You know that “frost” warning I told you about? Well, we did the usual; covered the tomato and pepper plants…I didn’t have enough tarps for everything… Then just before dark, I turned on the weather radio that we live by, just to make sure. The “scattered frost” they had talked about all day had been upgraded to a FREEZE WARNING! Oh crap! Temperatures predicted to be from 28 to 30 degrees. Double crap! Luckily, David was home from haying and both of us went down with buckets and tubs to pick what we could.

Last year, the plants and all the fruit that was left on the vine froze dead, black under our tarps at 28 degrees.

We picked by flashlight, every large tomato, pepper, cuke, and bean that we could find. Then I set up the sprinklers for morning. Sometimes when plants freeze or are frosted, you can save them by heavily watering them just before dawn, continuing until the sun comes up and the temperatures moderate.

I set the alarm for 5 A.M. Dawn was to be at 6 A.M. Boy did it freeze! The corn leaves felt like ice in the cold clear early morning. I turned on the generator and threw the well switch. Would the hoses be frozen? If so, I was toast. Luckily, the sprinklers spit a bit, then started to revolve very slowly as the ice in them melted. I watered and watered, walking through the icy wet plants until my pants and shoes were soaked. I moved the sprinklers here and there, then back again, desperately watching the sun creep up into the sky.

I kept at it for 2 1/2 hours until the well had no more water; I would have to wait for 1/2 an hour for it to re-fill. By then I’d be too late… So I figured I’d done all I could and went to the house, remembering the corn leaves iced thickly from my sprinkling.

My legs and feet were also like ice, and I couldn’t warm up.

But when I got up later on, the garden looked remarkably good. I think I’ve saved a lot of the corn and squash, as well as most of the tomatoes and beans. Some of the corn leaves were frozen too badly and are turning brown, but most look okay. I’m a week away from getting ripe corn, which I need to can. So I’ll see what happens…

Meanwhile, I’m canning up a storm. Today I made more mixed vegetables. When I pulled carrots, I about fainted; most were at least three inches across at the tops and were pretty hefty all the way down. I guess I’ll be canning up a lot of carrots pretty soon! Maybe I’ll have to use the bulldozer to harvest them and a chainsaw to cut them up? Wow!

Readers’ Questions:

Mayonnaise recipe, chipped beef, and rancid beans

I have a very good time at homesteading. By reading your blog I can tell that you do too! Do you have a recipe for mayonnaise? I know it probably takes eggs, but not sure what else. Also a recipe for chip beef gravy. My husband loves it. I have some dried beans that now have a rancid taste. Have you ever made bean flour, or is it even possible. A brainstorm I had was to grind the beans into flour and use to thicken stews and soups. Do you think that this is possible or would the flavor come out?

Mary Ann Nelson
Franklin, West Virginia

Here’s a mayonnaise recipe for you:
2 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. powdered mustard
1/8 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
5 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 cups salad oil
4 tsp. hot water
Beat egg yolks, salt, mustard, sugar and 1 tsp. vinegar until thick and smooth. Add 1/4 cup oil slowly while beating in 1 tsp. vinegar and 1 tsp. hot water. Beat well. Alternate oil with vinegar and hot water until all is used up and your mayonnaise is smooth. Will keep covered in refrigerator for up to 1 week.

I make my chipped beef gravy as simply a white sauce. I melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a sauce pan slowly. Then I mix in 2 Tbsp. flour to make a paste. Slowly add about 1 cup of milk, heating while stirring to make it smooth. Add more milk as needed to make a sauce as thick as you like. Then add your shredded chipped beef and gently heat; don’t boil.

Yes, you can make bean flour by grinding your beans, even in your blender. But don’t use your rancid beans; the flavor won’t go away or be covered up. The yuck will stay with you. Feed your beans to the chickens or hog and try keeping the next ones in a more airtight container. I have some that are ten years old and are still perfect. In fact, I once ate some that were 1,500 years old (only a few; I planted the others to increase them), and they tasted fine. Have fun on your homestead. You’re right; I DO love my little bit of the backwoods. — Jackie

Pickled eggs

Have you ever canned pickled eggs and if so do you have a recipe? I am a very recent subscriber and do enjoy your articles very much.

Bonnie Benore
Yelm, Washington

There is a recipe for pickled eggs in the current issue of Backwoods Home Magazine, in the article I did on preserving food. Check it out for details and enjoy your eggs! — Jackie

Canning different vegetables at the same time

Maybe a silly question, but a friend has been “rumored” to come help me learn how to use my new pressure canner. Now, can or can you not – (no pun intended!) put two types of veggies in the same canner? Say, 3 of carrots and 4 of green beans. She said the juices would mingle, but I thought you didn’t put water over the tops in a pressure canner.

Tammy Amland
Howard Lake, Minnesota

No question is a silly question. Yes, you may put different vegetables in the canner at the same time to save both room and your time, as well. No, the juices won’t mingle. Just be sure that you either pick different vegetables with the same time requirements or else process them for the length of time required for the vegetable with the longest time required. Yes, the shorter time vegetables will slightly overcook, but that’s not usually much of a problem, compared to the time and energy you save. — Jackie

Canned bacon

No question, just info! You’ve asked, I’ve forgotten, and you’ve mentioned again, where can I get canned bacon?


