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
Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
Scarlet Runner beans
Two years ago I ordered some beans (edible), red flowers, climbers, only got 5 beans in packet. Saved all the beans for this year. Planted them, had lots, ate some (delicious) kind of sweet. Saved lots for next year. Ended up in hospital, they froze. Brought them in opened them up and let them dry, can I plant them next year? Or are they too far gone? if you think they’re OK, would you like a few to start your patch? Don’t remember where I got them. Are you in need of more hostas?
Circle Pines, Minnesota
Your beans sound like Scarlet Runner beans. If your beans were mature when they froze they’ll be okay. Check for mold. They should be hard, shiny, and full. I do have Scarlet Runners, thanks. Pass them on to other friends. I’ve run out of room for hostas right now. Maybe in the future? Will is going to convert our spring basin pond into a garden spot sometime in the future, making the pond look natural and pretty instead of a hole in the ground. Thanks for the offer! — Jackie
I have some nice bags of frozen cranberries that I want to pressure can. I know this has come up in the past but the answers were not very clear. If left to my own devises, I would use little or no sugar since my hubby is diabetic. I would process with 10 lbs. for as long as it took to bring up to pressure after a 7 minute vent time of the pot. Do you think this is too much or too far from safe procedures? I would love trying to cold pack them raw. I would appreciate knowing what variables you have tried. They were bought fresh and I froze them.
It’s really easy to can cranberries. Just thaw, rinse, and sort. Then pack cranberries into jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Gently shake the jar to settle the berries. Pour either boiling syrup (light for your husband) or plain boiling water over them leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe rim of jar, place hot, previously-simmered lid on jar, and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints and half-pints for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Cranberries can up very nicely and are great for baking. Since they are a high-acid fruit, they do not require pressure canning. Enjoy! — Jackie
Tuesday, November 25th, 2014
Canning pear butter
I made some pear butter this past summer and it is really thick. If it is too thick can it fall in the same category as pureed squash?
Newport News, Virginia
No, because pears are a high acid food and because you add sugar, a thick product is perfectly safe to can and eat. (Pumpkin or squash puree is a low acid food and thick low acid foods are now considered at risk to can.) Eat and enjoy! — Jackie
Storing brown rice
I would like to know if you have any good information on storing brown rice.
Because brown rice is a whole grain, which does contain some oil, it does not store the best long-term. It will become rancid after a few months — or even sometimes a few weeks — once the bag is opened. It’s best stored in either a refrigerator or freezer. In case of emergencies, when the freezer or refrigerator no longer operates, you can then take the brown rice out and it will still remain good for quite awhile. Keeping it either in the original bag or container or in an airtight package, such as vacuum packing, will keep it even longer. Even though we prefer brown rice, we store a lot of long grain white rice as it will store for decades without any problems if you keep it in an airtight container. — Jackie
Approximately how many cords of wood do you use during a winter?
Suzanne Paquette Richards
We use about 8 cords a winter but remember that we burn our wood stove in the living room and our wood kitchen range as well. (And not all of this wood is prime hardwood; we burn any dead wood that we harvest in our woods, including balsam, pine, and poplar, as well as black ash, a hardwood. In burning “lesser” woods, we not only are given heat but it also lets us clean up our woods as well. We even burn a lot of small-diameter poplar. Right now we are cutting up a whole lot of this that Will stacked two years ago, from clearing a good chunk of our new forty acres. Much of this small wood is two to four inches in diameter, wood which most people would shove into a pile and burn. But it’s great in the kitchen range and heats the house very nicely during the daytime. — Jackie
Thursday, November 20th, 2014
Rendering bear fat
I have been looking for bear fat for three years and have finally acquired 20# this last week. Early 1900’s recipes indicate that it makes the lightest and fluffiest pastries. I intend to render it like hog lard, cooking low and slow for about 4-5 hours using 1/8 cup water to initially keep it from sticking to the stainless cooker, after cooking and pouring thru a double layer of #9 cheesecloth. I want to water bath or pressure can 1/2 pint jars to eliminate keeping it in the freezer. Can you offer any suggestions of which process should be utilized and for how long?
I’ve never rendered bear fat but I’ve put a lot of beef and pork lard in our pantry and can’t say that bear fat would be handled differently. What I do successfully is once it’s rendered and strained off, I immediately put it into hot, sterilized wide mouth pints or quarts (you could use half-pints but I use enough to like pints better). Wipe the rim of the jar off very well with a hot, damp cloth and immediately put a hot lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. I do not processing of these jars and they will keep, sealed for a long time in a cool, dark location. Some folks do process their lard in a pressure canner. You would use 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure to do this. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your elevation.) — Jackie
Canning pepper sauce
I’ve looked through numerous pepper recipes and they all call for pickling, roasting, leaving whole or in pieces and then canned with water or vinegar. We have an abundance of peppers and one of our favorite (and quick and easy) ways to use them is to cut up and cook slightly in a small amount of water. Then put in blender with a bit of salt. Good on meats, eggs, and as a dip. For really hot peppers, I cut in half and remove seeds first. Red peppers are the best — sweet with a bit of heat. I was wondering if I could pressure can this. It’s about the consistency of ketchup (it will coat a spoon). I was thinking 35 min. for pints would work but I would hate to find a few months down the road all the bounty and work was for naught.
