Dave asked me to do some video blogging, so here’s the first one, followed by some questions and answers. Hope you enjoy it, as I’ll be doing more of them.

Readers’ Questions:

Growing potatoes in tires

We have been gardening in tires for many years now, with great results. It started as a practical way to garden in Ozark hilltops, locally known as “baldknobs” due to the lack of topsoil. We sat pretty much on solid limestone. We made our compost using rabbit manure from our 12 producing does. I noticed in your article on potatoes in tires one missing step, be sure to cut out one sidewall of each tire so the spuds won’t compact the soil inside the tire as they grow, making it like concrete to get the taters out. A boxknife will do the job.

Elizabeth Tiller
Bolckow, Missouri
I’ve never done that, and haven’t had trouble removing the potatoes. But I’m sure removing the sidewall would be a good idea. — Jackie

Keeping canning jars hot

I’ve got a couple of bushels of apples to can. I’ve gone out and bought the canner and jars and things but I’ve found a problem. I don’t have enough space on my stove to have the canner, the heating jars and lids and also cook the apples. My question is this: can I cook the apples and make the applesauce (I have the Victoro) and then heat the canner and jars and lids, which means the applesauce will be no longer hot. I usually freeze my applesauce but decided to try the canning to free up the freezer space. I’ve scoured all the articles in BHM but I haven’t been able to find anyone asking the same type of question.

Diane Mackie
Aurora, Colorado
Here’s what you can do: heat your jars in your canner, then place them in a roasting pan, upright, in your oven at it’s lowest setting. This frees up the stovetop a whole lot. Don’t heat your lids until you just start to pack your apples. Then, having them ready in the water, turn on the heat where the apples were. It’s a bit of a juggle, but once you get the hang of it, it’s no problem. — Jackie

Finding “down time” on the homestead

When do you ever sleep. Do you take “down time” for yourself. Have you ever crawled into bed so tired you didn’t take your clothes off?

I love your column. Every time you either give me ideas or answer a question I thought I was the only one interested in.

Sandra Swanson
Lake Stevens, Washington
Sure I sleep. Of course, sometimes it’s not as much as I’d like, but then I do try to get at least 8 hours. I don’t really get much “me” time, as I am the sole caregiver for Mom, but I do try to take mini-breaks all day. For instance, I read a few pages of a good Western, walk through the yard or garden, just enjoying the growing things, play with the goats, horses or donkeys, teach Spencer, our young Lab pup new things or talk with David or Will. I know I won’t always be this busy, and that helps sometimes. I’m just a plain old homesteader. But I enjoy what I do so very much! — Jackie

Canning chicken

Canned 10 quarts of chicken 2 months ago. Read many recipes including yours. Chicken was boneless and 2/3 way cooked in salty broth, then put in sterilized hot quart jars and processed in pressure canner at 12psi for 90 minutes. Have been checking jars and although most liquid is clear, there are small, pepper sized pieces of chicken which are black at bottom of jar. No signs of leakage, bad smell, excess pressure. Is meat tainted? C. botulinum?

Margot Clasquin
Oldtown, Maryland
If you followed your directions exactly, which it sounds like you did, and the seals on the jars are fine, the broth smells good, your product should be absolutely fine. Did you use any seasonings in your broth? They swell on canning and maybe that’s what you are seeing, instead of black chicken bits? Just a guess here. — Jackie

Canning on a glass cook top

I have a flat glass cook top that I am not supposed to can on. It specifically states in the manual not to use it for this purpose, but I have water bath canned on it for about 5 years without any problems. Now, however, I am interested in getting a pressure canner and starting to can meat, especially venison. I am worried that using this could cause my stove top to shatter, so I wondered if I could get one of the single burner portable table top units that are sold to use with the pressure canner. Do you have any suggestions?

Lori Hinkle
Dongola, Illinois
I have used those portable propane single and double burner units to can on when we lived remote in Montana and I didn’t want to can on my woodstove because of the summer temperature. They work great and are cheap. I bought mine through Northern Tool. You’ll LOVE your pressure canner! — Jackie

Decreasing sugar in pickled products

I like to can mixed pickled peppers, carrots, onions, and cauliflower but all the recipes I find have so much sugar. My husband doesn’t care for sweet pickled foods. Can I safely decrease or leave out the sugar if I keep the vinegar/water ratio the same? You inspire me to keep trying to become more self-sufficient. Thanks.

