Ask Jackie by Jackie Clay Issue 100

Ask Jackie
By Jackie Clay

Issue 100
Jackie Clay

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Using a pressure cooker as a pressure canner

Can you use a pressure “cooker” as a pressure “canner?”

Roy Sherman
Modesto, California

I’m sure some folks get by doing this, but I would not advise it. First of all, the pressure cooker does not have a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot, as does a pressure canner. Second, the cooker is much too small for any serious canning. And finally, the pressure cooker is built for cooking in mind, not canning and I have doubts as to whether it would hold exact pressures for the length of time necessary for processing home canned foods safely.
" Jackie

Seed varieties

Can you tell me the variety of seeds you plant?

Wilma J. Turner
Springfield, Kentucky

Sure, Wilma. Now this list is never ALL I plant, as I always experiment and grow a wide variety of experimental crops to see if maybe I like them better or to see how they will do where I am living. Here goes:

For garden peas, I usually plant Alderman or Tall Telephone and Green Arrow, as they are the most productive peas that I’ve grown. They are also very tasty, too.

The carrots I plant are Kuroda. They are a very large carrot that takes not-so-perfect soil and is quite early to harvest. They’re also sweet and tender.

For onions, I choose Copra for storage and Alisa Craig for large sweet non-storage onions. Copra is hard as a rock and lasts well into spring.

I usually plant Dragon Tongue, Provider, and Top Crop bush beans and also bush yellow Romano and Nugget wax for their taste and productivity.

For dry beans, I plant a variety of mostly early Native American beans such as Dog, Arikara, Hopi Black, and Shalako.

My pole beans vary from year to year, but I always grow Cherokee Trail of Tears, which is a purple (turns green on cooking), very productive and tasty bean. It is black seeded and also makes good dry beans.

For sweet corn, I grow Kandy Kwik, which is a hybrid, but when I had a longer growing season, I grew True Gold (open pollinated) so I could save seeds from it. I have also grown Santo Domingo Blue for roasting ears and also flour corn. This year I am planting Painted Mountain, which is 90 days till dry. It is a very beautiful “Indian Corn,” developed in modern times by a seedsman looking for an early dry corn. Looks promising.

My watermelons are usually Blacktail Mountain and an early strain of Moon and Stars, but I also have grown Hopi Yellow and other Native melons that I really liked.

Muskmelons that work for me consistently are Alaska and Uncle E. Like the watermelons, I usually also grow a Native melon as well, as the taste is always superior.

For squash, I grow Gold Bar yellow zucchini, Hopi Pale Grey (winter squash), Early Butternut or Long Island Cheese if I’m feeling lucky (it’s a 105-day maturity and needs a good summer here in the north).

I usually grow either Howden or Rouge Vif D’Etampes pumpkin.

My tomatoes vary greatly. This year I have something like 16 different varieties. I love to experiment. But my old standbys are Oregon Spring, Early Cascade, Early Goliath, Stupice, and Principe Borghese (a small tomato for drying). All of these are dependable and extremely tasty, too.

Peppers are another thing I’m nuts about, this year growing at least a dozen different varieties. But I usually always grow Big Early, Giant Marconi, Senorita (a mild jalapeno), Big Chile, and Chimayo.

Goliath and Packman work the best for me in the broccoli department, and Early Snowball gives us plenty of cauliflower.

I usually grow Summer Dance and Climbing Japanese cukes because I like to trellis the cukes and have nice slim, long ones to make lots of pickles.

Of course, I grow lots of other things such as herbs, flowers, and assorted veggies, but this will give you a good idea of what you’ll find in our garden. I do try to save my own seeds, so I usually only grow one variety of each species of vegetable unless I can separate the plantings by enough space so they will not cross. Some vegetables, such as beans, require little separation, but others, such as corn, requires as much as a mile to ensure pure seed.

