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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

I hope your Thanksgiving was as nice as ours

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

I took some real nice photos and entered them onto my computer. But, lo and behold, when I went to blog today they were GONE. All of them! Oh well, if aliens got them they’ll know how much we enjoy our good homestead feasts! We had a full house. David and his girlfriend, Bill and his family, Javid and an elderly lady who lives at the assisted living where he lives, and of course, Will and me. Our big table stretches out pretty big and we all ate plenty — probably way too much. No one had room for five pies and two cheesecakes until later on. Now I have the rest of the turkey to get canned up.

I sliced up one of the Gila Cliff Dweller squash and was really impressed. There are two main types: one a round, white, pumpkin-shaped squash with speckled green stripes and a butternut shaped white squash. The one I opened up this time was a butternut-shaped one. The neck was all fragrant light yellow meat! It was good sliced fairly thin and fried with onions and a bit of garlic. Yum! Unfortunately, I have few mature seeds this year. But enough to grow it again and maybe next year I’ll have a bounty of seeds besides tasty and pretty squash. (By the way, Glenn Drowns at Sand Hill Preservation Center has seeds!)


We’re gearing up for a snow storm tonight that’s supposed to drop around 6 inches of the white stuff on us. Will went to the auction barn Saturday and picked up four young, weaned Angus calves cheap. They’re pretty darned thin and have snotty noses. So we started them immediately on antibiotics and are feeding them everything they’ll eat and keeping them in the goat shed so we can keep a real close eye on them. I hope they’ll survive and thrive. Will was also able to buy two 300-pound butcher hogs REAL cheap. Pigs weren’t bringing anything! So we will have our pork even though we didn’t raise any pigs this year. We need to get a butcher date; our butcher’s calendar is pretty full for several weeks. Oh well, for that price I’m sure things will work out fine. I can taste the pork chops and bacon now! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Using milk jugs to warm seedlings and canning ham in half-pint jars

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015

Using milk jugs to warm seedlings

Here in the Phoenix area, we plant and transplant our spring/summer veggies right around March 10-15, although some years late February is suitable while keeping a close eye on the weather reports. I know you use Wall-O-Waters to extend your growing season. What are your thoughts about plastic milk jugs? Do you think cut-off jugs as mini greenhouses would be adequate to raise the soil temperatures underneath them to germinate squash, cucumbers, etc, a month or so before the last frost date? I know there are many variables involved in this process, but just some opinion or insight would be appreciated. I think the jugs would probably protect seedlings from any last-minute LIGHT frost…I’m wondering about raising the soil temperature enough to germinate seeds. In mid-February the nights are still cold, sometimes with frost, but many of the days are already in the mid-70s. Would the daytime temps, with the help of the milk jugs, be adequate to start those seeds popping? I think I’ll experiment around with it this coming spring and see what happens.

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

While the cut-off plastic milk jugs certainly do protect seedling plants from light frosts and help warm the soil during the day, I’ve found that they really don’t do a lot to raise the soil temperature enough to counteract the cool nighttime soil temps. If you don’t want to buy Wall o’ Waters, you might try using black plastic as a mulch in your rows, planting through slits in the plastic, then setting your milk jugs over the plants. The plastic mulch really does help warm up the soil for those early plantings and makes a huge difference in the harvest, come fall.

For us, using inexpensive, homemade plastic hoop houses makes a huge difference in getting things off to a good start early. You can even make row covers over hoops of wire, above your black plastic mulch for even greater protection. And the plastic row covers tend to stay in place better than individual plastic milk jugs in a stiff wind. — Jackie

Canning ham in half-pints

I want to can ham and beans in half-pint jars for my father. Do the half-pint jars require the 90 minute processing time or can they be processed for a shorter time? I love your cook books and articles. Thank you for such wonderful guidance.

