Will’s been out twice more, cutting and hauling that great dead black ash firewood from the edge of our big beaver pond. The snow’s so deep that he has to doze a path to each bunch of trees so he can walk and maneuver around to cut and haul the logs out. Right now it’s more than 3 feet deep in most spots! But the days are getting warmer, with temps in the high 30’s and even 40’s, so cutting over the creek will all too soon be over for the year. (Make hay while the sun shines!)

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy writing and canning. I did two more batches of ground beef and another load of on-sale pepperoni. Boy, are the pantry shelves ever stocking up nicely! In the ground beef, I added diced onions from the pantry, trying to use up some more of them before they start to soften in the spring. So far, I’ve only lost one onion to rot! That’s fantastic. And the potatoes and rutabagas still look as good as the day they were put in their bins. We’re pretty thrilled with that.

Tomorrow I get to start planting my peppers and petunias, so spring is officially here on our homestead. How exciting!

Readers’ Questions:

Canning venison

I had canned some venison that was leftover from a big family dinner. Yummo stuff! Anyway, I recently used some of it in some soup thinking I’d have wonderful, tender meat. Well, that wasn’t the case. It was extremely chewy. Gave the soup great flavor but even the smallest piece you chew all day and not break it down enough to swallow! I ended up fishing out the meat and my dog was one happy camper let me tell you. Seems to be a waste but as I said, the flavor of the soup was fantastic. Was the chewiness due to the fact that the meat ended up being cooked twice – once for our family dinner (It melted in our mouths!) and then again from the canning process (I followed the Ball Blue Canning Book instructions for pressure canning as I always do)? Will this happen with any meat or is it just wild game? I guess I never thought about it being over done as I’ve always only partially cooked or raw packed the meat and never have had a problem with it. Thank you for any help!

By the way, thank goodness for food storage! Things are tight in my house (as are in many I’m sure) to the point that I really only buy milk or eggs at the store (Our town doesn’t allow any farm animals in the city limits!) and have been depending on my canned and dehydrated fruits and vegetables and other food storage to get me by. Thank you for your many articles and suggestions for without reading one of your articles way back when and taking your advice, I’d be one hurting unit right now!

Michele Gerdes
Rhinelander, Wisconsin

Yes, cooking the meat, whether turkey or venison, will make it stringy after canning it in some cases. To use this meat, heat it up, then try a piece; if it’s tough to chew, run it through a meat grinder. You’ll still get the flavor but be able to easily chew it! That’s why we only “brown” meats or simmer them only enough to “shrink” them down. When they’re totally cooked, and then canned, they can become stringy.

I’m very happy that I’ve been able to help you out. It’s why I do what I do. Thank you for your kind words. — Jackie

Home-rendered fat and drilling an irrigation well

I noticed in one of your online questions that you answered, a reader was asking about whether home rendered fat is healthier than shortening. I would have to say that yes, it is. Shortening, no matter what brand, and lard from the store is hydrogenized, and EXTREMELY unhealthy. I make my own from our home raised pigs and beef, even render chicken fat. Good fat is not the villain that the health “experts” have made it out to be, though I am not saying that you should consume it unchecked.

One question I have is how to go about getting the approval to drill an irrigation well? We live in very dry western Wyoming, and we need to put in a well for watering the crops we would like to grow on our small 10.5 acre farm. I have looked up some stuff online, and know that I need to fill out an application with the state engineer for water rights etc…, but it still is a bit confusing. Any suggestions?

Sharon Moreno
Big Piney, Wyoming

I’d check with the county planning board. If they don’t handle permitting, they can tell you who to contact. You can also call your County Extension office for information. — Jackie

Canning cheese

I have tried canning cheese and everything went well just like you said…But we thought we would try it and opened a bottle some of the cheese was hard and some of it had separated in the middle. I don’t know what I did wrong or if it is still any good…Also have you tried just to melt cheese and then pour it in the jars?

Rex Kelson
Jeffrey City, Utah

Did you pressure can your cheese? I quit doing that, as some types of cheese, mozzarella mostly, got hard and “overcooked,” becoming darker. The separating is usually from the cheese cubes not being stirred as they melt and air pockets forming. I’ve melted cheese and poured it into the jars but you do lose a lot of cheese in the process as it clings to the pan. — Jackie

Storing baking powder

In June 2008 I stored up some aluminum free baking powder. The can was never opened and as an added measure of protection, I vacuum sealed it. The other day as I went through my supplies I found one can that still looks sealed itself, but the plastic vacuum bag has swollen up hard like a balloon. I don’t see any mold or other bacteria, is it still good or should I throw it out?

