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Archive for the ‘Food Preservation’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: rendering bear fat and canning pepper sauce

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?

Joe Tubb
Wartburg, Tennessee
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.

LaNell Storbeck
Victoria, Texas

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: Austrian Winter Peas and canning corn chowder

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.

Barb Mundorff
Youngstown, Ohio

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: livestock feeder and canning baked beans

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Livestock feeder

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.

Brandie Penningroth
Auburn, Washington

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?

Robert Parris
Olympia, Washington

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

Jackie Clay

We just missed the big snow!

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning butter and freezing beef fat for later use

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Canning butter

I was wondering if there is a difference between canning regular butter and light butter? I’d like to can some light butter.

Angela Baker
Fraser, Michigan

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?

Marcia Clupper
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

Jackie Clay

We’re working like mad to get ahead of oncoming cold weather

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

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning times, removing pulp from persimmons, and straightening canners

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Canning times

I know a person that got an All American canner (I am wanting to get one). She said that the instruction book listed times that were about TWICE (or more!) of the Ball Blue Book (or you!) recommend. She said that she had talked with the folks at AA (All American) and that they said that the times were correct for the canner. Have you ever heard of such? I know you have an AA canner and that you use it regularly.


The instruction book that came with my canner has the same times as the Blue Book and I’ve used that for years so I’m not sure what your friend found. Get one! You’ll not be sorry! — Jackie

Removing pulp from persimmons

How do you remove pulp from wild persimmon seeds? Mine are falling now and I need to start using them.

Marcelle Bethany
Tupelo, Mississippi

What I’ve done is to cut them in half and rub the insides against the screen of a sieve. The seeds and skin stay inside and the pulp ends up in a bowl. — Jackie

Straightening canners

My son has straightened the bottoms of the Mirro canners over the years. By using a chunk of 2×4 and a heavy hammer they flatten right back to original. I am surprised you haven’t thought of this. They keep right on working and I wouldn’t trade my Mirro canners for the world.


Duh! Why didn’t I think of that? Of course that would work. Thanks for the tip, Kay. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

We actually got some Glass Gem corn

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014


After a long summer of touch and go, I discovered yesterday that we actually had some mature Glass Gem popcorn! Some friends stopped by and we were giving the “tour” of our gardens and while in the berry patch, I browsed through some brown stalks of Glass Gem corn with the ears still on. Surprise! I got color. Wow! We didn’t think it had made it but obviously it went on and ripened after the first frosts nipped the plants. Tomorrow I’ll go out and pick all that I can find. But the ears I did find in just a few minutes were simply gorgeous with brilliant, unusual colors on four- to six-inch cobs. We may not have enough to sell next year but at least we can replant with the seed we save and know it’ll make a crop here even though it’s a long-season corn (about 110 days).


Will laid the last of the rock on the new barn foundation yesterday and today he spent hours pulling the tomato cages and stakes in the garden while I spent hours on the phone at the nursing home where Javid is, talking and waiting to talk to a Social Security representative as he is on SSI and needs to get his information changed over from Montana to Minnesota. Why is it that all government agencies make everything so complicated and HARD? Wow, a study in frustration, for sure.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can start canning carrots. They’re so big and juicy they just beg to go in jars! In fact, if you just toss them in a bucket, they split down the side they’re so crisp. Mmmmm. — Jackie



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