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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.

Archive for the ‘Cooking/Recipes’ Category

Jackie Clay

Sunny, warm fall weather lets us get lots done

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Finally, finally, the rain has stopped. We’ve had four wonderful, sunny fall days. The leaves have turned and are all gold and red. Beautiful! Last Friday we had a pair of Whistling Swans stop for the morning on our beaver pond. We watched them glide around, enjoying their rest from their migration southward.


Meanwhile, I’ve been (surprise!) canning like mad. I just got a batch of thick pizza sauce finished, two batches of sweet corn, spaghetti sauce with meat, and Mexican corn (sweet corn with diced green and red sweet peppers and onions). Our late apples are ripe now so I need to switch gears and get lots of apple stuff canned up. We really love our Chestnut crab with its large, sweet, juicy apples and the Frostbite apple with cracking crisp, unusually good flavor. Both are hugely productive also!


I’m busy harvesting seeds from beans and tomatoes too. We are tremendously impressed with the Folsom Indian Ruin beans which are the biggest beans anyone has ever seen and also very productive. And yesterday I picked a batch of Enormous Plum paste tomatoes. Boy, oh boy, are they ever huge! We are focusing on more paste tomatoes this year as they can up so nice and folks need more of a choice than plain Romas. We’ve found several really great ones, including G. Chalmers Large Paste, Mia’s Italian Paste, Andes, Ten Fingers of Naples, and Speckled Roman.


The blankety blank cows got into our north garden and gobbled up most of the crops out there. What a bummer! It took days to get over that one. But we did and you can bet that won’t happen again! But they didn’t get into our pig pasture garden and I’m canning Will’s Seneca Sunrise sweet corn. (Yes, we had a bountiful harvest for seed so I’m allowed to can up the pig pasture corn!


Oh, by the way, Will’s head is healing well although he does have a monster head cold … unrelated. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Will and I will be attending the Homesteading and Sustainable Lifestyles Expo in Orr this weekend

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Will and I will be manning our Seed Treasures booth, showing some of the various crops we grow and answering questions as we pass out catalogs on august 20th and 21st. I’ll also have some of my books available for those who wish to purchase autographed copies. I’ll be speaking on gardening at 2 PM on Saturday and speaking about canning at 4 PM on Sunday. We’re expecting a great show as there are many workshops as well as vendors. The Orr Center is housed in the old school in Orr Minnesota, about 40 miles straight north, up Hwy 53, from Virginia, Minnesota. Check out the Orr Center’s website for more information at I hope to visit with you there!



Yesterday I picked a bucket of Norland apples to can up. They were starting to fall off the tree they were so ripe. Norland is a very productive fall apple. It’s tasty, early to produce and very hardy, but it doesn’t keep. So after giving my friend a pail full, I picked one for us and canned ’em up. I did keep out enough for a pie, of course. I wasn’t so sure how it’d work as it is a soft apple and might not make a nice pie. I was wrong! Although it was soft, it more than made up for it by being very tasty.


You should see our Hopi Pale Grey squash vines. They have entirely taken up the narrow bed they were planted in and are now climbing trees, the fence and the bank next to them. What vigorous vines! And I know they’re loaded with squash, too, as usual. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We got that hay up!

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

By the grace of God, we got another 18 big round bales up before the rain. That brings our total this year up to just under sixty bales. Now if we can just get the rest up…


I made a huge batch of mustard bean pickles out of the last bucket of Provider beans. Boy, did they ever turn out great. And since I overestimated how much vinegar/spices/sugar I’d need I canned up the leftover sweet and sour sauce in half-pint jars. My “mistake” let me have all this ready-on-hand sauce to dip chicken, pork, and fish in as well as to pour over chicken and pork roast as a glaze. (It really isn’t too mustardy … rather like hot mustard sauce without the “hot.”) We love it.


Our beans are producing like CRAZY lately. I planted more than 27 different beans this year on three gardens. Some are yellow, some green, some dry, and others snap. Many are multi-purpose. All are doing excellent both in plants and the beans they’re making. We’re especially excited about a pole bean, Folsom Indian Ruin, which I was given while living in New Mexico. A neighbor knew we loved heirloom seeds and brought me a sample he’d found in a clay jar in his cow pasture, in the rocks of an Indian ruin. They’d been sealed with pine pitch and his son, who went to school at the University of New Mexico, took one and they carbon dated it back to 1,500 years! Some of those beans actually germinated!


These are a huge bean. The pods are like Kevlar so you couldn’t eat them as snap beans but the young beans are tender and make great shelly beans. As a dry bean, they are also tasty and swell up nearly the size of a ping-pong ball! (You have to mash them or slice them to eat them.) We’re so tickled to be able to pass them on this year as our row of beans are simply going crazy with both blossoms and pods. Actually, I’ve NEVER had so many blossoms on a bean in my life! Talk about production. No wonder those ancient Native Americans took the trouble to store them so well — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: frozen melon and canning hominy

Monday, April 4th, 2016

Frozen melon

Our cantaloupe produced wonderfully last summer. My wife was able to freeze a bunch of it. My wife uses the frozen melon in smoothies and ice cream and such. But we still have a lot in the freezer. Do you have any ideas for additional ways to use our frozen melon? Or any ideas for additional ways to put it up?

Ben Blair

Here’s one for you:

Muskmelon cheesecake

1 graham cracker pie crust
2 8 oz packages cream cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 cup powdered sugar
1½ cup blended frozen muskmelon

Combine cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla, and lemon juice in large bowl. Beat until fluffy. Slowly add powdered sugar. Beat until smooth. Transfer into graham cracker pie crust. Whiz frozen muskmelon in blender until smooth. Turn out on top of cheesecake. Put in freezer until barely frozen; about an hour. Take out and top with whipped cream if you wish. Serve at once.

