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Ask Jackie headline

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post. Please note that Jackie does not respond to questions posted as Comments. Click Below to ask Jackie a question.

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Jackie Clay answers questions for BHM Subscribers & Customers
on any aspect of low-tech, self-reliant living.

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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning soup, pecans, and potatoes

Friday, September 12th, 2014

Canning soup

I have a recipe for a “diet soup” that comes with instructions for varying it up with Asian, Mexican flavors, etc. It occurred to me that I see no reason it can’t be pressure canned. Is it safe for canning? Do you think the zucchini and spinach would get mushy during the canning process? Is this one of those things I could just divide the ingredients up between jars, and let the canning process cook it?

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

I’m sure your soup can be safely pressure canned. As I don’t have the ingredients, I can’t give specifics, but in general you must can at 10 pounds pressure using the time required for the ingredient requiring the longest time of all ingredients. No, the zucchini and spinach won’t get overly mushy but DO steam the spinach a bit to wilt it down in bulk before canning and heat the ingredients thoroughly before putting in the jar. — Jackie

Canning pecans

Have you ever tried to can pecans with Tattler lids? I have tried numerous times but I cannot get them to seal even though I am doing everything by the book. Do you have any suggestions? I still have some of last years pecans in the shell that have not turned. I know that they will soon and due to a terrible spring I am not getting any off of my tree this year, so I need to save all that I can.

Staci Henderson
Murfreesboro, Arkansas

Yes, I have. I’ve done both walnuts and pecans and haven’t had trouble with them sealing. Are you following Tattler instructions? They are different than Kerr or Ball instructions in that you will be barely “fingertip” tightening the rings when you put them into the canner and then immediately tightening the rings after taking them out. Remember, it’s 10 minutes at 5 pounds pressure. If you can’t get jars to seal, I’d call Tattler. They’re great at helping folks walk through using their lids. (If you just can’t get them to work, use regular lids for your pecans.) — Jackie

Canning potatoes

I canned some potatoes and then gave them a hot water bath. I then realized that I was supposed to pressure can them. Two weeks has passed. Can I still pressure can them?

Amy Mergen
Sartell, Minnesota

I’m real sorry but those potatoes are toast. There’s no way they’d be safe to re-can after two weeks. Remember to always pressure can ALL vegetables and meats. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: source for jars and how to store Hopi Pale Grey squash

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Source for jars

My husband has been subscribing to your magazine for several years now, but I have only recently begun reading all of your wonderful articles. Now we fight over it when the mail arrives! I have just recently ordered your new canning book and recipe book and can hardly wait for it to arrive. Thanks so much for sharing all the fantastic things you do.

Now to my question…I am starting to can again after nearly 30 years of not doing it, so I am starting all over again to buy jars and lids. It’s astonishing to me, after all this time, at how expensive the jars and lids have become. I was wondering if you had a good online source for buying them at good or wholesale prices, even if it is in a large quantity. We live 25 miles from the nearest good sized town, and when I do occasionally get by a yard sale or thrift shop, I never seem to see anything like this.

James & Catharine Lawhon
Polk City, Florida

I’m glad to have you aboard and tickled that you’re again back to canning. No, I don’t have a source online for cheaper canning jars. The shipping really bites you there! Things that have worked for me in the past are putting a small ad in various places: your grocery, laundromat, feed store, local free shopper, etc. Telling everyone you’re looking for jars and shopping for sales on jars locally. We’re 30 miles from a larger town and I know what you mean. But I often find jars and canning supplies on sale there if I needed to stock up. And NO shipping cost! — Jackie

How to store Hopi Pale Grey squash

How do you store Hopi Pale Grey squash? What are the normal environmental variables for where/how you store them? Normal temps, amount of light, humidity etc.

