We have the floor on half of our new hayloft and are starting to sheet in the back wall of the upper part of the storage building. I hadn’t been “topside” since the floor had been laid, so yesterday I climbed the ladder to take a peek. WOW! What a view! I could see for miles. Of course our fall colors are just starting to get bright, so it was even a more beautiful view.

I hadn’t ever seen our yard from that perspective either and it looked especially nice and green. (Remember when it was just a pile of gravel?) I looked longingly at our $50 hot tub, knowing that it would soon be emptied and covered snugly for winter. We have really enjoyed it all summer.


And the orchard from up there! I had just mowed the clover in it and those brave little trees look so nice and healthy. I, for one, remember when my “orchard” was just another slash pile and weed haven, when dreams were better than the naked truth. I really, really appreciate it now.


I guess sometimes we all need to get a different view of our same-old life to see how truly blessed we have been.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning chestnuts

I was wondering if you could explain how to can chestnuts a little more. I followed your instructions I found on the “Ask Jackie” section and you said to peel your chestnuts, lay them in a single layer on a cookie sheet in your oven. Slowly roast them at 250, turning them to prevent scorching. Make sure nut meats are hot for packing, and use hot jars. Pints or half pints only. Process at 5 pounds pressure for 10 minutes. I did that and there seems to be a lot of moisture in my jars. I was wondering if you can tell if I did not roast them long enough or what the problem is.

Teresa Roh
New Freedom, Pennsylvania

As chestnuts are big, fat nuts, you do have to roast them quite awhile to get them dry enough to can. You might even have to halve them, depending on your nuts. Toast them slowly so they also lose moisture. I hope you have great canned chestnuts! — Jackie

Canning everything and testing for acidity

Not so much a question but I just wanted to say that you are so right when you’ve said many times in your column and articles that gardeners would be wise to put up as much produce as possible in one season because you never know what the next season will bring. Last summer I thought I was being silly by putting up about 20 pints of pickles and 15 quarts of pumpkin (just for my husband and I) but this year my cukes and pumpkins completely failed. My tomatoes did much better than last year though and now I’m not questioning the case of quart jars I filled with stewed tomatoes! Now whenever I fill up my canner or my dehydrator I think of your advice. Thank you.

Oh, and I might have a suggestion for the reader who ended up with too much salsa that might not be acidic enough. I once had trouble with a salsa recipe and thought I might not have done it properly so I ordered pH testing strips from a science supply outlet and confirmed that it was right where it should be. Maybe this could help in their situation as well?

Robin Dodge
Val Verde, California

Good idea! I’ll bet you could beg strips from your local pharmacy or high school science teacher, too. — Jackie

Canning tomato juice and woody celery

I have been closely reading your articles and books and see that you recommend adding lemon juice to tomatoes that may not have enough natural acid to make them safe for canning. Oh, oh…I’ve made several years of homemade tomato juice from our little garden and my recipe does not contain anything that would increase the acidity. (My 1977 vintage Blue Book said I could water bath…now I don’t trust the recipe) Do you recommend that I “toss” the old years–about 3 years worth–of tomato juice? How much lemon juice should I add to my recipe for 6 quarts of juice to be safe? Will this change the flavor of my juice?

One other question: With our busy and dry summer, we did not always water the garden. Last night when harvesting and preparing our celery for storage we found it to be very “woody” and white in many of the stalks. Was this because of our lack of watering? Did I harvest too late? How can we prevent this in the future?

Happy Canning and hope you are feeling much better today.

Candy Sandberg
Barnum, Minnesota

The reason you should add lemon juice to tomatoes and tomato juice is that a few modern varieties have been developed that are low acid, supposedly for folks who can’t tolerate acidic tomatoes. But because there are few of these varieties, your juice is probably just fine. If it did go bad, it would mold or ferment. If the jars are sealed, the juice looks fine (no mold floating on it) and smells fine, I wouldn’t worry. In the future, to be safe, I’d add 2 Tbsp. lemon juice to each quart, as you fill the jars. This will not affect the taste.

