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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: fresh eggs floating, saving bean and pea seeds, and beaver forecast

Wednesday, July 29th, 2015

Fresh eggs floating

I’d like to know your opinion on this or any insight you might have. A person who buys eggs from us complained that some of them floated when she immersed them in water. I apologized and looked this up on the internet and found various sites that suggested such eggs are no longer viable for eating because they’re spoiled and should be thrown away. Since that time, I’ve been floating our eggs in deep water, and even some of the freshest eggs (less than a week old and kept in the fridge) ‘float’–they don’t lie totally horizontally on the sink bottom but rather pivot on their tip in the water. Some of the eggs less than three weeks old float above the bottom a little, others a bit more. I’m puzzled by this situation. In the summer I gather the eggs two or three times a day, and they immediately go into the fridge. They couldn’t get any fresher.

In summary, even some of the freshest eggs float a little bit, or quite a bit in some cases. I thought farm-fresh eggs were supposed to be viable for many weeks if kept in the fridge.

We wash our eggs about once a week and put them back in the fridge for keeping. I wonder if washing the protective coating off the eggs allows more air to enter through the shell, causing them to float. This shouldn’t render them spoiled, should it? We’ve always eaten even the floating ones, as I know they’re good, having only been in the fridge for less than a month or six weeks at the very longest. We’ve never been sickened by those eggs, and neither have any of our friends. I just can’t imagine that fresh eggs kept in the fridge no more than six weeks maximum, but which float, are not fit to eat.

Do you have any insight into this? How can home-produced eggs float after a week or two or three, when store bought ones apparently don’t?

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

The “floating egg” method of telling good from bad eggs is kind of misleading. Eggs that pop right up to the top are usually bad. But even eggs right out of the chicken will float to an upright position often as there is a space of air in the eggs which allows room for the embryo of the developing chick to grow and fit into the shell. Obviously, that air space will cause the egg to float a bit. Some float a bit more as all air spaces are not exactly the same and all eggs are not the same size, either.
We don’t wash any eggs at all except the dirty ones. Washing once is fine but I wouldn’t re-wash them as washing does remove the protective coating from the eggs. Store eggs are often sold as “fresh” and are a month or more old. I, personally, have used our own eggs that were over three months old and only kept in a cool (45 degree) pantry due to lack of refrigerator room and being isolated on a mountain over winter.

Few people check to see if store bought “fresh” eggs float; they just assume store bought anything is just great. Not me. — Jackie

Saving bean and pea seeds

I have been trying to save seeds from peas and green beans. By the time the pods are dry, they pop open and the seeds spill out. Can I pull the beans and/or peas off the plant and let dry or even dehydrate them? Along with that, I planted Blue Lake Bush, Phaseolus vulgaris. The seeds that I planted were white. The seeds in the dry pods are red. Will they grow true to what I planted?

Ankeny, Iowa

To harvest bean and pea seeds, wait just until the pods are tan and feel pretty dry then either pick the pods or pull the entire vines gently. You can lay the pods/vines on a tarp or child’s wading pool to finish drying in a protected location such as a garage or porch floor. When the pods are very dry, you can then pop the contents out into a bowl or pail. If you have a lot, just walk on the vines on the tarp with very clean shoes to thresh out the seeds. Then gently shake and lift the vines off, once the seeds have all come free. Winnow the seeds, pouring from one bowl to another, on a breezy day. The wind will blow off the chaff leaving clean seeds.

Blue Lake bush beans do have white seeds; it’s possible yours got crossed somewhere in the process. No, they won’t come true to what you’ve planted. But who knows? Maybe you’ve just created your own yummy hybrid! If you want true Blue Lakes, you’ll have to buy new seeds. Beans generally are self-pollinating and you can keep pure seeds by separating the varieties by about 50 feet or so. Garden beans are all pretty much Phaseolus vulgaris and will happily cross if planted together, including wax and pole beans. — Jackie

Beaver forecast

I know it’s very early but I was wondering if the beavers are giving you an indication of this year’s winter snow pack? It’s been dreadfully hot and dry here in Montana, and I can’t help but think ahead to the coolness of fall and winter’s months. Is it too early to give a slight prediction of what the winter of 2015-16 might hold for us?

