Ask Jackie by Jackie Clay Issue 84

Ask Jackie
By Jackie Clay

Issue 84
Jackie Clay

To Ask Jackie a question, please Click Here to visit her blog.

Goats, homemade peanut butter, tipi liners, cleaning greasy messes, “old” storage food, pressure canners, using potato flakes, choosing batteries, canning with “real” cans, pickles, tie-dying, apple jelly from apple juice, and preserving roses

Here I am again! Now I am canning. Thanks to you and your answers to my questions on that. I have another one, on the matter of goats. I have 12 milk goats at the moment and going to expand as soon as we get moved to our new place in Missouri. It has fruit trees (already bearing). From reading your vet book I know peaches, plums, cherries and any fruit with a pit is poisonous to them, but what kind of plants and flowers are poisonous?

We will be moving, hopefully, in September or October.

Ron and Bernice Knapp
Clearwater, KS

I really wouldn’t worry too much about your goats eating poisonous plants. Of course I wouldn’t recommend a diet including them, but from my experience most animals can nibble on them without side effects and only get into trouble when there is little but poisonous plants to eat. You see this a lot when the animals are confined to a small pasture. They quickly eat up the good forage, then resort to eating the poisonous plants and become sick or die.

A few plants that you may watch out for include lupine, bracken fern, poison hemlock (along wet areas), chokecherries, and dock (which is edible in small doses, but can cause problems when consumed in a large amount). Talk to your County Extension Agent when you get moved to Missouri. He can tell you what toxic plants you may encounter in your county there.

As for the pit fruits most are toxic in the wilted state if green branches break off in a storm and land in the pasture. Animals can often nibble on the green branches and leaves with no ill effects; mine nibble on chokecherry leaves often. Notice, again, that I emphasize “nibble,” as animals cannot make a steady diet of chokecherry without ill effects. Good luck on your new homestead.


Jackie, do you happen to have a recipe for making homemade peanut butter?

Scott Mancuso

Making homemade peanut butter is easy, not to mention very tasty. All you have to do is throw one cup of roasted peanuts into a blender with two Tbsp. of vegetable oil and as much salt as you want (probably ½ tsp.). Then whiz until it is peanut butter. You will want to refrigerate and use it, as it will go rancid easier because it is without chemicals to keep it fresh.

To make crunchy peanut butter, simply whiz a first batch to the “chopped” stage, dump them into a bowl, then do the next to “creamy.” Mix the two and you have great crunchy peanut butter.

Taking it a step further, you can home-can your peanut butter to keep it from going rancid by packing it tightly into clean canning jars to within one inch of the top, wipe the jar rim very clean, then place a previously boiled warm lid on the jar and screw the ring down firmly tight. Process the jars in a hot water bath for one hour.

Remember, this old fashioned peanut butter will need to be stirred before each use, as the oil will tend to rise to the surface when it stands. Great stuff, though.


In the the July/August issue, in your Ask Jackie column, you stated that the liner of the tipi is called an ozan. I have lived in a tipi on and off. I strongly recommend it. It is one of the finest nomadic constructions to date. However, the ozan is actually an overhead cover used as an adjunct to the liner to help in the retaining of heat in the winter. The liner is simply called a “liner.” I mention this so that if the person who asked the question wants to buy a tipi they don’t end up with an item they don’t want when they go to purchase it and set it up.

Also…Another great environmentally friendly method of removing built up grease is to apply any cheap vegetable oil to the troublesome area and scrub with a green “scrubby” pad. This idea is most obvious in the notion that we use some form of fat to make soap. The fat acts as a suspension material for the grease you are trying to dissolve. This will break up the majority. Then use a mild cleaner such as vinegar or plain dish soap to clean off the surface. Baking soda, used out of the box like cleanser, works great for anything really stubborn. Oh, and plan to throw away the green scrubbies when you are through. They won’t be fit for anything else.

Robin Wood
La Crescenta, CA

I’ll try the vegetable oil scrubbie treatment for my next greasy mess. You’re never too old to learn. I’ve used baking soda for many household cleaning jobs. It does work great.

The ozan is an extension of the lining, which can be left upright to provide more “drip” protection and insulation, or draped down over the bed or sitting area for rain or added ease of heating a smaller area. In the old days, the ozan was part of the lining, but you are right, today manufacturers sell the ozan separately from the lower liner. I would definitely recommend both. In the old days, where permanent camps were set up, the ozan, along with “stuffing” consisting of dry grass between the liner and tipi wall and additional windbreak outside, were used during the winter. In the summer, the liner/ozan were used to prevent dripping from rain and condensation running down tipi poles. I’m sorry I was not clear.


