We are approaching the end of one of the coldest summers in recent Minnesota history. Friends who have lived here for 40 years cannot remember such a cold summer. Nighttime temperatures have struggled to get above 40s and 50s. Not your corn and bean growing weather, for sure! We have planted our corn and beans three (count ’em…3!) times and still have struggling crops. But finally everything is seeming to be getting there. Our corn sure wasn’t knee high by the Fourth of July…some wasn’t even planted! But now we have our best corn starting to tassel out. Strangely enough (or not!) it is the old Native American corns, such as Santo Domingo Blue, Abenaki Calais Flint, and Bear Island Chippewa that braved the cold, germinated the FIRST time, and are growing decently. Hooray for those old corns! It may be my only canning corn, although they are cornmeal corns. One has to be flexible on the homestead and, after all, Native Peoples ate these corns “green” or as sweet corn is eaten today. Why can’t we? Of course we can; we have before and they were great.


Our tomato plants are loaded with ripening tomatoes; they are a bit late because of the cold, but they are doing well and today I mulched them with a nice layer of straw to hold down the moisture from the rains and soaker hoses.

The cold weather crops are great! We are eating broccoli, Swiss chard, onions, baby carrots, and kohlrabi. The cabbage is heading well and the cauliflower is starting. Our storage onions are already the size of your fist and we have another month or more of growing left. Wow!

You’ll remember that we planted a second crop of potatoes as our first ones came up poorly. Well, they’re doing absolutely great and are even starting to bloom. We WILL have potatoes, after all! Of course, we’re babying them like crazy, just like our corn. I’m SO glad we replanted. Now if we’ll just have a late fall…One can hope…

Readers’ Questions:

Rotel-style tomatoes

We are canning heirloom tomatoes and want to put up some Rotel. The only recipes I can find call for Roma tomatoes and contain sugar and vinegar. Is this because of the low acid in Roma tomatoes? I guess the real question here is…Can we just can our heirloom tomatoes with bell peppers, onions, and hot peppers and have Rotel? Do you have a recipe for Rotel with Heirloom tomatoes?

Cliff` West
Cabot, Arkansas

No, you can’t can tomatoes with onions and peppers (as you have in Rotel) without using the vinegar and sugar. The vinegar, in effect, raises the acidity of a low acid food (peppers and onions) and the sugar cuts the acid bite. You’ll also see this in salsa recipes, which are similar to Rotel. The recipes call for roma tomatoes because they are more meaty and the Rotel is less watery than if you used a juicy tomato, heirloom or not. There are lots of heirloom paste tomatoes. — Jackie

Jackie Clay autobiography?

I just finished reading “Starting Over” and just LOVED IT…I couldn’t put it down. When is your new book going to be available for purchase? I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy. Also – why don’t you write your autobiography? I for one would love to read all about you and your life.

Rusty McHale
Las Cruces, New Mexico

I’m glad you liked Starting Over. Gee, it seems so long ago that the events in that book happened! The new book on growing and canning your food is done and should be available very soon. An autobiography? Me? My kids all tell me I’m BORING! — Jackie

Canning kimchi

We have been looking for the proper steps to can kimchi after it has fermented. But no one has any answers as to how, but plenty of people are asking this same question. Should we just can it the same way as sauerkraut? Both are fermented cabbage so shouldn’t the canning process be the same? Should we use a water bath or pressure canner?

The answer we usually find is to put it in the refrigerator, but that defeats the purpose of finding a shelf stable way of storing it. When my husband was stationed in Korea he saw that most people kept it buried near their homes or stored it in jars on the roof. Neither of those options seem to be a practical way for us to store kimchi here.

Randy and Jamie Howk
New Ulm, Minnesota

I would assume that you could can kimchi like you do sauerkraut, as both are fermented, high acid products. BUT I could find no information for you on safe water bath processing times specifically for kimchi, so I can’t recommend it to you. This is not the first time someone wanted to can kimchi, and I sure wish I could help you. — Jackie

Fruit from a Prairiefire Crabapple tree

I have a Prairiefire Crabapple tree in my yard and it is always overloaded with fruit. I have always been curious if I can use the fruit for jams, etc. but as of yet have not been able to find out if this is safe for human consumption. So my question is can I use the fruit? If I can’t it’s going to go away in favor of a cherry or pear tree.

James Loomis
Burton, Michigan

All crabapples are edible and safe. Some are more tart than others and some make better jelly. I think you’ll be happy with Prairiefire. Make a batch of jelly and do a taste test. Maybe you want to plant a cherry tree next to it! — Jackie

Long-term food storage items

My parents recently got my family a subscription to BHM, and lent us their book of Emergency Preparedness and Survival Guide. Where we live everyone has a garden to help make it through the winter, but we are looking into longer term storage items after reading that book. Do you have a list or chart that tells exactly how long foods are good for that includes frozen, canned, home canned, and dried goods? We would appreciate anyone who can help us with that. Thank you for all your time and effort in helping people become self-reliant.

