I’m still busily making different tomato products from the last 30 gallons of ripening green tomatoes that were sitting in my unused (yet!) new laundry room, trying to rot after they ripened, then sitting around because of all the running around I’ve been doing trying to get Mom settled in the rehab facility in Buhl, half an hour’s drive from us. Mom’s doing much better, and we hope she’ll be able to come home in a few weeks. The tomatoes are doing less well. But I am packing away jars and jars, every single night. In the picture, you’ll see the last batch of plain herbed spaghetti sauce. It’s real yummy, too!


Besides that, our local store, Zup’s, had a special again on whole, boneless pork loin (raised in the U.S!) for $1.39 a pound. So I got two, cut them each in half, poured on half a pint of sweet Italian salad dressing (olive oil, sugar, water, minced garlic, chopped sweet peppers, and spices) and roasted them, uncovered. We ate some for dinner, then I added about two quarts of water, covered the roaster, and simmered it the next day. Then I cut up the meat, poured on the liquid, and canned it up. Oh my gosh it was good! We ate a jar tonight, just to see, and WOW. I can’t wait till they have more on sale.

While I’ve been canning like mad, Will and David got busy and laid down the lumber tarps that Will’s been collecting all summer. They are very heavy material, similar to Typar roof covering, and free at the local lumber yard where we shop…when the dump doesn’t have what we need! I thought I could afford sheet metal for the roof this fall, but the shingles on our house’s roof cost $1,000 more than we’d planned on (huge increase!), so the sheet metal went out the window till spring. Remember when we had to tarp our house roof the first winter we lived in it? No insulation. No shingles. Just tarps! But we survived and are now shingled. So we figure the storage barn can make it through till spring, too.

The tarping was a nasty job and dangerous too; plastic is very slippery! Luckily, Will and David were very, very careful to only step on the wood lath that holds the tarps in place against the wind, and to work very slowly. Now the highest part is done, with only the two “shed” roofs to go. And they are much, much lower and easier. Now if the weather will just cooperate! I think I hear winter breathing down our necks.

Readers’ Questions:

Apple cider

Our grand daughter LOVES apple cider. Now we can buy fresh apples, I was wondering if you have a recipe for it.

Teresa Roh
New Freedom, Pennsylvania

Apple cider is simply pressed fresh, unsweetened, unpasturized apple juice. The only “recipe” is the different apples that one uses in their cider. Some swear by this and that variety or mixes thereof. All you do is grind the apples and press out the juice. Unfortunately, you do need to use a cider press. Maybe a friend or relative may have one you could use. The grinding can be done, on a small scale, in a food processor and is done to make pressing easier and more successful. I remember when I was very young, going way out in the country to Yates’ Cider Mill where they pressed cider with an old-fashioned water mill press and you could take a cup and walk down the edge of the trough where the just-pressed cider was flowing and scoop up some to taste. Nothing was as good as that! We bought several glass gallon jugs to take home and enjoy during the fall. We usually stopped on the way home to gather fallen hickory and black walnuts too. I’ll never forget those wonderful outings! — Jackie

Short growing season

I live in Lolo, Montana just south of Missoula. Thank you for all of the quite informative articles on gardening and homestead life. My small garden did well this year, the tomatoes, pole beans, and zucchini were extremely prolific, with the exception of the corn becoming mutant and the melons not growing. My peas were devoured through the fence by the local mule deer. I will plant them in a different location next year. I was wondering if you had any recommendations on which varieties of heirloom corn and melons do well here with our short growing season? I also plan to give the three sisters growing method a try next year. I had good results growing Kentucky Wonder pole beans and zucchini at the base of a newly planted apple tree.

John Wilson
Lolo, Montana

Unfortunately, there isn’t a good heirloom sweet corn that works in short season climates. There IS an open pollinated sweet corn of more recent development, that usually matures in your area. That’s True Gold, and is available through many seed catalogs. I’ve had good luck with Bear Island Chippewa “Indian corn,” which is a flint hard corn of beautiful colors that I grow for cornmeal. Even with our summer with no summer, we got “hard corn.” Bear Island Chippewa is available through Seed Dreams, P.O. Box 106, Port Townsend, WA 98368, gowantoseed@yahoo.com

For a non-heirloom “hard corn,” we grew Painted Mountain this year. It came in just before Bear Island Chippewa and is available through many different companies.