I love your column. It is one of my favorite parts of this magazine. My question concerns some storage food that I inherited.

The man used a wooden, uninsulated shed built in the ‘30s to store his home canned food and other storage food items. The food was subjected to temperatures as low as 20° and as high as 95° .

There is wheat which is nitrogen packed in mylar bags, inside plastic buckets. It has been in storage since the mid ‘90s. There is rice, packed into plastic buckets, using the dry ice method, with no mylar bags, also from the mid ‘90s. My guess is that these items are probably fine, but what should I look for before use, to be certain?

There was Jiff brand peanut butter from 1998. I opened a jar. It smelled fresh and tasted ok. There was no rancid smell about it, although I figure most of the nutrients are gone.

There were some Mountain House freeze dried meals from 1998. I cooked, smelled, tasted, then ate one of those meals. It seemed to be fine. But again, I suspect this too had lost a lot of its nutrition due to age and storage conditions.

I know not to use cans that are bulging, any food that smells or tastes bad. What about these items I have mentioned"wheat, rice, peanut butter and freeze dried meals?

Kevin Childress
Hickory, NC

Lucky you. If you decide to throw out these perfectly great foods, send ‘em up here. I’ve actually eaten beans that were carbon dated 1,000 years old. They were dry beans, sealed in a pottery jar, sealed with wood and pine pitch, found in an Indian ruin in New Mexico. I also saved seeds from this batch, which went on to grow.

As to your inheritance; nearly all dry grains, such as rice, wheat, and corn keep for years and years unless attacked by insects or mold due to less than dry storage conditions. I would not be afraid to come to your house and eat any of these dry grains. If they look good, smell good and taste good, they should be fine. After the 1,000 year old beans, what’s 10 years or so?

The peanut butter is fine. It goes rancid, but won’t poison you. As long as the jars are sealed, you’re fine. And I wouldn’t worry too much about the loss of nutrients. Some do bid adios after a period of time, but many nutrients stay for years. Eat plenty of fresh foods from the garden or more recent pantry, and it’ll be fine.

Same goes for the freeze dried foods. I have eaten plenty of “old” freeze dried food. As long as the food is dry, sealed, and free of any off flavors, mold or any other nasty, they should be fine. A lot of the “freshness date” stuff is bull__. But it does cause thousands of people to throw away perfectly good food. So they turn around and buy more. Now who would profit from this? Hmm. But folks buy it because someone says we’ll be healthier for it. Please pass the 1,000 year old beans. At least they don’t have ingredients I can’t spell or pronounce, let alone recognize.


I have hot water bath canned tomatoes and jams, froze veggies and meats for years. Due to old stories, though, I have been afraid to try my hand with a pressure canner. I have finally caved in and bought a 20-quart pressure canner and would like to know about canning salmon. We catch quite a bit of this fish and halibut, as well, living here in Alaska. I would like to preserve it in jars.

Lissa Ryan
Anchorage, AK

Congratulations. I’m so glad you gave in and are willing to conquer your fears of pressure canning. There’s really nothing to it if you simply get a good canning manual and follow the directions, step by step. I can most of my fish “plain” and do the recipe thing after storage.

Salmon and other fish are easy to put up. And once you try it, I’m sure you’ll go on to can meat and poultry, too. Living in Alaska, you need to try canning moose. It’s our favorite meat.

Can only fish that is very fresh and has been promptly cleaned and held on ice until processing as fish is one of the foods that can be dangerous to improperly can, due to the danger of botulism. Only can fish in pint or smaller jars to ensure that the entire contents of the jar is heated thoroughly and sufficiently.

The basic process is simple. Clean and draw the fish thoroughly. Make a brine of one cup salt to one gallon of fresh, cold water. Cut the fish into jar length pieces (remembering that you must leave one inch of head room, that is, air space at the top of the jar). Let stand in the brine for one hour. Drain well. Pack fish into hot jars, skin side next to the glass. Wipe the jar rim well. Place hot, previously boiled lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints for 100 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, adjusting the pounds of pressure need if your altitude is greater than 2,000 feet for a dial gauge or 1,000 feet for a weighted gauge. See your canning manual for altitude adjustments.

The Division of Fishery Industries, United States Department of Interior, Washington, D.C. can provide you with many seafood canning recipes. Good canning and write if you have any questions as you go along.