Elizabeth Seymour
Whitefish, Montana

It’s too early yet. Ask again in early September and I’ll keep you posted. Right now they’re just happily doing summer beaver things: raising families, swimming about, and patching their dams. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Canning has started

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Sure, all year I can up food. But in the summer, we really get down to business! Our first crop of hot peppers is in, along with a few sweet peppers, too. Yesterday I picked just the largest of Will’s favorites, Hungarian Hot Bananas and boy are there ever a LOT of them out there in the hoop house! I put up 10 pints, about half in half-pints, the rest in pints. And in a week, I can do three times that much.
We tried a new pepper this year, Oda. And boy do I like it. It’s a beautiful lavender purple that just glows. It’s a sweet pepper but I mixed in the few that were ripe with the hot peppers to add pretty colors to the pepper rings. They’ll absorb some heat from the hot peppers but they’re mostly just for color. We’ll definitely grow more next year as they’re VERY productive!
Our wonderful apprentice, Krystal, really hurt her finger badly when haying with Will last Wednesday. They were adjusting the bale chute on the square baler when the end of the tipped-up chute fell down. We all don’t know exactly what happened, but she got the end of her finger in the opening of the hinge and tore it up pretty badly — bone broken and hanging. We were pretty shaken up, I’ll tell you! We sped to the local hospital, then down to Duluth to St. Luke’s and the orthopedic surgeon. Good news is that with some repair and a pin, she’ll be as good as new when she heals. Thank you God!

She’s a real trooper and today she is out raking hay while Will bales. I told her that if she gets tired or hurts, to let me know and I’ll finish raking the field.

We’ve got lots of tomatoes set on the vines now and are just waiting to taste the first ripe ones. The corn is getting silks now and looks so good … as does the whole garden, actually. We’re really happy with it. Can’t wait to start canning in earnest! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: picking green beans and feeding bad food to chickens

Tuesday, July 21st, 2015

Picking green beans

When picking beans, do you pick them with the stem attached or with the stem removed? I know when cleaning them I take them off. I just don’t want to hurt my plants.

Brandy Gunderson

I hold my bean plants with one hand and pull the beans with the other. The stem usually breaks off, being attached to the bean. Then when I cut the beans, I trim off both the stem and blossom end for eating or canning. By holding the tender bean plants, you reduce the damage you’ll do to the plants otherwise. In this way you can harvest many times from those same plants. — Jackie

Feeding bad food to chickens

Recently I was given a box of dented cans. Some are quite good but some are bulged which I know are not good people food. But, is it safe to feed to the chickens?

Gail Erman
Palisade, Colorado

If they are bulging that indicates spoilage. As you don’t know what bacteria are involved, I wouldn’t feed the contents to anything; bury it so nothing gets into it, just to be safe. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: storing cheese and growing apricots

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Storing cheese

Does coating cheese with red wax allow for it to be stored in a pantry? I purchased some red waxed cheese from the grocery store — would this be shelf safe?

Judith Almand
Lithia, Florida

Probably not. If you have a very cool pantry (45-50 degrees), it would probably store pretty well. If not I’d refrigerate or freeze it unless you want to can it for longer storage. — Jackie

Growing apricots

It’s too late for this season but I need some advice about my apricots. I had a good crop but the fruit is ugly with black blotches on each one. They are also small compared to what is in the grocery stores. I didn’t get any spraying done this year and we’ve had lots of rain. Any ideas how I might be able to prevent these blotches and improve the size of my fruit?

