I suppose one always has those “favorite” garden vegetables to can. One at the top my list is green beans. They are so fun to plant (large seeds), grow quickly, look nice in the garden and usually produce well from summer to frost. The key to having them keep producing is to keep them well picked. Once they begin setting lumpy seeds in the bean pods, the plant shifts from flowering and making more beans to putting all its energy into making seeds. And that’s the end of your green beans for the year; there’s no going back.
I had great green beans last year, so when I planted the garden this spring, I decided not to plant so many. Well, I put in a row and that looked SO lonely. So I put in another, then some fillet beans to can whole for a change. But then I broke some more brushy ground and decided “Oh what the heck, if green beans won’t make it here, nothing will.” And I planted two more big rows. The trouble is that all of them did very well.
Shrug. Oh well. Now I am picking a big basket full every other day and canning them up. My pantry shelves are bulging with jars of green beans. But it’s oh so fun, too. They’re so easy to put up; just cut the ends off, cut them into convenient pieces, pack the jars, add salt and pour boiling water over the beans. To top it all off, they only need half an hour’s processing for big quart jars! That’s double sweet!
One reason I enjoy putting up beans is that they are large and quickly readied for canning. Some foods, such as peas, take much more dinking around with for a smaller yield. I can pick a basketful in half an hour, cut them in 15 minutes and they’re ready to go. And I’ll get about 10 pints and 7 quarts out of that basketful, too. All good eating.
I don’t think I’ll ever get over the thrill when I pull a bean bush over to access the bottom and find dozens upon dozens of nice long, tender, well filled out juicy green pods. And I’ll always probably plant too many. Just because we love them so much.
I put readers questions with my answers below:
Canning bruschetta topping
I’ve had a very good yr with my garden – lots of tomatoes. I’ve already canned salsa and marinara sauce. Do you have a recipe for canning a bruschetta topping? I quite often make this fresh during
the yr and it would be so much more convenient to just open a jar and since I have so many tomatoes . . .
Bruschetta is one thing I like to have fresh. Okay, so I’m picky. But there’s no reason you can’t experiment and come up with something YOU like. I’m thinking kind of a mix between salsa (without the hot peppers) and marinara sauce; chunky with seasonings and thicker. Unless you use lots of peppers and onions, you’d process it as you would your salsa. — Jackie
Bee box for lining bees
How do you build a bee box for lining bees? We know HOW to line them but would like plans to build a “bee lining box” Can you help us please?
Frank and Linda Hendricks
Just about any wooden box that will fit in your hand is fine for lining bees. (That’s hunting wild bees to you folks, unfamiliar with this age old skill.) It’s helpful to have a glass cover so you can see the bees that are inside eating the comb honey or thick sugar syrup mixture. I had one that had a sliding glass cover and small airholes drilled in the wooden sides, both for air supply and to let the “food” aroma attract the bees. I could simply slip the cover open enough to let the bees come and go and slide it shut to travel to a closer spot on the bee line. I think it was an old honeycomb box from the store from years past. — Jackie
Don’t can deviled ham
Do you have a recipe for deviled ham and can it be canned?
Lake City, Florida
To make deviled ham, simply grind lean ham fine with your meat grinder or food processor and add mayonaise and finely chopped pickle to suit your taste. Mix well and refrigerate until used. Deviled ham isn’t a good candidate for home canning because it is a dense packed food. Because of safety issues, it isn’t recommended for home canners to process dense foods such as this or ones containing large amounts of flour or rice. — Jackie
Toxic loquat seeds???
I have been reading some conflicting articles about loquats. They state that the seeds are anywhere from highly toxic to slightly toxic to having medicinal purposes. I even read they make tea and
wine from the seeds. My local extension office was of no help to me so I thought I would come to my source of inspiration, confidence and wisdom, which is you. I steamed juiced my loquats and now am ready to make some jelly. They weren’t even stirred as they steamed. Do you think there is enough toxicity in my juice to be unsafe to use?
