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, August 19th, 2014
After a period of prolonged drought, we are finally getting some rain. It’s tough for some of our neighbors who still are haying but boy was the ground getting dry. Our poor corn/pumpkin patch way out in the new forty was getting pretty stressed but it perked up and is setting ears and pumpkins. It’s strange to compare the growth out there, where our tallest corn is about five feet tall (Painted Mountain) and the Glass Gem popcorn in the berry patch which is now topping eight feet and growing taller every day. Of course the Glass Gem was planted in VERY fertile ground and did receive watering. I’m sure that helped.
Our “forty” corn patch was an experiment, mostly to see if the deer would eat it all down when it was a few inches tall. They didn’t. (But they did mow down the potatoes out there, regardless of the hot wire, peanut butter on aluminum foil.) We already have a huge compost pile of rotted manure ready to dump on the corn/pumpkin ground as soon as we harvest what we can this fall. As the ground is white clay with some manure worked in, I’m sure tons more manure will make a drastic improvement for next year. We homesteaders are always planning on “next year!” I’m real interested to find out if A, we get some Apache Giant squash and B, if the seed from our middle plant which shows pretty variegated leaves will breed true and its babies will have variegated yellow and green leaves as well. That would be cool!
God was busy planting sunflowers here and there all over our gardens and in my flower beds this spring. (I’m sure He had help from some little birds carrying seed from our bird feeders.) Those bright, happy sunflowers sure cheer up the place. We have them in our squash patches, flower beds, and even in our big garden. Some have big heads and some have multiple smaller heads. But all are sure pretty! — Jackie
Sunday, August 17th, 2014
In your book, “Growing and Canning Your Own Food,” the Ketchup recipe on page 114 calls for 1 gallon chopped, peeled and cored tomatoes. I can not find out anywhere how many tomatoes I need, approximately. I want to make a 1/4 size batch to make sure my family likes it before canning up a bunch, so in reducing that it calls for 1/4 of a gallon or one quart. Do I need to just get tomatoes, and start chopping them until I get a quart of tomatoes plus the liquid from them? Can I use previously home canned whole tomatoes in their own juice? If so, how do I measure them for the ketchup recipe?
I’d just guesstimate. Now I just toss tomatoes into my Victorio strainer and measure the purée that comes out. No seeds/no skins/no extra work! Yes, you can use home canned tomatoes, canned in their own juice. But I’d run them through a meat grinder to chop them; you’ll have to press them through a sieve to remove the seeds though. Some folks use a blender and blend seeds and all but I’ve tried that and find that it does change the taste a bit. Using home canned tomatoes, you already have a measured quart. The amount of seeds is so tiny that it doesn’t matter. — Jackie
Why do my peach trees have lacy leaves and the fruit has brown spots and what looks like sap oozing?
I think you have a two-fold problem. Several insects and caterpillars eat fruit tree leaves, leaving them skeletonized, such as bean beetles, army worms, and tarnished plant bugs. Although this leaves the tree stressed, it usually does no lasting harm. But I’m pretty sure your fruit is being damaged from within by plum curculio larvae. The adult plum curculio is a small snout-nosed beetle about 1/4 inch long. The female cuts a crescent-shaped wound in developing fruit and lays eggs inside the flap. This wound turns black and is quite small. The larvae hatch and begin eating the fruit. You will notice tiny blobs of “sap” oozing from the fruit in several places. The “worms” ruin the fruit and often it will drop off, immature. You can achieve at least partial control by practicing good sanitation methods. These include picking up and destroying fruit that drops early, as well as removing or cleaning up overwintering sites. Keeping the area around the trees well mowed also helps.
