We’ve been watching the pin cherries on our ridge for several weeks, and finally they are ripe. The birds have been getting into them, so we decided we’d better get out and pick before the Cedar Waxwings ate them all, which they will do in one day’s time. Those little masked bandits! So I spent two days picking, then Will helped me on the third day, as the birds were working faster than I could.

We ended up with several ice cream buckets full of nice fat cherries and I set about making jelly while Will went down to the garden to pull more weeds. Ugh, those weeds! We’ve had SO much rain this summer — scarcely two days in a row without rain. It’s making haying extremely hard for our friend Jerry and my son, David. The hay’s great, but the fields are so wet. It takes hay three days to dry, and they don’t get three dry days in a row. They put up 57 big round bales yesterday, and this morning it rained an inch. Yuck!

I simmered my cherries, then “squished” them by hand when they cooled some. Then I boiled them a bit and hung them in a jelly bag to drain. I use the same recipe for pin cherry jelly as the sour cherry recipe in the Sure-Jell box; 3 1/2 C juice and 1 box of Sure-Jell, boiled 1 minute, then add 5 1/2 C sugar, bring to a rolling boil for 1 minute. I then process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. (I also make some, adding 1 tsp almond extract just before ladling out the jelly into the jars. This is different and very good, too.)

Canning is starting! I’m also finishing up doing blueberries. They haven’t been too good this year, but we’re increasing our stash in the pantry, anyway. We love our wild fruits!

Readers’ Questions:

Pickled garlic

I have an abundance of garlic this year and would like to pickle some. Do you have a recipe that does not use pickling spice? I would like to have your favorite.

Margaret Curry
Lawrence, Kansas

Sure, here’s a good and easy recipe:

6 cups peeled garlic cloves
3 cups vinegar
1 tsp. salt
1 cup granulated sugar

Mix vinegar, salt, and sugar in large kettle and bring to a boil. Add peeled garlic cloves and bring to a boil for 1 minute. Pack cloves into hot, sterilized half-pint or pint canning jars, leaving 3/4″ of headspace. Ladle boiling solution over garlic, leaving 3/4″ of headspace. Wipe rims of jars clean, place hot, previously simmered lids on jars and screw down rings firmly tight. Process in a boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your processing time to suit your altitude. — Jackie

Drying herbs

I’ve read that it is best to pick herbs for drying in the morning after the dew has evaporated. My basil and sage get dirt splashed up on the underside of the leaves when it rains. Is it best to rinse the dirt off after cutting or rinse the leaves before picking and wait until that water evaporates before picking? I’ve been rinsing the leaves after picking and then hanging them wet but this creates more work and just doesn’t seem the right way to go about it.

Patty Groetsch
Bay City, Wisconsin

If I have dirty herbs, I cut them, then rinse the whole stems well, then lay them out on a screen, propped up on logs or sawhorses. They dry faster than if you hang them, plus there’s much less work. To keep them from getting dirty in the first place, mulch the plants with some nice clean straw. Then you’ll have no dirt to contend with at all! It sure saves me work. — Jackie

Canning peppers

I’ve grown lots of peppers for making Chili Rellenos. How do I can this up so we can enjoy them all year? I don’t think using the vinegar method would taste right. Will pressure canning them make them too soggy to fry up well. Please help!

Donna Braun
San Bernardino, California

I use pickled peppers for chili rellenos. Rinse the pickled peppers well under cold water, then proceed as usual. The vinegar doesn’t really bother the taste much. You’ll just have to try it and see how it is to your own taste. I like mine fine that way. You’re right, the canned peppers are softer, although if you can up thick walled peppers, they are still usable for rellenos, although you DO have to handle them very carefully so they don’t break. — Jackie

Cookware for a wood cookstove

We plan to cook with a wood cookstove when we build our house (I hope to get the Kitchen Queen), and I was wondering what type of cookware would work best with it? I have a lot of cast iron and some stoneware, but I also like to cook with Stainless steel pots and pans and bake with glass cookware. Will the stainless and glass ware still be able to be used safely with a wood cookstove?

Rose Wolfe
Fairbanks, Alaska

You can use any cookware that you use on a non-wood stove, on your new wood stove. The pluses with a wood stove are steady and even heat, as there are no hot spots, as there are with an electric kitchen range. I know you’ll like your wood cooking! — Jackie

Guineas for ticks

We have a horrible tick problem on our 10 acre property. We already have chickens (fenced) and are planning on raising guineas and letting them into our garden and woods on the property for bug/tick control. We do have all the predators including neighbor dogs. I can’t seem to find any cons to getting these birds. They seem to fight off predators, mind their own business and take care of garden pests without harming vegetables. Is this true? Can they really be that wonderful? Any advice before we take the plunge would be great!

Deanna Deiters
Marion, Illinois

Guineas ARE great for getting rid of ticks and other bugs. However, they aren’t THE perfect solution, as they are sometimes prey to predators, they will scratch and eat some fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and ripe tomatoes, and they are NOISY when disturbed. The noise is why we won’t be getting guineas. I can’t handle that. But it doesn’t bother many guinea lovers. I’d suggest getting a few birds and see how you do. — Jackie

Amish relish

I love your canning book. I will sit and read it for hours. I have used it over and over. I would like to make the Amish relish but it doesn’t say how much vinegar to use. I’m really sorry to hear your mom passed away.