I wouldn’t worry about your juice being toxic. Loquat seeds are “slightly” toxic, meaning you’d have to eat a whole lot for them to have any adverse effect on you. Just steam juicing the loquats won’t give you a problem. Enjoy! — Jackie
We love your columns and blog and learn something new from each one. One of our favorite breakfast foods is Pennsylvania Dutch Scrapple. We make it every year when we butcher a hog but it does not last long in the freezer before going bad. We have found a canned version available from Vermont Country Store but the cost is prohibitive to us and it isn’t as tasty. We have looked high and low for instructions on how to can it at home but have found nothing. Can you tell us how to can this delicious breakfast treat at home?
Jim & Chris Owens
Because scrapple is so dense, it isn’t a good candidate for home canning. I’m sure it IS possible to can it; it just probably isn’t as safe without commercial canning facilities to ensure that the center of each can/jar reaches a hot enough temperature for safe processing for the length to time necessary. This is why foods with appreciable flour or rice aren’t advisable to home can. Sorry. — Jackie
Just finished reading your blog- welcome to the internet!! Your columns in BHM are great reading and very helpful. Do you grow Horse Radish? The stuff we get in the store is 1″-1.5″ diameter. I was wondering if “baby horse radish” , roots that are quite a bit smaller, is any better flavor, or any better for cooking than the big roots at the store.
Bob & Rusty Taylor
Yes. I LOVE horseradish. It grows so well that it can become a weed. My kind of plant! With everything, home grown horseradish is better than the stuff you get in the store; it’s fresher. But no, the baby roots aren’t really any better or worse than the big ones. Taste depends on how much moisture the roots get in the growing season. A dry year usually results in really hot, kind of stringy roots. A wet year (or plenty of watering) makes juicy roots that are less hot but still plenty pungent. — Jackie
Faded canned beets
I did my first batch in a pressure canner last night and made up 20 pints of beets. I cooked the beets with 1″ of tops and the root still attached. I then peeled and hot packed the beets. I placed them in the canner and got the pressure to 11#. It rose up to 14# and then I got it to settle at 11.5# for a total of 35 minutes. Later I came back after things cooled down and pulled out the beet pints. Every jar had faded, some to the point of near white. The water in the canner was still pretty clear. What did I do wrong? or what else can I do to prevent this. I love beets and have had great success with pickled ones but wanted to put up some regular ones this year.
This can be the variety of beet you are processing; some keep their color when canning and others fade drastically. To prevent this (when possible), leave 3″ of beet stems on the beets and all of the root. Also, choose those that are young and fresh; older beets tend to fade more than fresh, young ones. — Jackie
Making soap from cow’s milk
First of all I want to tell you that I am so happy to hear of David’s recovery…how terrifying it must have been for you. We lost a child the same time you lost your husband, and you have been
on my heart many times during the years.I am actually writing to ask you if you know how to make soap with Jersey cream and lye? We have a family cow who blesses us with more cream than we can use. If one can use the cream in place of, or addition to the fat, can it be frozen before using? I would love to find a way to use this cream (it is very heavy) in place of fats, but have never made soap before and don’t want to try anything that would take the hide off of my family.
Thank you for your support. And my heart goes out to you on the loss of your child; nothing can be harder.
I’m sure you could make soap out of your Jersey cream; I’ve just never had enought to try it! My butter and cheese, cream cheese, etc. took all my cow could produce. Of course what we didn’t use, I traded to friends so it was mutually beneficial. You might read up on this web site and do a little experimenting on your own: It’s candleandsoap.about.com I’ve checked it out and it gives good directions on several different types of soaps you can try. Cow’s milk makes a good soap, similiar to goat milk soap.
No matter what you use, please be careful using the lye. It can cause nasty burns if you aren’t very cautious. But the lye in the soap will not burn your skin as it’s changed in the process. In fact, homemade soaps are more mild than most commercial products. — Jackie
Why does an RV fridge need a battery?
