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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: weeds and ramps

Wednesday, April 27th, 2016


I know you mostly handle questions about growing, canning, and eating plants, but I need to know how to get rid of them for more than a few weeks. I have a gravel drive about 250 feet long that has big grass patches that look better than my lawn. I have tried everything to get rid of them. Vinegar, salt, combination of the two, pulling. Nothing seems to work. Any ideas?

New Deal, Texas

Unsightly weeds and grass can sure look ugly where they’re not wanted. And using strong chemicals such as Roundup are to be avoided if at all possible due to the effects it can have on your soil, leaching into adjoining soil and water. Vinegar would work IF it were strong enough. Unfortunately, table vinegar is not acidic enough to kill stubborn grass and if you put enough salt on it to kill it, the adjoining soil would be damaged and your drive would have ugly patches of bare ground along it.

There are several natural compounds that do work, however. One I’ve used with good results is BurnOut. I bought mine through ARBICO Organics. One thing I’ve found is that once you’ve used any natural treatment, you have to keep watch on the area for regrowth. When it starts, immediately treat again. A few thorough treatments and your problem is gone for good. — Jackie


I have an abundance of ramps this spring. I found recipes for pickling them, but it is only for refrigeration. Can I pickle and water bath them to preserve some? What about freezing? Love your articles and knowledge!

Lynette Czehut
Chesterland, Ohio

Ramps (wild leeks) are a wonderful wild food many folks collect each spring. Yes, you can pickle them. Simply bring your pickling brine up to boiling, add the ramps (bulb only), and bring back to just boiling. Place ramps in hot jars leaving ½” of headspace. Ladle on boiling brine, leaving ½” of headspace. Water bath for 10 minutes.

Ramps also freeze well but only freeze the bulbs with the roots snipped off. They also dehydrate very well by just snipping off the leaves and roots, then slicing the white bulb in narrow rings. Dry until they feel like paper and store in an airtight container.

Be sure to leave many ramp plants in the area you harvest as you don’t want to cause them to go extinct from over-harvesting. Luckily, ramps are, well … kind of rampant and often form large beds. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: sick chicken and jars not sealing

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

Sick chicken

One of our old Rhode Island Reds isn’t able to get on her feet since yesterday. She never even made it in the coop last night. She ate some mealworms and had a couple sips of water this morning but can’t seem to stand on her legs. She was old when someone gave her to us 5 years ago. She hardly laid an egg even then but she was a sweet garden buddy. We don’t want her to suffer. If this is something she won’t recover from, how do we humanely dispatch her? Remember, we are vegetarians, not used to “dispatching”.

Draza Knezevich
Miramonte, California

You might try giving her oral tetracycline in water. While she’s probably on her way out naturally, this may help her recover at least for awhile longer. She may have picked up a bacterial infection which is harder on old birds. You can get tetracycline powder at your local feed store. Unfortunately, it’s meant for big flocks and it’s hard to figure out just how much to mix up for one chicken. We use one heaping teaspoonful in a quart of water. Mix well and give to her in an eyedropper several times a day. Keep her where it’s warm and dry meanwhile. Hopefully she’ll either recover or pass on so you’ll be spared having to dispatch her. — Jackie

Jars not sealing

I put up 9 pints of peas/carrots/potatoes and had 7 seal quickly. About 2 hrs. later one of the jars pinged closed. The 9th jar did not seal. My question concerns the unsealed jars of foods. I have read that the jars should be left undisturbed for 24 hrs. If at the end of that time is the jar that remains unsealed safe to eat? I have in the past put them in the refrigerator or freezer. I have concerns that food, especially something like chili, would pose health issues after being on the counter that long. What are the safe guidelines you follow for this?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

I only let my jars stand until cool to the touch. If they’re not sealed by then, they won’t seal. At that time, you can put any which are unsealed in the fridge or go ahead and re-can them. With an unsealed jar left at room temperature, you usually wouldn’t have health concerns as the food was processed for the correct time. However, at room temperature, it would later go bad as you would guess. As with all canned foods, it’s safest to bring the food to boiling temperature (whether in a casserole, boiled, or fried) for 10-15 minutes before eating. — 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: feeding chickens, canner rack, and canning milk

Friday, March 25th, 2016

Feeding chickens

Now that winter’s about over and I’ve muddled through it with chickens I have several questions. These chickens are free range but much less is available in the winter. (They also said there was no way they were coming out of the coop with that funny white stuff on the ground!) We give them our food scraps but we don’t leave many. What would be a basic grain mix to feed in the winter? What can I substitute for the lack of bugs? What about chopped organ meats usually discarded at slaughter time? Are there things I can grow for them besides corn? I believe you keep your flock in the orchard. Do you bush hog it to keep the growth down? Whew, enough questions. The hens are laying like mad now that the weather is warmer. I hope you have a great spring and all your seeds germinate.