First time in 20 years its been available in America. They also have canned deserts, canned WHOLE CHICKENS, canned cheeses, all sorts of goodies! please pass along to the readers!

Alex Hahn
Fairfield, California

Canning potatoes

I just received 60 pounds of small red potatoes, and everything I can find says I have to peel them to can them. Can they just be scrubbed and then canned?

Linda Fisher
Klamath, California

YES, you can process your new potatoes without peeling them. In fact, new potatoes can up much nicer with the peels on them. Just scrub them up till they’re clean and go on with your recipe. They’re great that way. — Jackie

Canning grapes

I just received 48 cups of grapes and I only have a pressure canner. Can I can them, 1 cup grapes, 1 cup sugar, fill with boiling water and pressure can them for 20 minutes at 10 lbs pressure? Also, I recently canned 40 quarts of turkey broth and when I removed them from the canner the jars pinged numerous times. They all sealed, but I was surprised by all of this pinging and wondering what would have caused it.

Marcia Speltslambert
Clay City, Indiana

You’ll be happier with your grapes if you water bath can them. Simply use your pressure canner as a water bath canner. ANY large kettle will do, as long as the jars can be covered by at least an inch of boiling water. Just be sure that they have something under them, whether it is a folded kitchen towel, wire rack or whatever, so they don’t sit right on the very hot bottom of the kettle. I made a rack that lasted over 10 years out of a wire covering of an old dart board and another from a wire grill cover from the dollar store. — Jackie

Half-gallon jars, butternut squash, and laying hens

I have several questions that I cannot find an answer for: 1) I recently purchased new Ball 1/2 gallon canning jars. I cannot find any info on canning with these, in my Ball Blue Book or elsewhere. Should I just relegate them to holding dehydrated foods?

2) I have lots of butternut squash from the garden and want to can it as a butternut squash soup. The info I have found says not to can squash puree as it is too dense and would probably not reach a uniform temperature. Does that also hold true for the soup?

3) I have read conflicting info on how long chickens continue to lay. I read in one of your online columns about someone who had chickens laying into their seventh year. The owner of our feed store says the average is about 2 years. My girls are 2 1/2 years old and have just stopped laying. Should I get replacements? I miss having fresh eggs.

Debbie Boutelier
Prattville, Alabama

The canning experts do not recommend canning in half gallon and larger jars anymore because some people canned dense items in them, such as split pea soup and roast beef in large pieces, and these foods didn’t heat sufficiently in the center, as to kill dangerous bacteria and their toxic spores. I still can foods such as soups, broths, tomatoes, etc. in them, using a 10 minute longer processing time than required for quarts. While this used to be an approved canning method, and I have never had trouble, I still can’t recommend that others can in half gallon jars.

You can process your squash soup. It isn’t as dense as pureed squash, so you won’t have any trouble with it heating thoroughly.

While experts tell us to get rid of our two year old hens, actually, they’ll molt after their spring/summer laying cycle, then start in again in the fall. To keep them laying during the winter, keep them decently warm and keep a light on at night in the coop. Not only will this trick their biological clock, but will keep them moving around and eating more, which produces more eggs. I’ve got hens that are five and six years old, and they still beat my younger hens at laying. — Jackie

Tomato soup

I made some home canned tomato soup tonight. I was wondering if it would be safe for me to add a specific amount of sugar directly to each jar of pulp? I add the salt that way but thought the sugar might need to dissolve or something. I concentrate the tomato pulp and add spices and sugar to it but it’s hard to judge the sweetness of a BIG pot o’ boiling ‘maters. Do you ever can concentrated tomato soup? How much sugar should I add per pint jar? I don’t have a recipe. I’m wingin’ it here! I will be adding 1/2 a jar of milk when I open them to make it.

Cathy Ostrowski
Amherst, New York

I can an all purpose tomato sauce, with added spices and a bit of brown sugar to taste. This, I use for pizza sauce, in meatloaf, tomato soup, as well as dozens of other things. The sweetness of a recipe depends on your own personal definition of “sweet enough”; it varies greatly between people. I’d add your sugar when you’re making your concentrate, then add your milk, when you’re ready to use it. Then taste it. If it needs more sweetness, simply add a little sugar when you make your soup. It’s quick, easy and more dependable that way. Then next time you make your concentrate, just add that much more sugar to your initial recipe. — Jackie


  1. ughhhh…frost already.

    We have just relocated to the midwest, and this will be our first real winter in 8 years…

    Brrr….and soooo soon too.

  2. Ugh… I can’t imagine living where it FREEZES in August!

    Then again, I guess some folks can’t imagine living where it hits 105+ for more than a month at a time.

    Crossing my fingers for your harvest, good luck Jackie! And thanks for all your writing.

  3. Sorry to hear about your freeze. We are having above normal heat and if I could figure out a way to can some of this heat I would send it to you.

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