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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning pineapple juice and storing eggs

Friday, February 5th, 2016

Canning pineapple juice

Is it possible to can pineapple juice?


Sure thing! (Although we don’t have any pineapples growing in our Northern Minnesota orchard.)

Just heat the pineapple juice to 165° F, then ladle into hot jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Process pints for 15 minutes and quarts for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. — Jackie

Storing eggs

I read on line that you can store fresh eggs in salt to keep them for extended storage time. Checking your site I found someone that suggested storing them in dry oatmeal. Is the idea just to keep them out of oxygen? If so, could I push them into clean sand (free in Florida!), flour, or rice?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Eggs will store a whole lot longer than most folks realize. The key is to get FRESH eggs. Store-bought eggs are usually a month or more old before they hit the store shelves. And store-bought eggs have been washed. This is fine, but eggs have a natural coating which protects them. Plain clean, unwashed, homegrown eggs will stay fresh in a cool location (fridge, cool basement, etc.) for months with no extra care or preparation. I kept eggs from the first of December until the middle of May each year when we lived real remote in the mountains of Montana, just sitting them on a lower shelf in my pantry where it stayed about 40 degrees all winter. I have used mineral oil rubbed on as well as waterglass. Honestly, these methods were just not worth the trouble. Keeping eggs in sand, salt, etc. might help prevent oxygen from entering them but I haven’t really seen that it increases the storage-ability enough to make the bother worth it. You can give it a try and see how it works for you. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: steam canning and drying cornmeal

Saturday, January 30th, 2016

Steam canning

Have you heard the latest news from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP)? Last September, they announced that a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, in collaboration with the NCHFP, did a study on steam canners and found that they’re perfectly safe to use. You can read about it here:

I bought a dual-purpose canner last year; a Victorio water bath/steam canner. I knew there was a study being done on steam canning, but didn’t know when it was going to be done. I figured I could use the water bath method until I found out that steam canning was deemed safe. But I couldn’t help myself! I had to try the steam canning. Oh boy, that is so much easier, faster, and simpler than water bath canning! I highly recommend it to anyone canning high acid food! And I’m so glad to hear that the NCHFP finally did a study and says it’s safe!

Julie Daelhousen
Jamestown, New York

Yes, I did hear that. I know steam canners use much less water, but I can’t imagine “faster” or “simpler.” How about an explanation to help us better understand? — Jackie

Drying cornmeal

We have grown and ground our own cornmeal for years, but we have always kept it in the freezer. Can you dry can the cornmeal? Or is vacuum sealing in a canning jar sufficient? The variety we grow is called Thompson prolific. It was developed by my great great uncle in the 1920’s and was once widely grown across the South.

Clay Gresham
Rockwood, Tennessee

Vacuum sealing the cornmeal will certainly improve its storage ability but what we do is only grind enough for about a month. After that time, you risk the whole germ, which contains oil, getting rancid, just like whole wheat flour or brown rice. I just store the whole corn kernels in an airtight container and take out a few cups at a time to grind. Unground, the corn will stay good for decades with no special treatment. — 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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning broth, cloudy broth, canning potatoes, and canning nopales

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

Canning broth

When canning with chicken or beef stock would I consider this meat and use the higher canning time required?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

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

Cloudy broth

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?

Liz Wheeler
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

Canning potatoes

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?

Walter Brown
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

Canning nopales

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.

Amelia Dials
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 jalapeño
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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: pickled beets, enchilada sauce, and rabbits

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

Pickled beets

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?

Maida Marksheffel
Ketchikan, Alaska

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

Enchilada sauce

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.

Merrie Knightly
LaGrange, Maine

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.

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

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

Jackie Clay

Hondo is a sitter!

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016

I suppose I started it all by letting Hondo sit on my lap when he was a puppy. I did that with Spencer too. The trouble is that when I “explained” to Spencer that I still loved him but he was too big to sit on my lap, he understood. Not Hondo! He sits on everyone; Spencer, me, our visiting Lab, Buddy, and Will. Last night it was -12 when Will came in from chores. He sat down to warm up before he took off his chore clothes. Hondo was feeling needy and probably his feet were cold. So he popped right up and sat on Will’s shoulder. I couldn’t resist a picture!


Like all of you, I’ve been paging through all my seed catalogs like mad. Sure, I’ve decided on some new open pollinated and heirloom varieties to try this year. But I’ve also noticed that a whole lot of plants and seeds are now Plant Variety Protection and trademarked! Not just a few as in the past but a whole lot — pages of them! What this means is that you can buy the seeds or plants, but without “permission” (and paying a fee), you can’t propagate, distribute, or sell the seeds/plants you have grown. For decades, I’ve grown and given away billions of seeds. Now we have our little seed business so we can afford to help keep dozens of open pollinated and heirloom varieties alive and well. But now companies and commercial plant breeders are now “protecting” varieties, creating a monopoly on them. We’re tickled to have folks grow our varieties. And if they want to share them or even sell the seeds, great! (But then, we aren’t trying to get rich on our “own” special varieties!)