J. Fowler
Austin, Texas

I’ve found that Hopi Pale Greys store best out of direct sunlight, with lower humidity and temps between 55 degrees and 70 degrees, or “normal” household conditions. Do NOT store them in a cool, damp basement or they’ll rot quicker. I’ve stored them on the floor of our living room, under our bed, and in the closet; they aren’t a bit fussy! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Yep, I’m still alive and kickin’

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

I am back at home after my gallbladder surgery last Thursday. Luckily it was the minimally invasive type and I only had three “holes” in my tummy. The pain wasn’t too bad but I couldn’t hack the pain meds as they made me sick to my stomach. No good! So I quit them after two doses. My only restrictions are to not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for a month and “take it easy.” Hey, I’m trying!

But the garden is out there laughing at me. Everything is coming in heavily. Luckily, Will is helping me pick tomatoes and turn the Victorio tomato strainer. Boy, do we ever have a wonderful variety in the garden this year. Besides our favorites, like the Bill Bean tomatoes, we have some new “favorites” like Indigo Blue Beauty, which is kind of dark blue/purple on top and a brilliant orange below. Besides being gorgeous, it’s open pollinated so we can save seeds and is HUGELY productive with medium large tomatoes with wonderful flavor. And then there’s Indigo Kumquat, unfortunately a hybrid, but it is also gorgeous in salads and has great tomato flavor.

We have a few truly free-range chickens (escapees). Will’s favorite breed, Black Sex Links lay abundantly but are also escape artists. One hen (we call her Peg) got a feed sack string wrapped tightly around her leg and by the time we noticed, it had cut the circulation off in her lower leg. We caught her and cut the string off but she lost the lower portion of her leg. Being soft hearted, we did not butcher her. Fortunately, she healed up fine and is so handy on that leg that you hardly notice that she’s missing her foot. After she had healed, I put her into the chicken coop where I thought she’d have an easier time. Wrong! The other chickens nearly pecked her to death in one morning! So out of the coop she went. Well, she healed from that and is now a permanent free-range girl. And she free ranges right into the garden if we leave the gate open, helping herself to our tomatoes. Oh well, we sure have plenty!

We checked our Howden pumpkins in the pig pasture and I’ll bet we have a truckload! And they are HUGE. I couldn’t reach around some and they aren’t even orange yet. They sure like the manure!

The weather radio is calling for low temperatures Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights with a possibility of frost/freezing. Eeek! I hope not. Pray for a bit of warmth for us, okay? — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Our weather feels like fall now

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

And I have a beaver report. The beavers in our pond say we’ll have a pretty “normal” winter with plenty of cold and snow, although not as bad as last winter. We’ll see how the “little guys” forecast turns out this year.

As the leaves are turning and the night time temps are getting to feel sharp and cool, it’s putting pressure on us to harvest like crazy. I’m still making jelly from the wild plums, with another batch in the Mehu Liisa tonight.


Tomorrow at 6:45 we have to be at the hospital and by the time you read this blog I will be gallbladder-less. Finally! I hope…

Will and I went down to his corn and pumpkin patch in the old pig pasture. We have ripe Seneca Sunrise sweet corn (the corn Will has bred back from hybrid to open pollinated). It looks great and I can’t wait to give it a taste. We also checked out the Howden pumpkins we planted down there and found dozens of BIG, round green pumpkins! Wow, how productive they are! We raised them for seed for our little seed business but we’ll have lots for the animals and chickens, too.

Our Hopi Pale Grey squash are also very productive (like that’s a surprise!) and getting big. Next to them, we planted Winter Luxury pumpkins, a medium-sized beautifully-netted pie pumpkin (C. pepo), and Canadian Crookneck which looks like a long-necked butternut that’s early, large, and very tasty (C. moschata).

The Glass Gem popcorn is still growing. It’s like Jackie and the beanstalk! Most stalks have at least four ears, many five and six. And the tillers that have stooled out from the mother plant also often have ears. The funny thing is that on the mother plant, newer ears are popping out between the stalk and the older ear! No, it’s not GMO corn!