I’d guess that your woody celery was because of lack of regular, deep watering as celery does like moist soil. Try again next year and I’ll bet it will be fine. You might try placing a soaker hose next to your celery rows to be sure the roots get plenty of water when they need it.

Thank you. I AM feeling very much better and am canning up a storm with much gratitude. — Jackie

Cider vinegar vs. white vinegar

When canning we prefer cider vinegar to white vinegar, find white to be to intense in flavor, in your new book–which is great–can cider vinegar be safely substituted for white vinegar?

Anne Brewster
Perry, Maine

While cider vinegar tastes better to many people, the darker color makes darker pickles that some people find distasteful. It makes no difference in keeping, so if you prefer cider vinegar and don’t mind darker pickles, it will substitute just fine. — Jackie

Lids sealing

I just canned up 11 pints of chicken broth in my pressure canner last night and I took them out and a series of popping of the lids continued for several minutes. They all seemed to pop more than once. Is this a problem? I have never had this happen before. They all appeared sealed however. Also, I have a blackberry vine I planted 3 summers ago and it has survived so far. Is there anything special I should be doing to protect it from the cold winters here?

Debra Brown
Littlefork, Minnesota

As long as the jars have a good seal when cool, you have nothing to worry about.

I’ve had great luck with my blackberries, so far. I’ve done nothing to protect them, either. I’d say it would depend on the variety of blackberry you have. Mine are wild blackberries (Himalayan), Prime Jim, Prime Jan, and one Boyle. If you want to protect your berry bush, cage it against voles (they WILL eat the canes!) by making a screen cage around it and spread a good layer of dry straw over it. I can’t wait to start eating mine; should have a great crop next spring! — Jackie

Canning chili

I am going to be canning a large batch of chili this weekend and was told that I need a pressure canner. I have a large, old pressure cooker with the weighted gauge. Can I use that to can my chili? I was told I need to have a regular pressure canner.

Robin Lovelace
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

You do need a pressure canner. Few old pressure cookers are large enough or dependable enough to actually can in. Maybe you have a friend who has a pressure canner and isn’t using it right now? Be sure to follow a good canning book’s directions so you get a safe, tasty batch of home canned chili. — Jackie

Ball Blue Book salsa recipe

My wife was reading your blog and was wondering about the question regarding canning salsa (from Missy Steiger). A couple weeks ago she made the Zesty Salsa recipe in the Ball Blue Book, and she measured all the ingredients. Like Missy, she came out with more than the recipe said… 8 pints instead of 6. Do you think it’s possible the book is incorrect? The salsa has been stored in our cellar (around 50 degrees) for a couple weeks. Is it too late to refrigerate it now?

Bob Bader
Rockwood, Maine

It’s common to have a recipe vary from the amount suggested in a book. As long as you MEASURE the ingredients, you’ll be fine. Missy got WAY over the suggested 6 pints and that’s a red flag. A couple of pints over isn’t such a problem. She also weighed her ingredients, instead of measuring them. I wouldn’t worry about your salsa at all. Enjoy it! — Jackie

Semi-dwarf trees planted too closely

Last fall I planted five semi-dwarf apple trees. I inadvertently planted them too close together (dwarf spacing..) Do you think they could handle being dug up and replanted with proper spacing after they go dormant this fall?

Rick Hosmer
Spokane, Washington

I think if they were my trees, I’d leave well enough alone. The trees might take the re-planting, but maybe not. In the spring, when they are barely budding out, THEN try moving them. I think over-wintering first might help them survive. Don’t wait until they are leafing out in the spring; we did this because we had to, with our small plum orchard in our large garden and really set our trees back. They DID survive, though! Whew. — Jackie

Mustard bean pickle recipe

The new book is great! It is like all of your writing—just like sitting down at the kitchen table and visiting. I need help regarding the mustard bean pickle recipe (anything David likes that much has got to be worth trying!) How much salt should I use and which kind—table or pickling? Which kind of vinegar–white or cider? Why not trim the pointed end of the bean? The Kentucky Wonder pole beans are doing well, so they are very long. Will it hurt the pickle to cut it in half? Silly questions, I guess, unless you are a novice canner and non-homesteader.

