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 ‘Meat’ Category
Saturday, February 22nd, 2014
Cooking on a wood burner
I always thought I’d be able to cook on my wood burner, but I decided to give it a try and the top of the stove only gets about 130 to 150 degrees. I have the damper full open yet this is as hot as it gets. I read that food isn’t safe at this temperature for more than two hours, so even if the food eventually cooked, it would be full of bacteria. Is there anything you can suggest to help me? I’d be so grateful!
Does your wood burner have a cabinet around it? Some do, for instance the Ashley cabinet model that was very popular in the ’70s and ’80s. These never do get as hot as a wood stove that is simply an enclosed “box” of cast iron or sheet steel. The top of any wood burner is hottest when the damper is nearly closed, not open, as the majority of heat goes right up the stovepipe when the damper is open. Also, the type of wood has to do with how hot the stove top gets. Dry, seasoned hardwood or pine will burn hottest with green or unseasoned wood burning sometimes barely at all. I’ve cooked on several wood stoves from my ever-present kitchen ranges to the living room wood burner. But all of ours have been cabinet-free.
Temperatures from 140 to 150 degrees are the recommended internal temperatures for medium rare steaks and other slow cooked foods done in slow cookers such as crock pots. So I don’t think bacteria would be a big issue. But, personally, I would like to see you simmering your foods at about 180 to 205 degrees F, just to be safest.
If you do have a cabinet-type wood burner, many have a lift off top so you can more easily use it to cook on. Or there is a hinged door on top for this purpose. When the pot of food is on the iron stovetop, there should not be a problem getting the food plenty hot. I do it all the time. — Jackie
Butchering older roosters
We have numerous chickens, along with now, 4 roosters. One came from a friend, the others came from a batch of 9 chickens we bought — there were FOUR in there! Anyway, the newest 3 are Buff-Orpingtons — and big and beautiful. But, they’re starting to realize they’re bigger, and are beginning to fight with the original rooster. I don’t want them to kill each other, but I also don’t want to just give them away. They’re over a year old, so are they too old to butcher? Will they be too tough? They are fed very little feed each day, and for the most part, are free-range. What would you do with them?
No, your roosters aren’t too old to butcher; I’ve butchered roosters that were quite a bit older than that. However, if you just cook them, they’ll probably be a bit tough. So, instead, why not can the meat? You can make broth and then can both the broth and broth with meat. Out of each rooster, you’ll get many jars of tasty, tender meat. That’s a pretty much win-win solution. — Jackie
Monday, February 3rd, 2014
Learning to can and soil preparation
I have been reading your blog for some time now, and just getting the nerve to do canning. I put up some peach jam with water bath canning last season, and purchased a pressure canner in anticipation of pressure canning this season. Being a visual learner, have you ever considered doing some DVDs on pressure canning? I know I would feel more comfortable with this method. I do have all your books.
Secondly, I live in the woods of Maine, and the surface soil is sparse and full of pine needles, any suggestions on how to beef up the soil inexpensively? I do have a small series of raised beds. I live on the edge of a pond, so watershed safety is necessary as well.
South Berwick, Maine
Yes, we have thought of doing DVDs, as Dave Duffy my boss at the magazine suggested. We actually have shot some video at our last seminar and will let you know when it gets put together.
As for your garden soil, rotted manure will fix it right up. You probably have acidic soil (you might want to do a simple pH test) and adding lime would probably help, too. Our soil here on our homestead used to be a layer of pine needles, an inch of topsoil, and 18 inches of rocky, sandy gravel. Now we have about a foot of nice, black, sandy loam. But it did take a few years of both adding rotted manure and picking rocks! — Jackie
We have a new homestead and we are currently raising our first 2 pigs (Duroc-Hampshire crosses) that we hope to process in a few months at the 220-240 lb range. We will put some of the meat in the freezer and give some to friends, but what do you recommend for other longer term storage options — curing, canning, smoking, etc.? What and how many materials do we need? How long will it take? What special instructions should I tell the butcher? Are there any lower carb recipes — can we replace brown sugar with splenda for canned pulled pork?
Los Gatos, California
Wow, your first two pigs on your new homestead — how exciting! For a first-time home meat experience, I’d probably have your butcher smoke the bacon and ham; you’ve got enough on your plate to worry about the smoking. Let that go until the next time you butcher. Meanwhile, read up on the process and gather your basic supplies (brining and smoking supplies are available at most farm and ranch stores and even big box stores as this is getting very popular). Maybe you could butcher one hog first then do the second later when you’ve felt more comfortable with the smoking process.