Our Early Firefall tomatoes that are of our own breeding are now producing like mad. They are a medium-sized plum tomato that I use for tomato sauce — very meaty and flavorful. They also have a point on the blossom end and are pretty, hanging in groups. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fertilizing fruit trees, canning peach juice, growing Bill Bean tomatoes, and using Aronia berries

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Fertilizing fruit trees

 We moved to a new homestead in Alabama this January. It is in Zone 8. I’ve planted peach, plum, apple, and pear trees. All are doing well and are 4-6 feet tall. I water them every other day and wonder if they need to be fertilized before winter. The ground here is sandy but I planted them in $1000 holes with a lot of composted hay/horse manure. I don’t know how to label the horse manure; what number to give it. Thanks for your pictures and advice, I look forward to your emails and articles.

Alecia Lee
Salem, Alabama

No, don’t fertilize this fall. You’ve already given those trees a good start. Just keep ‘em watered and they’ll be fine. In the spring, mulch well with rotted manure right out to the drip line or more. That will fertilize them, keep the grass/weeds down, and help hold moisture in the soil around the roots. Be sure to wrap your tree trunks with screen or hardware cloth to prevent voles or rabbits from eating the tender bark of the trunk. — Jackie

Canning peach juice

Have you ever canned peach juice? If so, could you pass on the recipe/guidelines?
Lynda King
Bolton, Massachusetts

Not lately, as we don’t have enough peaches available; they are $37 a lug here! But back when I was a newer homesteader in Michigan, I did. And it’s easier today as we have steam juicers, such as my Mehu Liisa. With a steam juicer, just cut the peaches in quarters, removing the pit. Then fill the fruit container and add water to the lower unit. Turn on the heat and extract the juice. If you don’t have or can’t borrow a juicer, pit the peaches and dice them. Put in a large pot with minimal water and mash them with a potato masher. Heat under medium heat, stirring frequently so they don’t stick and scorch. When the fruit is very soft, dump into a jelly bag and let drip until finished.

To can the juice, place in a kettle and slowly heat, adding sugar or other sweetener if desired to taste (optional). Ladle out into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (pints) or 25 minutes (quarts). — Jackie

Growing Bill Bean tomatoes

Do you think that Bill Bean tomato will grow in south Carolina? A very impressive tomato!

Sam Stevens
Aiken, South Carolina

Heck yes! And they taste SO good, too! — Jackie

Using Aronia berries

Regular reader of your blog and always look forward to it. Would like to know if you have any suggestions for using Aronia Berries other than juice and jelly. Have an overabundance of them this year and hate to see them go to waste.

Craig Lough
Hawks, Michigan

Our motto here is “Waste Not, Want Not.” So here are a few suggestions for using your berries. Can them up in half pints using the same directions as for blueberries. Then you can use them in recipes calling for blueberries or any other fruit, such as muffins, quick breads, pancakes, etc. Or dry them as they re-hydrate nicely and you can save room by dehydrating and storing many in a very small container. Just lay them out on a dehydrator tray and dehydrate until small and hard. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment, early Fall weather, and freezing eggplant

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

Keeping a refrigerator working in a cold environment

I heard that they don’t make a refrigerator/freezer that can be used in a cabin that is allowed to get cooler than 55 degrees. We have been turning our thermostat down to 50 degrees when we leave so it might get that cool for a week or more. Sometimes the freezer section gets above freezing when we do that — the fridge part stays at 35 degrees okay, but it doesn’t run long enough to get the freezer cold (I guess this is a common problem). All kinds of people keep fridges in garages and on back porches — I don’t think most people know how to operate a fridge/freezer properly or safely. Most of the information I have found on the Internet on this subject has been very lame. What to do?

Gordon Hoffman
Lewiston, Idaho

You might try an older refrigerator. I know several people who have older fridges in their unheated garages/lightly heated cabins that work, both fridge and freezer. I’ve been told that modern refrigerators’ manufacturers figure that NO modern people would use a fridge in a lightly heated home; they are built for “normal” living conditions. — Jackie

