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 ‘Food Preservation’ Category
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
My oldest son, Bill, shot a nice seven-point buck the first weekend of season this year. And he called to ask if he could come and spend some “quality time” with me and, of course, cut up the meat. He learned to can with a pressure canner last year and came to our seminar this summer. His mother-in-law had bought a used canner at a yard sale and had never used it. It is a Presto, 1970′s vintage with weights and no gauge. So I showed him how to use it. Simple, huh Bill? We canned up all of the stew meat in short order. He cut steaks from the best parts and we tossed all of the other meat into a grind bowl as he wanted to try sausage this year. We had fun and made short work of that buck.
I’d never made sausage with a sausage stuffer and Bill brought up seasonings and casing. As Will had bought me an electric meat grinder with sausage stuffing attachments, I learned along with Bill. And guess what? We made great summer sausage! I fried up a patty with the leftover meat in the grinder’s auger and it was real tasty. I’m sure we’ll both be making more sausage in the future. — Jackie
Saturday, November 23rd, 2013
Canning in a small space
I am now living in a fifth wheel and want to continue canning, both water bath and pressure, do you have any suggestions on how to keep the moisture from building up in my trailer from the steam?
Usually running the vent fan will do the trick. You’ll have more steam when water bathing than pressure canning so be sure to use a lid on your water bath canner. (It’ll come to a boil faster, too!) Additional tips may include opening a nearby window and using a small fan to exhaust the steam through it while the jars are in the canner. Do be sure to close the window and shut off the fan while jars are being taken out of the canner and while they are cooling to avoid jar breakage. — Jackie
Sometimes, I’m not sure how many jars I will be able to fill so I go ahead and put a few extra lids into the pot to heat on the stove. If I do not use all of them, are they safe to heat again and use during another canning session?
Simpsonville, South Carolina
You bet they are; I do it all the time. Just be sure the lids don’t boil dry, then wipe them off after your canning is done and put them away for next time so they don’t rust. — Jackie
Friday, November 22nd, 2013
Canning little smokie sausages
Can I can little smokie sausages? If so how?
Yes you can. I would pack them in half-pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace with no water or broth. Then process them at 10 pounds pressure for 75 minutes. I’d do a small batch at first to see if you like the result. Some sausages swell during canning, especially hot dogs, leaving them not-so-appetizing-looking. I don’t think your little smokies will, however. — Jackie
Canning taco soup
I have a recipe for Taco Soup that uses already canned beans. I use browned turkey and add 5 different types canned beans and spices. I would like to can this. Could I just brown meat, mix with canned beans and instead of cooking together for four hours as recipe calls for, just mix it together and can pints for 75 min at 10 lb pressure?
Huntington, West Virginia
Yes, but I’d take the step to mix the ingredients, then bring to a boil before packing the jars to ensure that the soup/beans are heated thoroughly before putting in to can. (Always remember that if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet you must consult your canning book for instructions in increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.) — Jackie
Thursday, November 21st, 2013
My daughter works in a restaurant that prepares rotisserie chicken every day. She asked them to save the bones for her, and brought a bunch home last night. We are going to make broth and pressure can it. My question for you is: how long can I keep the bones in the fridge before I have to deal with them? I won’t have time to do all that for three more days. Could I freeze the bones until I have time to prepare and can the broth? There is a fair amount of meat on them. Also, is there a formula for ratio of bones to water?
I would recommend freezing the bones to ensure great flavor in the broth. Holding them in the fridge would probably work if they were used within three or four days, but freezing would be safer. There is no formula for a ratio of bones to water. Just use your common sense. For more flavor, simmer the bones for at least an hour, adding salt, pepper, or other spices to taste. — Jackie
Last spring I had our garden soil tested and there was too much salt in both gardens. The only way that I can fertilize the soil is horse manure, which is the worst for salt. I can’t seem to find cow manure. That is all being used. First of all how do I get the salt out of my soil, and then how do I re-do the soil for nutrients? We are not sure if we want goats, etc.
In most cases of salt in soils in the west is a result of a flat garden having poor drainage. This allows the salt to sit in one spot until the moisture evaporates, leaving the salt behind. The best way to combat this is to grade your garden so the moisture (rain, watering) drains off reasonably quick. You can slowly do this by working in your rotted manure chiefly on one end or side of the garden, in effect, creating your own slope without using equipment to grade your ground. One thought; are you watering your garden from your house and do you have a water softener? This can quickly add salt to your soil you wouldn’t have otherwise. A quick fix is to plumb in an outside faucet between your well/city water line and the water softener so your outdoor water does not pass through the salts in the water softener. — Jackie
Tuesday, November 19th, 2013
We decided to sell five of our black Angus cross heifers that we bottle raised as Will and I hate to butcher good heifers. So I advertised them on Craigslist and a lady called and we worked out a deal.