For heirloom melons, we’ve had good luck with Blacktail Mountain and Orangeglo watermelons and Canoe Creek Colossal and Minnesota Midget muskmelons both in Montana and here in Minnesota. These are available through Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. — Jackie

Meat canning

For ready-to-eat meat, why do you say to lightly brown, cook the meat before canning? Don’t you have to cook the meat thoroughly before canning? Or does the canning, pressurizing process itself further cook the meat? This may be too much of a “novice” question for your readership!

Marc Irby
Sherwood, Oregon

There is NEVER, NEVER such a thing as a “too novice question!” Not with me, there isn’t. No, you don’t have to cook the meat thoroughly before canning. You can, or you can just cook it enough to heat it thoroughly. Or you can pack it raw, too. You’re right. During the canning process, the meat is totally cooked and tenderized, too. I cook the meat, either just lightly browning it or entirely, as when I roast a whole pork loin or two for a meal, then canning, instead of packing it raw, simply because it packs and looks nicer in the jars. You can find more information about canning meat in an article I wrote for Issue #105, titled “You can safely and easily can your own meat.” — Jackie

Canning cheese

I noticed in one article concerning canning cheese that the time listed for water bath canning was 40 minutes and another article said 25 minutes. The processing time listed for cheddar cheese sauce in the can was 30 minutes. Could you clarify this for me? Our altitude is 4265 feet. Also, is the time the same for pints and half pints?

Dea Bombarger
Clovis, New Mexico

As canning cheese is a sort of “outlaw” process, with no “expert” guidelines, we just sort of fumbled our way through times. I started out with 25 minutes with half pints as I first did it with tomatoes, years ago. But then I went longer, for safety, as tomatoes also increased in time, to 40 minutes. Now I’m processing cheeses in pints and half pints for 60 minutes in a boiling water bath canner, just to be extra sure, as that’s what we do milk, although cheese is much more acid a product. — Jackie

Understanding seeds, planting in shade, and cucumbers

My first question is on seeds. I would like to know what seed companies you prefer. You discuss the seed catalogs you get but I find most are online catalogs and I like hard copies.

Also, I do not understand the difference when they discuss heirloom, hybrid, organic, etc. Do you have any books etc. with clear discussion on seeds, selection, saving, growing, etc.? What do I need to know about types of seeds when deciding what to order? There are a lot of seed books but they all tell you half of what you need to know, aren’t written as much for hot climates, and aren’t written for “dummies.” Any suggestions?

I have several unused areas on my property that are more shaded. It receives partial sun (at least half day), what vegetables or fruits will do OK in partially shaded areas?

Also, I grew cucumbers for the first time and they tasted good but I either got the some the size and shape of a baseball or smaller, others the size of a small watermelon, and many of them were yellow not green. They were planted between snap beans (which did lousy) and crook neck squash (Which grew good but hard rain ruined the yield on the later planting) in rows about 2-3 feet apart. They tasted OK but do you know what would cause this?

Jesup, Georgia

Nearly all the companies that I deal with have hard copy catalogs. Just ask them. I, too, prefer a paper catalog so I can make notes, shop, shop, and shop. I also read the heck out of my catalogs, looking for information on different varieties so I can choose new ones to try that would do well here. Many good seed catalogs, such as Fedco, Baker Creek, and Johnny’s Seeds, have a ton of information, just like you want to find.

Hybrid seeds are crossbred varieties, developed by companies, that have certain desirable traits. They have been bred to be always the same. But their seeds, should you save them, will not breed true. That is they will not necessarily reproduce the same traits as the mother plant had. They WILL produce plants that will bear, if saved and planted. But they will NOT be exactly like the mother plant…sometimes very far from it.

On the other hand, open pollinated seeds are NOT deliberate crossbreeds and seeds from a mother plant that you save WILL be like that plant. Not all open pollinated seeds are “heirloom” seeds, though. Some have been recently developed by growers who want open pollinated new varieties. Cases in point are Painted Mountain and True Gold corns. Both are fairly recent developments, and both are open pollinated. You can save their seeds and be sure that the crop you plant next year will be very close to the crop you harvested your seed from this year.

Heirloom seeds are open pollinated seeds that have been passed down through several generations, often favorites of families or Native American tribes. They are usually very hardy, tasty, and often beautiful, to boot.

