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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.

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

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: nitrogen purged freezer storage, picking Hopi Pale Grey squash early, and canning salsa mix

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

Nitrogen purged freezer storage

Do you know of any one doing nitrogen purged freezer storage?

John Alderman

No, I don’t. I do know of folks who use dry ice to remove the oxygen in long term storage containers but not for freezer storage. — Jackie

Picking Hopi Pale Grey squash early

Our Hopi Pale Grey Squash is growing like crazy, and it has at least a dozen nice big squash on it. This is my first time growing it, or any winter squash for that matter. Everything I read says wait until after the first light frost to pick them. Do I have to wait, or can I pick one now? It’s just I can’t wait to try it, they look so good.

Steve in Wyoming

Sure, Steve, go ahead and pick one. They are great tasting even when softball sized, used as a summer squash. Some of our friends just harvested and ate one of their immature Hopi Pale Greys and said it was the best squash they’d ever tasted! I’m tickled that yours are doing so well. — Jackie

Canning salsa mix

I purchased a salsa mix to add to my tomatoes (Mrs. Wage’s mild) and while the taste was great, I am questioning the processing instructions. The mix contains dehydrated vegetables and spices and for 10 cups of tomatoes, I added 1/2 cup vinegar. The instructions said it could be water bathed but that amount of vinegar didn’t seem to be enough to safely do that. What do you think?

Katherine Jordahl
Fergus Falls, Minnesota

That recipe is one that has been tested and found safe for canning. I don’t use it because I grow all of my own ingredients except for the lemon juice I use. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: goat milk soap and making apple relish with Asian pears

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

Goat milk soap

You gave a recipe for Goat’s Milk Soap but for the life of me I can not find it. Would you please direct me?

Amanda Modin
Bend, Oregon

That recipe is on page 78 of the Sept/October 2014 issue of BHM (Issue #149). If you can’t find it, let me know and I’ll reprint it. — Jackie

Making apple relish with Asian pears

I make your Apple Relish every year. Have you ever, or do you think I could use Asian Pears in it instead of the Apples? As an aside, I bought the Punta Bunda Tomato seeds from you and I have NEVER had such high yields of sauce tomatoes! Yikes! Perhaps a warning, of “High…really high yield” should go onto the label! Yummmmm

Darla Reardon
Deming, Washington

Yep, that’s one reason we always grow Punta Bandas! I make tons of different sauces and it sure cuts down on the work as they’re so meaty.

Yes, you can substitute Asian pears for the apples in the Apple Relish recipe with no problems. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: larger canning jars and canning tomato sauce

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Larger canning jars

Have you/your readers noticed that the new canning jars are larger? I had to purchase new quart jars, Mason brand, and 7 jars would not fit in my pressure or water bath canner. I measured and they are almost 1/2 inch wider around than my older jars! YIKES! I need to go yard selling to get more jars.

Marcia Lambert
Clay City, Indiana

I haven’t bought new jars this year. Have any more of you folks out there noticed this? — Jackie

Canning tomato sauce

I canned your Tomato sauce recipe from your canning book page 83 with recommended spice which taste great. But in the process I forgot the lemon juice. Do I need to open the jars and reprocess or just use those up first? If it makes a difference with acidity I grow my own Amish paste.

Julie Marsh
Kingsville, Missouri

Well Julie, here we get into the gray area of canning. Experts regard pH levels of 4.6 or below to be high acid foods, including most tomatoes. A pH of 4.7 or above is considered low acid and you really need to add an acidifier such as citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar to tomato recipes to be sure of safety. The “average” pH of Amish paste tomatoes is classified at 4.68, which should be safe for water bath processing. Then again, the pH of tomatoes can be affected by such things as growing conditions, weather, and ripeness (less ripe are lower in pH). Generations of folks have canned Amish paste tomatoes using the water bath method with no problems. BUT to be absolutely sure of safety, you can dump your jars into a kettle, reheat it to boiling, then ladle it into jars and add the lemon juice. Use new lids and re-process in a boiling water bath for the same time as if you were making fresh sauce (pints 35 min, quarts 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure). — Jackie

Jackie Clay

So far we’ve had a great fruit harvest

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

Besides harvesting many wild pin cherries and chokecherries, the wild plums are coming on like mad. Not to mention our own tame fruit. We’ve been especially thrilled with our Hansen’s Bush Cherries. The fruit is large, almost the size of wild plums, meaty and tasty. And it makes the BEST jam and jelly ever! Yum. We’re planting several cherry pits in a tire full of dirt so they’ll chill and overwinter outside, to come up next spring. We’ve done that in the past and nearly every pit sprouted. We’d like a whole lot more of these bushes around our homestead. (We’ve been planting them in clearings here and there around the place, making “wild” bushes out of them.)


