it might be a sediment, maybe starch? I used Tattler lids and had good results. The seals are intact. Any thoughts on this?
Crescent City, California
I’d guess that your off color is, as you suspected, just potato starch which has settled out after canning. As always, if you followed correct canning directions and the jars are sealed, I wouldn’t worry at all. As with everything we can, on opening, check the appearance of the food in the jar, open it, noting that it is indeed sealed well, then sniff the contents. If everything is well, as it usually is, go ahead and heat and eat! Glad to hear you’ve started canning. You’ll quickly find how much fun it is! — Jackie
There was a post where people wanted to know how to can nopales (cactus). I would love to know how to. Do you have a recipe? Preferably not pickled; I love the plain wonderful taste. Please direct me where I can find a recipe.
San Diego, California
Unfortunately, there is no approved method for home canning nopales. Some folks can them as you would green beans but this is, again, NOT an approved method. Instead, you might like them frozen. It is easy and the taste is great when thawed. Simply clean the fresh, young cactus pads of their spines, rinse, then cut into strips. Boil for one minute to blanch, then drain and pack into freezer containers.
Pickling nopales is pretty easy. Here’s one recipe:
12 oz. cactus pad
4 oz. onion
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. peppercorn
Remove the spines from young, tender nopales (cactus leaves), then rinse well. Slice onion into thin strips. Trim the stem end off the jalapeño, halve, and cut into thin strips. Remove the seeds and membranes to reduce the heat if desired.
In a stainless steel pot, combine the vinegar, salt, and peppercorn. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Pack the cactus strips, onion, and jalapeño into clean jars. Pour the vinegar brine into the jars, leaving ½ inch headspace. Apply lids and rings, and process in the water bath canner for 10 minutes.
I hope you enjoy your nopales. Not only are they good, but they’re good for you too! — Jackie
Wednesday, January 20th, 2016
I bought and froze 25lb of red beets last year and I pickled another 25 lb. I am now out of the pickled beets, can I make pickled beets with the already frozen beets?
Usually you can get away with pickling pre-frozen beets but I would do a smaller batch first to make sure your variety will hold up without getting soft. Thaw them slowly in the fridge, then pickle as soon as they thaw. — Jackie
Jackie, you mentioned that you make enchilada sauce. I would love to have your recipe since I make them a lot at our homestead. I hate using the store bought but have so far have not found a recipe that we like.
Here’s the enchilada sauce recipe I use most often:
2 gallons tomato puree
2 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 cup minced onion
4 minced chipotle peppers (if you can’t find them, add 1 Tbsp. or more to taste of chipotle barbecue sauce)
2 Tbsp. (or more to suit your taste) chili powder, as hot or mild as you wish
1 Tbsp. salt
Mix all ingredients well in stock pot and slowly bring to a simmer. Ladle hot into warm pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes. — Jackie
My question is about rabbits. If I’m right, you don’t raise rabbits but maybe some knowledgeable person can help me. I want to know what protein level to give them. One hardware store says 16% and another says 18%, I have 2 bucks, 4 does, and always babies at some level of growth. They are mostly for meat. They are Flemish crossed with Californians and/or satin and/or other mixed breed, but all big for meat.
While we don’t currently raise rabbits, I have done so for many years in the past. A 16% pellet is all your rabbits require at all life stages. We also feed a good quality hay, fed free choice in wire feeders hung at the side of the cages and assorted “treats” from the garden such as carrots, sunflower seeds, cobs of dried corn, etc. (Never feed greens to young rabbits as it can kill them!) — Jackie
Friday, January 15th, 2016
This was one of Dad’s favorite sayings, one we use often today. I made a tasty baked chicken with wild rice stuffing along with a big stir fry. We ate and ate, but there was still some meat left over, of course. So I took out all the leftover stuffing and tossed the chicken in a stock pot with water and set it on the old wood stove to simmer. Yesterday afternoon, I strained off the broth, let the carcass cool down on a cookie sheet, then picked off and cut up the meat. (I found a lot!) I then dumped the meat back in the stock pot with the broth, added herbs, diced onions, shallots, and spices along with a pint of drained carrots and a half-pint of mixed corn and peas. I let that simmer for about half an hour then tossed in a couple of handfuls of thick noodles. When they were very tender, we started in eating. Sigh. Wonderful. And I have enough left over for lunch today.