Lancaster, Missouri

They are processed for 75 minutes, as are pints. I’m glad you like my books and articles! It’s fun to connect with my BHM family. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Another gray, gloomy, snowy day

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015

We’re wondering what happened to the sun. Honestly, Minnesota is usually bright and sunny, even in the winter. Lately, not so much. Today is warmer, in the low thirties, but it’s very dark and cloudy, spitting snow. Again.

Son, Bill, came up to hunt Saturday afternoon and although he didn’t bag a buck, he did help Will set up our new fridge. Boy, was I excited as they got it moved into its final position and hooked up the LP and 12 volt wires, running downstairs to our old battery bank that still works but is just not enough to power the whole house’s needs. By the time Bill left Sunday evening, the freezer had gotten frost on the back.


While the guys were working on the fridge, I canned up 10 pints of small rutabagas. They do store well, but I always like to can up some anyway just so we are sure we have some later on. Once canned, they never get wrinkled and soft!


Unfortunately, this morning I opened the doors to find the refrigerator warm. No flame to the burner and the LED lights were flashing “no-co.” (We still don’t know what that means!) I texted Bill, who is an RV technician licensed in LP appliances, and he texted Will back how to re-start it. So he did and so far — cross your fingers and say a few prayers — it’s still working. I was disappointed but do know that some “free” things require a little work to get them up and running permanently.

In that vein, Will finally got the clutch apart for the Mule RTV so he could adjust it. He’s been working on that for months now, even taking it to our neighbor’s shop to use a press. But finally, as he was tinkering with it in his easy chair, it opened! So it looks like we just may have the Mule operational before too much longer.

In case the Wednesday blog doesn’t get up in time, I’m wishing you all a very happy Thanksgiving and do take a moment to give thanks for all the wonderful things in your life. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Storing carrots and canning soup

Thursday, November 19th, 2015

Storing carrots

I see you talk of keeping carrots in a cooler in basement. Just how do you do this? Do you cure them, wash them, wrap them, put them in sand, or just naked? Please enlighten me.

Deb Clark
Pine River, Wisconsin

I just wash the carrots in cold water and drain well in the sink. The tops have already been twisted off in the garden so they’re topless. After they are drained, I take them down to the basement where we have large, cleaned coolers. I lay them in the coolers and shut the top. This holds in enough humidity in our unheated basement that stays about 40 degrees all winter so the carrots keep quite well. A friend has an extra fridge and holds hers in plastic bags with holes punched in them, overwinter. That’s pretty much the same thing as we use; they like higher humidity and cold temperatures. — Jackie

Canning soup

I’m wanting to can a beef, vegetable, and barley soup. The vegetables I want to use are already dried. Is this a good idea to use dried vegetables in a canning recipe? If so, how would I go about doing it? It seems like I would need more liquid than normal or should I rehydrate the veggies first? Also, I have seen mixed information regarding including barley in canning recipes. Some say that you should not can barley. Any input? Could you tell me how long and at what pressure I should can this soup?

Rebecca Whisonant
Chester, South Carolina

What I do is make up a big batch of beef broth in a stockpot. Then toss in the dehydrated veggies and simmer until they are plumped. Once this is accomplished, add your barley and go ahead and can up the soup. You’ll probably be adding some smaller chunks of beef so you would process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for instructions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude.) While you should not can barley alone, adding a little to soups is no problem. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning precooked ham, testing acidity of canned food, and canning pickles with garlic

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015

Canning precooked ham

I would like to know how to can a ham. One you buy pre cooked.

Joanne Kuhlers
Sioux City, Iowa

Canning ham is really easy. Slice ham into fat-free, boneless 1 inch slices or chunks. Cut for fitting into jar or convenient sizes. Very lightly brown in minimal oil then pack hot meat into jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Make a broth from the pan drippings. Ladle hot broth over ham, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Process pints and half pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. Hint: I can up lots of smaller ham dices in half pints to use in lots of recipes from omelets, scalloped potatoes, soups and many other recipes. Very handy! — Jackie

Testing acidity of canned food

Have you ever seen anything on using test strips to verify the acidity of food you are water bath canning? If this works, what kind of numbers might one look for in a PH test?

