Our summer garden is just about toast. We got a harvest moon early this month, then again last night. The first brought 29 degrees and kind of freeze burned our garden. The second brought an end to most of our sweet corn, the squash, melons, peppers, and is rushing the tomatoes to a finish. And boy oh boy have I been canning like mad. I’ve put up salsa, tomato sauce, lots of sweet corn, and very soon, more corn (the last), and lots more salsa and tomato sauce. I’ve got lots of ripe tomatoes out in the garden, but tomorrow, my sweetheart, Will, is flying in from Washington for another 2 week visit! No, I’m not excited.

Yeah. Not much! But I’m disappointed, too, because with all that canning, my house is a wreck and I really needed to clean more so he doesn’t think I live like a pig! And, of course, that didn’t happen. Yes, I did sweep, mop, and pick up. Dust? Haha ha! Oh well, he’ll get to see me in ALL my canning glory. The true picture! (And I think he’s man enough to laugh with me!)

Readers’ Questions:

Canning meat

I am wanting to can meat, primarily venison and chicken. Some recipes say to put “liquid” in with the meat and some say “no liquid”. Which have you done and which is the best? Is it easier to cook the meat before I pressure cook it, vs. pressure cooking it raw?

Tina Ross
Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Yes, I’ve done it both ways, and sometimes I still put it up raw with no liquid. But I’ve found that the meat is more tender when it’s canned with liquid. The raw meat sometimes tends to dry out and get a bit stringy. Only when I’m in a big hurry, having a lot of meat to take care of at once, do I put some of it up raw nowadays. Now I pre-cook it, at least enough to shrink it down and brown it some. More fits in the jars that way and, like I said, it’s more tender when it’s packed with liquid (broth, light gravy or tomato sauce). — Jackie

Sweet corn for chickens

I saw in the last issue about making cornmeal out of sweet corn that has dried on the stalk. I have access to a lot of sweet corn that was left in the field. Would it be worth getting for my chickens?

Richard Burns Jr.
Keyser, West Virginia

Sure it would. (But I’d fight the chickens for it!) It does make great cornmeal. — Jackie

Canning nut butters

Regarding nut butters and nuts. Can you can nut butters and nuts? All that I can find tells how to make it and keep it in the fridge, but not how or if you can can the nut butters or even nuts.

Robin Williams
Sumter, South Carolina

Yes, you can home can both nuts and nut butters. To can the nuts, lay the shelled nuts out in a single layer, on cookie sheets in a 250 degree oven and toast, stirring occasionally, until roasted nicely. Then pack hot in hot pint or half pint jars with NO liquid added. Place in a boiling water bath, with the water only up to within 2 inches of the tops of the jars and process at a simmer for 30 minutes.

To can the nut butters, first make the nut butter of your choice, then pack well into pint or half pint jars, making sure there are no air spaces. Put on lids and rings. Then process in a “normal” water bath canner for an hour, keeping the water at least an inch over the tops of the jars.

If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for instructions on increasing the time to suit your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Canning grapes for juice

I got grapes from my Valiant grapevine this year and wanted to can some juice. I found a recipe that I could can the fruit now and strain it later. My first batch I did not mash the grapes, was this a waste of my time? Will it be ok if I were to shake the jars for a period of time before using?

Kori Piatz
Wheaton, Minnesota

You’ll just have to wait and see; this probably will be okay, but not as “grapey” as if you’d mashed and strained off the juice. I’m real excited about “Valiant” grapes, as they are so vigorous in cold climates, AND they are great juice and jelly makers! — Jackie

Eating animal grains

Although the prices for feed keep going up they are much lower than grain for human consumption. Is it safe to eat animal grains?

Betsy Palmer
Saybrook, Illinois

Personally, I wouldn’t eat feed mill grains intended for animal feed, only in a survival situation. The cleanliness of some farms and feed bins isn’t what you’d like when you’re feeding the grain to people. If you shop around, you can probably find a source for farm-fresh, clean grain at a cheaper rate than health food stores. Or, if you have a little extra room, you might grow your own. — Jackie

Keeping records of garden harvest

I love reading your blog and articles in BHM. I especially love reading about your garden. It sounds wonderful and productive and I was wondering if you keep records of the number of pounds you harvest from there each year? Also I love to see the pictures from your garden and would love to see more of them, especially a full garden shot if possible! Thanks!