Will and I are busy writing down all the new varieties we will plant and trial this year. A few folks have sent us some of their old family heirloom seeds and we are especially anxious to try these. How exciting! We’ve found some very rare, wonderful new-to-us vegetables and flowers. (By the way, if any of you do have family heirloom seeds we’d just love to give them a try and see if we can pass them on to others if they do well for us. We simply hate to have so many great varieties go extinct every day.) — Jackie
Wednesday, January 13th, 2016
This year I am going to try and crossbreed two different varieties of corn and I know nothing about de-tasseling. One variety (Painted Mountain) has a shorter length of growing time (75-80 days), while the other, Seneca Round Nose has a full 100 days to maturity. Painted Mountain is much shorter than Seneca Roundnose also. I am planning on growing them every other row. I want to improve the Painted Mountain, taking qualities from the Seneca that I find desirable, (like strong stalk strength and good ear protection and larger ears). Both are flour corns. Which one do I de-tassel? The reason I ask is that I am afraid that the silks from the PM will be brown and done by the time the SN is in full tassel.
Crossing two varieties of corn with different maturity dates is often kind of tricky, although sometimes the two will pollinate at the same time. Go figure! But all is not lost, if that doesn’t happen. Instead of planting every other row, plant your Painted Mountain on the up-wind side of a patch a week and a half AFTER you plant your Seneca Roundnose. In that way they’ll both be ready for crossing at the same time; i.e. tasseled and silks produced on your Seneca Roundnose. To make sure you get a good pollination rate, instead of depending on just the wind, de-tassel the Seneca Roundnose as the immature tassels form without pollen. Then place a paper bag over the tassels of your Painted Mountain and bang on the bag to collect the pollen. Repeat with different bags (to avoid dumping out your collected pollen) until you have enough. When you have collected enough pollen, take a good pinch of pollen from one bag and sprinkle it liberally on the silk of a Seneca Roundnose plant. Repeat with as many ears as you wish. Be sure to spread the pollen well as each strand of silk needs to be pollinated to make one kernel of corn. It may take some years to achieve your goal but hang in there. Each year choose the ears that demonstrate the qualities you are looking for the best to use as seed the next year. Corn breeding is a lot of fun! — Jackie
Last year I went to the feed mill and bought alfalfa meal and blood meal to use in the garden. The blood meal stunk to high heaven. But I took and added both of these to nothing but pure gravel with egg shells ground up at each spot of squash and tomatoes and got a good crop off of everything I did this with. Is there anything I could put into these “growing holes” to make them even better? I just guessed at the amounts to put in the holes too, maybe I should have a better recipe.
As you know, our favorite soil amendment is “Mo’ poo poo” or rotted manure. Without a soil test, I can’t give specifics on how much alfalfa meal and blood meal you should add; if you add too much, you’ll have too much nitrogen and the tomatoes will have terrific vines and little fruit, although the squash would leap for joy. Rotted manure is less of a gamble. By the time it’s rotted, the nitrogen level is less apt to cause problems with such crops as potatoes, carrots, peppers, or tomatoes. And rotted manure is cheaper and a lot of commercial alfalfa meal is made from GMO alfalfa these days. — Jackie
I recently had a friend tell me about canning cake. I have another friend that does it also. How safe is that? Eggs, oil, flour, canned? Seems risky.
I used to can cakes and they were good and handy too. BUT now there’s a lot of warnings by experts that there is a possibility of botulism from canned breads and cakes so I stopped, figuring that I didn’t want to take a chance with our family’s health if there was truth to their cautions. There is so much more to can up I just didn’t want to take a chance. — Jackie
20 most important items for a homestead
What are the twenty most important things you have on hand that get the most use and you simply couldn’t live without for homesteading?