Sunday, Will and I loaded Shy Girl (she hopped right in the trailer!) and we hauled her 95 miles to a farm near Swatara, Minnesota. What a surprise when I got out of the truck to discover that the couple are Backwoods Home subscribers! We had a real nice visit with Cindy and Darryl and got a tour of their pretty homestead.
Will had been real busy for two solid days, working frantically to get the sheet metal on the barn roof before real winter hit and he was ready for the break. Before hauling the cow, he had all of one side done and two thirds of the other. Hopefully there’ll be nice weather tomorrow so he can get the last five big sheets on then do the smaller pieces along the bottom and the trim.
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing to can up all sorts of cabbage; the last batch was pickled cabbage and carrots. (Maybe I won’t plant SO much cabbage next year!)
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
There’s so much fall work to do that Will is feeling like nothing is getting done on the barn. The sheet metal is all here but the weather first was terribly rainy and windy, then VERY cold with five inches of snow. But finally we’ve caught a break. Yesterday it turned milder with sunshine and Will got up and knocked off as much of the snow and ice as he could from the rafters. And now it’s in the low forties with sunshine! So today, he’s down screwing on the flashing in preparation to putting up more (or hopefully all) of the sheet metal so the new barn will be under cover. Yes, he’s being careful but he doesn’t have to climb on the metal roof, only on the ladder and the ladder-like dry purlins.
Meanwhile, I’m watering stock and trying to get the house a bit cleaner and get more onions dehydrated. (I dehydrate my onions by cutting slices then dehydrating them. When dry I put them in my blender and whiz them into coarse powder. It works great in a ton of recipes.) When you have a three-month-old puppy, it seems like you spend the day cleaning up after him and saying “Hondo! No!” But he’s pretty much potty trained and is learning to mind (usually!). And grow? Wow, how he’s taking off — all legs and body. He’s going to be a big boy. We were told he was Australian Cattle Dog, but on closer look, he looks more Australian Shepherd as he has a fuzzy coat and floppy ears and a more “collie” look to him. Who knows? But we sure do like him a lot. Especially when he’s sleeping! — Jackie
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Canning chicken in half-pints
In your segment on canning chicken in Self Reliance you mention that you have canned half pint jars of chicken. I would like to do that, but you never mention how long to can. Also, you seldom give an estimate of how many pints or quarts of canned product your recipes make.
You can put up nearly anything in half-pints. I find that they are very handy and that way you don’t have leftovers to deal with or that may possibly spoil in the back of the refrigerator. I hate waste! You process half-pints for the same time and same pressure as you do pints. The reason I don’t give estimates of how many jars of end product you will end up with is because there are such huge variables such as how big is that chicken? Three pounds … or ten. How big are those carrots, how much juice is in that peach, etc. I just eyeball the food to be canned and ready a larger number of jars than I think I’ll be needing. If I don’t need them, fine; they’re back on the shelf. And if I do, they’re all ready to fill. — Jackie
Rubber gaskets on canners, fat for soap, and saving carrot seeds
Is there anything that can be done to keep canner rubbers lasting longer? Years ago I know they were made out of real rubber. The new rubbers just do not last for me. They seem to shrink and do not make a good seal. In the past I have tried putting on vegetable oil or Vaseline. That helped the old rubbers from sticking on.
Can all the fat on a pig be put into soap? I wanted to save my leaf lard for cooking and I wanted to put the fat on the back into soap? Do you have anything for recipes for making soap with goat’s milk, pig fat of some kind and/or tallow and lye?
I saved carrot seeds 5 years ago and I have planted them for the last 4 years. There was Queen Ann’s lace growing in the field near by. The first year I had a few off white carrots, the next year I had more. This year most of the carrots are off white, crooked, and very tough. The rabbits love them. Out of 30-40 carrots there may be one orange one. Have you ever heard of this? This was the same seed being planted all 4 years.
The best way to keep canner seals in good shape is right after you can up a bunch of food, remove the seal and wash it in hot soapy water, rinse, and air dry it. Then put it back on the washed, dry canner. Be sparing of oiling or putting petroleum jelly on seals unless needed; that can cause them to crack prematurely.