Smoking meat is very easy, requiring brining first then hanging in an enclosed container that will hold smoke. You won’t be “cooking” the meat, just using a cool smoke made up of sweet wood chips such as apple, hickory, or mesquite. My first smoker was an old dryer body. Other “smokers” have included a clean barrel and even a hollow log. You can also buy either a propane or electric smoker which is much easier and less work. You smoke for the length of time required for the thickness of the meat. Sides of bacon only require several hours where full hams, about three times that, or more, depending on how smoky you like your meat. With the hams, you will be injecting brine in, next to the bones, before smoking to ensure complete curing. This is done with a special brining syringe.
Even with smoked meat, I’d recommend freezing or canning as most modern smoking does not cure the meat enough to store at room temperature as did the old ways. Why not smoke your meat that way then? Smoked meat done as they did in the past was dry and very smoky flavored, much more than we modern folks like.
I can up a lot of our pork, including ham, bacon, pork chops, ribs, and sausage patties. I’d have your butcher grind all scraps and include any not-so-good roasts so you can make sausage. You can either make breakfast sausage patties or use this ground pork to mix with beef or venison to make summer sausage or Italian sausage. This can either just be mixed and seasoned (again, there are seasoning packets available locally, I’m sure, in many sporting sections of even big box stores) for patties or if you have a sausage stuffer available, in casings to make links.
I know it all sounds daunting but once you try, you’ll be SO glad you took the trouble. It really is so easy and tasty! Yes, you can replace brown sugar with Splenda but the results are not as good, in my opinion. — Jackie
Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
For us, winter is kind of a rest-up for spring because of the intense cold. Will and I do our daily outside chores but find time for inside stuff that doesn’t happen when we can be outdoors working.
I just baked three loaves of honey whole wheat bread (recipe in my cookbook) and boy was that yummy! What great toast it makes too. Since it’s cooler in the kitchen now than in the summer, the bread doesn’t mold before it gets eaten up. Store-bought bread is so awful and getting so expensive. I figured that my bread cost about 50 cents a loaf to bake. Not bad, huh? And it’s real wheat, real honey, real food.
I just took out my bucket of sauerkraut and skimmed off the yuck on top. Then I tasted it — just right! Tomorrow I’ll be canning it up. I was planning on doing that today but we took two more steers in to butcher and wow, were the roads bad! It was snowing hard, five degrees and the windshield wipers couldn’t keep up. Ice built up on them in a heartbeat and we could hardly see to drive. The plows hadn’t been out so there were nearly whiteout conditions. And we had to drive about 22 miles, pulling a 16-foot stock trailer. If we had known it would be that bad, we would have called and taken them later. But we didn’t know it until we were five miles away from home and there was NO turning around. Will drove about 30 miles an hour, finding the road by mailboxes along it and by plow berms. Every so often we would have to stop right in the road (when there was nobody behind us!), let the defrosters heat the wipers and windshield, jump out and pick the ice off the wipers. Whew, were we glad to get to Al’s place with the steers and us in one piece.
We’ve got 3½ steers’ meat sold already and if we don’t sell the other half, we’ll split it between my son, Bill, and ourselves.
Meanwhile, Hondo and Spencer have been having fun playing. Did you ever know dogs that had a toybox? Well they do, full of “babies” (stuffed animals from the thrift store), balls, and chew toys. Every day we pick them up and then they go stand there and pick through their toys to figure out what they want to play with next … until they have a dozen toys out of the box.
Will’s been working on transforming an antique cherry dresser into a bathroom vanity. He first had to glue the laminate back into place, then cut the legs off a few inches to vanity height. Now he’s got the hole marked where the sink will drop in. Next he has to cut down the drawers so the sink and plumbing will fit. Boy, will it be nice not to have to wash our hands in the bathtub! I haven’t said much but it has been nine years without a sink in the bathroom. But, hey, there have always been more pressing places to put money. That’s homesteading! — Jackie
Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
We’re under an Arctic blast with HIGHS in the below zero readings and lows … well, we really don’t want to go there. So we do chores in steps, warming up between, then do things inside that have been let slide for awhile. Will’s again working on the rock wall behind our wood stove in the living room. It’s slow work getting it just right, but he’s definitely making progress. I’m excited to see the way it’s turning out. And impatient to see how it looks finished with the rustic wood shelves in it, too! My grandfather collected Indian relics from his fields where he farmed and I have a couple of old wooden crates with ax heads, spear points, and arrowheads in them and we’d love to display them on those shelves. The last time some were displayed was back in the forties in a Canadian museum! And with our family’s Native heritage, those pieces speak volumes to us.
I’m getting ready to can up the frozen Thanksgiving turkey and rearranging things in the house to get rid of the clutter that happens on a busy homestead.
