Friday, we had our meat back from the packing plant and Saturday, I thawed out two T-bone STEAKS! I baked some homegrown potatoes, then set our steaks on to fry. Would they be tender? Would they be flavorful? They sure smelled good cooking! Standing in a pool of drool, I carefully monitored the steaks as they fried. When they were done, I put them on a platter and then in the oven to keep warm while I made gravy. The moment of truth…

Will sat down to his dinner and I grabbed the camera. The look on his face in the picture tells it all. “Oh my Godddd! Oh this is so GOOOODDDDD!” Nuff said; I grabbed my fork and dug in. The meat was so tender we could easily cut it with a fork and the taste was beyond description. (How do stores remove the taste of meat?) We stuffed ourselves and enjoyed every moment.

Sunday, I set about boiling down bones for soup stock. I had two of my big stock pots going on the wood range all day. When all was canned up, I ended up with 29 quarts and 6 pints of really great soup stock. And I still have more frozen bones to boil up! We don’t like to waste a thing around here. It does happen, but we sure don’t like it!

I’m just so happy with our little beef-raising project. With luck and the Lord’s help, we should never have to buy meat again!

Readers’ Questions:

A few questions and comments

1. Can you can frozen soup? I purchase Angel Food and so far each month I have frozen soup; trying to get away from freezer usage

2. You had a lady ask about canning squash soup. I have a recipe, but do not know the copyright laws. Can I send it to you, as long as I reference the author and book?

3. I canned 2 gallons of milk last year, and now it looks like a thick chunk of something — does it not keep long when canned? Does this mean it has gone bad? Can I use it? if so, how or in what? This batch was water bathed; I have also done a batch I did pressure can and it has a beige tint and has separated — “water” is on top and the other stuff is below; do I throw out, give to chickens?

Mary Helwig
Red Lion, Pennsylvania

You can home can frozen soup, but be aware that any soft vegetables in it, such as potatoes or carrots will soften more after processing. After all, you’re cooking them again. Other than that, heat the soup to simmering, then can as if it were fresh soup.

I think you can give the recipe you found for squash soup, as long as you give credit to the person/place you found it.

Sometimes canned milk does do that, but usually if you just whisk it after pouring it into a bowl, it will again look like milk…usually condensed milk. If it is sealed and was processed correctly, and it smells fine, it is perfectly good to use in cooking and baking. Canned milk does not make good drinking milk, however. Pressure canned milk does take on the beige tint as the sugars have slightly caramelized during processing. — Jackie


What varieties of asparagus have you purchased from Nourse Nurseries? I have very sandy soil and here in eastern Colorado our climate is hot and very dry in summer. I’ve been picking wild asparagus for many years along ditches in the neighborhood. As new people have moved in, they don’t use their asparagus but yet they forbid people from picking it. What a waste of good food. So I’m going to need to plant my own! Any secrets to planting it? Location? Depth? Water amounts?

Carol Elkins
Pueblo, Colorado

We planted and are buying 50 more Jersey Supreme asparagus roots from Nourse. They have a very good planting guide that will come to you, with complete details. Plant your asparagus bed on one side of your garden or in a different location, as it will be there forever, once planted, and you don’t want to have it in the way of annual garden work. Plant it in trenches, about a food deep or more, and spread the roots out like a spider. Although the Nourse planting guide advises not to put compost in the trenches, I did, as I’ve done it all my life. But I did use well-rotted compost, not high-nitrogen fresh compost, which would make the plants grow too fast or possibly even burn. Cover the roots with a few inches of soil, then leave the trench untouched; don’t fill it in. As the plants grow, cover a little more dirt at a time, until the trench is full. Asparagus does like water while it is getting established, although once doing well (as in a couple of years), it is more drought tolerant. But the more water you do give it, the fatter the spears will be…within reason (asparagus does not like wet feet/damp, swampy ground). Enjoy your asparagus; we sure do! I could eat it for three meals every day. — Jackie

Stacking jars

I don’t have a lot of room to store my canned glass jars. Can I stack the pints on top of each other? I only have them stacked 2 high right now. I have been checking and I don’t think any of the seals have been broken.