You could pressure can pureed peppers at 10 pounds pressure for 35 minutes if you don’t make a too-thick sauce, which would make it unsafe for canning. Remember to adjust your pressure to suit your altitude if you live above 1,000 feet. — Jackie
Wednesday, November 19th, 2014
Austrian Winter Peas
I just read an article in Mother Earth about Austrian Winter Peas. They sound like a great thing. The article says the shoots make a great salad, make great fodder, and are beneficial to the soil. I don’t know that you could grow them in your climate, though they are hardy. But I thought others might like to try them. I know I’m going to.
Nope. Austrian Winter Peas won’t over-winter here. Instead, we grow Field Peas, which are just plain old peas that we plant to improve the soil, use as fodder, and even pick to use as “people peas” to can, dehydrate, or dry for soup. We plant them early in the spring, harvest some pods for us, cut some fodder for the critters, then mow and turn under the rest as green manure. It’s one of the top legumes for many homesteaders, especially those of us in the north. — Jackie
Canning corn chowder
I have made several batches of corn chowder and canned the excess for use this winter. I processed in my pressure canner for 100 minutes at 13 psi (I am at 4,255 feet) and most of the jars were pints, 6 were quarts. Now here is where I messed up. I use bacon, milk, and flour in my chowder. Things I never once thought I shouldn’t can. Is it safe to eat? I have 7 pints in the canner now!
James Mc Ginnis
La Pine, Oregon
Your chowder is safe to eat, assuming your chowder isn’t REAL thick — which most isn’t. However, at 100 minutes at 13 psi, you’ve over-processed your batches. The bacon (the meat ingredient) is processed for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts) and milk for only 10 minutes for quarts. Corn is processed for 55 minutes (pints) and 85 minutes for quarts. I’m not sure how badly that will affect your chowder. The milk may separate or become dark because the sugars in the milk turn brown. I guess you’ll just have to open a jar and see. Sometimes if you just heat a separated product and stir it well, it’ll still be okay to eat. You can use a little flour to thicken some canned foods but never so much that the food becomes quite thick as then it may be too thick to can up safely. I can up chowders without milk, using a broth instead. Then when I want to eat it I’ll make a white sauce and slowly stir in the jar of canned chowder. Done deal. — Jackie
Friday, November 14th, 2014
We recently purchased two 4 month old heifer calves. One is a Holstein and one a Jersey/Milking shorthorn cross. We are new to this cow thing and are learning as we go. Our plans are to have these cows be our family milking cows when they are older and we are currently working on halter training and getting to know each other. My question for you and the readers out there is regarding building some sort of hay feeder for these animals. I don’t want to feed them on the ground due to the amount that it wastes. We don’t need a huge hay feeder just for two animals either. We will be feeding standard bales of hay, not the round bales. And for that number of animals we would not even be feeding full bales at a time. Is there any recommendations for building a hay feeder for a small number of cows? It could either be free standing or attach to the side of the barn wall. Being new to this we just don’t know what the best thing to do would be. We were hoping to find an easy and affordable plan for constructing a feeder.
You can easily build a wooden hay feeder, either free standing or fastened to the side of your barn. I have built several myself. I use 2x6s as a frame and 2x4s as the bars. You can either build a feeder that lets only the cows’ muzzles reach the hay or one where their whole head goes into an open stanchion. Obviously, a horned cow/heifer will need the bars farther apart than a dehorned or polled animal if you decide to let the whole head enter the feeder. The feeder should have a solid bottom. I place my 2″ boards about half an inch apart to make sure no water remains trapped in the bottom of the feeder. I also include a roof over the feeder, high enough above it so the cattle’s heads don’t trash it. The roof protects the hay from rain and snow. If you make a free-standing feeder, you’ll want to build four legs out of pressure treated 2×6 lumber so the legs don’t rot in the wet. For the free-standing feeder, think a tall, sturdy “baby crib” with a roof where the cattle reach through to eat the hay you drop in from above. It should be tall enough that they can’t easily reach over the top to grab hay and toss it out onto the ground but short enough you can throw a bale of hay (or part of a bale) into it. After you throw a bale into the feeder, cut the strings or wire and remove it. Hopefully this will give you some ideas. — Jackie
Canning baked beans
I wanted to can some baked beans but wanted to use a tasty recipe. I have the “Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving,” which has one recipe for Boston Baked beans. I was wondering if you have any good recipes for baked beans that can be canned and what canning process you use. Also, what do I need to be concerned with when trying to determine if a baked bean recipe can be canned?
Basically about any baked bean recipe can be canned, using the times and pressures recommended for baked beans, but to be safest, make sure your recipe is not REAL thick. It is not recommended to can thick foods such as pureed pumpkin or refried beans as it is possible that the food in the centers of the jars might not get hot enough, long enough, for safe canning. Therefore, if your recipe turns out very thick, thin it a little with water. You would pressure can baked beans at 10 pounds pressure for 80 minutes for pints or 95 minutes for quarts. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude. — Jackie
Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
We listened to the weather radio yesterday morning, cringing when they talked about significant snowfall for our area and south of us. Eek! Luckily, we only got a dusting but Duluth and parts south and east got hammered with 12 to 18 inches of snow.
