Ask Jackie by Jackie Clay Issue 92

Ask Jackie
By Jackie Clay

Issue 92
Jackie Clay

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

Powdered egg shelf life

Back in ‘98-‘99 I was really into preparing for Y2K going so far as to visit a Mormon Cannery with friends and use there facilities to can. (They really have the right idea, always staying prepared). I also visited a local distributor of bulk food and canned a lot of their stuff. At the cannery I sealed the tin cans and threw in the moisture absorbing packages, and with the stuff I canned at home (in five-gallon pails) I used moisture absorbing bags and diatomaceous earth to control bugs. My question is, the egg powder that I canned at the cannery, what’s the shelf life? The first three years I was near the ocean, cool temps. The past three years have been in the desert, hot during the summer, but the containers were all inside the house in cool temps.

Jason Mays

Most preparedness companies give egg powder a seven-year “shelf life.” Of course it’s prudent to rotate all long term storage foods so that everything stays as fresh and nutritious as possible.

But sometimes something sneaks past you and you have, say, 10-year-old powdered eggs. Open a can and give her the sniff test. If it looks fine and smells fine, it probably is just fine. Make up a small batch of scrambled eggs or something and give it a taste. Now powdered eggs don’t taste just like fresh eggs do, but they should be edible with no “funny” taste, which sometimes indicates they have become rancid. This is not common, however, and I’d guess your powdered eggs are just fine. I just opened a 1998 can of my own and am now using old powdered eggs which are just as nice as they were back when.

Don’t give up on preparedness because the Y2K was a nonevent. There are plenty of reasons that it is essential that everyone have at least a year’s worth of food and essential supplies stored up. Few emergencies announce themselves with the fanfare of Y2K. Most just sneak up on you.

" Jackie

Dry goods storage and battling meal weevils

I am trying to get together a one-year food storage program. I have found two-gallon buckets that I have purchased for the storing of beans, rice, sugar, wheat, and anything else that I can find to store in them. I am storing my food in food saver bags in the two-gallon buckets. I am placing bags from my food saver in the buckets and sucking the air out of them before I put on the lids, label, and place into storage. My questions:

1. Do I get enough of the air out of the bags with the food saver to protect the rice, beans, etc., or should I be purchasing the oxygen remover packets?

2. Should I have put in a moisture remover also?

3. How will I know that I blew it with my storage?

4. And last question. When I bought this home I was left the gift of weevils from the family that was here. How do I get rid of them so they don’t get into my wheat, rice, and flour in my food storage?

Phyllis Pettigrew

Good for you, Phyllis. I’m so glad to hear from folks that are still involved in long-term food storage. Preparedness is always a good idea.

To answer your questions: Yes, you get enough air out of the bags to keep your rice, beans, and other dry goods with the food saver vacuum. I have stored such things for years and years without even this handy helper. The key is to keep the foods totally dry and out of the reach of insects, moisture, or rodents. Everyone should rotate their long-term food storage, replacing the older food with fresher. Once in a while, you may have one food go rancid, but this is really rare. I have been keeping a long-term pantry for many decades and have lost very, very little food. And that which was lost usually happened due to breaching of the container for some reason or another. (Dropping off a shelf is one that comes to mind.) The old adage, “Don’t keep all your eggs in one basket,” applies here, meaning don’t store all your food in one container or one spot. I have mine placed in three areas, in many containers, just in case.

Meal weevils or pantry moths are a devilish problem. Drastic measures are required. First, get rid of all opened flour, corn meal, or baking mixes. Ditch any mixes or bags of flours or mixes that have trickling leaks, indicating weevils. (Signs of weevil activity are foul smell in the flour, webs at the top of the bags, little whitish, long moths in the house, and of course, the presence of “bugs” in your flour or corn meal.)

I’ve had good luck using pantry moth traps in the kitchen and pantry. I’ve bought mine from Gardens Alive. You can also buy them from Gardener’s Supply Company, 128 Intervale Rd., Burlington VT, 05401 or These are little “tents” with a lure scent inside. The moths fly in, but get stuck in the sticky inner surface and don’t fly out. You’ll be amazed at how many moths you can catch in a week. When you don’t catch any more, you’re out of moths and if you’ve done your work cleaning your pantry, you should have no reinfestation. Take care when buying new grain products; often you bring them home. Do not buy leaking bags of flours or mixes. If flour can sift out, moths can get in and lay their eggs.

Putting a few bay leaves in the bags with your flours will repel the moths, should any be left around. Also, keep all your flours in an airtight container and you should be in the clear.

