Yesterday when I was gathering chicken eggs, I came across a strange egg under the roosting area. Could it be? Yes…it was a little pointed on one end, kind of big. Speckled, too. A turkey egg! Wow. Were we excited. Our turkey project is underway…sort of. The turkeys aren’t mating yet, but that will soon be happening, as they are strutting now. Won’t be long. We plan on raising quite a few turkeys this year to eat, sell, and barter with, so this was a start. I think the egg was from our Bourbon Red hen or a young Narragansett hen. It was kind of small for a large turkey egg. As we have four toms, we’re hoping to trade a Narragansett tom for a Bourbon Red tom so we can raise some pure Bourbon Reds, too. We really like their beautiful red and white coloring. Heritage turkeys are the answer for homesteaders wishing to grow their own turkeys. I’m glad they’re finally getting some recognition.

Readers’ Questions:

Canning cheese

Last July I canned several different types of cheeses using the instructions in your canning book. All sealed just fine and I stored them away. Today (Feb) I pulled out a jar of Swiss and the seal had failed. After checking every jar, it turned out that only the Swiss had a problem (but all 4 jars did), and none of the others; cheddars, colby jack, pepper jack. Do you know if there is something about Swiss cheese that doesn’t like being canned? I just bought some mozzarella on good sale that I want to can, but I’m a little gun shy now.

Jackie Keselowsky
Lutz, Florida

I have not personally canned Swiss cheese. I have canned several different types of cheddar, colby, jack, and mozzarella, all with great results. Remember that canning cheese is still “experimental” and anyone who chooses to experiment needs to figure out what works for them and how and why there are failures. Did you water bath or pressure can your cheese? I’ve had best luck water bathing my cheeses and butter; others swear by pressure canning. I’d say that any cheese is prone to seal failure because it is highly greasy and grease can make a seal fail. Why just the Swiss? Not sure, but maybe the natural gas in the cheese that makes the bubbles had something to do with it? Again, when we “experiment” we are trying to see what works for us. — Jackie

Looking for land

Hello from a fellow Minnesotan. I live in West Central Minnesota. When you moved up north, how did you go about finding land that was affordable and what you wanted?

Evansville, Minnesota

I haunted real estate offices, both mail and internet, letting agents know exactly what I was looking for. Of course many of the places they said were “perfect” for me were NOT, but after weeding out a hundred or so, I developed a list of about 30 to look at in person. Scheduling a trip here, I went from property to property, checking out land. After two days’ looking, I found our current place, which was just right. It took a whole lot of phone calls, letters, and computer time, but it was worth it. The more you look, the better your chances are. — Jackie

Fruit trees in Minnesota

I would like to know of Jackie’s suggestions for fruit trees for my area. Also what should be done to protect them from the elements here.

Elizabeth Grages
Saginaw, Minnesota

Some of the apples we’ve had good luck with are: Haralred, Honeygold, Norland, Mantet, Sweet Sixteen, State Fair, Fireside, and Dutchess of Oldenberg. Check out St. Lawrence Nursery and Fedco Trees online. Their catalog lists tons of Zone 3 trees! Plenty of growing information, too, for cold areas. They even have Zone 3 pears. Cherries are limited to pie cherries now; we are growing Garfield Plantation, Meteor, Mesabi, and Bali, Bali being the most hardy. We also grow Hansen’s Bush Cherries, Joel and Joy Bush Cherries, and Nanking Bush Cherries. There are many plums that grow in Zone 3, including Toka, Alderman, La Crescent, Superior, Waneta, and Black Ice.
Be sure to protect the trunks from voles and rabbits during the winter, as they will girdle and kill young trees under the snow. And watch out for deer all year. Fencing is the only way to keep the beautiful pests out of your fruit trees!

Good luck. As you can see, fruit trees can be grown in northern Minnesota, and you do have a lot of choices. — Jackie

Macaroni and cheese using cheese blend powder

I’m searching everywhere, but can’t seem to find a basic mac & cheese recipe using the Cheese Blend powder from my dehydrated food storage. Everything I’ve tried comes out not-so-good tasting. I’m hoping you’ve got a standby recipe!

Tracey Roberts
Cave Junction, Oregon

What I do when I make plain mac & cheese is to mix about 1/2 cup of milk with a cup of the Cheese Blend powder, to make a paste. Pour into a saucepan and add 2 Tbsp butter. The gently heat and stir in enough milk to make a cheese sauce that is as thick as you wish. Pour over your cooked macaroni and stir well. I usually put my mac and cheese into a casserole and top with bread crumbs and drizzle with melted butter. Bake at 350° F for about 12 minutes until the top is golden.
Adding water to the cheese blend powder, as per directions, doesn’t taste too good to me. I usually add either milk and butter (or dehydrated equivalent) or sunflower or peanut oil. — Jackie

Growing horseradish in a container

I would like to grow horseradish this year. I think that I can grow in a container to keep it from spreading. Just wanted to find out if you know for sure.