Some of the catalogs I order from often are Native Seeds/SEARCH, 526 N. 4th Ave., Tucson, AZ 85705 or; Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, 2278 Baker Creek Rd., Mansfield, MO 65704 or; Seed Savers Exchange, 3094 North Winn Road, Decorah, IA 52101 or; and Seed Dreams, P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368. These catalogs carry open pollinated, old traditional, and Native varieties.
" Jackie

Weevils in rice

I love brown rice and have used it almost exclusively for many years. But lately I have had a major problem of finding weevils in my air-tight metal rice canister. Three times I have sorted and sifted the entire canister tossing weevils and dark grains. Each time I open the canister, more weevils are there. Short of storing the rice in the freezer, do you have any suggestions? The thought of throwing out several pounds of rice really goes against the grain"no pun intended.

Margaret Anderson
Birmingham, Alabama

I hate to tell you this, Margaret, but your rice probably has eggs in it that keep hatching weevils. These weevils are the larvae of pantry or maize moths, which lay their eggs in cereal, rice, flour, cornmeal, etc. I would dump the rice, wash the container, then check other foods in your pantry that attract these pests. You’ll often notice “webs” in the top part of containers before you’ll actually see “bugs.” Sometimes it takes quite a bit of doing to get rid of them.

Several gardening supply catalogs carry pantry moth traps, which work very well and effectively rid your home of these wasteful insects. Gardens Alive!, 5100 Schenley Place, Lawrenceburg, IN 47025 or; and Territorial Seed Company, P.O. Box 158, Cottage Grove, OR 97424-0061 or both carry these traps.

In the future, be very careful not to buy any dry food that has “flour” sifting out of holes or tears in the bag; these containers are easily infested with moths.
" Jackie

Sterilizing jars

What is the proper way to sterilize jars? After washing in soapy water, my grandmother just rinsed them in bleach water. I boil the water, but that’s such a hassle. My friend says just run the jars in the dishwasher. Once they’ve been sterilized, how long can they sit before they are no longer sterile? After boiling them, I turn them upside down in the dish drainer and cover with a flour-sack towel. I usually need to add more water to the canner and bring it to a boil for processing. It may take me another 15-30 minutes before I have all the jars filled and ready to go into the canner. (OK I’m very slow!) Anyway, I’ve always wondered if I should do as my grandmother did and just leave the jars in the hot bleach water until I was ready to use them. I don’t have a dishwasher, but it would give me one more reason to get one if that would get the jars sterile.

Charlene Nelson
Casselton, North Dakota

To sterilize canning jars, simmer them in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Then keep them in that hot water until you are ready to use them. Take them out of the water, one jar at a time, turn upside down briefly to drain the water out, then right side up for a few seconds while you prepare to fill them. The heat will adequately dry the jar. This is simple and also keeps the jars hot, preventing any cracks while you fill them with hot foods. (A cool jar filled with a hot food will sometimes crack.)

Fill the jars, then place the filled jars on a folded dry towel until all are filled. Then refill your canner, if necessary, and bring it up to very hot again, and put the jars in. There! You’re ready to go; with sterile, filled jars.
" Jackie

Beef jerky without salt

I am looking for a way to make beef jerky without salt, as I retain water when I use salt.

Can the meat be dried by smoking with the ingredients for jerky minus salt? This meat will be frozen after it is dried and smoked.

Several people tell me it is dangerous to do it this way. I need your opinion. I have 20 pounds of good beef for curing.

Robert Kager
Mt. Vernon, Washington

No, it is not dangerous to make jerky without salt. Indians hung strips of meat over smoky low fires to dry it for centuries. Another possibility is to marinate the thin strips of meat with spices and brown sugar and use your dehydrator or oven on low temperature to dehydrate the meat. It is a good idea when making “modern” jerky (not rock hard and crispy dried) to freeze or at least refrigerate it to prevent it from molding. Today we like our jerky quite a bit more tender and flexible than the old timey pioneer jerky.
" Jackie

Rose hips

Rose hips, vitamin C, how? When ripe they have a lot of dried fluff and 4 seeds in them. How does one use them to get the vitamin C?