Kevin F. Johnson
Waxhaw, North Carolina

I’d open the bag, then open the can. The inflated bag is probably not due to the baking powder “going bad.” Take a peek and sniff at the baking powder. If it looks fine and smells normal, chances are good that it is. If in doubt, throw it out. — Jackie

Canning bacon

I have just read a blog that had a guest writer that was a “Master Canner,” going through the extension office to get her knowledge and certificate. She maintained that the people who were putting out info about canning things such as butter, bacon, cake, etc. were doing the public a great dis-service by putting out info contrary to government advice and were putting people’s lives in danger by doing so. I don’t necessarily believe everything my govt. tells me so I have to ask this question. It concerns the article found on a homesteading blog and also published by BHM on how to can bacon. If the bacon did have the botulism spore in it after being canned, wouldn’t it be destroyed when the bacon was fried up?

Teresa Hoke-House
Tekoa, Washington

Probably, but by canning the bacon at the “meat” approved pressure and time, I very seriously doubt that botulism spores or toxins could possibly survive. Yes, I know the experts frown on so-called experimental canning, such as bacon and other things that the government has no testing on. I also believe in common sense, which many of the government trained experts seem to lack. I feel that too many people are working way too hard to keep us safe from ourselves! I’ve had food poisoning twice — both times from restaurant foods! I’ve asked for government incidences of botulism in the U.S. from eating home canned foods. A whole lot of hem-hawing around and not many facts. How many people in the U.S. have been sick from eating commercial foods? It’s in the headlines all the time…and how many behind the headlines that are never reported? How many people are suffering from cancer and have died from it, due to the preservatives and other chemicals put into our commercially canned foods you buy every day at the store? If you’re uncomfortable about “experimental canning,” please don’t do it. Many folks are comfortable, and have been doing this for years and have suffered no ill effects. I may be crucified for this stand, but it’s how I truly feel. — Jackie

Canning at higher altitude

You recently stated “at an altitude above 1,000 feet, consult your canning book for directions on increasing your pressure to suit your altitude.” I’m confused. In a sealed pressure vessel, canner/pressure cooker, won’t 10 pounds of pressure in the canner give the same cooking temperature regardless of altitude?

DePere, Wisconsin

No. At higher altitudes, you must raise your pressure to suit your altitude to maintain a safe temperature in the canner. — Jackie

Water bath canner

I inherited my grandma’s bath canner, and I need to find a good book that will let me know everything I can can with this canner. She used to hot water bath just about everything and never owned a pressure-cooker. But there was no canning book with the bath canner.

In reading your blog, it sounds like you can just about everything in a bath canner. I have printed out your apple butter recipe, but would like to know if there is a good book of everything you can? And where I can find it?

Linda Baxter

Lucky you! You’re off to a great start with canning. While you can home can a vast array of foods in a water bath canner, you can’t safely can vegetables and meat products. Fruits, tomatoes, pickles, jams, jellies, preserves, and fruit juices are all high in acid, which makes them safe to can in a water bath canner. I know our grandmothers canned vegetables and meat in a water bath canner. But since that time, it’s been found that they don’t process at high enough temperature to kill certain deadly bacteria and their spores and toxins. Therefore, to be safe, we must raise that temperature by using a pressure canner. This processes our low acid foods safely.

You can learn more about this, plus find a ton of recipes for using that water bath canner…and, of course, a pressure canner when you are ready, in my book GROWING AND CANNING YOUR OWN FOOD. This is available online, at the Backwoods Home Magazine website and on my Ask Jackie Blog. Or you can just order it from the magazine. I’m sure you’ll find it a great help and easy to use, too. — Jackie

Raising turkeys

I am trying to find a type of turkey that will lay and hatch its own babies…or at least lay the eggs so I can incubate them. Is there a type that you would suggest for home raising and butchering?