Jean Baltes
San Jose, California

Usually folks only use pH test strips when they are selling water bathed foods such as pickles at Farmers Markets as buyers have no way of knowing if the foods were canned properly. If a home canner puts up only family food, I don’t feel these are necessary if the person doing the canning follows the directions of a good modern canning manual, not skipping steps such as adding vinegar or lemon juice when it is listed. Personally, I like to keep things simple yet do it right. — Jackie

Canning pickles with garlic

I have a recipe that I really like for pickled beans (dilly beans) and a recipe for pickled cucumbers. Both of them call for adding one whole peeled clove of garlic to each pint jar then process 5 minutes only. I know garlic is not recommended for pressure canning, but is it okay pickled? We have made and eaten both of these types of pickles before, but after reading that garlic should not be canned, I am now worried. And can you please explain if and why it is necessary to boil properly pressure canned food before eating it? It seems that anything should be killed by the pressure canning process. I would like to just dump my green beans into a skillet with some onions. Also just wanted to let you know that I love your books and re-read them whenever I am feeling discouraged.

Jennifer Owens
Middlefield, Ohio

Don’t worry about adding cloves of garlic to your pickle recipes. The acid in the vinegar makes them safe. The “don’t can garlic” is for canning garlic as a sole ingredient of the jar. I’ve been adding cloves of garlic to my recipes for decades and I’m still kickin’. Seriously, all modern canning books contain recipes for pickles with garlic cloves added so be at ease.

The “boil before eating” is just a second safeguard against any possible botulism. But you don’t have to boil the beans, etc. Just heating them to boiling temperature via roasting, baking or frying works just fine. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: making applesauce and tomato sauce, storing fresh carrots, using crabapples

Monday, November 9th, 2015

Making applesauce and tomato sauce

Have you ever washed, cut, and cooked apples, put through juicer strainer with a large tea strainer on pan to drain juice from pulp? It makes thick applesauce, and apple butter. Season and can. Then I can juice. Not as much cooking time this way. I do the same thing with tomatoes.

Peggy Wilburn
Macon, Georgia

No, I haven’t done that. What I do is use my Mehu Liisa steam juicer to extract about a quart of juice from my washed, cut apples, then use that for jelly or apple juice. Then I just run the remaining pulp through my old Victorio tomato strainer which gives me nice thick pulp in one bowl and peels in the other. The pulp is then either canned as applesauce or mixed with sugar and spices to make my apple butter. With the tomatoes, I use the Mehu Liisa to steam the tomatoes. Like the apples, I extract about a quart of tomato broth (it doesn’t look like tomato juice; it’s yellowish and watery but makes great soup base), then dump the tomatoes into my Victorio and crank out thickened tomato sauce. Both are quick and easy. — Jackie

Storing fresh carrots

I was wondering why you can your carrots instead of just storing them in your basement like the potatoes and onions?

Elizabeth Seymour
Whitefish, Montana

We do store some carrots for using fresh during the winter. But we grow so many that I always can up a lot. First, it is very convenient to have jars of pre-cooked carrots to use as a quick side dish or to dump into a roast. Secondly, they keep, when canned, nearly forever — unlike the fresh stored carrots. Finally, you just never know what next year is going to bring; a bad gardening year, sickness, injury (like when Will and I fell off the barn roof) or whatever “emergency” situation should happen. So I can’t always depend on just growing more next year to store fresh. This is why I also can up some potatoes and dehydrate my extra onions — convenience and preparedness. — Jackie

Using crabapples

In our house, if we can’t find the answers to questions in books or past magazines, someone always says, “Let’s ask Jackie!” So here’s our question: We’ve made all sorts of things from our crabapples: jelly, candied, dried, etc. Does it make good drinking juice? Could we add sugar to taste and can it up that way? It is bitter from the juice steamer. Hate to waste it if it doesn’t taste good when we’re done.