I’ve tried holding carrots over to replant to seed, but it looks like wild carrot. Do they revert back? I’ve not had luck holding a bit back and replanting to get seed. How can I make it work?

Alwilda Crouch
Breckenridge, Michigan

Most folks use rose hips as tea to access the vitamin C. To do this, harvest the hips when they are full, red or orange, and shiny. With scissors, snip off the stem and blossom end. Small hips you can simply dry whole, but larger ones dry better if you snip them in half. Dry them that way, never minding about the seeds. When you want to make tea out of them, simmer a heaping tablespoonful of dried hips in a cup of water. The longer you let the hips steep in the water, the stronger the tea. Rose hips really lack flavor, so you’ll probably want to add perhaps lemon and honey, cinnamon, or herbs of your choice. When the tea is done to your taste, strain it, and it’s ready to drink.

As for your carrots, just be sure you are holding over non-hybrid (open pollinated) varieties. It sounds like you may be using hybrid carrots. But remember that in the second year, the carrot does look wild and the root gets all hairy and tough. The seed heads and leaves extend higher than the compact carrot tops we’re used to seeing in the garden. Carrots are really quite easy to save seed from, but for the fact that you must over-winter the carrot root with an inch or so of the top left on, then replant it early in the spring in order to get seed. " Jackie

Sealing dried foods in jars

How do you seal a jar with dried foods in it like peas or bananas? Are they fine not sealed?

Do you know how to can homemade peanut butter?

Dezarae Graham
Indian Valley, Idaho

I keep my dried foods such as peas and banana chips in gallon glass jars with screw-down wide-mouthed lids. They will keep this way, nearly forever, providing they are kept dry.

You can home can homemade peanut butter in wide-mouthed pint jars. Pack it well, with no air bubbles, to within an inch of the top of the jar. Wipe the jar rim clean and place a hot, previously simmered lid on the jar and screw down the ring firmly tight. Process the jars one hour in a hot water bath canner. " Jackie

Vine borers

We enjoy your column, although we can’t understand why so many people run away from using a pressure canner. It is not only the safe, right way but also the easiest.

We have gardened and canned together for 33 years (planning garden #34 now). We pressure can all types of fruits and vegetables. We would like to can water to keep for emergency use, but haven’t tried it yet. We do have a question for you, though. Like you, we have a favorite squash. Ours is the Blue Hubbard. We plant it, it grows fine, blooms, and sets on fruit and then the borers get at the vine at the base, and eventually cut through the vine. I’ve tried Sevin Dust, which helps a little. Any suggestions?

Jim and Linda Knight
Evansdale, Iowa

The common treatment for squash borers is to cut into the vine when you notice the hole and wilting in the area, and remove the borer. Then bury the vine in that spot to prevent disease and help the vine heal.

I have had better luck by injecting about 7ccs of Bt in the area where the borer is active. This nearly instantly kills him as he continues to eat, ingesting the fatal Bt, that is, fatal to caterpillars and other pest larva only…not YOU! I also spray my squash vines weekly during “borer” season with a rotenone solution. This is a natural solution and I feel much better about using it, rather than Sevin.
" Jackie

Growing coffee

I am slowly becoming self-sufficient as far as food preservation is concerned but I still have one major vice, coffee! I drink several cups a day and cannot imagine doing otherwise. Of course, I have to purchase it from the store and that distresses me. I see coffee plants advertised in seed catalogs, but could I actually produce “real” coffee from them? I live in agricultural zone 6.

Also, any recipes or tips on creating an emergency back-up grain-based hot beverage (chicory, etc.?)

Perè Walsh
Dugspur, Virginia

Yes, you can produce coffee from indoor or greenhouse-grown coffee plants. But you would not grow enough to satisfy your craving. Sorry. I’m “addicted” to Mountain Dew. (Hey, everyone has bad habits!) And if emergency times hit, I’ll just suck up and go cold turkey. You might try drinking tea and see if that will satisfy you in a pinch. Tea stores longer than coffee does, without any rancid taste.

