Ask Jackie Online by Jackie Clay Published 061213

Ask Jackie Online
By Jackie Clay

December 13, 2006
Jackie Clay

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Water bath carrots?

I know you are a big fan of the pressure canners, but at the time I cannot afford one.

I was wondering if you could water bath carrots? I know you did say not to bath beans because of no acidity, but what if you were to add vinegar? I read somewhere that if you fill the space with vinegar, it will be safe because of the acidity of vinegar. Thank you for your help.

Adam Browne
Ontario, Canada

The reason I am such a “big fan” of pressure canners is that I can nearly all our food. And without a pressure canner, you simply cannot process vegetables (including carrots!), meats and poultry. This severely limits what people can put up themselves at home.

NO NO NO, you cannot do anything to safely can carrots in a water bath canner. The only exception is pickling them, and this makes a nice treat, but does not let us can carrots to have with our meat and potatoes.


Making sauerkraut

Thanks so much for all the help you give us homesteaders; you are a virtual fountain! I make sauerkraut with my own cabbage, and I love it. However, I have found that once I open the crock and expose it to the air, it starts to decompose, at least on the top layer. Since I make a lot at once, I was wondering how to keep it without losing the beneficial bacteria it contains. I am assuming that if I canned it, the heat would kill the bacteria. What about refrigeration? How long could I expect it to last in the fridge? Or, do you have a recommendation for keeping it after opening the crock? By the way, I use the Harsch fermentation crock, and I highly recommend it.

Jean Damon
McKinleyville, California

The only way to keep your kraut in the crock without having it spoil on top is to be absolutely sure the top layer is exposed to no air. One of the best ways to do this is to partly fill a food grade plastic bag with just enough water to completely seal off the top layer of kraut from the air. You should put just enough brine in it to weight the kraut down firmly but not so much that it squeezes the kraut brine up the sides of the crock. Kept in this way, the sauerkraut will keep indefinitely. One old way was to have a hardwood disc cut so that it fit tightly over the kraut in the crock. Then this disc was paraffined so that it fit very tightly, excluding all air.

Yes, the sauerkraut will keep longer in the fridge when exposed to the air, but not for weeks and weeks.

I usually can my sauerkraut. Yes, canning it will kill beneficial bacteria. But there is still a lot of power in canned sauerkraut. The taste stays the same and it will last this way indefinitely without all the messing around each time you dip out a batch from the crock.


Frozen Hopi Pale Gray

I received the Hopi Pale Gray squash seeds. I got two plants and 5 squash. It has frozen here already and my question is, does the squash ripen if I picked them now and brought them in? Hope to get an answer soon. I would like to save what I have.

Leona Martel
Lmartel at

Your squash are probably mature now. Last year I had three that were very small, the size of baseballs instead of the more usual football or soccerball size. I cut them open and they all had mature seeds inside. The mature seeds are fat and the shell of the seed is hard when the seed is dried for storage.

They won’t ripen more when brought inside but will keep nearly forever if not frozen. In fact I still have one Hopi Pale Grey squash left over from last fall. It was stored right in the kitchen and it is still hard and good. This is one reason I always grow this fantastic squash. It simply out-stores all other squash, bar none. Besides, it is one of the best tasting squash I’ve ever grown.

Thank you for helping save this very rare endangered squash.


Cloudy pickles

We canned 29 quarts of dill pickles on Sept. 6. We tried vacuum packing them this time with a Food Saver and unfortunately, it didn’t work. Since then, and we just noticed them today, they came unsealed and now the vinegar inside is cloudy and there is residue on the bottom. Are they bad enough that we have to throw them away? Could we possibly dump the juice out and put new in and water bath them, which is the way we have done in the past, but someone told us to try the Food Saver, and that obviously did not work.

Hope you have some suggestions. We sure hate throwing them away, but we don’t want to make anyone sick either.

E and L
Erlistewart at

Sorry guys, but your pickles are over the edge. It’s a disappointment to have this happen, but you sure learned from it. The moral to this story is don’t believe everything people tell you.


Water bath grape juice

Is it absolutely necessary to steam or give the jars a hot bath for 20 minutes if the grape juice quarts sealed themselves shortly after the boiling hot juice was put into the quarts?

In other words, what is the percentage or likelihood that the juice will be bad within the next 2 years if I don’t steam them/process them?

(I already put 50+ quarts in my food storage because I thought it might be okay, but my state extension service gasped in horror when I told them that. Is that just because they haven’t done it any other way, or maybe because they might be liable if they say don’t worry about it if its sealed and then someone gets sick?)

Elise Dalton
Provo, Utah

No it is not absolutely necessary to give the jars a boiling water bath. But if you don’t, you risk the seals coming undone during storage. This is why it is always recommended. You won’t get sick, but it is possible that the juice may ferment or mold.

If I were you (and I’m not), I would open all the jars and smell each one before dumping it into a large kettle. Then I’d wash and boil the jars and simmer some NEW lids. After bringing the juice to a boil, I’d fill the jars and then process them in a water bath canner for 15 minutes. Then they will keep indefinitely on your pantry shelves.

I know this involves extra work and the cost of extra lids, but it will be worth it if you save your juice.

Wool as insulation

I know a lot of folks in New Zealand, Europe and now Canada are making commercial wool insulation. The benefits seem marvelous. My question is how can one make such insulation at home. As a spinner I already know how to process wool. I also know that the insulation must be soaked in borax to keep the moths at bay. But how to make the nice thick bats (or do you need to)? I’ve got access to lots of free wool and a small building needing insulation. I’d hate it to go to waste.


Jessica Dally
Jessicadally at

Wool has been used for insulation for centuries. In the old days, the whole fleeces were simply laid out between floor joists, uncleaned and untreated. Wool strips were also used in between logs in log homes to prevent air infiltration. One problem with using wool is that rodents love to nest in that nice soft material. (They also nest in fiberglass insulation.) So if you elect to use wool, prevent rodents from gaining access to the area.


Canning coconut milk

I buy canned coconut milk, but it is a lot cheaper to make my own. Could I make a big batch and can it myself?


Dawn Blesy
Dawnblesy at

I’m sure you can home can coconut milk, but I can’t find any processing times for it. Are there any readers out there who have this information for Dawn and me?


Canning cream-based dip

Can a cream cheese and egg-based dip be canned? I know there are variables and factors involved, like acidity and style of canning (water versus steam), but technically, can say a cream-based crab dip be canned? I have an old family recipe for a holiday dip and I am wanting to jar it/can it/preserve it and give at Christmas time, but I want to be sure it will be safe. Oh, it also has a few veggies and vinegar in it; it is delicious. The recipe calls for all ingredients to be combined and brought to boiling. Then it is cooled and put into the fridge. Once chilled it is served with Wheat Thins.

Thank you.

Alyson Otto
State College, Pennsylvania

I’m sorry to say that I don’t think your dip would make a good candidate for home canning. Any recipe containing crab and vegetables must be pressure canned, and crab must be processed for 80 minutes. If creamed cheese was processed for that long, it would likely go curds and whey; not stay nice and creamy. As a suggestion, either make small batches for the fridge and give them to take home on Christmas or send recipes to friends and relatives inside a card. It does sound good.


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