" Jackie

Drying lemons

How do I dehydrate whole fruits, i.e. whole lemons?


Whole lemons are easy to dehydrate, although, obviously you must slice the whole lemon in order to dehydrate it. I buy them whenever I can get a good deal, then dehydrate them and make a great lemon powder that I use in a huge variety of recipes, from baked goods to Chinese food.

Wash the lemons with hot water to remove any insect spray or other noxious chemicals. Pat them dry, then slice about a quarter of an inch thick. Remove and discard any seeds from the lemon rounds and place the rounds in a single layer on a dehydrator screen or on a cookie sheet, if you don’t have a dehydrator. Dehydrate at about 145° F until they are dry. The oven of your gas kitchen range, with only a pilot light on, will dry your cookie sheet trays of lemons. Or you can leave them in the backseat of your car on a warm, sunny day. They dry quickly.

Once they are dry, the pulp is crispy and the rind tough and leathery. What I do is whiz them in the old blender that I got at the dump, until the whole lemon is a granular powder. This is excellent in pies, all baked goods, and a ton of other recipes. It is very lemony in fragrance and taste.

" Jackie

Mincemeat recipes

My grandfather speaks fondly of the mincemeat his mother used to make"”much better than the stuff they sell in the store now.” He remembered it the most in sandwiches, not the typical pie. I would like to mince meat for him, but after looking at several recipes, I have several questions.

Did mincemeat originally have (or is it necessary to have) alcohol in it in some form? Some recipes call for brandy, and others cider, and some use a combination. My grandfather didn’t remember his mother keeping brandy on hand, but then, he never really watched her make mincemeat, either. At first I was just going to use cider, but almost all cider you can buy has been pasteurized. Wouldn’t that affect the taste? And if she never canned it, wouldn’t the unpasteurized eventually have some alcohol? Or is it possible that she used vinegar instead? I did find one recipe that called for cider and cider vinegar, and then it was “seasoned to taste” with brandy right before serving. I find it odd to think of alcohol in a child’s sandwich, but maybe no one did back then. Any suggestions?

Also, what would be the best way of storing it? The meat is cooked ahead of time. I know a lot of people used to (and maybe still do) just leave it in the crock, or else seal it with “greased paper and twine” or paraffin. Some recipes told me to can it for 20 minutes at 15 pounds for pints (I was going to do half pints). And I know I’ve read you’re supposed to can meat for 70 minutes, but isn’t that for raw meat, not precooked? Would it be better for the taste and texture if I just froze it instead?

A lot of the recipes call for Citron, but if that used to be easy to find it sure isn’t now. Do you think they usually used fresh citron or candied citron? Is there any chance you could help clear things up for me, or should I just experiment?

Talitha Purdy

I can understand your confusion, as there are so many recipes for “mincemeat.” Most of the old recipes for mincemeat did call for brandy. This was both for flavoring and for the preserving qualities. With the sugars and other preservatives, the mincemeat was packed in a crock and kept in a cold place all winter. Today, I would recommend freezing the resultant mincemeat, if it is a mincemeat with minced meat in it.

The brandy was put in at the end of the cooking down time and the boiling cooked off most of the alcohol, so the children weren’t being fed alcohol.

The citron was candied citron. Folks often grew citron melon and candied the peel as you do watermelon rind pickle to use in different recipes. Store bought candied citron will be fine.

Some of my recipes use cider or cider and vinegar. I don’t think the pasteurized cider would make a difference, especially if you freeze the mincemeat. (Many women used the brandy, but didn’t advertise it.)

Here are two good Amish recipes for mincemeat, one which is a great way to have nonmeat mincemeat from green summer tomatoes.

Abigail Troyer’s mincemeat:

1 lb. lean beef, cubed
2/3 cup water
6 cups chopped apples
1 cup raisins
2 cups currants
1/2 cup chopped orange peel
2 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
1/4 cup orange juice
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 cups sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. mace
1 tsp. salt
2 cups apple cider
1 cup brandy

In a sauce pan bring the water to a boil and cook beef cubes covered for an hour. When the meat has cooled, put it through a food chopper. Combine all the ingredients, except the brandy, in a large sauce pan and cook uncovered for two hours, stirring occasionally. When the mixture begins to thicken, add the brandy and cook five minutes longer. Seal in hot, sterilized jars.

Summertime mincemeat:

3 cups chopped green tomatoes
3 cups chopped apples
1 cup vinegar
1 cup molasses
3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 Tbsp. salt
2 cups raisins
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Combine all the ingredients in large kettle. Boil five minutes and seal in hot sterilized jars for pie filling.