Brrr. I just looked at the thermometer. It’s noon and -8 degrees. I guess those beavers sure knew what was coming! — Jackie
Tuesday, November 26th, 2013
My oldest son, Bill, shot a nice seven-point buck the first weekend of season this year. And he called to ask if he could come and spend some “quality time” with me and, of course, cut up the meat. He learned to can with a pressure canner last year and came to our seminar this summer. His mother-in-law had bought a used canner at a yard sale and had never used it. It is a Presto, 1970′s vintage with weights and no gauge. So I showed him how to use it. Simple, huh Bill? We canned up all of the stew meat in short order. He cut steaks from the best parts and we tossed all of the other meat into a grind bowl as he wanted to try sausage this year. We had fun and made short work of that buck.
I’d never made sausage with a sausage stuffer and Bill brought up seasonings and casing. As Will had bought me an electric meat grinder with sausage stuffing attachments, I learned along with Bill. And guess what? We made great summer sausage! I fried up a patty with the leftover meat in the grinder’s auger and it was real tasty. I’m sure we’ll both be making more sausage in the future. — Jackie
Thursday, November 14th, 2013
Canning chicken in half-pints
In your segment on canning chicken in Self Reliance you mention that you have canned half pint jars of chicken. I would like to do that, but you never mention how long to can. Also, you seldom give an estimate of how many pints or quarts of canned product your recipes make.
You can put up nearly anything in half-pints. I find that they are very handy and that way you don’t have leftovers to deal with or that may possibly spoil in the back of the refrigerator. I hate waste! You process half-pints for the same time and same pressure as you do pints. The reason I don’t give estimates of how many jars of end product you will end up with is because there are such huge variables such as how big is that chicken? Three pounds … or ten. How big are those carrots, how much juice is in that peach, etc. I just eyeball the food to be canned and ready a larger number of jars than I think I’ll be needing. If I don’t need them, fine; they’re back on the shelf. And if I do, they’re all ready to fill. — Jackie
Rubber gaskets on canners, fat for soap, and saving carrot seeds
Is there anything that can be done to keep canner rubbers lasting longer? Years ago I know they were made out of real rubber. The new rubbers just do not last for me. They seem to shrink and do not make a good seal. In the past I have tried putting on vegetable oil or Vaseline. That helped the old rubbers from sticking on.
Can all the fat on a pig be put into soap? I wanted to save my leaf lard for cooking and I wanted to put the fat on the back into soap? Do you have anything for recipes for making soap with goat’s milk, pig fat of some kind and/or tallow and lye?
I saved carrot seeds 5 years ago and I have planted them for the last 4 years. There was Queen Ann’s lace growing in the field near by. The first year I had a few off white carrots, the next year I had more. This year most of the carrots are off white, crooked, and very tough. The rabbits love them. Out of 30-40 carrots there may be one orange one. Have you ever heard of this? This was the same seed being planted all 4 years.
The best way to keep canner seals in good shape is right after you can up a bunch of food, remove the seal and wash it in hot soapy water, rinse, and air dry it. Then put it back on the washed, dry canner. Be sparing of oiling or putting petroleum jelly on seals unless needed; that can cause them to crack prematurely.
Yes, any pig fat can be used to make soap. Here’s a recipe by Mary Jane Toth from Goats Produce Too! (available in the BHM bookstore) that I have used with success:
Distilled water, 3 cups
Milk, 2 cups
Lye (Sodium Hydroxide) 1¼ cups (12 oz.)
Lard, 10 cups
Coconut oil, 2 cups
Fragrance oil 4 oz.
Note: If you want a plain soap you can leave the fragrance oil out of the milk soap recipe.
1. Have prepared molds ready before you begin.
2. Place the water into a large stainless bowl or pot. Carefully stir the lye into the water. Be careful, it will get very hot. Hold your face away from bowl and do not breathe the fumes. If you can do this part outside it would be best. If doing inside your house make sure to do it in a well-ventilated area. Keep white vinegar on hand in case you splash any on your skin. Vinegar will deactivate lye.
3. Allow the water/lye mixture to cool to 85 degrees. This can take an hour or more. When the mixture is cool add the cold milk, stir. It will heat up a little again, but not as hot. Let cool again to 80 degrees. While its cooling, prepare the fat and oil.
4. Warm the lard and coconut oil together to 90 degrees. Be careful if doing on a stove; it can heat up very quickly. Placing the pot into a sink of hot water can help you maintain the right temperature until used. You can add cool or hot water as needed
5. When the lye mixture is 80 degrees and the fats are 90 degrees you will mix them together.
6. Slowly pour the warm fat/oil mixture into the lye mixture, stirring all the while. It is important to pour the fat in a small steady stream while stirring constantly.