Chris Reardon
Webster, New Hampshire

Sure you can. Just make sure that the container is plenty deep, as horseradish sometimes makes long roots. — Jackie

Which canning lids to use?

Having read your work for a few years I have taking my prepping to the next level. my problem is I am gone from home 6-8 months a year @ 2-3 months at a time (therefore gardening is out of the question for me) where I used to keep a lot of money in reserve and called it emergency funds I no longer have any confidence in our government supplied money so I have been building a store of dried and canned foods as well as keeping emergency cash.

I have decided that even if I can not garden I can in fact start to can foods from the food markets when I am home I am looking forward to this new endeavor. My question to you is after reading your article about reusable canning lids (and because I have the tendency to be quite frugal) should I start with the reusable lids or use the one time lids first to learn with? I know that you gave a very good report on the reusable lids, but have not heard you say that you have switch over yourself I understand the difficulty of your answer, what with Tattler being an advertiser of yours.

Captain Rick
Rockport, Washington

The Tattler reusable canning lids are the greatest! Absolutely no problems with them, at all. When I’m canning now I use some Tattlers and some old regular lids. I will use up my regular lids while I merge the Tattlers into my canning regime. While the process of screwing the lids on is a little different, between the Tattlers and the regular metal lids, which does take a little concentration to do it right, the end result is the same, and I LOVE the “forever” part of the reusable lids! As you know, I am the Queen of Thrifty! — Jackie

Canning bananas

I had brought about 30 bananas home from work to make banana muffins and bread, this was too much, so I canned it. I did 5 pints in the pressure cooker, after I took the jars out the bananas were pink, I had them in there for about 15 minutes, was this to long or can you not can bananas?

Carol Walton
Omaha, Nebraska

Sorry, but bananas are one thing (that I’m aware of) that really doesn’t can. Instead, you should have sliced them and dehydrated them. They dehydrate very well and quickly. Then you can either eat them like “chips” or rehydrate them to use in baking at a later date. — Jackie

Mice and dried beans

I find this disturbing but I’m not sure how big of a problem it really is. It is mice. Some small. Some big. Are they rats? I don’t know. I found one near my stored apples (outdoor small root cellar) but I have the apples in a hardware cloth container so I don’t think it got in. Late last summer after adding a lot tomato pulp to my compost pile I found one in there too. I don’t compost meat or dairy. Other than the fact that I don’t like them, how much of a problem is this? Is there anything non toxic that I can do?

Also, I bought Cherokee Trail of Tears beans for the first time this year. Do they germinate easily? Should I soak them overnight? How tall do they get? I’ve read some people say they grew to their second story window! I plan on harvesting as green beans and also dried beans. When do I harvest for the dried beans? Do I just leave them on the vine till our first frost?

Susan Bates
Portsmouth, Rhode Island

Mature rats are quite large, with a body about as long as your hand. Mice (deer mice and house mice) are quite a bit smaller, with a body about half to a third that size. Voles are sometimes called field mice and are quite a bit larger but have shorter tails and are “fat” bodied and dark.
Other than being “not nice” they usually don’t cause too much trouble unless there gets to be lots of them. Non-toxic ways to rid yourself of these rodents include a good hunting cat (most are!), traps (live and snap), and reducing food-hiding areas. A combination of these will quickly get rid of your not-so-friends.

Cherokee Trail of Tear beans are great. They germinate as easily as any other garden bean. No, you don’t need to pre-soak them before planting. Generally, they will climb about 5-6 feet. I’ve never had any that climbed as high as a second story window yet.

Harvest your green beans when the pods are just getting round, before the seeds get fat and make the pods lumpy. To save seed, I’d recommend just leaving the pods on a few of the vines to mature. The vines you leave the pods on will pretty much stop producing after the pods get lumpy and mature. This is a great bean and I hope you have good luck. — Jackie



    Makes 2-3 pints, or 5 half pints

    2 lbs (about 5 medium-size) unpeeled perfectly ripe bananas (no brown spots)

    2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (or 20 oz. can)

    1/2 cup of flaked coconut, any kind (natural or sweetened)

    3 cups of white sugar (1 cup less if using sweetened-flaked coconut or canned sweetened pineapple)

    1 fresh lemon, (zest & juice)

    Peel and slice bananas, and add all ingredients together in a large preserving pan. Bring to a boil, stirring often, and then reduce to a simmer for the next 15 minutes. (Cook until thick…it might take several more minutes, or it might take as few as 10 minutes.)

  2. My mother use to can monkey butter and she has since passed away and I can not find her recipe. I would love to get it from you so I can share this wonderful memory with my kids and grandchildren.

  3. Canning bananas is possible! Monkey butter is what it is called in the old canning books. It is equal parts pineapple and banana’s. We have done it and have about 11 pints left on my shelves. It is delicious in baking banana bread. Smoothies, ice cream. Pretty good possibilities. Send me and email and I will work on digging out the recipe for you all. I may do a post on my blog with pictures.

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