Despite falling off our barn roof, we still got a great, productive (although very weedy!) garden this year. Our plants outdid themselves. Before the freeze, we’d already harvested and put up about four bushels of tomatoes. But as soon as we heard it would freeze, we set about picking everything large and ripe left in the garden, to finish ripening in the house. My friend, Jeri’s husband, Jim, came over and helped out. As my back still won’t let me bend to the ground for too long, it really really helped. As you can see from the picture (which is only half of the tomatoes!), we have plenty of canning to do in the days to follow. To top it off, after the freeze, we found and picked another big bunch that were hidden under the plants…as they always are.

So we’re spending nights pureeing tomatoes and days canning up different tomato products. So far, I’ve done spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, chili, and salsa. I still want to do two different barbecue sauces and much more salsa. Wow, is the pantry fattening up nicely!

To top it off, we had to pull the rest of our sweet corn, which I mixed with peas in one batch, carrots another, and potatoes, peas, onions and carrots in yet another, so we not only have canned corn, but yummy mixed vegetables, as well.

And SQUASH! But that’s another blog! See ya soon.

Readers’ Questions:

Introducing new chickens to a flock

I’ve been having problems with chickens and was trying to replace a flock that was ready to retire. So I incubated some eggs and out of 10 I got 2 one of which is blind in one eye, the other looks healthy. In the mean time a friend gave my wife 2 chicks. One died and the other is doing fine. There is an age difference between the one given to us and the ones hatched by about a month. So one is 3 months old and the 2 hatched are about 2 months old. They are actually together and getting along great (all Rhode Island Reds). Too add to the conundrum I purchased some Buff Orpingtons I’ve got them all in a large plastic container separated by fence. Where they can see one another but not get to each other. The problem is getting the RR with the BO together to make one flock. I’ve tried taking what I think is the least dominate bird from the BO and putting it with the RR and the BO is mean to the RR. Which I thought strange because they are supposed to be really docile.

I’m concerned she will kill the youngest. How would you introduce new chickens to a flock or get chickens to accept one another.

James Gilliland
Mansfield, Texas

The most important in introducing new poultry is to make sure that the new birds have enough room to get away from the dominant ones. By having a large enough coop, with a large outside run, you’ll very seldom have any serious pecking. And if you put ALL the chickens at once into a strange place, i.e. their permanent coop/run, the chances of having them peck each other seriously, further is reduced. Then when you do put them out, stand around for awhile to make sure a bossy bird doesn’t get serious about the pecking. Expect some pecking, chasing, and flapping of wings. Birds DO establish a “pecking order,” as do all critters. — Jackie

Gardening at high altitudes

How hard is it to veggi garden at 8000 thousand feet? My wife and I are looking for a homestead in New Mexico and the acreage we like is rather high. I remember you saying you had a place in New Mexico so I thought perhaps you had some insight.

Kenny Linderoth
Buckeye, Arizona

Well, gardening at 8,000 feet IS a challenge. We lived at 7,400 feet in Montana, yet still had a good garden. I used Wallo’ Water plant protectors, then grew tender veggies under row hoop houses to protect them from late and early snows, as well as sneaky frosts. We did have snow one June 27th, but you don’t get that in New Mexico. We were at 6,000 feet and had a great garden, but sure missed GREEN. We had green grass in June, but it quickly turned tan, and remained tan for the rest of the year. As we were on the high plains, we also had only the trees around the house and those we planted. You can certainly high-altitude garden, but you’ll have to really work at it. — Jackie

Leek plants

A friend gave me some leek plants, I am not quite sure what to do with them. Any ideas? Also do you can sugar snap peas, or pea pods? Hope you guys are still mending and are starting to feel better everyday.

Robin Novotny
Ironton, Minnesota

I’ve really liked slicing my leeks and dehydrating them, much like onions, to add to soups and stews. Or to just plain make leek soup! They’re good that way. I also use them along with corn, peas, and potatoes, in addition to soup and stew vegetable mixtures that I can. It makes a great casserole, soup, or stew mixture, making fast, tasty meals. No, neither snap peas or sugar pod peas can up well; they’re both better used fresh. — Jackie

Canning chicken strips

Can you fry chicken strips and then can them? I have canned chicken for soup recipes but was wondering on the fried chicken. I know that flour is an issue in the canning books that I have.

Becky Campbell
Samantha, Alabama

Yes, you can, but I’ve not been too happy with the result because of the taste and texture. The flour issue is more with gravy, as too much flour thickens the gravy enough that it might not allow the heat to sufficiently penetrate to the center of the jar during processing so that the food maintains a safe heat for processing. A little flour hurts nothing. — Jackie

How much lye?

I was reading your article on making lye soap and thought I would try it. My question is, Lehman’s sells lye in a ten pound container, the article said to use 1 can of lye and 10 cups of fat. Is the one can this ten pounds Lehman’s sells? If not how much is in the one can you spoke of?

Liz Welcher
Indianapolis, Indiana

NO! You don’t use a 10# can of lye, you use the regular Red Devil store can, which is 12 oz. Out of the 10# can, you would use about 1 1/4 cups of lye. You’ll like the results a lot more, and be a lot safer, to boot. That’s a LOT of lye! — Jackie

Drying popcorn

I have grown my own popcorn this year. How long do you need to let it dry before it pops good, and what is the best method to dry it?