Missy Steiger
Normantown, West Virginia
You can use a recipe, similar to the pickled hot pepper recipe in the Ball Blue Book, which does not have sugar. Adding onions, cauliflower and carrots would not make a difference, as to the food pickling and not spoiling. It’s best to use a recipe that is tested, to be sure of your vinegar/water balance, so that your product stays acidic enough to keep. — Jackie

Canning chicken enchilada

I make a killer creamy chicken enchilada and would love to be able to can it for my husband to take to work for lunch. Is is possible to can this at home?

Desiree Bradbury
Jefferson, Oregon

It probably is possible, but you’d have to look at your ingredients. If in “creamy” you add milk, the long processing time (pressure, of course) would cause the milk to curdle out of the recipe and make an unappetizing product. Because you have chicken in your recipe, the processing time would be 75 minutes for pints and 90 for quarts. I’d can up something else for his lunch and feed him your specialty at home. — Jackie

Canning butter

Info, not question. While reading the Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide I realized that there was nothing about canning butter. Canned butter is good for a minimum of 3 years and I am using the last of 5 yr. old now.

Melt butter, stir and pour into jars, I use 1/2 pts as there are only 2 of us. Waterbath 20 min. As the jars cool, shake (everytime you walk past them) to mix butter back together. When cool put on shelf in a cool, dark location.

I try to keep my pantry under 70 degrees as foods keep much longer that way.

Liane McKellip
Pikeville, Tenessee
I learn new stuff every day. I’ve been canning butter and cheese for over two years now, and I agree that they are great additions on the pantry shelf. There are those out there, though, who cringe because canning these products are not “approved,” i.e. not in the canning manuals. — Jackie

Silent generator

Can you recommend a good silent generator forum, or a just recommend a few to check out? Ebay has new ones starting at $700 and I don’t want to buy another POS like the first China diesel.

Mike Jones
Fredericksburg, Texas

There are several quieter generators out there. It depends on how much wattage you need. Onan makes one that is often used in big RVs. Honda also usually runs quieter than those with a Briggs motor. Our newer generator has a Honda motor and is quieter than our old ones….but they’re all too noisy for me! But right now, a necessary evil until we get set up with solar and wind. — Jackie

Apple butter

I just discovered your page when looking for recipes for apple butter barbeque sauce. Awesome! I have been making old fashioned, slow cooked non-commercial pectin jellies and jams which has lead me to making apple butter. I make apple butter in the crock pot, cooking it slowly and adding sugar and spices to taste. My question is this: Is it safe to can old fashioned apple butter as it is? does it need a bunch of vinegar or lemon.

Also I have been experimenting with making apple butter barbeque sauce. I notice recipes for canning put in sooooo much vinegar. How much vinegar does one need to safely can an apple butter barbeque sauce…and is apple butter (old fashioned method) safe to can? I would love to give these as presents but do not want to harm anyone. I would appreciate your sagely advice.

Debbie Borel
Kansas City, Missouri

By old fashioned apple butter, I assume you mean pureed apples, spices and sugar, cooked down. In this case, YES, you can certainly can it. It is water bath processed for 10 minutes (if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning manual for directions on increasing the time to suit your altitude, if necessary). — Jackie

Canning fish

My husband and I are purchasing and helping the slaughtering of a large pig in November. Our freezer is about half full, but we’ll need to make room for all the pig. Much of the freezer is fish, as we are avid fishermen. Can I thaw that out and can it? I’ve canned fresh fish before, but I’m not sure if I can do it with the frozen fish. Thanks!

Amanda Weingard
Do, Delaware

Yes, you can home can previously frozen fish. Just thaw as much as you plan on canning that day, then proceed with a recipe from a good canning manual. It will turn out great! (So will pork, by the way!) — Jackie


  1. the video is fine but I like reading things. I got the cd of stupid people and can’t get it to open on any thing. So I am going to get the book. And I have all the magazines in stead of the anthoulogies because I read every word and so much is left out in the big books.