Denise Carr
Forsyth, Missouri

Thanks for the praise. (Of course I always LOVE it when people love my garden; what gardener doesn’t?) No, I don’t keep records of my garden harvest…only in my head. I’m a terrible paper person. This year, the garden was great. But so were the weeds. Ish! And I had it perfectly clean in July, too! Oh well. Next year. — Jackie

Pickled beets

I came across this website in hopes to find a good recipe for canning pickled beets. I haven’t been able to locate one. Would you happen to know of one?
I would really appreciate it if you did.

Alicia Curbelo-Gravlin
Yelm, Washington

Sure, Alicia, try this one:

7 lbs 2″ baby beets
4 cups white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp. while cloves
1 tsp. whole allspice

Wash beets, trim tops, leaving root and 2″ of the tops to prevent bleeding (losing color). Boil until tender. Cool in ice water. Remove roots and tops, then slice. Put vinegar, sugar, salt and spices (in a spice bag) in a large kettle and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes, then add beets. Boil 5 minutes and remove spice bag. Pack beets in pint or half pint jars to within a 1/2″ of the top, then add liquid to cover within 1/2″ of the top. Process for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for directions on increasing your processing time, if necessary. — Jackie

Butchering chickens

I am about to butcher my chickens and hubby and I are having a discussion about butchering. Do you use those cones that some people have? I guess you put the bird in them head down then their head comes out the other end then you slit the throat or cut the head off. For years we have cut the head off then held them for about 10 seconds then put them on a rack my husband made. THey hang there until scalding to bleed out. I guess the cones are suppose to stop wings from breaking. One lady even told me that this cone method is less stress on the bird. I would think hanging upside down is stressful whether you are in a cone or not!!

So do you use cones? Do you butcher the old fashion way?

I am going to try my hand at canning these babies too. I hope they turn out as good as you say they are!

PS Your corn looked delicious in the picture. Do you just can it or make something special?

Cindy Hills
Wild Rose, Wisconsin

No, I don’t use cones. We have two spikes driven into a large chopping block that is about knee high. The chicken’s head goes into the “V”, holding it so you can kind of stretch out the neck. Our friend, Jim, does the deed. I catch the chickens, but can’t whack. Of course, once they’re done, I can sure do the rest. I’m just too tender hearted, I guess. I agree with you; stress is stress. And whacking a chicken can’t be fun for it, no matter what.

We are sure enjoying the end products, though. Last night I made Spanish chicken noodle casserole. Homemade noodles, chicken broth with chopped chicken, cheddar cheese, a few onions, green peppers and a jalapeño for good luck. Pretty darned good!

I can up most of my corn, but, of course, we sure eat a bunch fresh too. My favorite way is to boil it for 3 minutes, drain it, then add butter and lemon pepper. Once you try that, you’ll never go back to “plain” corn on the cob again! — Jackie


  1. I was just kidding, guys. No, I don’t “should” myself. I just wanted to be a little more under control because I wanted the place nicer for Will. He definitely didn’t expect it. Luckily for me, he’s the kind of guy who’ll grab a broom and sweep a floor if it needs it, and not give me the “guilt trip” thing. He knows how we live and is glad of it. Thank God!


  2. I agree with your response about using animal grade grain for human needs and would like to add: If you’ve ever peeked into the back of a grain truck comming from the harvest, you’d see that there are almost as many critters as there is seed. So, most grains are fumigated with pesticides as soon as they reach the silo. Definately rendering them a meal of last resort.

  3. I agree with Holly! You can have a clean house and no life, or you can eat for the winter and enjoy yourself to the fullest! If Will wants a clean house, he can clean it after he works all day outside, making a good life for those he loves.
    You are where I would have been 28 years ago had I not gotten married but have had a wonderful husband for 27 years and two great sons. But he has no intrest in being self-sufficient at all. He thinks I should hoe the garden and do with out a tiller because his grandmother did. But I work at my garden and every year try to be more efficient at what I do there. And can a lot.
    Keep up the good work!!!

  4. Ok, Jackie – I’m going to give you some (unsolicited) advice. When I read this on your blog: “But I’m disappointed, too, because with all that canning, my house is a wreck and I really needed to clean more so he doesn’t think I live like a pig! And, of course, that didn’t happen.” and I wanted to tell you this:

    Don’t “SHOULD” on Yourself! :) (All of us women do that! WHY???)

    You’ve got a lot on your plate! I think you’re an amazing woman with creative, cool ideas that require a LOT of hard work – and you manage to handle it with optimism and enviable grace. Be yourself and watch him be amazed.

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