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Ask Jackie headline

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Archive for the ‘Self-sufficiency’ Category

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning unripe pears and canning zucchini pickles

Sunday, July 20th, 2014

Canning unripe pears

We had 2 pear trees that were so loaded down with pears that all but 2 branches on each tree broke before the pears were ripe. We’ve learned our lesson and will not allow that many pears develop next time. Is there anything that we can do with the unripe pears? I’m not sure they will ripen because they are only about the size of a baseball now.

Judith Avery
New Bern, North Carolina

If it were me, I’d can up some and see how they taste, canned in a medium syrup. Or you might try canning pear preserves or even pickled pears which are really sweet syrupy, cinnamon pears. I’d make a small batch of each as a trial and see what you can do. I sure hate wasting food! — Jackie

Canning zucchini pickles

Here is a recipe I have some questions on: Slice the squash (zucchini or yellow) 1/4 inch thick, Boil 4 cups of water, 1/4 cup of vinegar, 1/4 cup of sugar, fill the jars with squash, fill with prepared liquid add lids and seals, HOT WATER BATH for 10 minutes. To eat: rinse the squash several times in colander, drain. Bread and fry em up, there just as good 2 years later as ever.
Okay, it sounds like pickles, which should make it safe to water bath. But it’s not pickles. So is this a safe method? And would it matter if it were thin slices or 1/2 inch chunks? What’s your opinion?

Becky McKim
Ankeny, Iowa

I’d skip this one. Too much water for how much sugar and vinegar, in my humble opinion. The thickness of the slices is not the problem but the fact that you’re water bathing a low acid vegetable in very limited amounts of acid (vinegar) and sugar really worries me. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: storing honey and canning lids

Saturday, July 19th, 2014

Storing honey

I have quite a few plastic bottles of honey. They are starting to become hard. I heated them up in a pan of water and put the honey in pint jars. It worked but how do I store it ? Do I water bath it or can I just put a lid on it and store. Or should I pressure can it?

Sherry Obermann
Waukesha, Wisconsin

Hard or crystallized honey is perfectly natural and is nothing to worry about. As you said, warming it up turns it right back into its liquid form. You don’t have to process honey in canning jars, just put a lid on it and store in a cool, dark place. Honey will stay good for decades without further treatment. If it crystallizes, just warm it up and it’ll be a liquid you can more easily use. Personally, I love crystallized honey as it’s much easier to use, not dripping and running over your fingers when you have it on toast or a biscuit! — Jackie

Canning lids

I was canning some beans today, and opened a new box of Kerr lids. I noticed that the instructions are different, and no longer require heating in a pan of water and keeping warm. Now, they simply require washing. So, after searching everywhere I could, I found that on the website, there is a little tiny area that says keeping the lids warm is no longer necessary. I guess I would like to know if you are doing this? It’s one of those things that sort of goes against the grain, so I thought I would ask you since you really keep better track than most of us do about this stuff.

Judy Sloan
Spokane, Washington

It goes against my grain, also. The new Ball lids still have the old instructions on heating in a pan of water but I know the new Kerr lid boxes have eliminated this step. Maybe they’ve changed their seal formula or maybe not and just figured heating them in a pan of water was old-fashioned. I don’t know but I still heat mine. (Have you seen the sentence on the boxes of new jars that says “Use your canned food within a year.”) WOW, I sure don’t buy that one! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning okra and treating for flies

Friday, July 18th, 2014

Canning okra

I have smothered okra with onion and tomatoes before putting in the freezer. I would like to smother the okra and then can it instead of freezing it. How would I be able to do this? Water bath or pressure cooker? My husband bought your book for me and my life has never been the same. I am grateful for you and your books.

Penny Thibodeaux
Arnaudvlle, Louisiana

I’m so glad you like my book! To can up some okra in tomatoes and onions, remove the stem and blossom ends and slice it. Peel and chop your onions and tomatoes and put into a large pot and bring to a boil. Add okra and any spices you wish. Bring to a boil and boil 2 minutes. Ladle hot into hot jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp. salt to pints and 1 tsp. to quarts. Remove air bubbles. Process pints for 25 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. (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

Treating for flies

We recently found our dream farm and bought it, a certified organic farm around lacrosse that had up till now only been used for dairy. What is your best organic method for treating flies? There are tons around here, and while we will keep organic, we do want to keep our food prep areas as clean as possible.