Early Fall weather

I wanted to share with you how well the Bill Bean tomatoes have done this year. We actually got a 3 pound tomato too! We couldn’t believe it! It is a very meaty tomato, and has a great flavor. Have you ever heard of or grown an Italian heirloom (I believe) called Purple Plum? They are a smallish pear shaped tomato with a smoky flavor. If you are interested in trying them, I’ll be happy to send you some seeds. I am also wondering if you have noticed anything unusual with the weather this year. I live in So Indiana, and I feel we are having an early fall this year. And I mean REALLY early. A few of us noticed about 3 weeks ago, lots of leaves on the trees just turning yellow, or completely brown, and then falling off. Other trees are starting to change color. And even though I got a late start in my garden this spring, everything is coming to the end of its life cycle and begging to be harvested. It’s so weird. I’ve never seen such an early fall. All the leaves on my winter squash plants have completely withered away, and the same is happening with the Hopi squash. Should I harvest them now? We are still having 90 degree days here. I will say that it has been a mild summer for us, with a cooler spell mid summer for a couple weeks. But weatherwise, we didn’t seem to experience any stressors. It’s just got me perplexed. I thought you might have some insight.
Lisa Graves
Georgetown, Indiana

No, I haven’t grown Purple Plum tomatoes and would LOVE some seeds to give a try next year. I’m tickled that your Bill Beans are doing so well! I’m harvesting some right now. MMMMmmmmm! Yeah, this year is “different” alright! I know first we got 17 inches of rain, then heat and drought. The rivers are as low as I can remember right now and our leaves are falling, too. Are your Hopi Pale Grey squash bluish gray yet? If not, I think I’d leave them a bit and see if they get enough nutrients through the remaining vines to go ahead and mature. If not, harvest before it frosts hard. They’ll keep over a year even if immature and they still taste good although not as good as if they had matured. I think our weather is just in one of those weird cycles. — Jackie

Freezing eggplant

Is there any way to save/freeze/dry eggplant until the tomatoes are ripe to use in marinara? The tomatoes are just starting to ripen. Not sure how many will actually get to ripen before frost since I am seeing scattered gold on the locust and cottonwoods. A few willows look like they are changing too.

Thank you for all the info on canning & drying squash. I canned 30 quarts on Sunday and Tuesday last week in addition to giving away a lot. I am now resorting to drying. I did try drying broccoli for the first time and green beans. Really a huge space saver. Drying jalapenos, bell pepper and Fresno chilis now as well as 2 racks of squash. Obviously, I have been on “vacation!” I have several quarts of potatoes canned. Can they be sliced and dried or would it be better to wait on fresh potatoes although I am not even seeing blossoms yet. I have gotten finished canning my 1/4 beef and will be getting another 1/4.

Julia Crow
Gardnerville, Nevada

Yes, you can freeze your eggplant. Just pick and quickly bring inside, peel and slice about 1/2 inch thick. Blanch for about 4 minutes, then plunge into ice water to quickly cool. Drain very well, pack into freezer containers to exclude as much air as possible, then freeze.

We’re getting leaf color changes too and the birch are losing their leaves. It SO feels like FALL! It sounds like you’re plenty busy now. So are we! Wow, so much food — how great that is.

I’d wait and dehydrate fresh potatoes as your canned potatoes are already “put up.” Sometimes potatoes don’t bloom at all. We’ve had that happen in the past and still harvested great potatoes. You can peek under a hill with your fingers to see what’s going on. Will did that and pulled out a big fat potato.

Oh yes, beef! We’re thinking of that too, having four steers ready to go this fall. We’ll keep a half and sell the other three and a half sides/quarters. The steers look so nice and fat on good pasture. I can hardly wait! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

The harvest continues; this time it’s wild plums

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

This time of year, we’re constantly busy harvesting and putting up not only the garden produce but our wild crops as well. Luckily we have many on our homestead and this year we’ve been happy to see that our wild plum crop is outstanding. As wild plums bloom quite early, we only get a good crop about one year out of three. This year the trees are loaded! And finally, most are ripe. Once they are ripe, they easily fall off the tree and the critters such as wolves, fox, and bears, not to mention squirrels, gobble them up. (We can’t take Spencer on our wild fruit expeditions as he also loves fruit!)