Chemical controls should be applied immediately after the flower petals fall to control the first generation. Three sprays (the first in mid-June and the second at the end of June and the third in early July) will control the second generation adults. You can use chemical controls such as Carbaryl, (Sevin) or malathion. Insecticides may be used individually, or can often be found in premixed home orchard spray products, such as Bonide Fruit Tree Spray. When using Carbaryl or malathion, wait 3 or 7 days, respectively, between spray application and harvest. Permethrin (Bonide Eight Vegetable Fruit & Flower Concentrate, Bonide Eight Insect Control Yard & Garden Ready-to-Spray and Bonide Borer-Miner Killer Concentrate) or esfenvalerate (Ortho Bug-B-Gon MAX Garden & Landscape Insect Killer Ready-to-Use) may also be used to control plum curculio, but do not apply these products within 14 days of harvest. Repeated use of carbaryl, permethrin or esfenvalerate may increase problems later in the season with scale or mite outbreaks.
A less toxic mixture of neem oil and pyrethrins, such as in Green Light Fruit Tree Spray, is labeled for plum curculio control. It also works quite well for leaf eating insects that are damaging your tree’s leaves.
As with all pesticides, read and follow all label directions and precautions. — Jackie
Bread and butter pickles
I made bread and butter pickles today, using the recipe from the Ball Blue Book. The recipe only used 3 cups of vinegar, and I did not have enough liquid to cover 7 pints, the yield of this recipe. I made another full batch of the liquid and heated it, and finished the rest of my jars. Will these last few jars have too much spice? What is the proper procedure for making extra liquid for pickles? I don’t know why the Ball Blue Book recipe would be so short of liquid.
Usually, the added sugar increases the amount of vinegar and when the pickles are packed in the jars, the juice along with the pickling syrup will be adequate. BUT, as you found out, this doesn’t always happen. I usually make a double batch of pickling brine, just in case. If it’s not needed for that batch, I simply refrigerate and reheat it for the next batch. Don’t re-use brine that you’ve added cucumbers and other vegetables to, however, as the water or “juice” in them may dilute the pickling brine/syrup. I doubt that your second batch will have too much spice. — Jackie
Thursday, August 14th, 2014
Why do the edges of the leaves on my cucumber plants turn yellow?
Usually when that happens, either the plants aren’t getting enough water during hot spells or you are watering with an overhead sprinkler which some cukes don’t like. Soaking the ground around the plants with a soaker hose, drip irrigation, or even a hand-held nozzle often helps. Mulching around the young plants with about 8 inches of good weed-free straw or immature hay will help next year. — Jackie
Thickening tomato sauce
I’m looking for a way to stretch my tomato sauce. I cook it down and it gets good and thick, but there are only a few jars. I would like to make some sauce that makes a big recipe and is also thick. I have a friend who says she thickens her tomato sauce with cornstarch. Then I found a recipe for homemade Ragu sauce that is thickened with Clear Jel, there is no instructions on how to can it. I’m not sure if it can be canned. Is it ok to thicken sauces with Clear Jel? How much would you use? Here is the recipe that I found in a local paper.
Homemade Ragu Sauce
4 bell peppers
Cook in a little water. Drain and blend well.
10 quarts tomato juice
2 tablespoons garlic powder
3 cups sugar
1/2 cup salt
5 Tbsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. basil
48 ounces tomato paste
1 pint vegetable oil
In a large kettle, bring everything to a boil.
10 Tbsp. of Clear Jel or Therm-Flo
cold water to dissolve Clear Jel
Add thickening to boiling kettle. Bring back to a boil.
The recipe says it can be canned, but make sure to research and use up to date canning methods and times. Do you think this will achieve my goal of a thick sauce and a large volume? And if so how long should I can it? Would I use a water-bath method?
I’m sure this could probably be canned but I have no researched information. Clear Jel is used successfully in canning pie fillings and I have Amish friends who can a recipe similar to yours in a boiling water bath for 45 minutes. But I cannot, advise you to can it as there are really no guidelines for safety. Better skip this one. — Jackie
Wednesday, August 13th, 2014
When you find a jar that has unsealed do you just dump the contents and wash the jar? I read somewhere that botulism may be present and the jar treated with great care as you dispose of the entire thing.