I’ve been pulling seeds out of our squash and pumpkins daily now. Most of the pumpkins are done; they don’t last much past the first of the year. Luckily, our squash are better storage candidates. We’ve eaten a lot of two year old Hopi Pale Grey squash that were still awesome. They’re still our very favorite squash. When I open one, we eat part for a meal, then I either can up the rest or make pumpkin pies. We quit growing acorn squash because it is basically bland and doesn’t store well at all. This year we grew both Canada Crookneck and Waltham Butternut as well as a new-to-us squash, Geraumon Martinique. This spotted dark green squash is wonderful! We’ve had raves from friends who we shared with and we’ve sure eaten our share. Very sweet and a wonderful aroma!


Our goats are also squash addicts. When they see me coming with an armful, they start yelling so much I’m afraid the neighbors two miles away will call the Humane Society on us! They eat everything: the guts, seeds (immature ones), meat, and skin. With their orange mouths, they bleat for more. And it’s good for them too.

Our weather’s turned real cold. Last night it was -22 with a high yesterday of -6. I’ll sure be glad when the next few days have passed and it warms up to the 20s. Above zero! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Waste not, want not

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: emergency escape vehicle, canning hamburger, cold hardy apricot tree

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

Emergency planning escape vehicle

Great ideas in Issue #157, January/February 2016 Emergency planning beyond the bug-out bag. Got me wondering what would make the best “escape” vehicle. I am thinking a diesel. Gasoline would start to deteriorate in a year. Storing a large amount would be dangerous. You could store a large amount of diesel and be good to go. Newer diesel trucks use electronic fuel injection and if there was an EMP you would be dead on the road. Older Dodge Rams had mechanical fuel injection that did not need electronics from the truck. Prices on these trucks are somewhat reasonable although a lot of people are realizing the worth of these engines. High mileage shouldn’t be a problem if they were well serviced. Do have any thoughts on alternative escape vehicles?

Duncan Murrow
Valdese, North Carolina

Good points for using an older Diesel vehicle, but I feel that depending on where you are planning on going with your vehicle, about any vehicle that has a large fuel tank and gets reasonable mileage will do the trick. Having an older vehicle without the electronic controls would also be a factor, should an EMP happen. I think keeping the vehicle trustworthy, the fuel tank full, and a few cans of fuel around is the most important factor: preparedness, again. With gas, just use the “stored” gas within a month and keep rotating it through the vehicle or other gasoline equipment so that the “stored” gas is always fresh. That’s much better than using additives. We like a pickup for an escape vehicle as you can also use it to pull a trailer of decent size where a car cannot. Also, our pickups are four-wheel-drive so will get us in to real wild places. Of course, it depends a lot on just where you are planning to bug out to: Uncle Jack’s farm or your remote fishing camp in the wilderness. — Jackie

Canning hamburger

I found a “recipe” for canning hamburger logs by rolling the meat into a solid log shape to fit into a canning jar. Leave 1″ head space & pressure can. Later you may slice this into hamburger patties. This seems to be one of those “too thick to be safe” ideas. Sure sounds easy! Your advice?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Well, in “the olden days” I used to just pack hamburger into wide mouth jars and can. But the resultant product looked like … well … dog food. Yuck! This is why I first brown my ground meat before packing it into jars, whether crumbled or made into patties. The patties done this way don’t taste like hamburgers … more like meatloaf. I put them on a cookie sheet, pour barbecue sauce on top and heat in the oven for 20 minutes at 300 degrees. I’m thinking the log thing would be too dense for safety and would also come out like my dog food canned hamburger from the past. I’d skip it. — Jackie

Cold hardy apricot tree

This year the last apricot tree died. Every year in spring it warms up, the trees bud then it freezes so I don’t get any apricots. I looked at the St Lawrence nursery but right now they’re just selling apple trees. Can you recommend a cold hard apricot tree that buds later? I had Moongold and Sungold but they just don’t like the cold.

Franci Osborne
Ignacio, Colorado

I’d wait until the new guy at St. Lawrence gets going. I’m hoping they’ll soon be back in full swing. Meanwhile, Fedco Trees has Debbie’s Gold, Westcot, and Brookcot, all from Manchurian Apricot breeding. They do bloom later and are Zone 3 hardy, having smaller apricots. But if you’re like us, ANY apricot that tastes good is a WIN! — Jackie



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