We knew it was coming and Will and I have been working like mad to get things done ahead of winter. I pulled the last ears of our Glass Gem popcorn and was really happy with the ears (and colors!) we got. We didn’t get a full crop as it was quite late-maturing. Next year I’m planting it farther apart so the stalks get more sunlight. I discovered that the rows on the outside matured faster than those on the inner rows because it’s such a thick-growing corn. But the colors — Wow! Colors I’ve never seen in corn: light blue, pink, mauve, and pastels. We’ll definitely plant it again!
I wrapped up the last of the fruit trees and bushes yesterday. Will salvaged some heavy aluminum screening from an old TV dish so we could wrap the honeyberries and a couple of bush cherries that were too bushy for a regular screen to fit around. It worked great. We had quite a bit of vole damage to our trees last winter so we wanted to make sure the same wouldn’t happen this year. We have a friend whose big apple tree was killed because the voles had totally girdled the trunk. That’s depressing. Some of our orchard trees have grown so much that the white spiral plastic tree guards won’t fit. I used old aluminum window screen instead. We aren’t taking any chances!
I got a whole pork loin on sale at our local store for $1.99 a pound. I roasted it up for dinner, cut into two chunks to fit my roaster. Then the next day I warmed it up and canned what was left from dinner, using the pan drippings with water added for a broth. We got two meals plus three quarts and a pint to add to our pantry. And I also got busy and readied another batch of carrots to go in the canner after the pork came out. I’ve only got one more batch to go plus some rutabagas.
We aren’t hunting deer this fall because winter killed off about half of our local deer herd. Besides, we are butchering a steer and we already have half a pig left in my son’s, freezer. And canned venison down in our basement from last fall. And the meat chickens… We sure don’t need more meat and we feel sorry for the neighboring deer herd and decided to let them rest with plenty of feed (Will’s oats/clover patch!). There’s always next year if we need one. — Jackie
Monday, November 10th, 2014
I was wondering if there is a difference between canning regular butter and light butter? I’d like to can some light butter.
Wow, I MUST live in the toolies as I’ve never heard of light butter — light margarine but not butter. I believe I’d stick to canning regular butter as I’ve never had any experience canning light butter. Any readers have any other opinions? Remember that canning butter is classified as “experimental” canning, (not USDA approved) as they haven’t done any testing for home canners. However, canned butter IS available commercially.– Jackie
Freezing beef fat for later use
I have a source to get some beef fat from a recently butchered beef. I would like to make some laundry soap. Can I freeze the fat and make the soap at a later date or would it affect the finished product?
South Whitley, Indiana
Yes, you can certainly freeze your beef fat to use later on for soap. I’ve got about 30 pounds of pork fat in my son’s freezer to make lard with when I have more time. Freezing doesn’t affect fat. — Jackie
Tuesday, November 4th, 2014
We have a few warm days but the long-term forecast is for increasing cold and snow. So we’ve been working like beavers, canning, cutting and splitting the last big batch of firewood, hauling manure, and pulling the last things from the garden.
Will has finished the retaining wall under our enclosed porch, beside the walk-out-to-be of our basement. The stonework on the barn is done. And now he’s got Old Yeller, our faithful bulldozer out in the goat pasture, shoving three-year-old leftover hay and manure into huge piles. Then he carries the best of the composted material out onto our garden by the tractor bucket full. Wow, will we ever have GARDEN next year! And a whole lot of leftover rocks will be buried. (He didn’t spread much on the area where our root crops will be planted as they don’t like excessive manure.) Squash, sweet corn, and tomatoes flourish in well-rotted compost.
We moved the goats up to the old goat barn for winter. Next winter, they’ll be in the new barn for winter and the goat cottage and pasture for summer. How spoiled will they be? Hopefully, next summer we’ll dismantle the old goat barn as it’s sure not a thing of beauty. And when our new cordwood chicken coop gets built we’ll be tickled pink.
I pulled the last of our carrots, which I’ve been canning every other day for better than a week. I planted both Nantes and Tendersweet and both grew nice big, sweet carrots. They are so crisp that when I scrape them in the kitchen sink, some actually POP open in my hands. That’s a funny feeling, for sure. I can the big, fat carrots in quarts, in chunks, for stews and to use with roasted meat. The more slender carrots go into pints to use as a side dish. I’ve already pulled and canned a lot of carrots to use in canned mixed vegetables like sweet corn, potatoes, rutabagas, and onions, etc. We had an excellent crop this year of darned near everything.
I also have been seeding our big, fat cukes and drying the seeds. The cucumbers (Homemade Pickles, our favorite for pickles) still taste sweet and I pop a few pieces into my mouth as I scoop out the seeds with a tablespoon.
Gotta run. There’s SO much we want to get done before serious snow falls! — Jackie