My handsome and adorable boyfriend, Will, flew in on Thursday and I haven’t sat still since! Our sweet corn suffered during the recent freeze, and I’m canning it up like mad. I’m so happy to report that the harvest far exceeds my expectations. Like by triple. Wow! And we’re eating it at every meal, too.

While I’m shucking and cutting, Will has been busy around the homestead. The biggest improvement came with the moving of the driveway OFF the buried waterline to completely away from it by twenty feet. Not only will it make it less likely that we’ll be without water in the future, but our driveway will be usable in the winter, making an easy to drive circle; so easy in fact that large trailers can make the loop too.

We’re harvesting every day. Yesterday, we did corn and Will’s pea seed, along with tomatoes which I processed into tomato sauce. This is in my large roasting pan, in the oven on 250 degrees, slowly cooking down. What a huge labor saver!

We’re tired tonight, but it’s a great “tired,” as so much is getting done. Sitting together in the dark new living room addition is so very nice.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning meatballs

I do have a question about canning meatballs. My magazine was loaned out that had your article of canned “convenience” foods and I haven’t been able to get it back yet. I will write the BHM office and get a copy of it sent to me, but in the meantime I want to can some sweet and sour meatballs. I read somewhere that you aren’t supposed to can stuff that is thickened with cornstarch. I don’t remember the reasoning. Here’s my recipe. Do you think it would be OK?

1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped onion
1 20 oz. can drained pineapple tidbits

In a bowl combine vinegar, ketchup, brown sugar and cornstarch. Bring to a boil. Add green peppers and onions and stir until thick. Remove from heat and add pineapple.

I would make my meatballs and cook them, add them to the jars and then pour this mixture over it. I would have to double or triple the sweet and sour sauce.

Is this something you would think is OK? The pineapple would probably be pretty mushy by the time it’s done processing, but the flavor is really good.

Another meatball question (I have about 100 pounds of hamburger in the freezer and I need the space) Is there a way to can the meatballs without any kind of sauce at all. I would like to be able to add sauces to it after opening the jar. If so, how do you do that?

Tauna Egan
Rexburg, Idaho

The reason you aren’t supposed to use cornstarch or flour to thicken sauces and gravies that you are going to can is that when you have a thick (dense) product, the necessary heat to process sometimes doesn’t reach the center of the jars. This can result in incorrectly processed food that could spoil.

I think you’d be okay if you halved the cornstarch. The sauce would still be thickish, but not so thick that your food would be in danger.

Neat! You have 100 pounds of hamburger! Yes, you can process the meatballs without a sauce, but I’d at least can them in a meat broth. If you don’t have any, you can either use bouillon or add
water to the frying pan you have browned the meatballs in. Adding liquid to canned meats makes them can up more tender and juicy than when you can meat dry, without the liquid. — Jackie

Water storage

My question is in regards to water storage. I recently bought 3 55-gallon food grade barrels. I was wondering what I should use to remove odor from previous contents, so it will not affect the water’s taste. The barrels have been washed out with a pressure washer.

Steve Thomas
Eugene, Oregon

I would suggest add half a cup of baking soda to a full barrel of water. Let it sit in the sun all day, then dump it out and rinse well. This should relieve your barrels of the food smells of prior use. — Jackie

Hopi Pale Grey seeds

Are you going to have any extra Hopi Pale gray squash seeds this year? If you do could you please send me some? I ordered some from Dream Seeds this spring and none of them came up. So I won’t order from them again. I would like to have some to start early next spring, if I can get them. I keep checking Baker Creek’s web site but so far they still don’t have any listed for this fall.

Brenda Jarrell
Varnville, South Carolina

Yes, I’ll have some seed this year. My Hopi Pale Greys did very well. I don’t think your problem was with Seed Dream’s seeds; I’ve used their seeds successfully for years. Not a bit of a problem. But I’ll send you a few of my seeds, too. Genetic diversity is a good thing. I try to plant several different seeds from my own and Seed Dreams seeds, too, for that reason. Remind me again, will you, in about a month? The seeds will be dry then. — Jackie

Growing Hopi Pale Grey squash

We bought 40 mostly wooded acres last fall and I tried my first small garden this summer with mixed results. I was excited to try Hopi Pale Grey squash for its reported flavor and great keeping qualities. I have two questions I was hoping you could help me with.

First, about mid-season three squash on different vines that had been doing well suddenly stop growing and start to rot on the vine. Any idea why? I assume my soil is not particularly fertile, we just dug up stuff that looked decent from around the property for our raised beds and added a little store bought steer manure. Next year we’ll have compost to enrich it.

Second, about a week ago something chewed through two vine stems where they come out of the ground and killed the vines. I just left the squash from those vines in the garden to cure. Will it still keep well or should we use it right away?

Anna Mahaffee
Colville, Wshington

Squash usually “blow” that way because of stress. That’s usually lack of water….but it CAN also happen because of too much water, high heat or infertile soil. Were the vines vigorous? If they were, your soil is not infertile; infertile soil usually results in stunted vines. If the squash off the chewed off vine was pale blue and at least the size of a large football, it probably will keep. If not, use it soon. It won’t be as sweet as if it was mature, but it’ll still provide a good meal addition. Next year your garden will be even better. Mine’s just getting good now, after 4 years. It takes work and patience! — Jackie