Mike Seidel
Downers Grove, Illinois

Congratulations on your dream farm! What an adventure you have in store for you! I’m sure you’ll find that when the cows have left, your fly problem will disappear next year. Just moving our milk cow, from our goat barn near the house down to the training ring, about 500 feet down hill from our house totally eliminated our fly problem. Fly predators, which are tiny wasps that lay eggs in fly larvae will do much to help you out quite quickly. Parasitic wasps can be purchased from several suppliers. These parasites, applied periodically in the old manure piles (composting the old manure piles) and adding several jar-type fly traps around the buildings will do a whole lot to help, too. Good luck with your new homestead. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: canning spaghetti and storing water

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Canning spaghetti sauce

We like to use Prego and Ragu sauces and add meat for our pasta meals. Can we pressure can the store bought/meat added sauces? If so, what times and pressures would we use at sea level?
David Rowland
Summerdale, Alabama

Yes, you can but I much prefer to make my own spaghetti sauces from scratch as not only are they MUCH cheaper but you know exactly what’s in your food. To re-can store-bought spaghetti sauces with or without meat, simply dump them in a large pot and bring almost to a boil then ladle out into jars and process for the same times recommended for freshly made sauces. For spaghetti sauce with meat, that would be 60 minutes (pints) or 70 minutes (quarts) at 10 pounds pressure. — Jackie

Storing water

My home is on a water well. I have several water storage containers for emergency uses. I use 1/8 tsp of Clorox per gallon for sanitation. (1) Can the treated water be consumed without further filtering or boiling? (2) Can the treated water be used to water vegetables? (3) I assume the treated water should not be flushed into the septic system. (4) How long will each Clorox treatment last?

David Read
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Rather than adding the chlorine bleach to the storage containers containing water, consider just keeping an unopened gallon of relatively “new” unscented bleach in your water storage area. Then if it becomes necessary, add the 1/8 tsp of bleach to each gallon. Yes, you can consume the water without further filtering or boiling. And, yes, you can water vegetables with the water but if you don’t add the chlorine to the water in storage, you could use the untreated water for vegetable watering. Once treated, the chlorine water should stay pure indefinitely if left unopened. But, again, I’d opt for treating the water if and when needed. Sanitize the containers first, before adding the water. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

My surgery was cancelled again; my cold came back

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

I was unbelievably depressed Saturday when I started coughing. It felt just like when I had my two-week-long cold that got my gallbladder surgery postponed. Oh no, couldn’t be! Oh yeah? Well, I coughed all night Saturday and called the hospital on Sunday morning, feeling sicker. Then I crawled back into bed feeling sorry for myself. After all that pre-op stuff: physical, blood tests, EKG, making sure all the laundry and dishes were caught up, helping Will hurry up and mulch most of the garden, etc. Big bummer. (It takes a while to psych up for a surgery, for me at least…) Now I’ve got to do it all over again when I get better. Oh well, there probably was a reason for it. Or stuff just happens. I want to thank all of you for your care and prayers for my upcoming surgery. Even though it hasn’t happened yet, I really do appreciate it.

Anyway, the weather’s turned nice and Will’s stopped working on the barn stonework (which I think looks GREAT) and is cutting hay like mad. We’ve had so much rain, it was impossible to get any hay dry prior to this and they’re calling for a whole week of sunny, warm weather. Hooray!


Our garden is doing absolutely wonderful with corn up beyond my waist and big squash starting to run all over the place. Luckily we got it well mulched. Even our pumpkin/corn patch on the new forty looks good. The weeds were trying to get a hold on our pig pasture corn/pumpkin patch so Will went down, first with the Mantis and, when that wasn’t enough, the big Troy-Bilt. Yesterday he started side dressing the plants with rotted manure and they”ll just shoot up. We know this from years of experience.


Oh, I forgot to mention we had a hen turkey come off her nest with 12 babies. The problem is that there wasn’t a turkey poult in the bunch! They were all chicks. She’s evidently found a chicken nest and started sitting on it. Oh well, they don’t care and after losing one weak one the first day, they’re all doing great and feathering out already. We also got 15 Cornish cross, five Black Sex Links and five Americauna pullets which we’re raising in the small chicken coop until they feather out and grow a bit. One of our other turkey hens has a nest out in the bushes somewhere. She pops up from time to time to eat and drink but I haven’t been able to catch her going back to her nest. I sure hope there are a turkey eggs in that nest! — Jackie

Jackie Clay

Q and A: pepper plants and Amish canner

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

Pepper plants

I’m hoping you can help me with my pepper plants. I’ve planted several sweet bell peppers and jalapeños this year. Normally I have no trouble and would have been loaded with peppers by now. This year the plants look pitiful. They have lost leaves and just look sickly. Some of the leaves that are left are brown on the edges. I have not seen any bugs eating on them They do look like they are coming back a little but still no little peppers. I’ve searched the internet but can’t find anything that seems to match up. Do you have any idea what is causing my pepper problems? My tomatoes and other plants all look great!