When I find a jar of pickles, fruit, or juice (high acid; not likely to have botulism), I just toss it in the compost pile and kick some dirt over it. If it’s a low acid food I usually dump it in a hole and bury it so the dogs or loose chickens don’t get into it. Either way, I rinse the jar out real well with hot water, then wash well in fresh hot, soapy water. To be extra safe, you can simmer the jar in boiling water for 15 minutes, covering it completely. (Be sure there’s a rack or dish towel on the bottom of the container so the bottom doesn’t break.) There certainly isn’t any need to dispose of the jar. — Jackie
I found a recipe for something called Monkey Butter, which is made with bananas. Some people said you can’t can bananas. I looked into it, and it’s not recommended because bananas are too dense. But it occurs to me that the bananas would basically be pureed, and other ingredients added. They wouldn’t be dense anymore. But now it occurs to me that they might not be acidic enough. So here’s the recipe:
5 bananas, sliced
20 oz. crushed pineapple with the juice
1/4 cup coconut
3 cups sugar
3 T bottled lemon juice.
Throw it all together, bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and cook until thick.
They don’t say how much head space, but half pints and pints they say to water bath for 15 minutes. I think it just sounds delicious. The only change I would make is to leave the coconut out – to me it’s not worth the expense for just 1/4 cup. What do you think? If it’s not safe, I will still make it, but I’ll give most of it away, just keep a jar or two in my fridge.
Actually Monkey Butter’s been around a long time. Recipes vary a bit but are basically the same. And, yes, they can be canned safely. The acid in the pineapple and juice, lemon juice, and the sugar make the recipe acidic enough. You will leave 1/4 inch of headspace. — Jackie
Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
While I’m busy watering gardens, picking and canning beans, Will is out “making hay while the sun shines.” And boy-oh-boy have I been canning beans! Our Providers have sure outdone themselves providing food for us this year. I have to laugh. I only planted one double row that was 20 feet long as we already had a lot of beans left on the pantry shelves from last year and years before. (Now you see why we plant Providers!) But this year they surpassed even our wildest expectations. I’ve been canning beans every four days for weeks. Yesterday I decided to do something different and made Mustard Bean Pickles (see my book Growing and Canning Your Own Food). We really love them and were running out down in the pantry. Now we have six more pints. I think I’ll make another batch then switch to Dilly Beans for awhile as our dill crop is now over my head.
FINALLY our Glass Gem popcorn is starting to tassel, after wondering if it ever would! It’s now eight feet tall and very lusty. My friend, Carolyn, was over today and while we were picking a big batch of cucumbers for her to pickle I spotted the very first corn tassel. Hooray! Now if it hurries up and makes ears…
Will cut another hay field today and noticed a guard on the haybine was loose. He called me and asked me to bring wrenches so I met him on the road and he tightened the bolts on the guard. (If he left it loose it might catch on the sickle sections and break them.) The sun’s shining after nearly an inch of rain yesterday. We were sure glad to get the rain as the ground was SO dry.
Our Seneca Sunrise sweet corn that Will has bred back from a hybrid is now fully tasseled out and even though it’s pretty weedy, the corn looks sturdy and happy. So do the Howden pumpkins along one side of the old pig pasture. We’re hoping for a good seed crop and plenty of feed for the animals.
Another hen came out of her hiding place in the orchard with eight chicks yesterday. We didn’t even know she was setting! It’s been a good hatching year with two hens hatching chicks, the turkey hatching chicks, and another hatching her own poults. And we have another hen turkey setting right now. Our Cornish Rock meat birds are growing like weeds and between them and the extra home-grown roosters we’ll be canning lots of chicken. We also need to butcher a couple of our extra yearling tom turkeys as we have several and they fight in the spring. All that chicken and turkey will can up so nice. Mmmm, I can’t wait. — Jackie
Sunday, August 10th, 2014
Mulching with straw and canning pureed zucchini
Your garden looks beautiful with the straw. We did the straw for the first time this year and were not satisfied at all. We put on about 6 inches of straw, and after about two weeks, little tufts of grass-like weeds sprouted everywhere. I am thinking maybe from the chicken manure. It actually caused more work for us in the weeding dept. What did we do wrong? Are you supposed to wait until everything is up good and growing before you mulch? Our tomatoes and peppers were all in Wall-0-Waters when we mulched. We had to spread back the straw. Pull the weeds (not hard to pull but a lot of them), then spread the straw back on. (only to have to do it again in 3 weeks or so). Any advice?