Sandra Agostini
Nixa, Missouri

Oops. That should have been clearer! You just use a little salt in the water when you pre-cook the beans, just as if you were cooking them for the table. It is NOT a necessary ingredient, but optional. You can trim the pointy end of the bean too, if you wish. You can cut the beans in pieces, leave whole or in half, just as you like. I hope you like them as well as we do. We usually eat a pint jar at one meal! — Jackie

Removing seeds from persimmons

We have a ton of persimmons this year. I can’t possibly eat them all. How can I separate the seeds from them in order to get pulp? I have your cookbook with the recipe for persimmon pudding. The only way I’ve ever gotten the seeds out of persimmons is in my mouth, and I don’t think that’s the way to go to make pudding.

Doris Bush
Carbondale, Illinois

Soften the persimmons by steaming them gently in a very little water. Then press the pulp through a sieve to remove the seeds. You can also use a food mill. The key is to soften the fruit first. Enjoy your pudding! — Jackie

Safe wormer for egg laying chickens

Is there a natural/safe wormer for egg laying chickens? The Wazine I found at the feed store says “not for egg laying chickens.” I sometimes sell my extra eggs to co-workers and don’t want any chemicals in my free-range laid eggs.

Deb Stillman
Battle Ground, Washington

My question to you is, why do you think you need to worm your chickens? Poultry is usually quite parasite free, given reasonable hygiene. To be sure your birds DO have internal parasites, gather a mixed fresh fecal sample and take it to your vet to examine under a microscope. If they do, indeed, have worms, he/she can prescribe a safe wormer that won’t affect the eggs. — Jackie


  1. Sorry your mom is ill. At 93, she must remember many things that happened in our country. Always so enjoyed to sit and listen to some of our “greatest generation” as they remember things in the past. NaNa is right. Dallas is loaded with swine flu. The real stuff. Dallas County was supposed to get 20,000 doses of vaccine but got 700 FluMist dispensers. Stay well, eat lots of good stuff, and get extra rest. We never go anywhere without the alcohol based gel in purse and pocket. Thanks for all you do!

  2. I have heard that including some garlic powder in the chicken feed is a good way to prevent parasites in chickens, etc.. It also is a good way to up the immune system… and I have heard people whose chickens came down with a cold included garlic in feed to help rid the sickness… Garlic is an immune system booster as well as a natural antibiotic I have heard, (I am not a vet or doctor but have used these methods to my personal success). Thanks!

  3. NaNa,

    No, we just had the plain old flu. Not much swine flu way up here. Yet. Thanks for the concern.


  4. Jackie,

    If you were sick for a week with the “flu” and had stomach upset with it too, that sounds like swine flu. Our area around Dallas/Ft. Worth is hit pretty hard and some of the rural area schools to the north of Big D are closed because of so much flu. Can’t wait until that vaccine comes out. That is, if there are enough of the vaccines to go around for folks our age.

    Glad to hear you are better.


  5. So awesome and peaceful looking. Glad you are feeling a LOT better and able to climb that ladder to look at the beauty God has provided (along with all your, David and Will’s hardwork).

  6. I just wanted to say that I LOVE JACKIE! Girl, you are my hero. I’m reading your book, “Starting Over” and I’m getting ready to order you canning book in just a minute. You are such an inspiration!

  7. Not a question, just a note of thanks. We took your advice and planted Hopi Grey Squash…and just canned 14 pints from one fruit. Naturally, having never heard of it before, we tried some of the ‘leftovers’. Excellent rich flavor, not to sweet but just sweet enough. It will do well in our future dinners, I’m sure.

    Again, thanks for all your advice,

    Dan& Gini

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