Yes, any pig fat can be used to make soap. Here’s a recipe by Mary Jane Toth from Goats Produce Too! (available in the BHM bookstore) that I have used with success:
Distilled water, 3 cups
Milk, 2 cups
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) 1¼ cups (12 oz.)
Lard, 10 cups
Coconut oil, 2 cups
Fragrance oil 4 oz.
Note: If you want a plain soap you can leave the fragrance oil out of the milk soap recipe.
1. Have prepared molds ready before you begin.
2. Place the water into a large stainless bowl or pot. Carefully stir the lye into the water. Be careful, it will get very hot. Hold your face away from bowl and do not breathe the fumes. If you can do this part outside it would be best. If doing inside your house make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area. Keep white vinegar on hand in case you splash any on your skin. Vinegar will deactivate lye.
3. Allow the water/lye mixture to cool to 85 degrees. This can take an hour or more. When the mixture is cool add the cold milk, stir. It will heat up a little again, but not as hot. Let cool again to 80 degrees. While its cooling, prepare the fat and oil.
4. Warm the lard and coconut oil together to 90 degrees. Be careful if doing on a stove; it can heat up very quickly. Placing the pot into a sink of hot water can help you maintain the right temperature until used. You can add cool or hot water as needed
5. When the lye mixture is 80 degrees and the fats are 90 degrees you will mix them together.
6. Slowly pour the warm fat/oil mixture into the lye mixture, stirring all the while. It is important to pour the fat in a small steady stream while stirring constantly.
7. Stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of honey. This can take 25-45 minutes. Add the fragrance, slowly stirring in until mixed thoroughly just before pouring into the mold/molds.
8. Pour the soap mixture into prepared molds, cover with a layer of plastic wrap. Then lay some newspapers and a blanket on top to hold in the heat. The soap will get warm and harden. It is important for the soap to hold the heat for a while. After 24-48 hours the soap can be removed from the mold.
9. Remove the soap from the molds, cut into bars and lay the bars or stack them in such a way that air can circulate around them. Place them in an out-of-the-way place to age for 4-6 weeks. Turn them a couple of times during the aging process so that they dry evenly.
10. After 4-6 weeks the soap is ready to use and can be packed into storage containers.
As for your wild carrot seed, my best guess is that your nearby Queen Anne’s Lace crossed with your carrots, as they often will. Then, as the carrot seed got older, it became less viable where your seed with a higher percentage of Queen Anne’s Lace remained good. Thus, as time went on, more and more Queen Anne’s Lace characteristics became more prominent. — Jackie
Wednesday, November 13th, 2013
Chili sauce too hot
I have just made some fermented chili sauce that I would like to can. I made it too hot and I am wondering if you have any suggestions for making it a little bit milder before I can it.
You can take the “too salty” out of a soup with a chunk of raw potato, take grease out by letting it cool, but as far as I know there’s no way to take the “hot” out of a too-hot chili sauce. Any readers out there with any ideas for Deborah? — Jackie
I had an amazing bounty of cabbage this year which I have made into kraut. I can’t believe how juicy it is! My question is in regards to the juice/brine. After canning up close to fifty quarts I have a lot of brine left in my 12 gallon crock. What can I do with this? I love to braise pork in sauerkraut juice. Am I able to can this leftover brine to use for that purpose? Any other tips?
Congratulations on your cabbage crop. Ours was terrific, too. Yes, you can put up your leftover brine provided that is clean and scum free. Just can it in a boiling water bath canner by first heating to 185-210 degrees (don’t boil), then pour into hot jars and process for either 15 minutes for pints or 20 minutes for quarts. Then you’ll have plenty to braise your pork. — Jackie
I have tried multiple biscuit recipes. They generally turn out moist and tasty, but crumble. Any pointer on what I am doing wrong?
First, use cold butter or shortening. I prefer to use buttermilk instead of milk for the liquid as they seem less crumbly. When you knead your dough, knead it briefly; over-kneading makes crumbly biscuits. And finally, you want an almost sticky dough; add just enough flour while kneading so it doesn’t stick to your fingers, not so it gets drier like bread dough. If these don’t do it, try adding 1 tsp yeast to your room temperature liquid, along with the baking powder called for. This makes a roll/biscuit hybrid that tastes like a biscuit but holds together real well. Here’s hoping for plenty of hot biscuits on your table that don’t crumble away. — Jackie