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Archive for the ‘Cooking/Recipes’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning Chicken a la King and making your own potting soil

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

Canning Chicken a la King

I made your Chicken a la King recipe yesterday and canned about 12 pints. I have a question though. The broth was about the consistency of milk prior to canning and after canning all the flour seemed to sink to the bottom. The flavor was good before canning. I used hard white wheat for the flour as who knows how many years my white flour has been around just in my pantry. Also, a couple of jars bubbled inside after they were cooled and washed. Do I need to watch those more closely? I may not have gotten it hot enough after adding the peppers prior to canning. I am starting tomatoes from seeds for the first time. Is it normal for the paste varieties to germinate more slowly than others?

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Don’t worry about your canned Chicken a la King. When you heat it to use it, just stir it and the flour will again mix with the broth. Also don’t worry about the jars having bubbles. You just had a few air bubbles you missed releasing before canning them. As always, check the seals on the lids before using all jars to make sure they’ve stayed sealed during storage.

It’s not “normal” for paste tomatoes to germinate slower than others but it is normal for some varieties to germinate slower than others, regardless as to whether they’re paste tomatoes or not. Hang in there; they’ll probably pop up soon. — Jackie

Potting soil

Should “store bought” potting products become unavailable or just too darned expensive, could I mix compost, moo poo, and just plain dirt (sandy in Fl.) to fill starter pots? Should this mixture be heat sterilized before use? I can find “recipes” for mixing bags of this and that, but not for using on-hand “dirt.”

Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Long before “potting soil” and “seed starting soil” became commercially available, Mom and Grandma made their own and they had very green thumbs. Skip the moo poo. You don’t want too much nitrogen either in seed starter or potting soil. You can always fertilize later on if that’s necessary with manure tea. Mix half and half compost and plain garden soil. Then put in large pans like turkey roasters and bake in the oven at 250 degrees or so for half an hour. Warning: this stinks! I used to call it baking worms. Yuck. But it sterilizes the soil so you won’t end up with such problems as damping off, mold, or fungal diseases. Right now, I opt for not “baking worms” but I buy PRO-MIX bagged soils. But if it becomes unavailable or too expensive, you bet I’ll be back to the old way. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Ah, Spring!

Monday, April 13th, 2015

Today it’s 65 degrees and sunny without much wind so it sure feels great. Will’s working on the barn, getting ready to put up our home-cut siding. Yesterday he worked on the sawmill all day, cutting ONE log. But that log was a huge spruce log that had to be cut down with a chainsaw to even fit on the sawmill! He’s putting first a layer of our free plywood up over the 2×6 studs, then adding furring strips on which to nail the vertical board and batten siding. The plywood is to prevent any slight drafts from getting through the barn. Inside, we’re going to add some insulation board that a friend found for us. It was a wonderful “deal.” We’ll be off to pick that up soon — a whole trailer load! Thank you, Mike!

I canned up bean soup last night after putting away 17 pints of baked beans first. Wow, that sure looks great in the pantry!

This morning we went to our friends’ house to disbud our new Nubian/Boer buckling.


He is simply stunning and so gorgeously marked; like a pinto-appaloosa horse. His mother and father were out of a buck and doe we used to have so we know his potential as a producer of great milkers on down the line. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s beautifully marked too! (No, he doesn’t have a roached back. Dara is just holding him still on the stump!) — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: enamel-lined Dutch oven with a chip and planting asparagus

Friday, April 10th, 2015

Enamel-lined Dutch oven with a chip

Is it safe to cook in a cast iron enameled-lined Dutch oven that has a chip in the bottom? Where the chip is located you can see the cast iron it is about the size of a nickel.

