After a spring of figuring we’d have NO potatoes in the cellar, here I am sorting through the 550 pounds of potatoes we ended up with! We hurriedly picked the crop when severe freezing temperatures threatened, and then materialized. We even had two inches of snow! But, like when you dig any potatoes, a few were damaged in the digging and some had bad spots. So I spent all afternoon picking and sorting potatoes from two full 40-gallon garbage cans, four feed sacks, and a heaping pile. We had to go to town yesterday, so I bought three new 45-gallon plastic totes to store them in. Wood bins are better, but I used plastic totes last year and the potatoes kept real well, right till I used the last ones for seed potatoes. Our pantry is unheated, but above freezing, and vegetables keep very well in it. Luckily, our basement is high and dry, too, so mold and moisture are not problems.

As I sorted potatoes, I put cut ones in the “use soon” bowl in the kitchen, the ones that were soft or severely damaged into the compost bucket, and the good ones in five-gallon buckets. I carried these, one pail at a time, down the basement stairs, to dump out gently into separate totes. There’s one for russets, one for Yukon Golds, and another for reds. Of course, I’ll end up with a few sacks full of taters, too. We’ll keep what we can use, and give the rest to friends. There’s no use in being hoggish! It’s nice to be able to give folks something they can really use and share our great bounty.


Who would have guessed that after a July 1st planting, we’d end up with ANY potatoes of size at all?

My cold thing is about over, Will’s is mid-stream, but he’s still working away. Mom is some better, but still rocky, so we’ll have to wait that one out. I really, really do appreciate all your prayers and kindness during this tough time.

Readers’ Questions:

Recanning foods

Can #10 sized cans be recanned using a pump and seal hand operated vacuum sealer? Is there any danger if a large can is opened, moved into jars and then vacuum packed. Would this preserve the food?

Brian Stanfield
St. Louis, Missouri

DO NOT use a vacuum sealer as a substitute for canning! It is NOT safe, in the least, for foods, save for dry foods, such as flour, or dehydrated foods. I’ve re-canned many foods, previously packed in #10 cans, either alone or in recipes by reheating them to just boiling temperature, then packing hot into hot jars and canning it like it was a freshly canned food. — Jackie

Canning ground meat

I canned some ground meat and had the broth at the same level as meat. After coming out of the pressure canner, the meat at the top is peaking out of the broth. Is it still safe to eat?

Deb Sutorius
Elyria, Ohio

Yes. The meat probably absorbed some of the broth. It may look ugly, up there and dry looking, but when you use it, it will quickly look nice again. No sweat. — Jackie

Canning braised beef cube mix

I want to can this and think it will be thin enough with the water to can well, but do not want to take a chance with out input from an expert. Will it can and for how long? In pint jars. I would take out the bay leaf after cooking in the oven or will it have to be cooked that long if it is canned?

braised beef cube mix:
5 lbs. stew meat, cut in small chunks
1 (1.3/8-oz) pkg onion mix
2 bay leaves
2 (10-1/2 oz) cans cream of mushroom soup
1 (10-1/2 oz) can golden mushroom soup
1 (10-1/2 oz) cream of celery soup
1 qt. water

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine all ingredients in a large covered casserole or dutch oven. Stir until well blended. Bake 3 to 4 hours until meat is tender. Cool. Put into eight 1-pint freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at tip. Seal and label containers; Freeze.

Nancy Foster
Dallas City, Illinois

I would up the water by about a pint; better a little thin than too thick! The condensed soup tends to thicken during canning, even with the added water. You’re right; you won’t need to bake the recipe; just pack it hot in your hot jars. You will need to process it for 75 minutes at 10 pounds pressure, taking altitude adjustments into consideration if you live at an altitude over 1,000 feet; consult a canning book for directions, if necessary. Enjoy your beef cubes! — Jackie

Preserving green tomatoes

We have had a windfall of green tomatoes. A friend of ours called to say that he had a semi truck load of tomato plants (for fall gardens here in Arizona) that were rejected by the retailer and were going to be discarded. They were in pretty good condition, so we planted as many as we could in our small greenhouse, but ended up with approximately 135 tomato plants 2-3 feet tall and absolutely loaded with small and medium-sized green tomatoes. We’re frantically harvesting the green tomatoes (so far over 200 lbs) and still working on it a second day, because the unplanted plants are beginning to die. We’re making green tomato salsa and pickled tomatoes. Do you have any other suggestions for recipes for canning green tomatoes? If we run out of time, can we freeze chopped tomatoes to be used later for canning salsa?

We’re enjoying your new book. Thanks.

Dallen Timothy
Gilbert, Arizona

Most canning books, including my new one, have lots of various recipes for relishes and pickled green tomatoes. Those medium green tomatoes will usually go ahead and ripen for you if you just put them in boxes, pails, or tubs in a fairly warm area (above freezing). I’m doing that right now with buckets sitting in my new, yet unused, laundry room. Every three or four days I’m canning up a new batch of salsa, tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, etc. As you know, there are a lot more recipes of really useful foods using ripe tomatoes rather than green ones. If you freeze your tomatoes, you can process them later, but the salsa will be pretty mushy. Enjoy your bounty. My tongue is hanging out from doing tomatoes, but I’m SO very grateful to have them all. — Jackie


  1. Glad things are going better Jackie.

    And WOW, that is some potato crop. We had another disappointing year (our 2nd) with the potatoes- how many plants did it take to yield that quantity?

    Regards, & thanks…

  2. Happy to see a good harvest. I lost all of mine this summer to the plague of grasshoppers that we had in Wyoming this year. Nothing was spared except the lettuce, a few herbs and the tomatos. As we say, always next year. Take care and thanks for the infomation you share.

  3. Wow! What a great bounty of potatos. Good for you! Glad to hear ya’ll are getting better, and send prayers and good wishes for your Mom.

  4. Gorgeous potatoes, Jackie! Glad you persevered with that second planting, and that everybody’s doing a little better.

  5. Jackie,
    Glad things are going well in your end of the country. Good news about the potatoes. It is amazing what will grow. Imagine if you had just given up on planting anything because of the freezes or poor weather. You are truly an inspiration to everyone.

  6. Do you have any Jeruselem Artichokes? I hear you can cook them up in milk and eat like a potatoe as a potatoe replacement. Guess anabaptists do this in pennsylvania I think it was…I have heard they are very good for those with diabetes and are a beautiful cut flower I use to decorate my table. Related to the Sunflower… I saute them with oil and rosemary and balsamic vinegar over rice… I have such a difficult time with potatoes.. I use these tubers as an emergency back up.

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