Wendy Hause
Gregory, Michigan

Ask away Wendy! It all depends on the variety of your crabapples. Some are great, juiced, for drinking. And some just aren’t. What I’d do is try a batch and see if by adding sugar and/or a little water, if necessary, you can balance the taste to your likes. If not, you can always can up the juice so you have a safe, secure stock for making apple jelly at a future date. Once you know your tree better, you can choose to juice or not, based on your experience. We have three crabapples in our orchard. Two are wonderful for eating fresh or for making applesauce and butter. One is not so hot so we leave it for the birds with plans for grafting on to it soon. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Rain, rain, go away; little Jackie wants to play

Thursday, November 5th, 2015

Yep, it’s raining again. (At least our orchard, grapes, and berry patch will go into the winter well-watered!) Luckily, we have our front porch. I’ve started shelling our corn varieties, having gotten the Painted Mountain well started with about five pounds done and today it’ll be the Bear Island Chippewa. The Bear Island Chippewa is a lot like Painted Mountain but has thicker cobs and fatter kernels. As it’s a Northern Minnesota Native corn, it’s also very early for a larger corn. We really love it. It’s basically a flour corn but can be eaten as “green corn” when just in the milk stage. (Not as sweet as sweet corn but has a good, old-timey corn taste.) Then I’ll move on to the Seneca Round Nose. I really like this new-to-us old Native corn! Big, long cobs with nice fat kernels. And the strongest roots of any corn I’ve seen growing.


I just seeded a big Atlantic Giant pumpkin. (Big for us, this year.) No, it didn’t weigh over a ton as the current recordholder did. But, hey, we didn’t baby it or feed it a scientific diet. It did weigh 100 pounds, though and had VERY thick meat! David took it home for a Halloween Jack o’ lantern and I kept the seeds. I really like those giant pumpkins. — they’re so much fun to grow. Maybe some day I’ll get a HUGE one.



I’ve got more carrots to get in. My friend Jeri only took one five-gallon bucket full and there’s still about two more buckets still growing in the garden. Plus the ones we’ll store in the basement in a cooler. Oh well, we’re so grateful for such a good growing year! Did all of you have one too? I’d love to hear what you all got harvested and put up. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Harvest is about finished

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015

Harvest is about finished

When the sun came out this morning after a full week of drizzly, nasty weather, we did a happy dance. I pulled our parsnips (in the rain) and canned them up yesterday. We had a good crop but something strange happened this year. They were not long and skinny; but turnip-shaped and had many roots, looking like aliens from Mars! We figure it was a combination of planting them where the ground was pretty heavily manured and where the run-off from our big hoop house frequently soaked the row. Luckily, despite the weird shapes, they were still tender and tasty. Now we have dozens of pints of parsnips ready to go into the pantry. Yum!


This year, we tried a San Felipe pumpkin that we really liked. Being a C. pepo, we could grow it in our garden along with Hopi Pale Grey, a C. maxima, without having them cross. We loved the shape and color along with the deeper ribbing. Just like the old pumpkins our ancestors grew in the cornfields. When I opened them to extract the seeds, I was happy to notice the fragrant smell and deep orange color. The seeds were nice too and would make wonderful roasted pumpkin seeds. A definite keeper for next year!


Good news!

“Winter of the Wolves,” the third book in the Jess Hazzard series, has been scheduled for release on December 1st. You can order an advance copy for immediate delivery here: . (If you haven’t yet read these fast-moving adventure stories, you don’t know what you’re missing.

If you’re a Kindle reader, you can pre-order it for Dec. 1st delivery here:

And if you can wait until mid-November, you can order the print edition direct from the publisher and save 10% – 20% (with complimentary bookmarks) here: .


Happy reading. I hope you enjoy it! — Jackie



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