Cindy Dobbs
Prairie Grove, Arkansas

Yes, you can. Of course you can also cook in a full cast iron Dutch oven like I have. I’d just watch carefully to make sure that the remaining enamel is solid; you wouldn’t want it to flake off in your food. Usually, though, it is solid and you can use your Dutch oven for years that way. — Jackie

Planting asparagus

Gearing up for planting and would like to try my hand with establishing an asparagus plot. I have tried unsuccessfully in the past — I think 2x so far — so I am hoping 3rd time is the charm! Do you recommend any particular plants or vendors for buying the crowns? I am down in the Twin Cities, so somewhat similar conditions — a lot of clay (which last time I added a bunch of sand) and some severe temps. Also, do you prefer canning, freezing, or dehydrating the spears or just eating as you go?

Lisa Basso
St. Paul, Minnesota

We bought asparagus plants from Nourse Farms and have never seen nicer plants so we really do recommend them. Their website is We really had good luck planting them in a furrow with black plastic on either side to control weeds and bring more heat to the soil. HUGE, plentiful first-year spears! We can and dehydrate all of ours that we don’t eat fresh, but it does freeze very well. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Spring is busy, busy, busy

Thursday, April 9th, 2015


I’m sure glad that the days are getting longer! I’m like a chicken — when it’s light, I’m active; when it’s dark I get sleepy. And with all we have to do, I’m glad I’m awake more. I’ve been working on the cover for my next Western novel and so far, it’s coming out great.

This morning, I set a pot of beans on to boil and now they’re setting in the pot for a couple more hours then I’m adding ham and bacon and making a huge batch of baked beans to can up. Hopefully, tomorrow I can get the ham bone boiled up and make another big batch of bean soup. I love it when I get lots of meals from one major piece of meat!

The peppers, petunias, and tomatoes are growing nicely and I need to get them transplanted soon. Boy, some days I wish I were twins.

Will’s been working on our old ’85 blue 3/4 ton Chevy pickup, getting it road-ready again after sitting for a few years. We have a long haul with the stock trailer on Monday so we’re crossing our fingers that Old Blue runs well.

Slowly, the birds are returning from the South. I’ve seen five more robins, two kestrels, two red-tailed hawks and a turkey vulture. We’ve also seen a few trumpeter swans, and both Canada geese and snow geese flying north. But today is snowy and raw. It sure doesn’t feel much like spring. It is supposed to warm up toward the weekend, though. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning pumpkin and canning cheese

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015

Canning pumpkin

My question is about canning pumpkin. I know we are supposed to cube the pumpkin. When filling up the jars with the pumpkin can I add the spices that I would normally use to make pumpkin butter or pumpkin pie? Then when I open the jars I could blend the mixture, and be a little ahead of the game.

Coos Bay, Oregon

I tried that, Joyce, but found sometimes the spices got too strong that way. It takes me 2 minutes to measure and dump spices into pie filling so it really didn’t save me that much fussing around and I always get the spices right by adding them later after opening a jar of pumpkin. — Jackie

Canning cheese

When you can your cheddar cheese, how do you get it out of the jar? Cut in half, spoon it out or what?

Kaye Winn

I put the jar into a saucepan full of boiling water for a few minutes. Then I open the jar and run a thin knife around the outside of the cheese and dump the jar upside down on a plate or cutting board. It usually slides right out, like Jello does. — Jackie

Can the French Chevre cheese you made be preserved somehow?

Wanda Devers

Well, I would think so as cream cheese can be successfully canned. But we all ate it on crackers on Easter. Then my son, Bill, asked for some hot pepper rings and tried them on the cheese on his cracker. Oh YES! So we started eating it that way. I’ve got about a pound of plain cheese left in the fridge and it keeps for at least a week, covered in the fridge. I’m going to use it in a cheesecake and I’m sure we’ll finish up the rest with hot pepper rings on crackers for snacks. What a wonderful find! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We had a busy but blessed Easter

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015

I made plans to do all my cleaning/baking/pre-cooking on the Saturday before Easter but you know how plans go… We had company all day Saturday! Company that we really enjoyed. But boy, did that ever set me behind for Easter. But I got up early Sunday and got ‘er kind of done — enough anyway. Our guests were: my sister Sue from near Duluth, Javid from Orr, David, and Bill and his family from Kerrick. We had an all-homegrown feast of baked ham, garlic-whipped mashed potatoes (with sour cream and cream cheese, of course), carrots, green beans, rolls, etc. I even had some sweetened French soft cheese set out that we enjoyed with hot pepper rings and crackers. So nobody left the table hungry.