Burgess sells them very inexpensively but they call them Western Sand Cherries. Other catalogs call them different things. But look for Prunus besseyi, the scientific name, if unsure.

Our grapes really took off this summer. We have ten different varieties and some are bearing this year. Our Valiant is leading the pack with ripe, tasty bunches of beautiful grapes. I wanted to make a grape arbor for them out of stock panels this spring but that never got done. Oh well, maybe next spring?


The orchard really took a hit with last winter’s record-breaking cold spell; 90 days of subzero weather for a high, in a row! We had a lot of branches that winter-killed and even a tree or two. But amazingly, our Frostbite survived untouched (hey, it’s the name!) and has a good crop of tasty apples. Also, our Prairie Magic and Trailman crab (which tastes wonderful) are heavily loaded. Other trees vary from one or two apples to none. But if they live it’s a miracle. We’ve heavily pruned the dead wood and the extra young branches off the trees in order to put more strength into the roots and help re-shape the trees. Hopefully, they’ll recover and go on to grow nicely next spring. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: flu tonic and storing dehydrated foods

Monday, August 25th, 2014

Flu tonic

I have a recipe that I call my “flu/cold tonic.” I am wondering if it can be canned for longer storage.
Juice of 6 fresh lemons
1 bulb garlic
2 tsp. ginger powder
2 Tbsp. honey
3 cups pineapple juice
¼ tsp cayenne powder
Blend all ingredients thoroughly and store in a glass jar. Take 1 cup 4 times a day until the symptoms are resolved.

Shellie Gades
Evansville, Minnesota

Sorry, but as it’s a mixed recipe (citrus and garlic), I really can’t say for sure. What you might do is to can up all of the juices together then add the spices, garlic, and honey at a later date. Sounds like a good cold remedy to me! — Jackie

Storing freeze dried and dehydrated foods

I recently ordered the Meals in a Jar book by Stephanie Petersen and the stated shelf life for some of the recipes are as little as 5 years… I was hoping they would last longer. How long do you think meals in a jar made up with freeze dried ingredients prepared properly with a oxygen absorber should last? Thank you so much for any thoughts!

Crystal Misiak
Millboro, Virginia

Most freeze dried and dehydrated foods will last for decades if stored properly — out of direct light, sealed well in airtight containers, and kept relatively cool (the cooler, the longer they’ll last). Mixed recipes should last equally long unless they contain ingredients such as nuts or whole grain flours that go rancid fairly rapidly. I would expect the mixes to last much longer than five years but not having seen the recipes I can’t say with absolute certainty. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning corn and canning meat

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Canning corn

I need to know how to can corn without a pressure cooker. I pickle corn all the time but I want to do both.

Betty Fields
Busy, Kentucky

Sorry, Betty, but because corn is a low-acid food you must use a pressure canner to safely can it. You can make corn relish or corn salsa using a boiling water bath canner because you use vinegar which increases the acidity. Maybe this is the year you bite the bullet and pick up a pressure canner and a copy of my book Growing and Canning Your Own Food and learn how very easy and fun it is to use that pressure canner. I promise it’s totally safe! — Jackie

Canning meat

In a Amish cookbook it says to can meatballs I can boil for 3 hours after putting in jars and filling with water. I was wondering if you have or would try this Jackie? I am wanting to can a bunch of deer meat.

Myla Dawes
Oakley, Kansas

Ouch! I have several Amish cookbooks too and always wince when the recipes give instructions for canning meats and vegetables in a boiling water bath for lengthy periods of time. It’s the “old-fashioned” way of canning but it does NOT kill botulism toxins. Only canning in a pressure canner raises the temperature of the food hot enough for this. Period. No length of boiling will do it. You MUST use a pressure canner to can that venison. Maybe this would be a good time to learn to pressure can. It is VERY easy and totally safe if you follow basic, simple instructions. — Jackie



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