Do you have a recipe for potato pancakes using potato flakes (instant mashed potatoes)? I wrote to those potato people (you know the ones in Idaho) and all they said was “buy our mix!”

This would be a good way to use up the potato flakes I have in storage.

Judy Benevy
Springfield, WV

There are lots of things you can do with those potato flakes, besides making mashed potatoes. (I must say potato flakes do better in some other things than mashed potatoes.)

Here’s one recipe I use for potato pancakes from dry flakes. First grind or crush your flakes for a finer potato flour. You can even whiz them in your blender, if you have one. I add 1 cup potato flakes, ½ cup flour, 1 tsp. salt, 2 tsp. baking powder and enough milk (reconstituted dry or fresh) to make the batter almost thin enough to pour thickly off a spoon. Then add 1 large egg and 1 tsp. onion powder. Mix well until the batter is fairly thick, but will pour nicely. Heat 2 Tbsp. (more or less, depending on the size of your frying pan) shortening, then drop pancakes from a soup spoon onto the frying pan. Gently fry on one side until done, then turn with a spatula. Serve hot. They’re great with ketchup, honey, preserves, or even apple sauce.

Other uses for the potato flakes are adding to canned tuna or ground meat to make patties to fry. We really like that one. Simply add a handful to a couple of cans of drained tuna and a pinch of salt. Mash together well and add an egg. Stir well and pat into patties. Now take a saucer or bowl and throw a handful of dry flakes into it. Carefully lay one patty at a time in the flakes and pat them on the top, as well, then place in frying pan with melted grease and fry on a medium heat.

Leftover roast or other meat may be ground in a meat grinder, along with the potato flakes. Mash together well, and add your egg, as with the tuna and proceed the same. The potato flakes add a nice taste and make the tuna or meat stretch further. The dry flakes make the outside of the shell nice and crispy.

You can also use the potato flakes in bread. Just add half a cup, in place of half a cup of flour. The starch in the potato flakes feeds the yeast and makes a nicely flavored bread.


I would suggest that you change your list from “9-volt radio with fresh battery” to a “AA radio with fresh battery.” Radios built to run on two AA batteries are common these days if you look for them, the batteries last 51 times longer, they are less expensive, and easier to store. 9-volt radios are generally older designs that consume far more power than is necessary using current technology. They are also prone to a reverse polarity connection which will quickly destroy the radio. Since AA batteries have many uses these days, it makes more sense to eliminate 9-volt batteries and store one backup type that can be utilized in a number of roles, should the need arise.

Leonard Umina
El Dorado Hills, CA

I didn’t know that, Len. Very good information. But how about going one step further. We just added a crank/solar powered small radio to our grab and git box. No batteries to worry about, at all. As it is, our old 9-volt radio (which is our main travel radio) gets a new battery about once a year. It is listened to infrequently. In an emergency situation, you would probably only listen to a few minutes of news at a time, then shut it off, not spend hours listening to your favorite tunes. Our readers are so informed about so many subjects that it is absolutely amazing.


I was wondering; I have done canning before and am doing it now again. I purchased some tin cans and the machine that goes with them. I have never done this before. Have never seen tin cans for canning, but it is in an old time book I have. Just wondered if you knew of anyone that has used them before?


The only book that I’ve seen that has instructions for canning in tin cans is the older Putting Foods By by Ruth Hertzberg, Beatrice Vaughan, and Janet Greene. Many folks have put home-canned foods up in tin cans. One problem with canning foods at home with tin cans is that other than bulging cans and spoiled food, later during storage, there’s no real way to know if the cans have indeed sealed properly. When home canning with the common, two-piece lids you can actually see the lid sucked tightly in when the seal is good, making this a safer method of canning at home. And then there is the cost of buying new cans for every batch of canning that you plan on doing. Canning jars and the rings are reusable; you only need to buy inexpensive new lids each year.

One hint in canning with tin cans is to “sacrifice” a couple of cans before you actually can. Partially fill them with water, seal the can with your sealer, then drop them into a kettle of boiling water. If there are air bubbles coming from around the sealed rim, your seal is not good and your can sealer must be adjusted again.

Be sure you use instructions meant for tin cans, as the canning process is definitely different than when you home-can with glass jars.


Is there a safe to can garden vegetables without a pressure cooker?