Robin Putman
Coolville, Ohio

Sorry about that! Several observant readers have picked out that boo boo. It should have 3 pints of vinegar. This error will be corrected in the next printing of the book. — Jackie

Growing and Canning your Own Food, Page 95 Amish relish does not give the amount of vinegar, so I used the amount of vinegar called for on page 96 for the Chow-chow relish, and processed. When I tried a little taste before processing I thought it was a little salty but I didn’t rinse veg. and after the simmering the batch still tasted salty. What did I mess up on? Love your recipes and all your valuable information. I am amazed with your knowledge and writing style. Grew up canning every thing. We never had anything that poured to fry with, but we worked so hard there was no weight problems, now all the cooking liquid pours freely as does the scales every time I step on.

Janita Walker
Monterey, Tennessee

Sorry about the missing vinegar! Other readers have caught that one, too. It will be corrected in the next printing, as well as a couple of other boo boos.

Did you mix your vegetables well the next morning? Usually, the vegetables have enough moisture pulled out of them to greatly reduce the salty taste, when you mix them, then drain them well. If not, rinse the raw vegetables well in cold water to get rid of excess salt. The salt is to draw out moisture, not to help in the canning process.

If your canned relish still tastes too salty, pour off half of the canning “juice” and replace it with vinegar when you open each jar. Then refrigerate it for a day or two, and you’ll have much better tasting relish. — Jackie

Transplanting blueberries

I transplanted one blueberry bush, and bought two others (same kind) and planted them all together. The one I transplanted died. The other two are dying, still some green leaves. I know we’re experiencing extremely high temps this year, and I’ve been consistent in watering. What happened, and how can I save the two remaining bushes? Neither bush have fruited.

Julie Raley
Louisville, Kentucky

Blueberry (and most other fruits) prefer to be transplanted in the early spring or late fall when they are dormant. Planting or transplanting leaved out bushes/trees is a real gamble, especially when it’s hot and dry. I’d keep watering your bushes and hope they’ll send up growth from the roots. Next spring, prune off all dead branches and hope for the best. — Jackie

Weeds, potato bugs, and bush cherries

I have a 20′ x 30′ area of weeds left to tackle that are the worst. This rain has really made them grow as you well know. Underneath are the carrots and beets! Boo hoo. Do you think the carrots will perk up as the weeds disappear? If I don’t have enough carrots left, do I still have enough time to replant? I’ll try for enough to can for this year. Then start all over in the spring again! We live in zone 4.

I read before that you planted your potatoes last which maybe was the beginning of June? How did you do with potato bugs and their larvae by planting so late? We planted potatoes the end of April since all the growers do around here. BUT we had potato beetles like crazy. It was a fight to the finish. We won! But we put in a LOT of hours of picking larvae. I hope the potatoes underneath are big and tasty! Just so you know the grower miles down the road is spraying the potato field to death. I feel sorry for the people who live around the edge of the field!

Can I bother you for one more problem? I have 3 Nanking bush cherries. They all flowered and set some cherries this year. This is their third year here. Two of the plants, after setting cherries, started turning brown on the leaves. Now they have no leaves. But the wood of the branches is still alive. Would you have a guess as to what happened and if they will be here next year?

Thanks so much! Your tomato plants look beautiful.

Cindy Hills

I have half a triple row of carrots that are that weedy, too, and I’m pulling weeds to try and save what I can. The trouble is that the weeds are so big that when I pull them, I also sometimes pull carrots. But I know if I don’t I won’t get anything, as the carrots are so spindly now, they’ll never make a crop. I feel it IS worth the effort, however, if only to keep the weeds from going to seed and magnifying our weed problem next year. Slowly, we’re getting ahead of the weeds, but it HAS been a real battle.

I would go ahead and plant some early maturing carrots and see what happens. Be sure to thin them as early as you can so they put all energy into making food for you. As carrots don’t mind frosts, they just may surprise you with a huge crop.

We’re lucky, here, as we’re so far from anywhere that grows potatoes that we haven’t had potato bugs. Lucky US. On past homesteads, we weren’t so lucky and also had to pick, pick, pick, and sometimes dust with rotenone.

I’m not sure what to tell you about your Nanking cherries. I’d just mulch them with rotted manure and be sure they’re getting enough water till fall, then pray they sprout in the spring. That kind of stuff is sure frustrating, isn’t it? — Jackie


  1. Hi, Jackie. I wanted to add a little more advice about guineas for Deanna. My friends who have them have found that these birds are still very wild, as opposed to chickens who seem quite used to living closely with humans. The guineas do not like to brood anywhere near humans, usually brooding as far out in the fields or woods as they can and then taking the keets far afield, away from the farm. Unfortunately, most of us live in areas with a lot of natural predators, and so many of the keets do not make it. They have all had a lot of trouble increasing their flocks the ‘normal’ way because of this. My friends find that the really have to remove the keets from the new mother so that they can have even a few survive. Chickens in general don’t behave that wildly. And I’ll underscore Jackie’s comment about noisy. I don’t have any guineas because we only have 2 1/2 acres; not enough room for them and us! I was once at my friend’s place and was near a large bush. The noise from the other side was deafening. I went around the bush to see how many guineas were there: two. So, while this friend in particular likes her guineas, I’ve learned from watching her issues with them that I wouldn’t personally want any unless I had at least 5 acres.

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