Personally, I would recommend either freezing the mincemeats or processing the tomato version in a hot water bath canner for 15 minutes, but these are the original recipes.

" Jackie

Potato scab

We live in the Copper River Basin in south central Alaska and Valdez. We probably rate as “part time homesteaders” because our land and home are 90 miles from work across a pass that can get 900 inches of snow in a bad winter. We have a trailer in town near work so we do not have livestock yet. Currently our main garden is only 50 feet by 80 feet. This has been cleared up over the last 10 years. Because of limited space we are using a short rotation: potatoes every other year on about half of the ground and everything else on the rest. We are using commercial fertilizer in moderation as well as some compost that is sometimes supplemented with well rotted horse manure and waste fish food (I work at a fish hatchery). We have also spread wood ashes (mostly spruce and willow). Water is supplied with drip irrigation tape. Our problem is that over the last two years we have started getting significant scab on the potatoes. We do save our own seed but last year the new variety we ordered was as bad as any. Is the wood ash making the ground too “sweet.” Any suggestions to cope with this problem would be very helpful. Eventually we will clear up more ground to allow a longer rotation and some fallow time, but this is slow work.

Howard and Sue Brewi

The most frequent cause of scab in potatoes is too much fertilizer. I would give your garden a rest from the fertilizer, in the area you will be growing potatoes at any rate. If possible, try growing them in a new, freshly cleared section of garden that hasn’t seen fertilizer or potatoes before. Potatoes usually love fresh ground and will reward you with scab-free potatoes. It’s often a temptation to overfertilize the garden, especially when it is a smaller garden and the fertilizer is available. We just love our gardens to death, so to speak. Planting a variety of potato that has some resistance to scab is also a help. Lighten up on the watering after blooming will also help give better results.

" Jackie

Canning winter squash

I’ve frozen winter squash and it is in my opinion horrible. I’ve found recipes for canning it but I’ve read it doesn’t taste good either.

Our basement isn’t cool enough to keep it and it will get too cold in the garage by February and freeze.

Welcome to Minnesota.I live here too.

Sherry Morse

Thanks for your welcome, Sherry. We are enjoying our new northern Minnesota homestead a bunch. I also hate frozen winter squash. It is great, canned, though. Don’t believe everything you read. When I serve my own canned squash, I chunk it up and cook it as little as possible. Also, I often bake it, before serving, to dry off some of the liquid and get a consistency my family likes. I do not puree it. That would be yucky, unless you used it in baking. Squash makes a great “pumpkin” pie.

Don’t give up on your basement. Get a big cardboard box, put it in the coolest corner of your basement, and stack a few squash in there. Throw an old quilt over the box and check on the temperature. You’ll be surprised at how much difference that makes. Any good keeping variety of winter squash should do just fine for several months.

" Jackie

“Hot seal” canning question

How safe is the “hot seal” canning method for preserving barbecue sauce? I’m cooking my sauce over 170 degrees for about an hour and boiling my lids. Most of the sauce doesn’t last more than 2-3 weeks before being consumed by family and friends.

The sauce has a lot of sugar, vinegar, and ketchup in it"no tomatoes.

Gary Hairlson

Your method of canning your barbecue sauce is probably just fine. Without seeing your recipe I can’t be positive, but I wouldn’t be afraid to take second helpings. The sugar, vinegar, and ketchup (which does have tomatoes, obviously, but also sugar and vinegar to preserve it) would not cause food poisoning or mold problems.

" Jackie

Canning chili peppers

I would like to can chili peppers. I had an overabundance of them this year. My family likes to make things with them in. But I have only found pickle peppers. There has to be a recipe for them.

Kammi VanderZiel

Sure you can home can chili peppers. I can them every time I have enough, as I use the canned roasted peppers in a lot of recipes. My favorite is scrambled eggs with chilies in them, topped with melted cheddar and crunchy toast. To can them, first roast them for best taste. This is easily done by laying the peppers on your grill over hot coals, not flames, until the skins blister and begin to blacken. Roll them over and do the other side. You can also roast them in your oven on a cookie sheet at 400° F, but the grill tastes best (especially if you use mesquite or fruit tree wood). After they are roasted, quickly place them in a paper sack and roll the top shut. Leave them in it until they are cool. This helps the skins peel off easily. Remove the skins and seeds, if desired. Removing the seeds reduces somewhat the fire of the chili. Wear rubber gloves or the area under your finger nails will burn like heck for days. I don’t, and mine do.

Pack the chilies in half pint jars, then fill the jar to within half an inch of the top with boiling water. Half a teaspoon of salt may be added, if desired. Process the jars in a pressure canner for 35 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, unless you live at an altitude above 2,000 feet, in which case, consult your canning manual for directions on adjusting your pressure to correspond with your altitude.