Adell Struble
Aledo, Illinois

My best guess is that your apricots got attacked by the insect pest, plum curculio.The plum curculio is a small beetle with a mottled camo-colored back and a long, curving snout. The adult feeds on blossoms and developing fruit. It bites a half-circle shaped wound in the developing fruit of not only plums but also apricots, apples, and peaches, then lays eggs in the wound. The egg hatches out into a tiny grub which goes on to burrow into the center of the fruit to eat and grow. All this creates blackish blotches in the fruit which stunts its growth and usually causes the young fruit to drop off of the tree. Here the cycle begins again. This is why it’s important that all dropped fruit is raked up and burned — it will significantly reduce the number of beetles next year. Organic gardeners have had good luck treating their trees with a natural kaolin clay product called Surround.

Surround provides substantial control of plum curculio on apples. Surround forms a thin clay barrier around the fruit that repels adults and prevents them from depositing eggs in the fruit. Begin spraying Surround on the trees at petal fall and continue applications until one week before harvest. The heavy, consistent coating of Surround provides the highest level of control.

Good luck with your apricots. You can get rid of these pests! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Seed Treasures and processing stored garlic

Thursday, July 9th, 2015

Seed Treasures

Just visited Loved the site. Will your seeds also do well in my just south of Atlanta gardens?

Burt Crews
Hampton, Georgia

Most of them will do very well in your garden. So far, we’ve sold to nearly every state and have had glowing reports coming in from all over. Glad you liked our website. We love to help gardeners succeed! — Jackie

Processing stored garlic

I had a bunch of garlic given to me still on the stalks. I put it in a glass with the bulbs up and some of it has been there for about a year. What do I do to preserve it or is it too late?

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I’d peel couple of cloves. If they are still soft enough to pierce with your fingernail, they should be okay to dehydrate or plant this fall. If not, see if they are normal looking even if hard; they may have dehydrated on the stalk. If they are shriveled or shrunken, you’ll have to give ’em a toss. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

So far, perfect summer

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

I can’t believe how nice our summer has been so far and boy is the garden happy! Will is just finishing mulching the whole main garden, all 150×150 feet plus a side L of Hopi Pale Grey squash. That’ll be it for the weeding. I just have to finish thinning about 10 feet of carrot rows and then he’ll be mulching that. Wow, does it look good and the plants are so happy.

All of my honeyberry jam set and we were thrilled with how good it tasted. (Of course I had to pour some out in a cup for us to sample.) Yum — a new favorite!

Yesterday all three of us went out to the big “pumpkin/corn patch” on the new 40 and weeded seriously. Krystal drove the tractor with the tiller to till up a spot we couldn’t get to because it was way too wet before, as well as the sides of the pumpkin and squash rows. Will and I took turns with the Troybilt and we all took turns with the Mantis, getting between plants and spots the big Horse missed.

Will and Krystal have been setting in fence posts around the patch so we can get it fenced. The deer have munched here and there, but so far no serious damage. It does help that the patch is surrounded by knee high clover and oats on the north side!

I hilled a long row of potatoes out there. They don’t look as nice as the small patch in the garden but they’ve not been in as long and do look healthy and happy (with a few deer munches out of them).

While we were working, three deer came out of the woods and started grazing on the clover by the edge of the oat field. They didn’t seem too worried about us and we enjoyed watching them. Luckily, Hondo didn’t try to chase them off. He’s getting much better about that. We’re happy he doesn’t even LOOK at the baby chicks. Of course, mama hens have encouraged good behavior by fluffing up and chasing him with murder in their eyes!

