With winter coming on us like a freight train, we suddenly have the urge to split wood. Although we have about four cords in the woodshed right now, left over from last winter, more wood is definitely a good thing. Who knows what propane will cost this winter? While the “big” wood is very nice, we also cut a whole lot of pole (small popple and ash) trees this spring/summer, when they were in the way of new fence lines, the barn and pen area, or where we needed trails to be wider. We had piles of these poles here and there all over. So we are not only spending time to split the big wood, but we’re also cutting up this little wood. Some people wouldn’t bother. But we sure get a lot of heating/cooking out of an armload of this “junk” wood. Now all I have to do is to stack it all…

Readers’ Questions:

Canning potatoes

I read in one of your articles a while back about canning potatoes, with the skins on, pressure canning, could you please explain again, how to do this? I know I wrote it down but can’t find it, I would be very grateful.

Marjorie Fox
Glouster, Ohio

To can small potatoes with the skins on, just scrub the potatoes very well with a brush or “green scrubbie,” then put in a pot and boil for 10 minutes. Pack hot in the jars, leaving 1″ of headspace. Add 1/2 tsp salt to pints and 1 tsp to quarts and fill with boiling water, leaving 1″ of headspace. Process the same amount of time you do with potatoes without the skins; 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure. If you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for instructions on increasing your pressure to match your altitude, if necessary. — Jackie

Jelly, hot peppers, and loofahs

You ALWAYS have such a up beat attitude and I really appreciate that. I hope you don’t reach across the net and strangle me with the following questions: I tried your apple jelly recipe. Great!
1) Please explain why your recipe does not use pectin.
2) Why do we use pectin, anyway?
3)Are there any other jelly recipes that do not use pectin?
4)When was it decided that we had to process jelly? I can remember when we didn’t .
5)Who decided?
6) Are the seeds that fall out of hot peppers that are dried, good enough to plant, next year?
7)What causes the leathery look to the outside of jalapenos? The cream colored lines that run from top to bottom of the pepper? Are the jalapenos good or past use when these appear?
8) When you dry your jalapenos, how do you use them in cooking?
9) If you grind your dried hot peppers what do you use to grind them with?
10) I planted a loofah sponge plant, and the pkg. said 100 days. It has been ALL of that and they are just now blooming and setting on. Have you ever grown those and what success did you have?
FINALLY, Since my garden season was sooo bad due to the constant rain this past summer, what do you think of the idea of buying shorter seasoned seeds for plants and setting them out earlier (yes, I have Wall o Waters) so they can have a better head start before the rains set in again?

J from Missouri

1. You don’t use pectin in apple jelly because apples have lots of natural pectin.
2. You use pectin to make jams and jellies set without cooking them down. By using the pectin, you get more jam or jelly, as an end product, than you would, using the same amount of juice/fruit cooking it down.
3 Yes, there are. They are just basically fruit/juice and sugar, cooked down to the jelling point.
4. We began processing jellies and jams in a water bath canner to ensure the seal. Long ago, we used paraffin to seal the tops of jelly glasses. Unfortunately, the paraffin often pulled loose or the mice ate through it and the jelly molded. So we got “smart” and began using two piece lids and processing a few minutes in a water bath canner to ensure that the lids sealed. No more unsealed or mouse-eaten jams or jellies!
5. Smart canners!
6. They are if the peppers were just dried, not heat dehydrated. To test the seeds, just put several in a moist paper towel, in a bowl. Keep the towel moist; not wet. In about 2 weeks or less, the seeds will germinate…if good. Be sure to keep your bowl with the towel/seeds in a nice warm place, as pepper seeds need warmth to germinate.
7. That’s just part of jalapeño. Yes, the peppers with the lines are fine to eat.
8, When I dry jalapeños, I just crush a couple in a recipe, such as salsa or tomato sauce; they rehydrate quickly.
9, The easiest way to grind hot peppers is in an old blender. If you want them very hot, leave the seeds in them; if not, remove most of the seeds before grinding. Throw in a handful and give it a whiz. Grind as fine as you like, then pour out the powder and throw in more peppers until you have enough ground peppers.
10. No, I’ve never lived where I could grow loofahs. Although the package says 100 days, the kind of days is important. Loofahs like warm days and nights and plenty (but not too much!) water. I’ve either lived in the north or in high altitudes, where we never had warm nights. So I grew no loofahs.

Nobody can predict the weather. You shouldn’t have to grow short seasoned varieties, although there sure isn’t any reason you couldn’t. You might even get two crops. I’d mix both longer and shorter varieties and see which do best for you next year. I think the country’s growers all had goofy weather this year! Me included. — Jackie

Jar size and canning time

A friend gave me 3 dozen 1 1/2 wide mouth Ball pint jars. These are the perfect size for me to can meats, beans and veggies in, but am unsure of the processing time. Would using the time/pressure for the quart jars be okay?

Patsy L. Tampke
Big Lake, Alaska

That’s what I use for pint and a half jars. — Jackie

Drying tray setup

I would love to see more pictures of your drying ‘tray’ set up. I don’t know if you remember me earlier asking about food preservation ideas for a mission trip to Nicaragua, but I am still working on ideas for that. It is an agricultural school and feeding center for children in a very remote village. We are planning on teaching the women water bath canning, but of course that is only good for high acid foods. Pressure canning is out as they will be using open fires that I fear would be too hard to monitor the pressure, so dehydrating is the only alternative as far as I know. Electricity is not reliable so freezing is not an option. I would love to find a Spanish canning book, have you ever seen or heard of one? I can’t seem to get a response from Ball/Kerr company. The trip is in November, so I am getting desperate to find one – it would be so much easier/safer for them to understand if they could read it in their own language. A Spanish book on drying would be awesome as well. Thanks so much for all your generous help, I don’t know how you find time.

Jo Riddle
Vienna, West Virginia

All I do is to lay clean screens across boxes or on a table that I prop them up using a log so air can get under the food. If I use double screens, I just put a clean piece of wood across the bottom screen so the top one has air space under it. I called my librarian sister, who found us a Spanish language canning site with printable information that should help. Here it is: http://extensionenespanol.net/pubinfo.cfm?pubid=215
I hope this helps in your very worthwhile mission! — Jackie


  1. The first time I canned potatos, I cooked them like the canning book said and they just fell apart after they were canned. so I put some up cold pack and they were perfect. Tasted great and looked great in the jar. They looked like potatos instead of soup. I will not cook them again before canning.

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