Last night it was -22.6 degrees. But today it warmed up to -9. That’s NINE BELOW to you warm climate people! I cleaned house, put wood into the stoves, and baked cookies and a pie. Will was bored, so he went out and nailed 8 sheets of insulation board onto the un-sided part of our new addition. We were going to do that and finish the log siding, which we’d stopped doing for lack of money. But Will figured (rightly so!) that we might as well put the insulation on, then do the log siding in the spring. That way we’d have a little warmer winter and less to do come spring — busy spring.

So with a few trips to warm up and eat cookies still warm from the oven, Will got the job done and didn’t fall off the slippery ladder steps. Thank God. I couldn’t watch! I did hold the ladder when it got high and dicey, though. At least there was two feet of fluffy snow…just in case.

We also found a few cracks where the logs in the house had settled and left small gaps. Small, but enough that a cold breeze was blowing through them, right into the linen closet in the bathroom. I wondered why the bathroom was always so cold…Now they’re stuffed with insulation and caulked with a stretchy caulk. So that problem is cured. Now I don’t have to run for the wood stove after a shower anymore to keep from freezing! Ah, life in the backwoods…

Readers’ Questions:

Canning cheese sauce

You shared an Amish recipe for canning Velveeta cheese. In it you said 3 1/4 cups cream. Did you mean 3/4 cup cream? You mentioned “packing” it into jars, but mine is very runny, much like milk texture. Also not sure if it will be worth keeping if it should indeed have been 3/4 instead of 3 1/4 cups.

Karen Branson
Fenton, Michigan

This recipe was for canning Cheez Whiz, not Velveeta. It is more a cheese sauce than a cheese. To can Velveeta, just cut the block into cubes, the place the jar in a pan of hot water on your stove on low heat. A little at a time, the cubes will melt and you can add more. If you want a Cheez Whiz copy, and don’t want it as thin as yours was (mine was never milk-like…did you use 2 boxes of Velveeta?) next time just add less cream. If you process this cheese, it will make good cheese sauce. — Jackie

Storing dehydrated foods

A question about dehydration. Sue and I dehydrated sweet corn (Howling Mob – a fine open pollinated sweet corn), Cobbler potatoes and onions this year. As a precaution against insect damage, I stored the dehydrated foods in the freezer for a time to kill any eggs or larvae present. Now, I am wondering how I need to transition those foods from the freezer to room temp. storage. I am concerned that if I take them directly from the freezer and go into sealed glass jars the foods will sweat and cause a spoilage problem. I realize there should be no appreciable moisture in the foods, but…Your thoughts please.

Jamestown, Tennessee

Take your jars out and observe them for a few hours, from time to time. You’re right, there should be no condensation. If there is, just dump the jars out, one by one onto a cookie sheet. By just putting it in your oven at its lowest setting (mine keeps 99 degrees with just the pilot light on)…140 would be the warmest you’d want, you can quickly and efficiently dry out any high-moisture food. But you’re right, there should be no condensation if the food was sufficiently dehydrated. — Jackie

Storing molasses

I purchased a bucket of molasses a couple of years ago. I’d like to can it in quart jars so it will be more manageable to use it. How should I do that?

Houston, Texas

Molasses usually stays fine without any processing. I’d just pour yours into sterilized quart jars and put a new lid and ring on it. Simmer the lid first, just to make sure there are no “spoilers” on it. Molasses usually keeps well for years stored in a cool, dark place. — Jackie

Canning bacon, pepperoni, hamburger, and chicken broth

1. Is it possible to can bacon already cooked or will it burn in the process? I canned pepperoni and some of the top pieces were burnt. Not sure what happened there.
2. Is it possible to can hamburger in roast drippings (juice) if it is thinned with water so it isn’t as strong? Thought it might taste better that way.
3. When you can chicken broth, do you process it the same as you do when there is meat in it?
4. Are the orange berries on asparagus ferns, seeds for the plant, and if so can we plant those to make new plants? Are they still viable after several hard frosts? The ferns are still upright but brown. Do I cut them off or should I leave them till Spring?