I also need your canning advice. I already have way too many zucchini. Am making pureed zucchini with about 1/2 cup almond milk. Can this be canned and if so how many minutes and pounds in the canner? I don’t have freezer room so would like to can it for future biscuits, breads, etc.
Canyon City, Oregon
We don’t use straw anymore, but use our own immature reed canary grass, a locally-grown, wet-area grass with no weeds. When you use straw, there is some grain in the straw — can’t be helped. Usually you need to put on about 8 inches of straw and even that will sometimes result in grain sprouting up. But that’s not a big problem as it can’t root in mulched areas and is quite easy to pull up. We do wait to mulch until everything is up and growing. We till and hand weed the garden twice, then put the mulch down. No more weeding at all. It sounds like you got straw that had plenty of grain left it in. I’d pick another farmer next year and hope for less volunteer grain. And put down a real thick mulch to discourage grain sprouting.
Sorry, but your zucchini recipe won’t can up. It would be a too-dense product for safe canning. Have you considered using your zucchini as a cucumber replacement in pickle recipes? It works great. It also dehydrates perfectly, taking up very little room in storage. Just slice and dehydrate. It’s wonderfully versatile in so many different recipes. — Jackie
Saturday, August 9th, 2014
Canning cabbage rolls
Is it possible to can cabbage rolls and if so do you have a recipe? Also, I need to have someone to tell me in a really dumbed down way how to get the index of your gardening and canning book.
Dallas City, Illinois
Here’s the link to the index. http://www.backwoodshome.com/store/files/jc01-first_printing_2009-index.pdf Just click and print and you’ll have your index. If you have any problem, let me know and I’ll do it for you and send it to you.
Yes, you can home can cabbage rolls. Just make up your recipe but don’t cook it. Slip the rolls into wide mouth canning jars and ladle your tomato sauce over them, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Be sure the rolls are completely covered by the sauce. Process quarts for 90 minutes and pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. These turn out very nicely; I’ve done them for years. — Jackie
Canning summer squash
You are the Canning Queen, my go-to canning guru. I have always canned diced summer squash, in water with a little salt in my pressure canner as a low acid food. The Utah Home Extension office has just issued a warning that ANY summer squash is no longer safe to can, using ANY method. What is up with that? Have you heard anything about this and what is YOUR opinion? I plan to keep on canning it, myself!
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Personally, I think this is just another of government’s experts trying to keep us safe from ourselves! Their reasoning is that when you can summer squash it gets soft and “could” pack down, making it a “dense” product that could possibly not be heated completely through for safe processing. Me, I’m going right ahead and canning squash dices. I probably wouldn’t do the thin slices as those could pack down. But dices? — Jackie
Friday, August 8th, 2014
I have kohlrabi coming out of my ears. Can I can them or would they be better frozen. I’m not sure what to do with them.
You can use kohlrabi in a pickle recipe, in place of cucumbers. But they really don’t can up nicely. I’d freeze the rest. One of our favorite kohlrabi recipes is diced in a cheese sauce. Mmmm. Or sliced on a salad. Darn, now I’m hungry! — Jackie
Bread and butter pickles
I made your bread and butter pickle recipe. However, I did not rinse the cucumbers/onion mixture after soaking them with the salt and ice. The taste seems salty to me. Should you rinse the cukes/onions as the recipe only says to drain well? What about other recipes that use salt to remove excess water in pickles or summer squash?
I don’t rinse my pickles, but I do kind of swish them around to make sure the salt is well mixed with the water. If you wish to rinse them, you certainly may. I don’t find my bread and butter pickles salty and as we don’t use much salt, I am quite sensitive to it. — Jackie