Linda Terefenko
Lamar, Oklahoma

What I’ve done in the past, when we have had a cabin with no storage is to keep the jars in boxes, with dividers, then stack the boxes. That works well when you need to go higher than two jars. While you’re not supposed to stack one jar on top of another, I’ve done it for years without a problem. I do try to put half-pints on pints and use a board between layers of quarts or pints, leaving the rings on the bottom layer for extra support. — Jackie

Fruit tree grafts

I was wondering how your fruit tree grafts did last year. I tried several and none of them took. I don’t think I secured them well enough.

Jim Bruce
Petersburg, Michigan

One out of four made it. It was kind of late in the season, and I’m a beginner. But this spring we plan on grafting a bunch of trees, do it earlier, and see how it goes. I know it does work, but like anything, it takes practice to get good at a new skill. — Jackie

Mice in basement

I’ve had tubs of “stuff” in our finished basement ever since we took them out of a storage unit 6 years ago. I’m home right now on medical leave and have had my sons bring several tubs up to the living room at a time for me to sort. Well…last weekend we found a deceased mouse in a half used bag of birdseed. Last night, my boy cats caught and killed one in my bedroom (NOOOOOOOOO) he was dispatched in about 1 minute as the hunter was a stray who had lived outdoors for 2 years until I brought him in to live. All the rest wouldn’t know what to do with a mouse. HOW am I going to get rid of these guys. There are still plenty of tubs in the basement to go through. My concern is that there is some type of disease (besides Rabies) that the cats can get by killing these guys. I have NO problem with letting the cats down in the basement to hunt, but I’m not sure they are going to get them all. Even though the one in my bedroom (NOOOOOOOOO) is the first live one I’ve seen. I love animals – yes, even mouses – I can’t bear to use snap mouse traps or the sticky traps (I think those are horrid).

Wanda Towles
Laurel, Maryland

I think glue traps are horrible, too; what a way to die. While I don’t like snap traps, I do use them when I have a mouse invasion. (I like mice too, but there comes a time…) You have good mousers, so my advice is to let the cats roam the basement; they will get them. Meanwhile, try to go through your boxes and eliminate any mouse-hiding places. I’ve found that large plastic storage totes work well to keep mouse-prone storage items in, such as clothes, blankets, foods, etc. They also keep stuff from dampness, too. Your cats won’t catch any diseases from the mice they catch. — Jackie

Meat goats

I know you raise goats for milk as well as meat. Do you disbud the meat goats?
I’m considering goats myself, a few dairy goats to be bred to a boer buck. Then sell the kids for meat (keep one for our freezer.)Seems the best of both worlds. But I cannot have horned goats on the property for safety reasons.

Also, your chickens and turkeys look great! My turkeys mingle with my chickens too, with no problems.

Mary Hartsock
Lancaster, Kentucky

We disbud every single kid born on the homestead; horns have no place on one, in my opinion. (I’ve seen a hornless doe run a coyote all the way across a five-acre pasture and boy was he traveling! Goats have attitude. And horns — any horns — are a source of danger for both the animal and the owner. — Jackie

Storing pet food

I was wondering about food storage for pets. We have 2 dogs and I’d like to have some items stored for them as well for a “just in case we need it” comes into play. Is there a storage time for dog food left in it’s original bag and what other alternatives could we use to create pet-friendly meals that can be canned and stored like a soup or something. I try to stock up on items an necessities for emergency situations and we have to think of our pets as well. On another note, I absolutely love BHM and have purchased issues for many years via subscription as well as newsstand. It is very informative and read it from cover to cover and multiple times. It has become my reference library for many things. Keep up the good work!

Vanessa DeGroat

There really isn’t a storage time limit on dry dog and cat food, provided that it’s left in its original bag and kept in a rodent/dampness-free spot. I, personally, stock up on dry food for our two big dogs and don’t can up food for them. If necessary, “later on”, we would simply cook more “people food” and feed them that, perhaps extended with rice, oatmeal, or cheaper baked goods (homemade). In hard times, we would plan ahead and make use of every single chicken carcass (boiled for doggie soup base, WITHOUT giving them any bones, just the excess meat, organs, and fat), every single beef, goat, and deer bone. We would also be planting extra carrots and potatoes for additions to our dogs’ food, as well. A wonderful old lady I knew shot and canned woodchucks for dog food for her beloved fox terrier during the height of the depression. You do whatever works. Thanks for thinking of your pets; some folks never do…even in good times! — Jackie

Excess berries and grapes

I was hoping you could help me out. Every year my hubby and I try to collect every berry and grape we have access to. There are probably a dozen different kinds of berries and a couple different kinds of grapes. The question I have is what to do with it all. After reorganizing our canning room I have realized we DO NOT need any more jams or jellies for a couple of years. Do you have any suggestions that would help? We have a juicer we uses for grapes and pears but it would be a waste I think to use it for the berries.