" Jackie

Canning pumpkin

I would like to know why I can’t find directions for hot water bath canning of fresh pumpkin. I need to know how long to process quart jars in a hot water canner? Can you help? I do not want to use a pressure canner. I have done this before and had no problems but I forgot how long to process the jars. What is the time table for hot water canning to the timetable for the pressure cooker method?

Gloria Broadwater

It is not safe to water bath process pumpkin. I know that lots of people have done it, but to be safe, pumpkin and all other vegetables and all meats, must be home canned in a pressure canner.

Fruits (and tomatoes are technically a fruit) can be hot water canned.

Pressure canning is very easy to do, believe me. It is scarcely more difficult than boiling water in the water bath canner. But if you are dead set against canning pumpkin with a pressure canner, either freeze your pureed pumpkin or dehydrate it in quarter inch thick slices.

" Jackie

Giving mild/sweet peppers a “bite”

I purchased mild/sweet peppers in error. I have just cut and cleaned a bushel and I want to can them and give them a bite. What can I do with them to make them have a bite? I normally can Hungarian mild/leaning toward hot and try to mellow them. I am now faced with trying to make them hotter. I could try adding some pepper chips but I do not want to waste the whole lot. Please advise.

Mary Hulewicz

If you want a real zing in those oh-so-mild peppers, try canning them with two or three habaneros in each pint. These little dandies are so hot that they’ll fire up everything they come in contact with. If you don’t want that much heat, drop one or two dried hot peppers in each jar, as you would hot dill pickles. We don’t want you to catch fire.

" Jackie

Chiltipine question

I am trying to grow chiltipine via aquaponics, and they are just sprouts. Just in case they do not produce hot peppers, I will plant them in potting soil. Do you know what type of soil to use? I live in the Dallas, Texas area where soil is mostly clay base and I don’t think it will support the chiltipine plant very well. I assume I will need to purchase various types of potting soil and soil supplements to make their native soil mixture. Please advise.

Larry Zavala
Dallas, TX

I’ll bet your peppers will produce those tiny round firecrackers they’re famous for under your conditions. But, should you decide to plant them in soil, I would simply mix some of your clay soil with some sharp sand for drainage and perhaps a little compost for tilth and fertility and watch them grow. You might even plant one or two in the flower bed of your house.

One of my husband, Bob’s, friends invited him to spend the weekend at his parents home in south Texas. Bob was surprised when his mother picked some “little pepper berries” from a big plant next to her front door to chop up on their breakfast eggs. These were chiltipines and they really woke the “boys” up.

These little native wild chiles grow from Arizona and New Mexico, down into Mexico throughout the desert canyons. Mockingbirds like to pick the berry-like peppers for a midday snack. And they are thought to spread the crop through their droppings, bringing seed and fertilizer to a new area.

" Jackie


I have 60 lbs. of blackberries and if it don’t frost I might get more than 100 lbs. of them. Other then jam what is the best way to keep them?


Wow, Rich, you’ve hit a gold mine. Oh my, what can you do with all of them? Well you could freeze them to use as fresh. I don’t generally like to freeze things, but berries freeze so well and taste amazingly like fresh, it’s a good way to go. Simply spread them out on a cookie sheet and drop them in the freezer. Just as soon as they’re frozen, bag them up, making sure most of the air is out of the bag. You can sprinkle them with sugar as you bag them, if you’d like. They won’t keep but about six months, but I doubt if you will have them that long.

Or you can dehydrate them. This is easy, too. Just spread them out in a single layer on a dehydrator tray or cookie sheet. Dehydrate at about

150° F until they are like tough raisins. If you use the cookie sheet, you can use your gas oven with only the pilot light on. It’s best to scrape them around about halfway through, so the entire berry dries. You can even use the backseat of your car on a warm sunny day to dry the berries.

These are great in muffins or pancakes. Just toss a handful in the batter and bake. Or for a pie, simply soak for about an hour in warm water, drain, and use as fresh.

Blackberries can up quite nicely, too. Simply fix a syrup mixture of water and as much or little sugar as you prefer and boil that. Then add the berries to a jar, gently thumping the jar down to settle the berries snugly without mashing them, to within half an inch of the top of the jar. Then fill the jar to within half an inch of the top with the hot, boiled syrup. Process the jars 15 minutes for pints and 20 minutes for quarts in a boiling water bath.

