As I am still canning tomatoes, in one form or another, I’m still really busy because I don’t want them to rot. But at the same time, fall is lengthening, and I simply HAD to harvest the herbs and get them drying. So today, I cut my last oregano, thyme, sage, chives, and mint. I had already cut my basil, as it doesn’t handle freezing well, and it’s already done that. I laid the herbs out lightly in a large basket, turning them several times a day, pickling out dead leaves, grass, and other debris as I turned it each time. When it was nearly dry, I laid them out in a single layer on a cookie sheet to finish. I rub most of my herbs by gathering a handful between my palms and rubbing them back and forth, crumbling the leaves and tender stems.

Today, I finished up the last of my basil, both lemon basil and sweet basil, and picked out the last of the tiny, hard stem pieces. Then I gently poured it into jars for storage. Boy, do my hands ever smell great after rubbing herbs!

Readers’ Questions:

Dealing with freezing pipes

I have moved a 14 by 80 mobile home to my secluded 10 acres. I am off the grid as we are building up a larger battery bank as Money allows. So for right now we can not use the stock furnace that came with the house. Actually we would prefer to burn wood in our wood burning stove. How do I keep my pipes from freezing without heat in the Duct work under the house?

Mark Beyerchen
Silverwood, Michigan

THAT is a problem. We lived in an old 14’x70′ mobile, off grid, during the second and third winter we lived on our new homestead. We simply didn’t use the plumbing, opting for a simple composting toilet (bucket, lined with a plastic bag & shavings) and hauling water inside to use. We used an outhouse during the day, and the bucket toilet for night use. It really wasn’t that bad. We also used a battery-operated camp shower, which wasn’t the best, yet did the job while we were “camping” in the mobile home.

You might have to do this for the winter, after draining your pipes. For heat, we added two wall propane heaters. A wood stove isn’t real safe in a mobile home, as there isn’t usually a safe place to install one. A better choice would be to add on a 10’x10′ addition off one side to hold the wood stove. In this way, you can have the heat, yet not worry about the safety issue of having a wood stove in a mobile home. The best of luck on your new venture. Remember, what you have today won’t be what you end up with — after a lot of hard work. Been there. Done that! — Jackie

How to tell when pumpkins are ripe

So, I tried my first pie pumpkins. They were all orange, hard to the touch, and the stems were very hard but still green. The insides were still a bit green. Does this mean I picked them too soon and will the puree I made still be okay?

If I picked them too soon, how to do know when to pick them?

Erica Kardelis
Helper, Utah

Most squash and pumpkins need to finish ripening during storage for a few weeks before they are completely ripe enough to eat or can. Your puree will probably be fine; I wouldn’t worry a bit. Next time, just store your pumpkins for awhile before you use them. (Remember that it isn’t currently recommended that you can pumpkin puree, as it is such a dense product that sometimes the center of the jar might not heat sufficiently for safe processing. I canned pumpkin puree for decades before this information came out, but I guess better safe than sorry.) — Jackie

Stewed tomato recipe

Got your book! LOVE it! I have a question about your stewed tomatoes recipe for canning. I can’t find it, and I know I saw it, either on your blog or in your book. Can you give it, or tell me where I saw it?

Valerie Blackketter
Marvel, Colorado

The recipe is on page 162 of Growing and Canning Your Own Food. I know, I need to add an index to the next printing. I had to look for it too! — Jackie

Canning dried beans

I managed to discard an issue of Backwoods Home without first clipping the info I wanted on canning dried beans. I have Jackie Clay’s Canning Book and tried her directions today when canning navy beans, but would like to try canning the black beans using the dry method as one reader wrote in and discussed. I neglected to write down the directions for canning the beans dry without soaking or partially cooking first. I would appreciate it if you could give them in your blog.

Linda Barnes
Logan, Utah

I had to hunt too! But I found Cal Hollis’ method in Issue 125. He puts 1 1/2 cups washed dry beans in a quart jar or 2/3 cup in a pint, then adds any spices or ham and fills the jar, leaving 1 inch of headspace, with boiling water. Pints are processed at 10 pounds for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes, the same as soaked dry beans. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary.
I hope this helps. — Jackie

Canning dried beans

I love your picture of the Swiss chard. What great color. I hope my question will make sense. I planted some pinto and Christmas pole lima beans and waited until they were dried to pick them. I know I can keep them dried, but I would like to can them so it would be convenient to just open a can when we need them for soup. Like canned kidney beans you buy at the store. Do you have a recipe for that? Would it be a different recipe for pinto and Lima beans?

Becky in Iowa

Dry beans are very handy, canned up, as you don’t have to soak them overnight or cook them for lengthy periods to eat them. All dry beans are canned the same way. Although I haven’t tried the recipe by Cal Hollis, I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. But I first boil my dry beans in plenty of water and let them sit for 2 hours. Then I pack them and process them as usual. This means heat the beans and liquid to boiling, then drain, saving liquid. Pack jars 3/4 full with hot beans, add small pieces of fried lean bacon or ham, if desired, then fill with hot cooking liquid, leaving 1 inch of headspace. Process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. — Jackie

Expense of homegrown

More of statement than question.