Melody Cloer
Bryson City, North Carolina

There are charts to this effect, but they are just general guidelines. Storage time depends a lot on several factors; how the food is packaged, how it’s stored (the freezer keeps food tasty for much less time than does canning or dehydrating) and the storage conditions. Generally, I look on the freezer as a temporary food storage, with canning providing nearly “forever” storage and dehydrated food falling in-between (generally 5 years or more). Frozen food will only stay good, in most cases, for a few months to a year before it becomes freezer burned and nearly inedible. AND if the power goes out, you’re in a position to lose all your food if it stays out for a lengthy time. — Jackie

Making jam with Jello instead of pectin

Thank you for all the great advice and recipes you share. My question is about making jam with Jello, in place of the traditional commercial pectin. I’ve seen recipes for this that always are for jam to be refrigerated, not processed. In a couple of your columns you have advised people to add a tablespoon or two of powdered Jello to a jar of “runny” jam to thicken it, and then refrigerate it. Why can’t jam made with Jello be water bath processed for longer shelf life?

Donna Herlihy
Wentworth, New Hampshire

It can. I have several recipes which use Jello instead of pectin. You do need to have recipes using Jello as you can’t just exchange Jello for pectin. My friend, Jeri, just gave me a recipe for a great cherry-rhubarb jam that uses Jello and cherry pie filling. She says it’s the best jam they’ve ever eaten and she cans a lot.. So I HAVE to try it! — Jackie

Beet pickles

I moved on my dad’s farm after his passing 3 years ago and have been trying to remember things as a kid, and living in the city for many years has not helped. I have planted a garden; I have a great love for beet pickles. Do you have a recipe for these? Can you cold pack them or do you need to use a pressure canner, which I do not have. I am trying to fix things up, buildings house etc.I live on my own and am on a very tight budget.Your items have helped me alot. I just wish I could build things like you do. How in the world have you learned all of these things? You are a great inspiration.

Sandra Wendt
O’Neill, Nebraska

Beet pickles are very easy to make and great tasting, too. Here’s a simple recipe:

24 small beets
2 cups sugar
2 sticks cinnamon
1 Tbsp. whole allspice
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water

Cut tops off beets; leave 2 inches of stems and roots. Cook beets, remove stems and roots and peel. Combine all ingredients but for beets in a large saucepan. Bring pickling mixture to a boil. Simmer 15 minutes under a low heat. Remove cinnamon sticks. Pack beets into hot jars, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid over beets, leaving 1/4-inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean and place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints for 30 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult a canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude, if necessary.)

How did I learn to build? My dad showed me a lot when I was young, and I’ve read a lot since then. AND I just build to the best of my ability. As with anything, the more you do, the better you get at it. Grab a hammer, level, saw, and square and you’ll soon be building stuff too! — Jackie

Flavoring canned turkey

My husband and I are approaching the self-reliant way of life; currently we are property hunting. My question is about canning meat. I canned turkey last year and it was yummy but I would like a recipe and how-to instructions for flavoring the meat with marinade, gravy, spices, and even stews all for pressure canning.

Joan Young
North Rose, New York

There are no special recipes for seasoning meats to can. Do what you’d do when you plan on roasting/cooking your meat. Go a little lighter on the seasonings, though, as sometimes during prolonged storage, spices get stronger flavored. You can always add more; you can’t take it away later on! Don’t use a thicker gravy; it can prevent adequate heat penetration to the center of the jar during processing. Instead, use a barely thickened gravy or better yet, a broth. You’ll find all your meats can up very nicely.

Good luck in finding your dream property! — Jackie


  1. My children think my life is boring also and I tend to agree with them tho I went from michigan to nebraska in a covered wagon and hitch hiked to alaska from michigan twice. I also went on a motorcycle once. Several long distance motorcycle trips and two long distance horse back trips and a trip to Israel. I drove semi for 6 years and spent time in the army. But I want to do what you do, not the writing, just the living. That is my goal now. The rest is past and this is my future. That is why they think I am boring. But they enjoy the food from the garden and the canning shelf.

  2. We are having a cool July but that is nice in Mississippi this time of year. BUT, we are having the wettest July on record. At our house, since July 16, we have had 10 1/2″ of rain including the 2 we got today. Fortunately, my garden is on a hillside.

    Your corn looks good.

  3. Your garden looks tidy and corn like some of mine. However, the Hopi
    squash is looking good–at least alive! As far as challenges to the garden, for the first year ever, I have had to spray my tomatoes. Due to the blight all around in the northeast affecting tomatoes and potentially potatoes (and affecting some great farmstands), this is a fight I hope to win. I need those tomatoes this year–only have 7 quarts left from last year. I must thank you–you are an informative and inspiring lady that brought an interest in gardening and fresh food back to life and a challenge to keep that grocery bill down.

  4. Great post! I loved the question and answer section. We too are having a coolish summer and I hate the fact that August is this weekend. I’m not sure all my “crops” will make it. I have a small garden as I live in the city, but have raised beds and plant intensively. My cabbages are far behind yours, but we have enjoyed strawberries, onions and cukes. Nothing is better than home grown produce.

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