Oh boy, 20? Okay, I’ll try. First is Will, my husband, and my supportive family and friends. Definitely number one! Then there is my Troy-Bilt horse tiller; chainsaw to help build, fence and cut our winter’s wood; my pressure canners; hundreds (thousands?) of canning jars and lids; tomato cages and steel stakes; tools such as shovel, pitchfork, fence stretcher, rake, hoe, hammer, saws, square, level, tape measure, crowbar, etc. (are each one of the 20?); our ATV; fencing material … okay, that’s 10 … kind of!
Then there’s, our water pump and irrigation system that pumps water from our spring basin up to the gardens, orchard and berry patch; our hybrid electric system (solar, wind, and battery bank); also generator (okay, I could live without ’em, but life’s much nicer with them!), our Mehu Liisa steam juicer and Nutrimill grain grinder, the Mantis tiller, livestock panels (for fencing, trellising and much more), the wood-fired livestock water tank heaters, Old Yeller, our trusty bulldozer (could live without it but would hate to as we use it a whole lot); the new barn with hay storage; fence around the gardens, berry patch, orchard, new pumpkin patch and pastures; and our trusty pets Mittens, Hondo, and Spencer.
Well, that’s 20 … kind of. I’m sure I left out something and YES, we could “live” without a lot of it as I have for years in the past. But all are sure nice to have around. Especially Will. — Jackie
All questions in this post were submitted by Dara Finnegan
Monday, January 11th, 2016
Although we use winter as our resting season, a lot still gets done. This is the time I do my catch-up canning. As we usually have butchered chickens, turkeys, pigs, and beef, I have a lot of meat in the freezer, which we can only run during the colder months. Our wind and solar don’t produce enough electricity to run our greedy freezer, and running the generator is expensive. Then there are always on-sale foods that I buy extra, usually at holiday season. For instance, during Thanksgiving/Christmas, both ham and turkey were on sale, so I bought a few of each and when Easter approaches, the ham will again be on sale.
So with all this cheap meat, I am slowly beginning to can it up. I just finished a turkey and am thawing out a ham. I can the meat and also, in the case of turkeys and chickens, the broth. And with ham, I use the ham bone and bits of meat to can up baked beans and bean and split pea soup.
And every day I’m taking seed out of our stored squash to dry for our seed business, Seed Treasures. I’m able to not only feed the goats and chickens the “guts” but also am canning up lots of squash for future pumpkin baking.
Also, during the rush tomato season, I can up quarts of plain tomato puree. Then, when I have more time, I open jars, cook it down, add peppers, mushrooms, spices, and meat and make lots of spaghetti sauce. I do this to make enchilada sauce and barbecue sauces, too.
It makes winter go by much more pleasantly, with a warm kitchen and no rush at all. You ought to give it a try! — Jackie
Wednesday, December 30th, 2015
I suppose I should have been expecting it; Will caught it first, but as Christmas approached, I could feel it coming. I took Vitamin C and zinc, ate plenty of hot peppers, but it still caught me. I didn’t even bake Christmas cookies until Christmas Eve! It was depressing since I usually bake for several days before Christmas. But I got ‘er done. Luckily, David decided to host our family Christmas dinner at his house. I helped out by bringing green bean casserole, providing the pickles, and a cheesecake. And I came early to show him how to do the ham. Then I went to pick up Javid at Orr. We had a real good time visiting, opening presents, and EATING.
Will was in the middle of his cold and fell asleep on the couch after dinner. It was cute with granddaughter, Ava, asleep on the other couch!
Javid will be moving to Cook next week, as there’s an opening for him at the assisted living there. That’ll be much better for all of us as it’ll be easier to visit, pick him up to come home and for him to buzz about town where there’s much more to do than in Orr. Now if I can just shake this nasty cold! I had my flu shot and pneumonia shot but it was a cold that got me down.
Our new fridge is running great and now it’s up against the wall so I’m starting to fill it up. What a great addition that is! Our old Consul is cooling but not normally. The inside fridge temp. is about 50 degrees and the freezer about 20 degrees. Will’s still trying to figure that one out. But he’s not recovered from his cold yet so it may be a while. I don’t care. The new fridge is more than twice as big as the Consul so I sure am not whining.
I’ve still got turkey to can (frozen now) but my giddi-up has gone away for now. Soon though… — Jackie