With all the discount stores now for almost anything, when you figure in the time and labor involved to grow or make your own whatever, it really is no longer cheaper to do it yourself. However, when talking quality and KNOWING where the end product came from, then it’s a different story. I can’t make soap of any kind cheaper than I can buy it, nor can I grow any vegetable cheaper either, when I am employed somewhere, and then need to spend a considerable amount of time growing, cultivating, weeding etc.

I really did not save by doing it myself. But in the event the unforeseen happens, it is a good idea to at least know how!


I beg to differ with you, Steve. I’ll match my household expenses with anyone buying their own food. When you first begin to garden, you CAN spend a lot of money. On the other hand, once you get your garden up and going, you actually have to spend very little money and/or time, if you keep at things. I doubt that I actually spend half an hour a day in my garden on an average, during the spring through summer season. Of course, some days, I spend two hours…others, I just look out there. And seeds/plant expense? You can have a great garden, growing heirloom varieties that are available for less than a dollar a pack. In fact, the dollar stores usually carry 10 for a $1.00 varieties. I have other favorite varieties I can’t get there, and I pay more. But I save a lot of our own seeds, so I don’t need to buy each year.

I put no chemicals in my food, nor do I have any unsanitary processing practices. (I’ve been in canning factories, where they stand in the peas, tomatoes, or whatever and shovel them into a conveyor.) My produce is harvested within minutes of eating or canning, and at its peak ripeness. Much store food is overripe, then shipped, to be put up days after harvest…losing nutrition and taste.

Speaking of taste, homegrown and home canned food is better than gourmet food; you simply can’t buy store-bought food that tastes anywhere as good as fresh homegrown.

I know what has been put on my land, know what I do to take care of my crops, and just how I harvest and process it. Make mine homegrown…not grown in China, Vietnam, Chile, Argentina, Mexico, or Africa. — Jackie


  1. Pamela: Here’s a cracker recipe I just found, you can google “cracker recipes” to find more:

    2 cups of plain flour
    ¼ teaspoon salt
    2 tablespoons softened butter
    approximately 1 cup of milk

    1. Preheat oven to 150’C/ 300’F.

    2. Add the salt to the flour, and in a mixing bowl or food processor, cut the butter in until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs.

    3. Slowly mix in enough milk to form a soft, but not sticky, dough.

    4. Divide the dough into two or three portions and roll out one at a time, until paper thin. You can do this on a lightly floured workbench, or you can do it straight onto a large, ungreased cookie sheet, as I do. This recipe makes enough for my two 10″ x 15″ trays, so divide your dough accordingly.

    Tip: If you have trouble rolling the dough into the corners with your rolling pin, try using a small but sturdy jam jar.

    5. Using a sharp knife or pizza roller, cut the dough into crackers. Prick each one two or three times with a fork and transfer carefully to the cookie sheet if you rolled it out on your bench.

    6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned and crisp. Allow to cool on the tray and then store in an air tight container for up to a week.

  2. I have to also agree with Jackie. Since I have started making everything from scratch (all but crackers), I tell my family if ma can’t make it…we don’t need it! I have not spent more than 100 dollars a month on groceries, my husband or myself OR our 4 children have not been sick (no doctor bills) and our lives are just plain simple. I send my children lunch to school so they get their quality food all day, make our own breads, yogurt and cheese. The only things that I am forced to buy are toilet paper, fruits and crackers. I buy my baking supplies about every 4 months. But if you talk to people, you will find someone willing to give you extra vegetables and fruits. We are raking in the harvest of apples, squash and pumpkins and we have never grown them. Also there is always someone willing to give plants started from seedlings away. Someday I will have to keep a journal just so I know how much I am saving. Gourmet food does NOT come from WalMart! Thanks Jackie for all you do for us!

  3. We wouldn’t go back to ‘store-bought’ for all the proverbial tea in China. By growing our own we not only save a ton of money but we know, as Jackie says, where it comes from and in what condition it is processed. The satisfaction of looking into your very own pantry for dinner is simply amazing…

  4. I totally agree with you Jackie. It is much cheaper to grow your own food and preserve it. And you know what is in it and where it comes from. I wish the canning seals and sugar were not so expensive nowadays though.

  5. I’m inclined to generally agree with Steve about it being more expensive to grow it yourself. In the Northeast, vegetable plants are expensive and not getting any cheaper. All the local garden centers seem to check the price of the box stores and tack on 30% because it’s local. This past spring, I paid $6 per plant. I’ve buy seeds for everything direct seeded, but other than herbs and perennials, my plants end up leggy, pale either infested or infected. Oh, and in order to provide enough light and bottom heat, my electric bill goes up significantly. If, by chance, I happen to get a good stand of plants, I end up with 20, when I only need 6 and can’t find any takers.

    All this said, I love growing my own stuff. I love the taste and the fresh food regardless of the cost.

  6. I have always dried my herbs on a sunny day in my hot car. It makes my car smell good and the herbs dry really fast. I don’t have to worry about turning my oven up too high and my car has plenty of space in it.

  7. One thing that is almost always cheaper homegrown is herbs and spices. For instance, this year I had about 6 dill plants grown from seed and will have at least 1 to 2 cups of dill seed. Last year I had to buy dill at the store and a small jar, less than an ounce, cost almost $4.00. Considering all of the herbs and spices I can grow, that sure adds up!

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