Yes, you can use roasted grain coffee substitutes (such as Postum). You can make your own version by roasting 4 cups wheat bran, a cup of cornmeal, mixed with a half cup of molasses. Stir it well, place on a cookie sheet, and bake at under 200° in your oven until it is crisp. Then when it is cool, crush it through your meat grinder to give it an even appearance.

Or you can make dandelion root coffee. Dig the roots in the spring before blooming or in the fall for the best taste. Wash the dirt off them, place on a cookie sheet in the oven, and roast as above until they are dry. Then, roast at 375° for about 15 minutes until they are coffee colored when you snap a root and look at the insides. Cool, then run through your meat grinder a couple of times, and it will look like coffee. You will use about 1 tsp. per cup of “coffee.”

And then there is chicory root coffee. Wash the roots and roast at a low temperature until very dry and nice smelling. Grind and store in an airtight container. Boil your “coffee” water and put 1 tsp. of ground chicory root in it, and let it steep.

With these alternate coffee substitutes, you’ll have to experiment and see how you like your personal cup. You may want more or less ground “coffee.” Or, you may want to use creamer or honey. Experiment and enjoy. (Just remember that these alternative coffees do not contain caffeine, which makes it not as satisfying to some).
" Jackie

Wax in honey

I found a large Mason jar of honey that a beekeeper gave to me years ago with about 2 inches of honey in it. I put the jar in the microwave to melt the honey, so I could pour it into another jar…everything melted, and the honeycomb is melted into the honey. It has not “set up” yet, but is it okay to eat it this way?

Rebecca Covalt
Albuquerque, New Mexico

Yes, you can eat the melted honeycomb, with the honey. We used to pack honey in the combs and of course, we always ended up eating some of the comb, with the honey. And we’re still here to talk about it. Actually, I kind of like the taste of the honeycomb, myself!
" Jackie

Sugarless bread

My husband has type 2 diabetes and I need a recipe for bread using whole wheat unbleached flour, NO SUGAR. This is the only grain he can have. I am really at a loss. At this point NO pasta, cereals, rice, any kind of grain other than whole wheat.

Donna J Brannam
Wilson Creek, Washington

Here is one sugar-free recipe for whole wheat bread:
European Whole Wheat Loaves:

Put 2-1/2 cups warm water into a large warm bowl. Add 2 Tbsp. dry yeast and stir gently. Let soften. Mix in 3-4 cups whole wheat flour and mix well, making a heavy batter. Cover and place in a warm place and let rise for an hour or so. Now add 3-4 more cups of flour, one cup at a time, mixing well, until a nice ball is formed that is NOT sticky, but not stiff, either. Return to bowl and let rise again until nearly double. Divide the dough in half and place in greased tin or on a greased cookie pan. Slice top of loaf about half an inch deep, either lengthwise or several slashes, crosswise. Cover again and let rise. Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown and hollow sounding when thumped with finger. This will be about an hour. Remove from pan and let cool (if you can stand waiting!).
" Jackie

Reusing canning seals

I have a question about the seal on my canning lids. On several of the lids that I used with the hot water bath, the seals sealed perfectly, but when I removed them they look “NEW.” The food or jam is fine. Have you ever reused a canning seal?

Cybele Connor
Hammonton, New Jersey

I would not use a “used” lid on anything canned in a pressure canner (i.e. vegetables, meat, poultry or combinations thereof). In an emergency, I HAVE used “used but pristine” lids for such things as jelly, pickles, preserves; foods that will mold if the seal fails, not grow deadly bacteria. Of course, it is not a good idea to re-use lids. All canning manuals will tell you this. And I would NEVER reuse a lid that I had to pry off with a can opener as it dents the lid and damages the seal.

Any lids that I have reused, I have simmered for several minutes to ensure that the gasket material on the lid is nice and soft. A good compromise is to reuse the lids, but as lids on jars of dehydrated foods, seeds or spices. In this way, you reuse the lid, putting it to good use. But you are not depending on it to keep your home canned food fresh, tasty, and safe.
" Jackie

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