J from Missouri

The only way to can cooked bacon is to dice it and put it into recipes, such as baked beans, bean soup, canned pintos, etc. Otherwise, it will burn.
Yes, you can home can hamburger using broth from a roast or other meat.
Chicken (and turkey) broth (without meat or vegetables) is canned at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. Remember to consult your canning book for changes in pressure if you live at an altitude above 1,000 feet.
Yes, the orange-red berries are seeds. If the asparagus is an old-fashioned asparagus, you can plant the seeds to make new plants, even after a few freezes. It’s easiest just to lightly bury the seeds in their new area. But you’ll get better results by planting them in a designated spot, such as in a tire or in a corner of the garden where you can find the tiny new plants and weed them well, as they don’t compete well with grass and weeds until they get large.
It’s best to leave the dried stalks on the asparagus to hold snow on the asparagus rows until spring. Then mow them down and mulch to keep spring weeds from germinating in the bed. — Jackie

Seeds, onion sets, and early planting

I’m sure you’re thinking about garden seeds for next year. I got my 1st seed catalog the day after Halloween! Would you mind sharing the names of the seeds you order? I remember Copra onions, because they keep the best, a few tomato names and Cherokee trail of tears beans….would you help with the rest? Also, I need to ask how to keep potatoes that are harvested in August. It’s hard to keep them cool then. Pinetree had onion sets…if they send them early, how do I keep them from sprouting? Frig? I have a solar greenhouse..unattached to anything… how early can I start tomato seeds if it is freezing at night out there?

J from Missouri

Some of the varieties we grow (and each year we try some new ones…who knows when I’ll find new favorites!) are:
Corn: Seneca Dancer, True Gold, Kandy King
Squash: Hopi Pale Grey, American Tonda, Thelma Sanders Sweet Potato, Early Butternut, Carnival
Pepper: Giant Marconi, Gypsy, Carmen, New Ace, Fooled You
Tomato: Oregon Spring, Juliet, Gold Medal, Polish Linguisa, Punta Banda, Early Goliath, Bush Beefsteak, Sun Sugar and our version of the discontinued Early Cascade, Early Firefall
Watermelons: Blacktail mountain, Orangeglo, Yellow Doll, Pueblo Mixed
Muskmelons, etc: Canoe Creek Colossal, Fastbreak, Pueblo Mixed,
Bush beans: Provider, Kentucky Wonder Bush, Maxibel, Dragon Tongue
Pole beans: Cherokee Trail of Tears, Rattlesnake
Potatoes: Yukon Gold, Kennebec, German Butterball

I’m sure I’m forgetting some; these are just off the top of my head.

It’s hard to have potatoes that ripen in August last through winter unless you have a cool place to keep them. I don’t plant my potatoes until a little late in our area (we planted the second time on July 1st two years ago and had a terrific crop…550 pounds!). If your springs warm up too quickly for that, you might consider growing a long-season variety instead of early potatoes. Or grow a few early ones for new potatoes and a main crop for storage that would ripen just before or after fall frosts.

When you order your onion sets ask them to send them just before you need to plant them; they’ll easily keep at cool room temperature for a couple of weeks. Store them in the dark or they’ll start to sprout prematurely. If you need to store them longer, you can store them in your fridge, but be aware that onions can cause off flavors in other foods such as lettuce, apples, and dairy products.

In an unheated greenhouse, you can’t start seeds until frost-free days are here. Instead, I start mine in the house, in a sunny window, a few weeks before it becomes frost free. I then transplant them into larger containers, still waiting for warmer outside temperatures. If you must, use shop type fluorescent lights to provide light, a couple of inches above the plants. Then, when it isn’t freezing at night, but still cool, you can move them outside into your greenhouse. In the daytime, the temps will climb so the plants will love it and grow like crazy. At night, the temperatures will still be cool, but not damaging. Be very aware of the weather forecasts and either heat the greenhouse (propane or electric heater) for an occasional “possible frost or freezing” night or be prepared to bring your plants into the house. — Jackie

Canning butterbeans

I had written a while back that I had pressure canned fresh butterbeans; well I just opened a jar & it smells & taste like I put vinegar in them. I did everything by the book as far as following the directions in canning book. Do you think they’re ok or should I throw them out?