Carol Bandy
Hightown, Virginia

Thanks Carol. Our seeds are popping up like mad and the chickens are cranking out plenty of eggs. I’m even selling some in town, which pays for their feed.

A basic mix is cracked corn, wheat, and soybean meal. We feed a locally mixed 18% poultry ration fed free choice. But to keep the girls happy and cut costs I also feed a whole lot of home-grown feeds in the winter such as pumpkins and squash, and veggie scraps such as potato peels, carrot scraps, etc. Yes, you can feed raw, chopped organ or other meat to the chickens. Just make sure it stays fresh. We keep our chickens in our orchard where they scratch and eat bugs and any fallen fruit. There is clover and grass between the trees and they never keep it down. So I run our riding lawnmower over the orchard any time it gets out of control. The cut grass and clover helps feed the plants and fruit trees as well as the tractor bucket load of rotted manure we spread around each tree in the spring. By fall it’s gone! It just sinks into the ground and is scattered about by the chickens. You can grow extra garden crops such as pumpkins, squash, or sunflowers or grow a chicken garden with millet, which they love. Many homesteaders have two chicken runs and till and plant one in the spring, putting in millet, turnips, and greens. At about 8 weeks, the planted run is a jungle and they turn their birds in that and plant the old run. By early fall, the second planting is ready and the birds love cleaning it up before snowfall. Lots of options with chickens! — Jackie

Canner rack

This is not a question, but a suggestion. Jackie had a question about a new rack for a water bath canner. I find them at yard sales and antique shops for $5.00 all the time. If I needed more than two I would buy them, but I see no need for 5,6, etc. so I haven’t purchased any more. Saw one in Rome, Ga Sunday for $5.00 . I love Jackie, she is my mentor and hero.

Ruth Ledford
Lafayette, Georgia

Very good idea Ruth! I don’t do many yard sales so this slipped my mind. Thank you for sharing! — Jackie

Canning milk

Last fall, I canned 1%, 2%, and whole milk, following the directions exactly. All of the milk has separated, looking like curds & whey. My question: Is it usable? Are the curds like a cheese? I hate to throw it out but it looks disgusting.

Alice Clapper
New Castle, Pennsylvania

Yes, that’s kind of normal. As I’ve always said, canned milk is not for drinking! But if it smells okay (if it smells spoiled then something went wrong), just whip it up and use in baking or cooking as normal. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

It’s time to go through our storage bins in the root cellar

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

It’s early spring and I’m going through our onions and potatoes, checking for soft veggies. Luckily, I’ve only found a dozen onions softening up. The Dakota Pearl potatoes are just barely getting sprouts and are still as hard as rocks. So far, we’ve had hard, juicy potatoes all the way till fall when we dig our new crop. Now THAT’S a storage potato. We simply love them.


I’m going to start dehydrating onions soon. They are pretty much all hard and fine — no sprouts. But I know they will not last too much longer and dehydrated onions and onion powder are SO handy in the kitchen. We’ve got four big crates of onions left so I’ll get to dehydrate a lot of them. I’m happy about that!

Will continues to work on the barn as the sun’s out today although it’s a little cold. He has also been reading up on operating the John Deere corn planter he rebuilt. He has an owner’s manual that assumes you know how to use a corn planter — it’s very vague in places!

I’m planting tomatoes this afternoon as soon as I get done running seed orders to the post office. We pride ourselves in getting them in the mail the next day after receiving the order, except weekends as we have no post office open on Saturday.

We recently found out that one of our battery chargers in the basement was not working. (We wondered why our batteries would go dead enough to trip the inverter overnight after a sunny, windy day and running the generator for a couple of hours!) Now we know. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

I had a doctor’s appointment this morning and he gave me his blessing to put off the surgery until later this spring so I can be sure to attend the Self Reliance Expo in Irving, Texas this May. Hooray! Now I can help Will get all our spring planting done before surgery. And before fall harvest/canning season rolls around. Whew. He said according to the colonoscopy the pockets were numerous in one area but not in danger of rupturing — a big relief. Now I can concentrate on good things! Thank you all for prayers. See, they do work.

Will has started working on our new barn again, putting up ¼-inch plywood (we got it for free) on the gable ends of the barn to ensure absolutely no drafts will be coming through the board and batten siding once it’s up. Since we have a lot of insulation board left, we’ll be insulating behind the plywood both on the bottom and gable ends of the barn as well. It should be a nice comfy barn when it’s done.