Yesterday was HOT and after working, Will, Krystal, and I put on swimsuits and headed for Lake Leander, five miles away. That cool water sure felt good after we were brave enough to get in all the way. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: overpressure plug on canner and lime water

Thursday, July 2nd, 2015

Overpressure plug on canner

How often should you realistically replace the overpressure plug on an All American canner? The manual suggests replacing it at least every 12 months. My canner is 3-4 years old and I’ve never replaced it. The rubber still seems to be in great shape. What do you do?
DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

Personally, I feel that if the plug rubber is soft and doesn’t leak excessive steam, it’s fine. Today with everyone so sue-happy, manufacturers have to cover their butts. I’ve never replaced mine after eleven years of use. If it wears out or becomes brittle, replace it. The worst that could happen is that the plug blows out and may ruin a batch of canning. It’s not like the canner would blow up. — Jackie

Lime water

I grow my own dent corn, and have been making corn flour for years, but I have never been able to find the ratio of wood ashes to water to make lime water. I would like to be able to make corn chips etc. from scratch. Have you had any experience with this process? I live in Massachusetts and burn mostly oak or maple for heat, would the type of wood ashes matter? Nobody in this area has any idea what I’m talking about when I ask about soaking corn or even slaked lime. Do you have any advice?

South Hadley, Massachusetts

You don’t use wood ashes to make lime water. Soaked wood ashes make lye, which also can be used to make hominy which is then dried to make masa harina from which such things as tortillas and tamales can be made. I prefer using lime water; it’s less dangerous and quick to find and use. Here’s how:

You need 2 lbs of field corn (removed from cob) and two tablespoons slaked lime (pickling lime). Clean the shelled corn by placing in a colander and rising with cold water.

Add two quarts of water into a four-quart non-corrosive pan (stainless steel, or enameled pot). Put the pan on high heat and stir in the slaked lime until it dissolves.

Bring the slaked lime water to a boil and add the corn stirring gently. Using a slotted spoon remove any kernels that float to the top. When the water is boiling, reduce the heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and let the corn soak for about one hour.

Put the corn into a colander and rinse very well with cold water. Rub the corn between your hands to loosen any hulls still attached to the kernels. Continue this until the corn is all white (except the little tips). Allow the corn to drain.

The corn is now ready for your favorite pozole or hominy recipe. Or you can dry the hominy well, then grind it to make masa harina. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: free-ranging pigs, canned pinto beans, and sunless strawberries

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Free-ranging pigs

I remember you telling about a pig that spent the winter free and that it did very well. I wonder what kind of pigs you raise and do you think I could raise them without grain?

Sandie Heatherington
Siberia, Indiana

Well, Sandie, you remembered my story a bit wrong. There were two weaned pigs and they did escape and spend the summer and fall roaming 160 acres of fields and woods, eating all sorts of wild foods from roots and grasses to acorns in the fall. And they were very nice when we finally found and captured them. But they did not winter out “wild.” In Minnesota, they would never have wintered as food would have been nearly impossible for them to find. You can certainly let pigs roam free in a very large acreage to feed without grain as the old-timers did. But you can’t just fence a pig into an acre or two and expect him to do well with no grain; there’s just not enough food for him to choose and pick from. — Jackie

Canned pinto beans

I canned some pinto beans last fall and was going to use a jar and a few beans had some grayish spots on them. Almost like mold but the seal is perfect. Are they bad?

Carolyn Allee
Raymond, Washington

If your beans were processed correctly and the seal is still good, open a jar. If they smell okay, they will be fine to eat. As always, heat the beans to boiling temperature for 10-15 minutes before using. — Jackie

Sunless Strawberries

My son-in-law is in the Air Force, stationed in Japan. My granddaughters really want to grow strawberries, but they live in a high-rise apartment, and they get no direct sunlight, not even on their little balcony. Is there a way we can make their dreams come true? Is there a type of strawberry that will grow well under a grow light? Do you have any ideas on something else they might enjoy growing and eating?
Lisa G.
Cottondale, Florida

Any vegetables and, of course, strawberries, can certainly be grown under grow lights or even four-foot regular shop lights, held only inches above the plants. (Think of all of those marijuana growers!) They could try easy-to-grow things like multi-colored lettuce, radishes, or even bush beans. There are a lot of possibilities so they should have fun! — Jackie



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