Betty D.
Covington, Georgia

Canned butter beans should not smell like they had vinegar in them. I’m not sure what went wrong; possibly you missed a step in the processing, even though you thought you did everything by the book. It can happen, even to those of us who can a lot. I’d toss them, then try again next year. In the meantime, why don’t you read through your canning book again, and see if you can figure out where you went wrong. — Jackie

Canning with a pressure canner

I was rereading your canning book and I am thinking of getting a pressure canner. You have pressure canning times for the recipes in the low acid section but the front of the book only lists the water bath timing. Do you use the same timing for pressure and water bath on high acid items like fruit or tomatoes? I live at a high altitude and had to up my processing time by 5 minutes with a pressure canner, I keep the same timing but I up the pressure, correct?

Erica Kardelis
Helper, Utah

When you live at a high altitude, you must raise your pressure to suit your altitude. In water bath canning, you increase your processing time to suit your altitude. Look at the chart in my canning book for altitude directions.

The reason that the fruits and tomatoes section (high acid foods) only lists water bath times, not pressure canner pressures is that high acid foods are nearly always processed in a boiling water bath canner, not a pressure canner. They are safely canned using this method and pressure canning these delicate foods can cause them to soften and break down. — Jackie

Processing chevon

Someone gave us two male pygmy goats who weren’t successfully castrated (each had one undescended testicle), as well as some small rabbits that she needed to cull. I read up on processing goats in your canning book to get an idea of what we needed to do. We pretty much treated them as you advised, getting the skins off right away. The carcasses are now wrapped and hanging in our garage and we will be cutting them up this week.

I’m not planning to can the meat but to freeze it instead. Should we treat it much as you would a deer in terms of cuts of meat? I’ve never cooked or even eaten chevon/mutton, so I’m a little unsure of what I’m doing. Would you cook it like you cook venison? Can we make steaks and roasts and hamburger out of it, or should we be doing something completely different?

Carmen Griggs
Bovey, Minnesota

You can use chevon just like you would venison or beef, for that matter. I prefer to bone all of my chevon, as I don’t like the taste of the fat in the marrow in bone-in cuts. That’s just a personal preference; many people say they can’t tell any difference, and cut their steaks and roasts with the bone in. If you make hamburger out of chevon, consider mixing beef fat with the lean meat as when you use goat fat with the lean meat, you often get a “tallow” taste to the meat, similar to venison. Cook it just like you would if it were beef. You’ll love it! — Jackie

Cattle water trough freezing

This is the first winter we have had animals and I have a question about their care. We just had an extreme cold snap and the water in our cattle water troughs was one giant ice cube — we ended up having to haul water in buckets. How do you keep the water in your troughs from freezing?

Brenda Palmer
Marblemount, Washington

We don’t. Without electricity to run stock tank heaters (and they’re expensive to run), or the money to buy a propane heater for each tank, we opt to also carry buckets for the coldest part of the winter. Besides the buckets, we also haul a 55-gallon plastic barrel to our horse and donkey pastures, watering them from a rubber tub, which we empty when they are finished drinking. If your pasture or corral is close to your water faucet or hydrant, you can use a hose, which is drained after every watering. Our animals are too far away to do that.

In the future, we will be running underground water lines (8 feet deep) to our main pastures so we can more easily water with less work. — Jackie


  1. I didn’t know you could caulk in that cold of weather, next time I won’t be so afraid to try that……

    When we use to live in CO, and had only a few horses and goats, I used the xtra large black flexible feed buckets for water – it was easy to knock the frozen water out and large enough to hold enough water to not freeze quite so fast…..I also learned quickly that the usual size buckets made more trips back and forth between the faucet (that wasn’t frozen) to where the feed buckets were, & switched to the 5 gallon size….we had some serious arm & thigh muscles that first winter, LOL…..

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