And they are making potatoes! With our weird spring, our first rows of potatoes were a miserable failure; a few scattered plants. But I bought more and was given a bunch more, yet, so we planted more potatoes July 1st, which is unheard of in our short summer climate (zone 3). We planted, Will hilled, and we watered faithfully. Then by golly, the plants started growing. And growing. Then blooming. Now they’re waist high and starting to fade after being burned by a heavy frost two weeks ago. I couldn’t wait and I dug up three hills to put into my canned mixed vegetables (peas, carrots, rutabagas, summer squash, onions, and potatoes). WOW! There were several BIG potatoes under each vine, plus several smaller ones. Now we’re worrying about where we’ll store all those potatoes! Small worry, that one. It goes to show you: you don’t reap if you don’t sow. Plant it; it MIGHT grow!


Readers’ Questions:

Canning sandwich spread

Jackie, I came across a sandwich spread recipe in an old cookbook. It is as follows:
3 quarts green tomatoes
1 quart peppers
1 pint sweet pickles
1 quart vinegar
1 1/2 quarts granulated sugar
1 pint onions
1 stalk celery
6 tablespoons flour
1 quart mayo
1 small jar mustard

Salt tomatoes, peppers and onions, let stand overnight.
Boil all the veggies together with vinegar and sugar for 25 minutes.
When cooked, add the flour. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add one quart mayo and a small jar of mustard. Keep hot when canning. Put in jars and seal.

Do you just seal and put in pantry or water bath? Do you have any meat or chicken spread recipes?

Debra Purdy
Yuma, Arizona

No, you can’t do either. The seal here means to screw down the lid and put it in the refrigerator. There’s no recipe for canning a sandwich spread containing mayo that I can find. To do our own sandwich spreads, I just wing it as I feel that day. I start with ground chicken or meat, then usually add mayo, but then I go wild and may add barbecue sauce, sweet mustard, chipotle sauce, chopped celery and pickles, fresh onions, or whatever I feel like that day. I’ve had no complaints so far. — Jackie

Testing soil

We were thinking about an “end of the garden season” soil test and wondered if you had any suggestions on what type kit to buy to get accurate results. How do you test your soil?

Rene Stover
Ellijay, Georgia

The kit I use is one that has little boxes, in which you mix the soil with the test chemicals. It wasn’t the cheapest one available, but it cost less than $20 and is good for many tests. To get accurate results, be sure to dig several shallow test holes, scattered around your garden, so you get a good over-all picture of your soil…not just a single spot that is very rich and well-balanced. The kits have explicit directions included, so I’m sure you’ll do fine. This is a good time to test, so you have plenty of time to remedy any shortcomings. Good thinking. — Jackie

Premixing and storing dry ingredients for bread

Can I premeasure and premix dry ingredients…sugar, flour, yeast, for making bread and vacuum seal for later use, adding wet ingredients at time of baking?

Northport, Alabama

This probably isn’t a great idea because yeast is kind of short lived, compared to baking powder. And plain old household heat, as when it would be on the shelf, might affect the baking because of poor leavening. You could mix up everything but the yeast, if you want to, making it a little quicker. — Jackie

Cleaning up rodent droppings

My family and I are moving into a log cabin built in 1895 within a week. Right now we are in the process of cleaning since it is heavily infested with mice and spiders. I recall reading in your Starting Over book that you have cleaned up some houses that were in pretty bad shape before moving in. Since I am supposed spray disinfect and then wipe up any rodent droppings instead of sweeping, I was wondering how I am supposed to clean the logs that are waaaaay above my reach in the vaulted great room. I have no idea if any rodent dropping would be up there — spiderwebs have coated the ceiling though. Should I rent scaffolding in order to reach the logs to hand clean them or just throw caution to the wind and use a duster. Were you as mindful of the Hantavirus as I am or am I just a little paranoid?

Juli Hook
Bruceton Mills, West Virginia

Of course Hanta virus was always on my mind (after we had first heard of it, of course). I wear old long sleeve clothes and use a broom, dipped in Pinesol-type cleaner to sweep and dust initially. The wet broom lays down any fly-away dust so you don’t breathe it and it does clean pretty good, especially where you can’t reach to hand clean. Wearing a simple dust respirator would be a good idea when cleaning, too. You can get them cheap at any hardware store. I kind of slop-clean the first time, then go back and fine-tune the clean-up till I can wash windows, mop floors, and finally dust-dust. In the past, my fixer upper houses were often so dirty that my first “cleaning” was done with a scoop shovel! But I love turning a sow’s ear into a silk purse, so it wasn’t ever work. And when we finally got ‘er clean, every house glowed like it was smiling. The very best of luck! — Jackie

Canning red chili sauce

I have a canning question. I have a recipe that I found in a Mexican cookbook for Red Chili Sauce that I use for enchiladas. We love this sauce, but it’s time consuming to make and having it ready to go on the shelf would be wonderful! My question is about the timing of the pressure canning. This will be my first attempt at canning an “untested recipe” and I’m hoping it turns out OK. Could you please review this and offer your opinion as to whether it would be safe or how to make it safe? Also, do you think this would taste OK as a canned sauce since I know some spices get bitter when canned…any thoughts on cumin?
Thanks so much!