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

A few things come to mind from my own experiences through the years. First off, have you been having unusual weather? Too much heat, drought, and rain will cause peppers to really set back as yours have done. I’d mulch them well and then use a fish emulsion foliar feeding every two weeks for a month and see if that doesn’t perk them up. Don’t go with heavy fertilizer as you may end up with huge plants with no peppers. — Jackie

Amish canner

I’m considering purchasing the large Amish-Made Stovetop Water Bath Canner ( that Lehman’s sells. The height would allow better boiling water coverage of quart jars and keep the boiling water inside the canner rather than all over my stovetop and would allow me to process larger numbers of jars at a time.

However, since the canner sits over two burners, the configuration of my gas stove will only allow me to sit it over a high-output burner and a small burner on one side or a medium and small on the other. Will there be cold spots in the canner that would leave some of the jars underprocessed?

DK Phillips
Columbus, Ohio

No, you won’t get cold spots in your canner. Once the water comes to a boil, it will all be the same temperature inside the canner. The large canner that Lehman’s sells reminds me of the first canner my mom and grandma used in our basement back in Detroit when I was very little. It was a copper clothes boiler with a top. Mom and Grandma canned quarts and quarts of food in it using a small gas stove down in our basement. One thing that puzzles me is you saying that you get water all over your stovetop from a regular water bath canner. I’ve canned on electric, gas, and wood stoves and have never had water (other than a few small drips) get on my stovetops. Are you over-filling your canner? You only need to cover your jars by an inch of water. If you fill it too full, you will get boiling over. — Jackie


Jackie Clay

Q and A: using commercial jelly jars for canning and mustard bean pickles

Friday, July 11th, 2014

Using commercial jelly jars for canning

I have read that you can re-fill and water bath jelly or jam in jars from commercial companies like Welch’s. Is this safe? I haven’t tried this but it would be a good free source of jars if possible.
Judith Almand
Brandon, Florida

Commercial jelly jars aren’t recommended for re-canning your own jelly/jam as the lids are one piece and the sealing compound isn’t meant for multiple uses. That said, I do know people who re-use empty commercial jelly/jam jars to water bath their own jellies and jams. But I really can’t recommend it. — Jackie

Mustard bean pickles

I was looking at your recipe of Mustard Bean Pickles. It calls for salt, but has no amount and doesn’t say what to do with it. I would guess salt the water when you par-boil, but canning has no room for guessing. Would appreciate clarification.

Betty Anderson
Berryville, Arkansas

Yes, you’re right. The salt is added to the water in which the beans are boiled, not the pickling syrup. Sorry for the error by omission. — Jackie

Jackie Clay

In between rains we’ve been working in the garden

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

Rain, rain, rain, UGH! I’ve had enough, already. But, hey, it’s been good for the garden. We now have thigh high sweet corn, squash and cucumbers that are starting to run, and very nice potatoes, carrots, and onions, not to mention huge tomato plants that are starting to set tomatoes already. The peppers are so-so, but we haven’t (still) gotten the plastic on our new hoop house. So much to do, so little time between rainstorms!)


We’ve been weeding our squash for the last time and mulching them heavily with partially rotted manure. Will also mulched both sides of our sweet corn rows in the garden. I’m afraid to look at it tomorrow. It will probably be seven feet tall! Corn and squash are both heavy feeders and really benefit from plenty of manure.


I’ve been milking our heifer, Mamba, and aside from two short rear teats, it’s been going fine. (We never got around to teaching her to lead or stand tied, so I just feed her a bucket of grain and milk.) I saved the first milk this morning. It’s going to be so nice to drink plenty of ice cold raw milk again and start making butter and cheese!

I saw the surgeon yesterday and she put the hurry up on my surgery so I could get it over with. Monday morning I’ll be in the hospital getting my gallbladder out — laparoscopically. I read the patient information sheet and was relieved to read that my gallbladder would be disposed of “in a respectful manner.” Oh please! I mentioned that statement to the surgeon and she did a double-take. Then she read it and we both laughed.

Anyway, I’m sure I won’t post on Monday and maybe not until Wednesday so don’t worry. I’m in good hands and am as strong as a horse. (Okay, maybe a Shetland pony…) — Jackie



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