Easter was complicated as David had to arrive early so he and I could drive to Orr to pick up Javid. Since Javid he is disabled, he needs to be lifted from his wheelchair to the car and back out again at home. (Will’s back is better but not painless yet.) Then David had to work so I had to fix his dinner first so he could eat and run. The rest popped in about noon and I re-heated dinner for them. Hey, it all worked out great. We all took a walk down to the barn to show everyone how nicely the new barn is coming and to visit the cows and horses. Javid enjoyed visiting with Ladyhawk, our Friesian mare. She absolutely loved him and bent over to lip his jacket and face. And of course granddaughter, Ava, had a great visit with the cows, horses, and her favorite, Spencer. Our grandson, Mason, brought the radio-controlled helicopter we’d given him for Christmas and he amazed us all by flying it around inside the house. Wow — Our own drone!

Now it’s back at it again. I’m going to take the meat off the ham bone and add navy beans and can up a big batch of baked beans. Then the bone will be added to more beans for another batch of bean soup. Love those quick, meals in a jar! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We have a spell of warmer weather

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

I just made a big batch of soft French Chevre cheese from some outdated milk I was given by a local store (instead of them pouring it down the drain). It was simple to make and I finished it up in minutes, adding a bit of powdered sugar to some of it to make an awesome lightly-sweetened veggie and cracker dip. Wow, is that good! All it took was three drops of liquid rennet diluted in 1/3 cup of cool water, then 2 Tbsp. of that, 1/2 cup of buttermilk, and 2 gallons of milk brought up to 80 degrees and held at a warm temp overnight. I poured the curds into a cloth-lined colander to drain. How easy is that?

Meanwhile back on the farm, our friends’ teenage son James came over to clean out our goat barn for us. Will and I drove the tractor to the door, then James forked the manure out into the bucket. I carried a few loads to a squash isolation patch, then another load to another patch. Will carried loads out to our orchard, dropping one by each fruit tree to later scatter around them for fertilizer and mulch. (The chickens think it’s just wonderful and they’re already fighting over choice piles.)


You should see Hondo in the mornings. Will starts to get dressed for outside chores and he goes nuts. He gets in Will’s face and barks at him to hurry. If he doesn’t (or moves too slow) Hondo grabs his arms, his pants, or shirt sleeve and pulls on him like Lassie trying to get Timmy to follow her. Hondo REALLY likes being a homestead dog!

Happy Easter to you all! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Busy, busy, busy

Thursday, March 26th, 2015

Now that we’re feeling better, I’ve been zooming around playing catch-up. I’ve got 132 tomato seeds started (I only have another 132 to go! After all, we’re trialing more than 50 new varieties this year. That’s in addition to the 18 varieties we like and are growing again. All are open pollinated so we’ll be offering seeds again next year ( see box above). And since our “business” is growing greatly, we’ll need a whole lot more seeds next year for folks to choose from. So far we haven’t run out of a single variety, but are getting a bit low on a couple of the favorites.

The days are getting warmer and I’m busy canning meat as we’ll be emptying our freezer on the back porch. When it’s warm, that “energy star” rated freezer sucks our battery bank dry very quickly, so we need to empty it before too long. Right now it’s pretty full of beef, pork, and chicken.

Yesterday I canned up a big batch of taco meat and some pepperoni. Today I’ve got hamburger thawing and also a big boneless pork loin. I’m going to make chili with some of the burger as we’re getting low on that. I’ll use some of my quarts of home-canned tomato sauce and tomatoes in the chili. I can up tons of tomato products when we’re in a tomato flood in the fall. Then I mix it up with things like chili, baked beans, soups, etc. when I have the time. Yum. — Jackie



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