Jamie Paul
Hermiston, Oregon

Any of the heritage breeds will do just that. Among the larger of the heritage breeds are Bourbon Reds, Slates, Black Spanish, and Narragansetts. We have Narragansetts and one Bourbon Red hen (looking for a tom!). Very late last spring, our Narragansett hen sat on a clutch of eggs and hatched out 9 and raised them all through one of the wettest summers we’ve ever had…all outdoors in our orchard. We were very impressed. I, too, got sick of artificial turkeys that couldn’t reproduce by themselves or even live a reasonable life. Sort of like Cornish Rock meat birds! Ugh! Tasty, but unnatural. — Jackie

Recanning vegetables

I have some grocery store canned beans and veggies that stayed in the barn too long while we built the house. Some of the cans are starting to rust, but not through to the inside. Can I re-pressure can them?

Megan Patrick
Savannah, Tennessee

Yes, you can, if you must. Baked bean-type beans will re-can just fine; vegetables may become soft, yet edible and useful in casseroles, soups and stews. Just empty the cans into a large kettle, heat to simmering, then pack hot and proceed as if they were fresh vegetables as far as processing time, etc. — Jackie


  1. Renee,

    You can can hamburger by first lightly browning it and separating the chunks. Then the fat is strained off and it is packed into hot canning jars. You can make a broth by adding water to the pan drippings and pour this broth over your hamburger, leaving 1″ of headroom. Remove air bubbles and process pints for 75 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds pressure. If you live over 1,000 feet in elevation, consult our canning book for directions in increasing your pressure to suit your altitude, if necessary. (You’ll find this recipe, as well as a lot of others, in my book GROWING AND CANNING YOUR OWN FOOD, available through Backwoods Home Magazine!) P>S. I’m not supposed to answer questions in the comment area, so next time, submit your question in the blog part. I don’t want to get into trouble! Ha ha !


  2. I also read that article. She left out some important points for the neophyte home canner, like having your lid with a gauge tested annually to see how far off it is. Gauges do wear out! If you are not getting the right pressure then that botulism she was so worried about could become a real factor. It wasn’t discussed why you go through your list of ingredients and pressure can for the ingredients that has the longest time. In fact I don’t think she even mention it. We were just to religiously follow the recipes in the Ball Blue Book or county extension recipes. She also didn’t mention bring the food to a rolling boil after you open the jar for 5 to 10 minutes(I’ve heard it both ways.).

    It really seemed to me, to be a rant. I read the article hoping to learn something new but came away shaking my head. I think she may have discouraged more newbies than she encouraged which is sad. There was more relevant information in the comments than in the article.

  3. And a tripe AMEN to all the above comments. Government ‘help’ wasn’t available until quite late in this country’s existence. If it weren’t for the good old common sense of our forebearers none of us would even be here to have this discussion. I’ll stick with what works. I just got a bunch of bacon and am ‘chomping at the bit’ to follow the recipe and method in the BHM issue. Bacon….Yummmmmmm

  4. Jackie you rock! I completely agree with your stance on ‘unconventional’ canning. By using common sense, not skipping on safety steps and times for canning, using proper equipment IE; pressure canner when called for, I have been able to vastly expand my food stockpile. You have opened my eyes to things I never even thought of canning up such as milk, homemade soups, beans, ready to eat meals like meatballs, etc. Thank you so much and please don’t ever falter on your stand for independence and common sense practicality! The government marches steadily on with it’s efforts to make us more of a nanny state everyday.

  5. I will avoid getting into a government rant by simply saying that their “standards” aren’t the be all-end all supreme source of knowledge……My ancestors survived just fine without approval from government agencies in regards to how they ate……

    Great answers, Jackie, with valid points….

  6. Jackie,

    You are a god send to those of us just starting out. How do you can your hamburger, I’ve done most other meats just wasn’t sure how to do the burger.

    Renee Burton
    West Haven, Utah

  7. Unfortunantly, the government does not want us to help ourselves. Good answer to the bacon canning. I am sure going to try it. Soon as I get a kitchen. Mine has been tore up since the day after christman 2009. I am cooking in the dining room. It is a mess. But today I finished making tart cherry jam. I have used bulk pectin and loved but this year, I have had to recan the first batch three times, the second batch twice and I just refuse to redo this bunch. This batch of bulk pectin must have been old I guess.

  8. Amen to you Jackie on your reply to the canning bacon question. People have been canning for generations. It’s one of the few ways you can help yourself become truly independent. Keep up the good work. Your canning book is the best. So much easier to use than than the one put out by the canning jar company (if you catch my drift).

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