Jaime H.
Sturtevant, Wisconsin

What a wonderful “problem!” But there are uses for all those berries, other than jams and jellies. First of all, if you are on grid, freeze some of the best berries to use later for pies and other baking/ desserts. Don’t be afraid to juice them, either. Mixed juices (pear/berry, for instance) make terrific beverages as opposed to sodas. And don’t forget fruit leathers, made from seedless fruit purees. Not only are they great, healthy snacks, but you can also blend them with yogurt or homemade ice cream for terrific smoothies! And, of course, you can simply can up many berries to use later on. Most can up easily and taste great during the winter or years to come. — Jackie


  1. I’ve been reading your columns for years, and recently discovered your blog. Thank you so much for your great food preserving advice!

    In regards to the dry dog food, it DOES have a storage time limit. I used to work in vet clinics and a university animal research lab, and had access to many veterinarians’ experience, and the results of many nutritional studies. The fats used become rancid over time, and there have been many, many issues of mold in the food. It’s very dangerous for your pets, and can cause many illnesses and death. Unfortunately, they don’t stamp the bags with the date it was manufactured, so you don’t know how old it is, but you shouldn’t keep it past six months from date of purchase, and be sure to keep it in a cool place. Warm temperatures will hasten the breakdown of the food. This applies to cat food as well. As far as making and canning your own, there are many books and websites that give recipes. If you choose to do this, make sure a veterinarian, preferably a nutritionist, has reviewed the recipe – there are a lot of recipes out there that are very unbalanced, nutritionally. Also, if you are feeding “people food” to dogs or cats, make sure it doesn’t have onions or garlic in it, they can cause severe anemia, especially in cats and small dogs.

  2. Mary D,

    While you can make chili without hamburger or other meat (chile con carne), translated “chile with meat”, you can also make and can chile with no meat. This can be eaten as is or have meat added before cooking and eating.


  3. erica,

    Yes, always ask for bones! Although “soup bones” are usually knee and hock bones and ox tail, any bones can be boiled down for soup stock. No there aren’t any bones that aren’t good for soup stock. Lucky us.


  4. Hi Jackie,
    I have been reading your old posts back on Oct 23, 2007 and your were making up chili that day.
    You said you used red kidney beans, tomatoes, gr. pepper, onion, med. hot chilies, brown sugar and spices.
    My question is do you NOT use hamb. in your chili? Or did you forget to put it as an ingred.?

  5. That photo is classic, bon apetit Will! :)
    Jackie, I’ve just found you and this magazine, what a treasure trove of knowledge. I started reading your blog posts from the beginning, and I’ve reached June 2009 at this point, loving all of your tips and lessons! I’m still planning and prepping, hopefully have my land in a few years, you’re teaching me so much!

  6. Will is one happy man……. We too boil and can up every bone we get. When we eat meat I save the bones in the freezer and when I get enough I set to canning. I’ve also discovered I can get venison bones during hunting season from the local processor…FOR FREE!!!!!! They are clean and cold and boy do we get not only a ton of broth but the amount of meat that boils off them makes a ton of soup that gets canned as well. Last year I got 23 qts of pure meat and another 35 of broth. Every morsel was for free. Then hubby buries the clean bones in the yard for soil nutrients. Waste not want not……

  7. Erica, I was thinking the same thing! We have a cow that will be butchered and it never occurred to me to have the bones saved. Excellent info Jackie, what else do you have kept other than the meat, what about the fat? Do you use it for anything? I know people have kept the fat from their pigs and rendered it down.

  8. I saw that you are making beef broth from the bones of your cow. I just bought one half of a cow, should I have asked for the bones? Is there any bones you particularly want to use or any the you don’t?

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