Red Chili Sauce:
18 dried red chilies
1 cup plus 2 T boiling water
10 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes (the original recipe calls for canned but I have a bunch of fresh right now!)
6 cups chopped onion
12 garlic cloves, minced
4 T oil
1 cup plus 2 T tomato paste
2 T ground cumin
1/2 cup plus 1 T wine vinegar
2 T sugar

Place chilies and water in a blender. Drain tomatoes, reserving the juice, and add the tomatoes to the blender. Blend until smooth. Heat oil in a large skillet and saute onions and garlic until soft. Stir in blended tomato mixture, reserved tomato juice, tomato paste, cumin, vinegar, and sugar. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Can be served with tacos, enchiladas, poultry, and fish dishes. Yields approx. 9 cups.

I’m thinking pressure canning at 10 lbs. for 25 minutes for pints. This is based on the creole sauce recipe in the BBB. The sauce doesn’t get really thick. I make it about as thick as tomato sauce. Do you think this would work and be safe to eat?

Denise Carr
Forsyth, Missouri

There’s a real close recipe in the USDA HOME CANNING AND PRESERVING BOOK, called Mexican tomato sauce. This is processed at 10 pounds for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. It sounds great, and I’ll bet you’ll love the convenience of having it on the shelf when you want to make enchiladas. — Jackie

Planting cucumbers with potatoes

You wanted me to let you all know how my potatoes inter-planted with cucumbers worked out. Early in the summer, I had written you with a question, because after I’d planted my cukes with my potatoes, something I’d never tried before, I read that you should never do that. You urged me to go ahead and let ’em go, and let you know how it all worked out. Well, everything did great, but I did discover a couple reasons why I won’t do this again. Reason one: in Connecticut in mid-summer, it’s often rather dry. So, I needed to do some careful watering. I like to water the cukes, but not potatoes, as I find the potatoes do better with less water–otherwise they tend to rot. So, that was problem number one. Reason two: it was tricky to harvest the potatoes without disturbing the cukes, who were still going strong! The cukes, by the way, did indeed do a great job of growing on the fence around the potato patch. I didn’t let the chickens in there! Of course, I let the cukes grow on the fence because all of our chickens have always seemed repulsed by cukes. Of course, this year a few of our younger hens decided cuke-eating was a fun pastime. We got plenty for ourselves, though, anyway.

Jeanne Allie
Storrs, Connecticut

Thanks for the update. It sounds like you got a good crop, even planting them together. It’s not like the cukes would shed poisonous rays and kill the potatoes or something! My chickens eat cukes too, so that’s the reason for my six-foot fence around the orchard where the hens range now, and around our garden. Too many freelance, banquet chickens! — Jackie

Processing Anaheim peppers

I have a lot of Anaheim peppers this year. How long would you process them in the pressure cooker at 5200 ft. Not in my manual. Do I need to add anything to them, and should I roast them first?

Judy Zitzer
Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Lucky you! I would roast my Anaheims, as I do most chiles. The flavor is so rich and tasty that way, even though it IS a little more bother skinning them afterward.

To roast your peppers, you can place them in a hot (450 degrees) oven for 8-10 minutes until the skins are blistered and cracked and a few areas are just blackening. You can also roast your peppers outside, on the grill, turning carefully midway through roasting. Do not let the skins burn. After roasting, place the peppers in a paper grocery sack and roll the top closed. Leave the peppers in the bag for half an hour, then take out and plunge the peppers into cold water. The skins will slip off nicely. Remove the stem, seeds and ribs. Pack into hot half pint or pint jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Add ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. vinegar or lemon juice (improves the flavor) to each pint jar. It is recommended that peppers only be canned in half pint and pint jars. Pour boiling water over peppers, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process for 35 minutes (half pints and pints) at 10 pounds pressure in a pressure canner. As YOU live at 5200 feet, you’ll be adjusting your pressure to 13 pounds pressure.

Caution: wear rubber gloves while working with hot peppers and do not touch your eyes or mucus membranes. It will burn. — Jackie


  1. Jackie,

    Just wanted to say that I received my copy of your new book this morning in the mail and it is BEAUTIFUL! Thank you for taking the time to put this great book together and thank you to BHM!


  2. I love reading about your canning but did not have a garden this year as we sold almonds at fairs all year. Not home enough for a garden so no canning this year. I think next year I will find some one to live in my house and watch a garden for me while we go and sell almonds. We did sell a lot of them. But I would rather be canning.

  3. Jackie,
    I have lived in FL and now north GA (hot and humid). I go ahead and make mixes with yeast in them. When I make a batch of ABM bread, as I measure out each dry ingredient, I go ahead and measure out enough for 7 or 8 more loaves into individual bags, one bag for each loaf. I close the bag and mix all the ingredients together. I then store them on the shelf for less than a month – I usually use it in a week or two, but I have left them for longer on the shelf. For storing them for more than about 2 months want to put the sealed bags in the freezer – where I always keep my yeast. The yeast I’m using now is 5 years “out of date” but works just as well as those I open fresh. (When I bring it home it goes directly into the freezer.)

    When kept out on a shelf, yeast has a shelf life of 6 months to a year or so (check package expiration when you buy it). In the mylar bags, in the freezer, I’ve used it for as much as 7 years and had no problems with it working well. Now this is a FREEZER, not the compartment over the fridge. But after opening the 1 lb bag, it does go in the over the fridge compartment freezer.
    Darlene in Blue Ridge, GA

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