Virginia Cawthon

No. The only safe to home-can vegetables, meat, seafood, and poultry, which are low acid foods, is with a pressure canner. The only way you can home-can vegetables without a pressure canner is to pickle them, which, using the right recipe, in effect makes them high acid vegetables because of the vinegar required to pickle them. I make pickled peppers of several types, an end of the garden pickle, which uses cauliflower, peppers, carrots, etc. And of course, there is sauerkraut, which is a way to put up cabbage without pressure canning.

Go ahead. Pick up a pressure canner (new on sale, used at a yard sale or the Goodwill) and start canning all those goodies.


I am planning on canning pickles this year, my first canning endeavor. I appreciate your help with these questions. Do I have to use special canning cukes? I’m currently growing a Japanese variety. Can I cut my cukes into quarters? With “raw pack” should the water be at a rolling boil before lowering jars in?

Can I use honey instead of sugar? If so, do you have a conversion table? Can I have only 2 or 3 jars in the pot or does it have to be full?

Jen French

Good luck with your pickling. It’s so easy and a lot of fun, actually. To answer your questions: No, you don’t need special pickling cukes. I’ve even used zucchini. I would stay with the way the recipe calls for, such as sliced thinly, cut into chunks, cut into spears. I’m assuming you want to quarter your Japanese cukes because they’re so long they won’t fit into the jars right. In this case, you can quarter them, if making spears. It doesn’t matter if the end is cut. Have the water at just below a rolling boil, simmering, when you put your jars in, or the steam may burn you. Until you have some pickling experience, I’d recommend that you stick with sugar. Then you can try recipes, switching honey for the sugar. Yes, you can put any number of jars in the hot water bath, even one. Again, great pickling.


I am incarcerated in Gardner, Mass and am lucky enough to have a 15 by 2-foot garden plot to grow some veggies. I share the plot with four other guys and we do pretty well with what we have to work with. We have two types of hot peppers, lettuce, carrots, beets, wax and green beans, plum, cherry, & Big Boy tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, parsley, summer, and zucchini squash.

Is there a way to tie dye T-shirts with beets or other veggies?

As we are very limited in fertilizer, what else besides leaves, grass clippings, and coffee grounds could I possibly use? The area has a lot of clay and direct sun all day. We water with 2½-gallon water cans averaging 12 gallons daily.

Tom Ford
Gardner, MA

It sounds like you boys have a great little garden. A lot of people, with much greater resources, do not do as well. Yes, you can use beets to tie dye your T-shirts. You simply slice the beets thinly and simmer in enough water to cover them until the color has bled into your water. Likewise, you can get a yellow dye from onion skins. Maybe you can get some from the kitchen or grow a row next season.

Likewise, for fertilizer, you could get vegetable scraps from the kitchen, such as potato peelings, carrot peels, cabbage leaves, etc.? I realize that in some instances, health regulations may forbid this, but give it a try. Then dig these into the rows between the plants to prevent any possible odor or flies, which may hinder your gardening endeavor. This is called trench composting and works well. Working in any organic material, such as plants that are done bearing, is also a good idea. Don’t use any that appear diseased, though, or you may spread something you’ll wish you didn’t.

Growing a wide row of a green manure crop, such as thickly sown peas (which you can pick and eat before turning in the vines), rye, or alfalfa, then spading it in does a fantastic job of improving garden soil. Good growing.


I have tried making apple jelly from apple juice. I always follow the instructions exactly, but it always seems not to set up. Can you give me a good recipe for this or tell me what I am doing wrong? We love apple jelly and I love to can my own vegetables.

Reneé Hoover

First of all, be sure your apple juice is 100% apple juice. I would guess that you perhaps got an apple juice drink, which includes sugar and water to “thin” it down. That would certainly account for batches that didn’t turn out. I use the recipe that comes in the SureJel box. It’s easy, quick, and has always worked for me.


I just had a question regarding the roses that I received two weeks ago from my boyfriend. I kept them until the petals were almost falling off and then went to remove them into a nice keepsake dish. When I was removing them, I noticed that they were sprouting all up the stems. I would like to know if I can plant them and how to get them to root. I trimmed off the dead stock at the top and put them all back in fresh water. Any help you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Tiara Halo

I’m sorry, but I doubt that your roses will root and become plants. Usually cut flowers will give all they have to sprout, then wither and die, despite your best wishes they would live. You can try cutting the bottom of the stem anew, then dipping them in a product called Rootone, available at most garden stores. Follow the package directions and give it a try. Maybe wondrous things may happen. Perhaps you will give your grandchildren a bouquet of roses from these dying stems. Stranger things have happened.


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