  2. Lyn and others with dial up,

    Yeah, I know. The video will only happen occasionally, and the “regular” blog will fill inbetween the other days. My son, Bill, can’t even get the blog on his slow computer and dial up. Sigh.


  3. I use the microwave to heat my jars. It is very quick and ready in a few seconds when I want them hot.

  4. I loved the video blog! I think as an accent piece it is awesome! I do agree with Lyn that I hope all your entries will not be video. Up here in the mountains our internet is not always reliable, and a three minute video can take over an hour to load.

    Also, I wanted to add that your blog has given me the inspiration and motivation to plant potatoes for the first time! I stuck them in the ground at the end of August. I don’t know if they will grow potatoes, but they have sprouted lovely little busy plants already, so I have hopes ;).

    I have also been getting plants from freecycle.org. An awesome resource around here! I plan to get manure from there too, since we have no animals (yet) in our rental.

  5. Jackie, I hope that this is not the wave of the future for this blog. I would really like to see the video, but I have now invested 2 hours (an hour today and an hour yesterday) trying to get the silly thing to open. Those of us still on dial up really are video challenged. Please don’t stop writing on the blog- I enjoy it and really appreciate the help and inspiration you provide!

  6. How neat to finally get to hear your voice!!!! We all feel like we actually know you because you have been such an important part of our lives and this makes it even more so! I enjoyed seeing your goats in the background when you were showing the auger. Can you give us a tour and just show us your animals sometimes???? THANK YOU!!!! (EVERY TIME I wipe around the rim of a canning jar before I put on the lid and ring I can just “hear” you in my mind saying to do that because I read and re-read your food preservation articles so much when I was first learning!!!)

  7. Thanks for the video blog Jackie! Great idea, and wonderful to get to know you even more. Loved getting to see around your backwoods home. Thanks for all you do to inspire us. Give us more!

  8. I absolutely loved the video. Thank you. I’ve watched it 3 times so far. Great to hear your voice. The new addition looks really nice. Will looks like he is having fun!!! Also, I received your book today and am really looking forward to reading it. I’ve read about 10 pages and it’s really good. Best wishes to all of you and keep those videos coming. Maybe your next book could be a canning cookbook …. just a thought. Great stuff!! Sincerely, Rose

  9. I agree, it was neat to hear “The Voice of Jackie Clay” !

    Congratulations on your harvest – just finished planting the last of our fall garden (a little late, I’m crossing my fingers for a late 1st freeze).

  10. For those with a slow internet connection, this trick might help. Click on the video “play” arrow and then quick pause it (bottom left corner), and watch the gray bar at the bottom of the video frame which shows how much of the video is downloaded. When the bar is full, click bottom left corner again and un-pause and watch. I did this with dial-up so I could watch video stuff till I got broadband, and still do when things are running slow.

  11. I absolutely love this video blog idea… how cool is this? It is so nice to put a voice to the person we all admire! Everything looks just wonderful. I’m glad that you, Will and David are working out just right. Thank you for all the inspiration and confidence you give to everyone.

  12. Great job on your first video blog!! I too appreciated having a voice to play in my head when reading your articles and posts!

    Tip to those with slow connections – it’s worth a little wait. You can press play, then after an initial buffering, when it starts to play, press the pause button, and let it load fully before hitting play again (look at the lighter red bar extend beyond the position marker at the bottom). You’ll be able to hear Jackie’s great narrative uninterrupted, and it didn’t take long on my slow dsl. If you’re on slow dialup, go do something, then come back and it’ll be ready to watch.

  13. Sounds good but I have a slowwww dial-up connection, which means videos are pretty much out of the question.

  14. Jackie I love the video blog! The place looks great and it looks like Will is a good “addition” to the homestead. Thanks for inviting us into your life!

  15. Jackie,
    The video blog was great! It was great to see work in action with you commenting about it while showing. Thank you for adding this to your blog and I’m excited about getting the Starting Over book from BHM. Thanks as always for the inspiration!

  16. I love the video. It’s great to see your place, and especially to hear your voice! I’m looking forward to more.

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