We weaned our calves yesterday so we didn’t get much sleep last night with them and their moms mooing all night. But the calves are six months old and need to be weaned — even if they don’t like it much.


I’m getting ready to plant tomatoes this week. We put them out extra early in Wall ‘O Waters and it’s time to plant. Happy, happy, happy. We’re so excited for all the new varieties we’ll be planting this year. I counted more than 23 pole beans so far. Some are from Russia, some from China, and some good Native American beans, just to mention a few. And a dozen varieties of corn, fifteen different squash and pumpkins, thirty new tomatoes. Talk about fun! Thank you to everyone who sent us some of their family heirloom seeds. Be assured we’ll plant ’em all and are so thankful to have received them. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: wire rack for canner, rabbit lung issues, and green growth in pond

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Wire rack for canner

I have one of the 9 quart Water Bath Canners. Have you any idea where I can buy a new rack for it. Mine is pretty rusty and all the new racks I have come across are for the smaller 7 quart Models.

I have been re-reading your Ask Jackie Archives and am in 2012, I have enjoyed them just as much the 2nd time. Do you have plans for more Ask Jackie Books? I have all the others :) Take care, Hope your surgery goes well. Do you plan on future articles for raised bed in semi shaded areas?

Lois Lara
Boring, Oregon

I’ve noticed the same thing. What I did when my rack rusted out was buy a heavy wire grill top in the gardening section of Lowes. Mine cost less than $5. While you can’t lift the jars in and out with it, I quit doing that years ago because of a bad shoulder. Instead, I use a jar lifter and place each one individually. It’s easier and safer that way, anyhow!

I’m glad you’re enjoying the archives. Right now I don’t have plans for more Ask Jackie books but do have something else in the works. (Am not allowed to talk about it, so don’t ask.) The girls in the office would kill me dead! I’ll toss your idea around regarding the semi-shaded raised beds and see what I can come up with. — Jackie

Rabbit lung issues

I am raising a few meat rabbits for my family (not for sale, personal consumption only) and had an issue occur with the last litter that was slaughtered in January. I am hoping that you are able to help me figure out what happened. A litter of seven mixed breed rabbits, 4 months of age, was slaughtered. Three of the seven had abnormal lungs. The lungs looked as if cottage cheese was on them (this is the best way I know to describe how the lungs looked but others have disagreed with my description.) All other organs appeared normal. There were no other signs of ill health — no sneezing, runny noses, watery eyes, etc.

This litter was a little crowded in the couple of weeks before slaughter and due to freezing temperatures there was waste build up though very minimal. The kits received free-choice water, grass hay, and Purina Gro pellets along with some manna pellets, dried sunflower leaves and stalks as well as some clover hay as a treat about once per week. They also had pine cones and pine needles to chew. Straw had also been provided in the cage due to the recent freezing temps. The rabbits were housed in wire caging, J-feeder, water bottle, hay rack on outside of cage. The rabbitry is well-ventilated but no breeze on the rabbits themselves. This is a small urban rabbitry located on a main road.

No adult rabbits, including the parents, had shown any sign of illness. Previous litters in this rabbitry, from different parents than this litter, were all normal. The mother to this litter was an unproven mixed breed. The sire/buck, a Giant Chinchilla, was brought into this rabbitry several months prior to breeding, was said to be proven by the previous owner, and had no signs of illness.

What could be the cause of the abnormal lungs (Ddx)? Is the meat and other organs safe to eat (lungs were disposed of)? Treatment or prevention options? Should the doe and buck both be culled or may they both be used for breeding (to each other and/or to others)? Is there a way to determine which rabbit, the buck or the doe, is the carrier of the disease? Is it zoonotic to people/rabbits/other animals? If the doe and buck should be culled, are they safe to eat?

Postscript: Several weeks after the litter was processed the buck presented with milky discharge from the left eye. The eye was cleaned with diluted Eyebright and several hours later the right eye also showed milky discharge. The buck was seen by a veterinarian who diagnosed a possible nasolacrimal duct obstruction due to the molar teeth roots blocking them. Antibiotics and head radiographs were declined (vet said unless the teeth were removed, the problem would recur). The vet felt the buck could still be used for breeding if the kits were culled. If the rabbitry was to be expanded through this line, she recommended breeding the molar issue out. I discussed the lung issue with the veterinarian and she recommended to send the lung tissue off for histopathology if the issue occurs again.