We used both a ladder and the back of our pickup to stand higher to pick. Then we gently shook the trees to free any high-up fruit. Thud, thud, thud, it rained plums! We picked those up off of the ground. How good they smell — sort of like plum mixed with vanilla. Mmmm.

Will crawled through our fence to harvest some inside the pasture. But as crawling is very hard on my poor sore knees, I told Will I’d walk down to a spot where the lower wire had been broken to cross the fence there. I knew there was a seasonal drainage to cross but it’s been pretty dry so I figured it’d be easy to cross. Yeah, right… There were still water puddles in it so I tried to step across on the high spots. Bad idea. I sunk to my knees and my left shoe pulled off in the clay; then I was stuck! Will came to help, giving me something solid to pull against. I ended up losing my right shoe too! But I got out. Yuck was I a mess! Will dug out my shoes by hand and I got back through the fence to the drive in my stocking feet encased in clay mud. But we ended the day with three big pails of plums.

I juiced the first batch last night in the Mehu Liisa steam juicer and got a gallon and a quart of beautiful juice. Today I’ll do another batch and make jelly from some of the juice. The rest I’ll can up to make jelly when things aren’t so hectic. Will is saving some pits to plant for our own baby trees.

Just a reminder guys: when you ask questions try to use the email link provided at the top of the blog not the comments section. It’s too easy for your questions to get lost in the comments and not get answered. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Ball canning lids, pruning apple trees with fire blight, wine yeast, and canning butter

Monday, September 1st, 2014

Ball canning lids

I was reading on the internet where Ball has changed their procedures on their new canning lids. It seems that you no longer simmer the lids. To do so, now often causes a poor seal as the rubber thins out. Have you heard this?

Lorraine Rezentes
Floyd, Iowa

Ball says that their new sealing compound “performs equally well at room temperature as it does pre-heated in simmering water (180 degrees Fahrenheit). Simply wash lids in hot, soapy water, dry, and set aside until needed.” I haven’t heard anything about heating them causing the sealant to thin and cause poor seals. Nor does Ball mention it. — Jackie

Pruning apple trees with fire blight

Thoroughly enjoy your blog postings with Q & A. Please remind the person pruning apple trees with fire blight to disinfect any/all tools that they use for pruning. We had to do this after each section of a tree. Also, the pruner’s hands, gloves, clothes should be washed and disinfected.


Very good idea, Arleen! Failing to do this may result in spreading the disease. — Jackie

Wine yeast

Is there a way to dehydrate and preserve wine yeast (actually cider yeast) from one year to the next? Each year I buy dry commercial wine yeast for that year’s apple crop, but I’d rather not be dependent on it. During fermentation (using the commercial yeast) I have a large population of the perfect yeast cells; Is there a way to take a sample of them and dry and store them so I can use them next year? Relying on “wild” yeast to do the job is risky and unpredictable.

Jonathan Goodson
Beverly Hills, California

I’m sorry, Jonathan, but we don’t use alcohol and I don’t make wine. Are there any homestead winemakers out there who can answer his question? — Jackie

Canning butter

I recently read in your book “Ask Jackie Pressure Canning” about canning butter. I canned some Amish salted butter in a water bath for 40 minutes and the finished product came out grainy and separated. It was also really soft almost to the point of runny. Any ideas why this happened or how the problem can be corrected. The canned butter also had little to no taste.

Wynn Speck
Sun City, Arizona

When you can butter, you should heat it enough to drive off most of the residual buttermilk in the butter (the liquid), which is watery and will cook away when you slowly heat the butter past melting. Unless kept in a cool location it will not be hard just like butter must be kept cool or it will melt at warm household temperatures. The separation occurs when you don’t heat the butter enough (be careful or it will burn!). Also, as the jars cool after processing, if you gently shake them it will redistribute the leftover buttermilk so it is less apt to separate. I process my butter in a water bath canner for 60 minutes. The grainy texture is like any butter that has melted and re-solidified; it can’t be helped. But canned butter usually tastes great but perhaps the salt in the butter transferred to the buttermilk and the butter had very little salt. Try mixing a bit of salt with the butter to see if it improves the flavor. — Jackie



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