My husband and I have been avid fans and subscribers for many years. I have often thought of writing to you, but I usually see my answer in one of your many columns. Anyway, this time, we are stumped. We, too, live off the grid and we seem to be paralleling you in how you are connecting (ie: generator, solar, etc). We have a newer propane refrigerator in our cabin kitchen, and we also have a 2-way fridge (electric/gas) in our RV trailer. We would like to be able to have the fridge in the trailer running all the time so we would have extra freeezer space, as well as fridge space, but we can’t seem to keep it lit. We have the battery connected to a 15 watt solar panel, but it doesn’t seem to be
keeping the battery charged enough to keep the pilot lit. My question to you is: why does an RV fridge need a battery? Our cabin one doesn’t have one, and we LOVE it. Is there a way of bypassing the battery and just having the gas on all the time while we are at our mountain house? Thank you for all the good that you do and the best of luck in your northern home.
I passed this question on via phone to my oldest son, Bill, who works as a service/sales technician for a large RV dealer. He works on RV refrigerators every day. We also have a fridge in our travel trailer that we started out living in here on our new homestead, but that’s an older model and doesn’t need electricity to operate.
Here’s what Bill said: Depending on the make and model, your refrigerator draws about 2 amps, powering a circuit board that operates an electric gas valve. As the temperature is sensed, the valve opens or closes, keeping the temperature stable. This keeps up a relatively constant draw on your battery.
You can’t bypass the electricity. You can either buy an older model that is like ours, with a manual gas valve; it’s either on or off and the flame gets larger or smaller as the temperature is maintained. Or you can pick up another solar panel (or two, depending on the size), to keep your battery charged. Another additional option would be to get another battery to add to your little “battery bank”, giving a bigger storage capacity. — Jackie
Where do you find canned bacon?
I was wondering, do you know where i could buy canned bacon. about twenty years ago, i could buy it at Kmart, now, i cant find it anywhere. i have looked everywhere, on the internet—everywhere, any help would be great. i do not remember the name brand, but it was really good, and the cans would last along time. by the way, i really enjoy your insight, you give, in backwoodshome.
Sorry Pete, but I don’t know where you can get that canned bacon. I used to get it long time ago for extended camping trips and it worked real well. Does anyone out there know where we can get Pete’s canned bacon? I can some bacon, but then it’s in glass jars which could break during a camping trip. — Jackie
Grading and landscaping
I stumbled on your web-site looking for information on ‘Grading or preparing land for landscaping’. I hope you might be able to help me. As my Daddy always said, “Son, there is no stupid question except thatquestion that is never asked.” My wife and I live in South Carolina. We have recently purchased some acreage to build a home. The location of the home will be prepared by the builder, which by way is part of his cost for services rendered while building the home. However, there are several acres that I would like to prep for landscaping using a tractor with implements, Disc, Box Blade and Rake. This piece has not been clear cut and has some Hardwoods growing. I would like to prep the ground so that grass will grow naturally after being initially sowed. Just a place for the wife and I to take a stroll, smell the wild-flowers, gaze that the southern azaleas, wisteria, etc. I was
looking for an instructional ‘ How To’ book and/or ligature. Would you know of any such book/ligature
Dave D. Johnson
Columbia, South Carolina
No, I don’t know of such a book. But this is not rocket science. Cut what brush and trees are in the way with a chainsaw, leaving a short stump to either rut out with your tractor or if they’re too large, have the bulldozer guy make another trip when you’re ready and have him pop them out of the ground and cover the hole. Remove any logs/brush piles. Use your disc and box blade to work up the soil ’till it is relatively smooth. Then, in the spring, broadcast your grass seed mixture with a whirly hand seeder, such as a Cyclone bag seeder or even one of those little plastic lawn seeders that you hold and turn a crank. It’s amazing how good a job they’ll do with even a large piece of ground. We did our rough horse pasture that way and covered about 5 acres in an hour.
You may have to rework your ground again later on to get it smoother, as material rots away. This is to be expected; it’s the woods. But disc it again if you want and drag a harrow over it to smooth it better. Even an old bed spring will smooth the ground quite well. Then seed it again. Eventually it will be just the way you want it to be.
You might even consider planting some wildflower mixes here and there in a sunny spot. I’ve done that and the results are great. — Jackie