My best guess would be that your rabbits were about to come down with pneumonia, possibly due to them being kind of crowded during that spell of cold weather. They are very susceptible to ammonia build-up when lack of ventilation is a problem. No, I don’t think your doe and buck should be culled although if it were my buck with the tooth issue, assuming it IS a tooth issue, not a slight eye infection, I’d cull him and get another buck as somewhere down the line you’ll want to keep some of his does or perhaps a buck that is very nice. You don’t want this issue to be in your line. Pneumonia in rabbits is not contagious to humans but can be transmitted to other rabbits so improve your ventilation and keep an eye on the rest of your herd. If the rabbits were not acting sick, I would not be afraid to eat them provided the meat was thoroughly cooked. (You eat much worse from the store; trust me!) — Jackie

Green growth in pond

I am sorry to hear you must have surgery. Never a fun time. I hope it is uneventful and takes care of the problem.

We have a small ¼-acre pond that is only six feet deep and this year I noticed there is all kinds of green growth in spots on the water surface and also growing under water. We do not have fish in the pond. It was dug out three years ago and the man who dug it hit coal so perhaps the chemical balance will not permit fish. We stocked it once but all the fish died. Anyway, my question is how do we eliminate the green growth in the water. We use the pond as a swimming hole and I worry about chemicals.

Deb Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

Drs. Foster and Smith have a pond catalog ( with many helpful supplies to help clarify water and get rid of extra plant life. Bales of barley straw often will clear up an algae problem by just sinking a couple in the pond; totally natural. Another source for pond supplies is Pond Solutions ( You may just have temporary algae bloom on your pond which will lessen in a few weeks. Sometimes if you deepen a pond to seven or eight feet, it will discourage plant growth, if that would be an option. We’re going to do that with our spring basin as it is getting too much plant life. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: cracked jars, stocking a pond, and animals on the homestead

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

Cracked jars

You’ve created a new canning monster! But in the last two canning sessions, four jars have cracked in the pressure canner. What am I doing wrong? This is the first mishap since I started canning about four years ago.

Denise Santos
Plymouth, New Hampshire

Sorry to hear the “canning monster” is having trouble. Cracking is almost always from a hot-touching-cold issue. These can be hot jars being placed in a cool canner, cool jars being placed in a hot canner, sometimes even a lukewarm jar being put into a cold canner. I always gently warm up my canner with water in the bottom before adding any jars that are either hot or even warm. When just warm I don’t pre-heat it as much, trying to kind of match temperatures of the jars with the canner. I haven’t had a jar break in years, doing it that way. Another thing that can cause cracking is tightening the rings too tightly. You are putting the bottom rack in the canner with the 2 inches of water, right? — Jackie

Stocking a pond

We have a pond in the back of our property that is about 7 feet deep with a dam the beavers built. We would like to stock it with fish. The size is approx. ¾ acre. Can you recommend the types of fish and amounts we should purchase to stock it? We are in southern Ohio with Zone 6 temperatures.

Deborah Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

Wow, lucky you! I’d contact your local Department of Natural Resources as sometimes there are regulations regarding stocking, even on your own property. And they can direct you to cheaper sources of fingerlings for sale. Generally, there is a mixture of species recommended such as sunfish, largemouth bass, catfish, etc. The predator fish (bass) keep down the numbers of sunfish so they don’t over-produce and end up too small. Catfish are bottom feeders and help keep the pond clean. All are fun to catch and great on the table too. — Jackie

Animals on the homestead

My questions have to do with all your animals. How many of what species do you have? How are they all housed during your winter? Further, this may sound stupid, but how many animals are just enough or too much for a homesteading couple to handle? Finally, good luck to you during your upcoming surgery and recuperation. I will worry about you knowing you are likely to try to do too much, too soon.

Bonnie West
Norfork, Arkansas

Let’s see, we now have 13 cattle, (including last fall’s calves), nine goats, two horses, a mule, two donkeys, about 70 chickens, and seven turkeys. Right now, we have a small run-in shed for some of the cattle and a larger barn for them when a cold snap comes up. The small bottle calves are housed in a pen in our old goat shed, up by the house for the winter right now and the goats also have pens in it too. In the summer they go out to pasture, the goats in the goat pasture and calves in one of our cattle pastures. The horses have a 3-sided run-in shelter. The chickens and turkeys share a chicken coop. Hopefully, next winter we’ll have our new barn ready for animals.

As for how many is right for a homesteading couple, it depends on a lot: their experience, who does what chores, their strength and health, facilities, feed availability, and cost as well as your dreams. I always advise folks to go very slow when stocking their homestead, gaining experience and not getting overwhelmed both work-wise and financially. I advise starting with smaller livestock, such as chickens and goats and working up if that is your end plan. It goes much easier that way than getting a whole lot of animals at first and not having facilities and experience to do it the easy way. (There’s always a way to make your work load easier and you usually learn that by experience!) Don’t worry about me; I really do know my limits and follow the doctor’s orders … mostly. I want to heal quickly and that doesn’t happen by tearing around too soon. — Jackie



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