Anyone have any other ideas? — Jackie

Canning hominy

I bought a #10 can of hominy and want to re-can into smaller jars. In a 2014 entry you said to process pints for 60 min., qts. for 70 minutes (10 lb. pressure). Earlier (2012) you had instructed using 10 lb. pressure; pints for 55 min., qts. for 85 min. Are the newer times a revision for re-canning this? I want to be sure I am doing the right thing.

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

There are sometimes slight variations on processing times, set forth by experts. I process my hominy at 10 pounds pressure, for 55 minutes (pints) and 85 minutes (quarts). It’s always been extremely good at those times. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: planting seedlings and non-electric range

Saturday, March 26th, 2016

Planting seedlings

I read your post this morning and in answer to using peat pots you included some information new to me. If your seedling is leggy you plant it deeper when moving to a larger pot or garden. I had beans that sat too long in starter cups (having had the flu for days!) When I set them out into the garden it was very windy the next day and several were broken. Does this hold true for all veggies, and how deep can I place them? Hope that you are feeling better.

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

I, personally, haven’t done it with beans … yet. But I really can see no reason it wouldn’t work. In New Mexico, I’d put a tin can with both ends cut out over young veggie starts that were tender so the wind wouldn’t break them off and damage the leaves. I chose cans that were just a tiny bit taller than the plants — that worked well. Yes, I’m definitely feeling better and raring to go! — Jackie

Non-electric kitchen range

We live in a conventional, grid-tied house and have really been enjoying our small homestead for over four years now. I try to do a lot of canning, and we have a large family of 10 children. We have a kitchen that is in need of remodeling, and that is where I am hoping you can help me. I am trying to think of things that would be really helpful in canning or other types of food processing. I will have a large kitchen, which is helpful when you have a big family. I intend to get a new range as my current range is powered by electricity. As we don’t have natural gas where I live, I am planning to use propane. I am even considering making sure I have more than just a standard 4-burner range (maybe 2 ranges) as there have been many times that I find myself trying to can something using both large burners and would also like to have a pot of soup going for dinner. I never seem to have enough stove room when I am canning. Anyway, do you have any thoughts as to a good range for use with propane or what I should be looking for. Unfortunately, I am not at a time in my life where I feel like I could use a wood stove for cooking. I would like to be able to rely on my stovetop at least during a power outage, but if I could use the oven too, that would be a big bonus. Any other thoughts you have in regards to designing a kitchen that is great for canning would be appreciated!

Rebecca Whisonant
Chester, South Carolina

There are several high-end ranges that are out of my price range with commercial ovens and extra burners. For me, I want heavy burner grates next time. The ones on my stove are lightweight and wiggle around too much, making sliding heavy pots difficult. I also like a range with standing pilots, which are hard to find now. Ones with electronic pilots are fine if they have back-up battery operation but most do not. In a power outage, you can still light the burners but the oven usually won’t work. You might consider one range and a built-in counter cooktop. A lot of folks use them in island installations and I really like that because they are usually lower, making canning much nicer for shorter or older folks. Lots of counter space is always a plus as is a single deep sink instead of the usual double sink. Large pots and cookie sheets fit flat in my sink and I LOVE that! Lots of drawers are also a plus as you can keep all your canning supplies, lids, jar lifters, lid lifters, funnels, etc. in one drawer and rings in another. The best of luck with your remodel! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: learning to make cheese, dandelion syrup, and starting seeds in peat pellets

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Learning to make cheese

I would really like to try a cheese making class. One where you spend the whole day or weekend actually making the cheese, not just watching someone do it. I live in Iowa and am willing to travel to Minnesota or Wisconsin (hint, hint). Do you have any suggestions?

Becky McKim
Ankeny, Iowa

While we do not plan on having any seminars this summer, we may do a one-day workshop and cheese making is always popular. It would be later on this summer when our cows and goats are fresh so we have plenty of milk. Keep watching the blog and I’ll see what we can come up with. Otherwise, are there any readers out there who live near Becky and make cheese? Sharing info with another homesteader is always fun and you’d both benefit from the sharing. — Jackie

Dandelion syrup

I was reading a recipe for dandelion syrup that called for a large amount of blossoms. What is the best way to store them until I gather enough?

William Toeppe
Bergenfield, New Jersey

Dandelion flowers do not store well. Freezing them often damages the flavor. Best thing is to gather them first thing in the morning and begin your syrup making in the afternoon. A blueberry rake works well to quickly gather many flowers. — Jackie

Starting seeds in peat pellets

I have never used the peat pellets to start seeds before, but the peppers and tomatoes started near the wood stove are up in just a few days. Have always used flats with a homemade mix of compost, etc. to start seedlings in the past. Do the peat pellets provide enough nutrition to grow the new seedlings till they are ready to transplant into bigger cups, or do the new babies need a bit of compost tea or something to get them growing until transplant?

Rick Riley
Hopewell, Pennsylvania

Yes, the seedlings do perfectly well in the peat pellets until it’s time to transplant into bigger containers. No need to fertilize at all until well after they’ve been put into larger cups. I just add a little Pro-Mix to each cup, place the pellet in it, then fill the cup to within ½-inch of the top so watering is easier. Leggy plants get buried deeper, letting just a little stem and leaves stick above the soil. This is a quick fix and with tomatoes, they’ll grow roots all up the stem, making the plants even stronger. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning posole and petunia seeds

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

Canning posole

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.

Franci Osborne
Ignacio, Colorado

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

Petunia seeds

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)?

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: elderberry syrup, candied dill pickles, and growing sweet potatoes

Friday, January 29th, 2016

Elderberry syrup

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.

Sheryl Napier
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?

Lois Lara
Boring, Oregon

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.

Marcus Howell

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


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