Or you can make blackberry pancake and ice cream syrup from the blackberries. In a large kettle pour enough water to cover the bottom an inch or so deep. Add the berries and begin to heat, mashing the berries with a potato masher. Stir well as you juice the berries. Strain off juice, either overnight with a jelly bag, or through a strainer, removing the seeds and pulp. Then add four cups of juice to one cup of sugar and cook until as thick as you want. Pour into hot pint jars and process 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. This is excellent and also makes a tasty treat when you’ve got a sore throat.

" Jackie

Tomatillo jam

I work at a public library and recently had a patron looking for a recipe for tomatillo jam. Believe it or not, I couldn’t find one in any of our recipe books. Of course, by that time I was determined to come up with a recipe for this woodsy-looking gentleman. So I thought who better to ask than Jackie Clay? Do you have anything related to tomatillo jam, jelly, or preserves?

Richda McNutt

One recipe for tomatillo jam calls for 41/2 cups husked tomatillos run through a food grinder with a coarse knife. Add 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until thickened. It should sheet off a cool teaspoon, not run off in drops. Pour into hot, sterilized jars to within half an inch of the top. Wipe the rim of the jar clean. Place hot, previously boiled lids on the jars and screw the rings down firmly tight. Process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Or just pour into jars, cool, then refrigerate. This is very good.

You can also add chopped walnuts for a conserve, instead of a jam.

" Jackie

Canning cheese

I read somewhere about you canning cheese. Now I can’t find out how. Can you tell me where to look or better yet, how to do it?

Cathy Adams
Camden, OH

You won’t find this one in a canning manual, but I experimented around and found something that works for me. One day I was canning tomatoes while whacking a chunk of cheddar cheese for “lunch.” Mmmm, I wondered. Tomatoes are acid. Cheese is acid. So I cut up cubes of cheese, sitting a wide-mouthed pint jar in a pan of water, on the wood stove. Slowly cubes of cheese melted and I added more until the jar was full to within half an inch of the top. Then I put a hot, previously boiled lid on the jar, screwed down the ring firmly tight and added the cheese to a batch of jars in the boiling water bath canner to process. It sealed on removal, right along with the jars of tomatoes. Two years later, I opened it and it was great. Perhaps a little sharper than before, but great. So I started canning cheese of all types (but not soft cheeses) and, so far, they’ve all been successful. To take the cheeses out of the jar, dip the jar in a pan of boiling water for a few minutes, then take a knife and go around the jar, gently prying the cheese out. Store it in a plastic zip lock bag.

" Jackie

Is Montana changing?

Just finished reading the article “Starting Over"Again,” and I have a question about your opinion of Montana. Is the political climate in Montana changing from the influx of well-heeled California types? I have read and heard that the people moving to the northwest are generally very liberal and unfriendly to those of us who prefer less government and less regulation.

My wife and I were planning to eventually visit the area with a vague idea of scouting out property for the day when we can retire and hopefully enjoy a somewhat quieter more peaceful existence. Is Montana a likely place or have movie stars bought up everything worth considering?

Bruce Ruzicka
Mount Washington, KY

Montana has changed a whole lot in the last 10 or 15 years. Parts have become the “Vail” lifestyle, after that part of Colorado was full to the gills. The prettiest spots in Montana, the Bitterroot Valley, Gallatin Valley, Flathead Valley, and others are expensive and full of multimillion dollar homes. And of course, many people who can afford that don’t have time for you or me. Even ranching areas have changed. There are fewer and fewer family ranches and more ranch managers for millionaire owners.

Ranch land has gone sky high and there are very few small parcels of land available for sale at anywhere near reasonable prices. The small acreages are usually either in a “remote subdivision” (20-acre mountain parcels) which have little useable land and many neighbors or mining claims which are usually in remote mountainous areas. This is great, but you will be snowed in for at least five months out of the year. We lived on one and it was great, but we snowmobiled in and out seven miles from December till the middle of May.

I’m not saying it is not possible to find a great small Montana homestead at an affordable price, but it grows harder and harder every day as people’s incomes go up and up (or so it seems by all those new huge log homes).

Write to Steve Murphy, our realtor friend who works for Bill Walker Real Estate, 75 E. Lyndale, Helena, MT (406) 443-3424. He’s a great guy and can give you the latest list of smaller pieces of land in the best (we think) area of Montana for homesteaders.

" Jackie

Read More Ask Jackie

Read Articles by Jackie Clay

Read Ask Jackie Online

Comments regarding this article may be addressed to Comments may appear online in “Feedback” or in the “Letters” section of Backwoods Home Magazine. Although every email is read, busy schedules generally do not permit a personal response to each one.

Comments are closed.