7. Stir until the mixture reaches the consistency of honey. This can take 25-45 minutes. Add the fragrance, slowly stirring in until mixed thoroughly just before pouring into the mold/molds.
8. Pour the soap mixture into prepared molds, cover with a layer of plastic wrap. Then lay some newspapers and a blanket on top to hold in the heat. The soap will get warm and harden. It is important for the soap to hold the heat for a while. After 24-48 hours the soap can be removed from the mold.
9. Remove the soap from the molds, cut into bars and lay the bars or stack them in such a way that air can circulate around them. Place them in an out-of-the-way place to age for 4-6 weeks. Turn them a couple of times during the aging process so that they dry evenly.
10. After 4-6 weeks the soap is ready to use and can be packed into storage containers.
As for your wild carrot seed, my best guess is that your nearby Queen Anne’s Lace crossed with your carrots, as they often will. Then, as the carrot seed got older, it became less viable where your seed with a higher percentage of Queen Anne’s Lace remained good. Thus, as time went on, more and more Queen Anne’s Lace characteristics became more prominent. — Jackie
Friday, October 18th, 2013
We just had two nasty days of pouring rain. Yuck! So today, with the sun out, albeit 50 degrees, we’re back at work. Will’s up at the sawmill, cutting more boards for our porch roof and barn while I’m pulling the rest of the carrots and cooking down more tomato puree with the Mehu Liisa. For some reason this year our stored tomatoes we’d picked green tended to rot before ripening. So I have to pick through them carefully so I don’t get any rotten spots in the tomatoes I cook down for sauce. On the other hand, our onions, which have been plagued with neck rot for the last two years, turned out as solid as rocks. So I can’t complain and am very glad I canned tons of tomato products last year.
Spencer is very happy to have a sidekick around the homestead. Hondo shadows him inside and out and is quick to learn the ropes. (Look at mama chicken; don’t try to chase her chicks. She flies in your face and flaps her wings on your tender nose! Watch the goats; don’t try to bark at them. If you do, they chase you and stomp their feet on your butt.) Big dogs know stuff like that. Hondo is learning. And Spencer is so gentle with the little pup with the needle-sharp teeth who climbs on him and bites his ears. He just gets up and moves when the playing gets too rough. They’re already best buds. And Hondo already knows how to get into Will’s lap when he sits in his chair. He tried the flying leap but never got the timing right, so now he jumps then starts climbing up Will’s legs. Perfect!
We decided to go out of pig raising. We had been selling pork but after a couple of customers were unsatisfied with their country-smoked meat (which we had a local processor do), Will and I decided that it was too much stress on us because we really care about what folks say about food they buy from us. We had two litters of Red Wattle pigs, some of which we had planned on raising to sell for pork. Instead, we advertised weaner pigs and one fellow came and bought all of both litters! Now we have three sows to sell, one of which is bred to farrow next month. We’ll always raise a couple of pigs to butcher for ourselves and my son, Bill, and his wife. But we’re done selling pork. It’s really kind of sad for us. (We will still be selling beef as there’s no smoking involved!) Homesteading is full of ups and downs…just like all of life. — Jackie
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
I have an All American canner and we live at 1300 ft. I am new at canning. Should I use the 15 oz weight and adjust the fire at 11 lb? When I do this the canner never jiggles as the manual says it should? Just checking to make sure I’m o.k. with my thinking that it should be fine!
This is exactly what I do. The weight only jiggles when the pressure in the canner is at 15 pounds (on the 15 pound setting) or greater. — Jackie
This is a “what would Jackie do” question. I recently bought 8 whole chickens that were a good price and canned them. Now this brand of chicken is causing more than 200 people to get sick from salmonella. The chicken is not being recalled, and it is said that the people are getting sick from mishandling the chicken. I know you can not necessarily tell me what to do, but what would you do with the 22 jars of chicken and the 20 jars of chicken stock in the cupboard? I fully cooked the chicken before I canned it and then canned it according to the experts instructions. Would you be comfortable using this food?
Canning chicken properly will kill salmonella bacteria. The most common cause of people getting salmonella from chicken is that the chicken had the bacteria (often from fecal contamination during processing) and the meat was either undercooked or the folks handling it at home didn’t wash their hands after handling the meat while preparing it, then ingested the bacteria. A temperature of 165 degrees will kill salmonella and when you pressure can your meat, it reaches a temperature of 240 degrees for 75 minutes (pints) or 90 minutes (quarts), much higher than required to kill the organism. Your chicken should be fine. — Jackie