Terri Starrett
Dow, Illinois

I let my popcorn dry on the cob, with the husk removed right after harvest to prevent mold. I lay the cobs out in a single layer in a warm, dry place, free of dirt and critters. The kernels should pop well after about a month of storage. Try a few kernels sooner, if you’d like, as often it does pop sooner. Store it in an airtight container that is bug and rodent proof, such as a glass jar. — Jackie

Abundance of eggs

My Chickens are producing very well and although I can sell some eggs, I’m getting quite a few dozen in reserve. I have made your lemon curd recipe to use some of the extra eggs and it is wonderful (Xmas presents). Can I substitute orange juice for the lemon juice to make orange curd? Also do you know of any other recipes using a lot of eggs, like custard, etc., that I could make and can? I don’t have the space to freeze eggs.

Bradley Barrie
Strong, Maine

When I get excess eggs, I gear us up on egg recipes. I make potato salad, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs, lemon meringue pies, Meringue drops, which are drops of meringue on a cookie sheet, which you press down in the center with a damp spoon. When the cookie is done and cool, you add a spoon of jam. I also make cakes, rolls, and cookies, using eggs. Yes, you can substitute orange or lime for lemon, to make different curds, but other than pickled eggs, I don’t have other canning recipes using eggs. — Jackie

Canner gasket, “63” lids

Jackie I have dabbled in canning for the last several years usually just making jellies, jams, and salsa. I recently purchased a Burpee brand canner at an auction along with a box lot of jars. So that leads me to my question. I have done some research only to find parts are no longer available for a Burpee. There are mixed opinions on the safety of this canner. I read on several blogs of people making their own gaskets. What is your view on the Burpee and making a gasket. Second in the box lot jars there are a lot of narrow mouth jars that use “63” narrow mouth caps and snap lids. Are these still available and if so where can they be purchased?

Swain Keaton
Trenton, South Carolina

Sorry, but I’m not in favor of do-it-yourself pressure canner gaskets. Too much chance for error there. What I’d do is put your Burpee away for awhile, and pick up a common brand, such as an All-American or Presto, whether used, in good condition, or new, then keep an eye out for another Burpee you could buy cheap and exchange the gasket and other parts with the one you have now. If you get it cheap enough, you’ll have two working pressure canners, with only a small cash outlay…always a good thing.

I’ve bought #63 lids and other hard to find homestead items from Troyer’s Bargain Store. Here is the address:

2131 County Road 70
Sugarcreek, OH 44681

They sell mainly to the Amish and other plain folk and the merchandise and prices are good. — Jackie

Canning in a bath tub

My comment to add to Jackie’s blog: my parents bought land 25 years ago in central Kentucky. The landowner’s wife did all of her canning, in one fell swoop, in an old claw-foot bathtub that sat in her front yard. She prepared all her jars, built a fire under the tub, then the family sat by all day and all night, if necessary, and did their canning. I don’t remember whether neighbors were invited, but once the fire was built under the bathtub and the water was boiling, the canning for high acid canning for the year was started and completed in 24 hours. Such an unconventional approach kept the house cool. Thought I would share, to see if Jackie or anyone else has heard of or can benefit from this technique.

Jennifer and Stephen Riley
Cary, North Carolina

Wow, that’s a huge canning bee! I’ve never heard about using a bathtub (I’m assuming it was an old cast iron tub.), although anything that will hold water, deep enough to cover the jars and take the heat will function as a water bath canner. My grandmother used her old copper boiler to water bath tomatoes, peaches, and pickles in. The main thing is to use a rack of some sort, or even a folded towel, to keep the jars up off the bottom of the improvised canner. If you don’t, the bottoms of many of the jars will crack and break out, due to the intense bottom heat from the fire.

I couldn’t can all my high acid foods in one session because, 1, I’m not that super strong (that’s a lot of canning!) and 2, because all high acid foods don’t ripen all at once. Jellies and jams usually come first, then pickles, then tomatoes and/or peaches if you have them. And I also can up a huge variation of tomato products: spaghetti sauces, barbecue sauces, salsa, pizza sauce, tomato sauce, and plain tomatoes. The prep work for each variety is different, so I need to do separate batches. But many hands make lighter work. I enjoy having a mini canning bee, with Will, David, and some of my friends. We get a lot done, have fun talking and laughing, and aren’t too tired when we get finished. — Jackie

Well pump

We have purchased our acreage in the country, have had a well drilled (280 ft deep) and now want to ask: do we have the power run to the well or have the pump for the water put in first? Each one will cost us around $2000, so we need to make sure we do it right.

Ruth Ledford
Rocky Face, Georgia

I think I would run the power to the well first. That way, when you put the pump in, you can immediately hook it up to make sure that it is functioning right. I’m glad to hear you do things like we do; one chunk at a time as you can afford it. It sure beats the heck out of going into debt! — Jackie


  1. Jackie, Swain if the gasket is NOT cracked on that Burpee canner put it in a baggie with some vegetable oil and soak it to refresh it. at the end of canning season I pull all the gaskets to my canners. I plumps them up and keeps them soft. Judy

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