Organic seeds are grown without the use of any chemicals. You can have organic hybrids or organic open pollinated seeds; the seeds were harvested from crops grown without chemicals.

In hotter climates, garden plants often do very well in areas that receive half a day’s sunlight as they don’t become overheated. Give it a try in your yard and see how they do. I often experiment a whole lot and am usually very happy with the results!

It sounds like you planted a variety of cucumber such as Lemon, which is round and yellow instead of long and green. But sometimes stress and insufficient watering will give you strangely shaped cukes. Remember that cukes are largely moisture and need regular deep watering all during their growing season. — Jackie

Canning pickled eggs

I know how to water bath pickled eggs, but how long do I put them in a pressure canner? Wouldn’t a pressure canner be better?

Christopher Ubel
Wamego, Kansas

No. These are pickled eggs. You don’t pressure can pickled anything or it severely changes the texture of the food. As in YUCK! — Jackie

Using canned meat

I purchased your new book last month and love it- I have fallen in love (at 50) with canning and am working to learn to can all types of foods both to save money and to eat less “bought” foods.
One question, after reading about your canning pork loin and other meats found on sale, can you tell me a few ways you might use your canned meat for meals. We seem to mostly eat meat grilled, baked, fried or sauteed and I am not sure how meat packed in liquid will work for us. What else can I do with it other than just serving as meat with gravy over potatoes, noodles etc.

Judith Enke
Rolla, Missouri

It will work wonderfully! Tonight I boiled fresh garden vegetables; cabbage, onions, potatoes, and carrots. When they were tender, I drained them and poured the broth from a pint of my great pork loin on them and brought that to a simmer, covered. Then I added 2 Tbsp of olive oil to a frying pan, added the pork and gently sauteed that. When it was nicely hot, I added 2 Tbsp sweet Italian salad dressing and finished stirring the mix until it was beautifully glazed. Quick, easy, and all from the homestead. There were no leftovers!

I often roast canned meats with vegetables, adding the meat when the vegetables are about halfway tender and spreading barbecue sauce, jam (plum or cherry is great!), or a “cookable” salad dressing on first.

Or I pull the meat apart and add barbecue sauce for a great barbecue sandwich, using homemade buns.

Or I dice up the canned meat carefully (if it isn’t already) and add to a stir fry…sometimes with a Chinese-type glaze (orange, lemon, sesame, or whatever I feel like!) and serve with fried rice, made with the broth from the meat.

Or I’ll add the meat to vegetables and gravy or tomato sauce and make a great, hearty stew. As you see the possibilities are nearly endless. I DO love my canned meats and poultry! Get creative and you will too. I promise! — Jackie

Canning chicken pot pie

I make a dish I call chicken pot pie guts. It is cooked chicken chopped, carrots, peas, green beans, onion, cream corn, cream of mushroom soup, cream of chicken soup, and chicken broth to thin sauce. I don’t make a pie but serve it with biscuits. Can this be canned with a pressure canner? I currently freeze it but am trying to get away from relying on the freezer.

Natchez, Mississippi

You can home can your pot pie recipe, but you need to use enough chicken broth to thin the recipe more than you would when you freeze it; more like a thinner tomato sauce. The reason is that thick, dense recipes may not heat sufficiently in the jar to ensure safe processing. When you use the recipe, simply dump it into a saucepan and use a little flour/butter roux with some milk added, then add that to your recipe to thicken it just before you use it. Simple, safe, and no more freezer! — Jackie


  1. Just thought you’de be interested to know that the same scam was tried on me in Fresno,CA. I had advertised goats and farm equipment in several different Craigslist ads and got the same type of email response. At first I thought it was legitimate but then I caught on quick! Kathy

  2. We can ground meat that has been browned. We use it in spagetti sauce, chilli, sloppy joes, SOS, etc. Also use cubes similar to Jacki. Try curry in the sauce over rice. When we butcher large animals we simmer the bones and can the stock for soup base etc.
    Howard, Kenny Lake Alaska

  3. Jackie, Glad to hear things are going better with your mom. Boy, you jolted me back to some good memories about the Yates Cider Mill! I also went there every year with either family or Girl Scouts, and loved the cider, and just running around the great outdoors there! My children still go there with our grandchildren. Thanks for the memory trip back!

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