Canning salsa

Do you have to pressure can salsa? I have read some books say yes some say no.

Teresa Moye
Fayetteville, Georgia

No, not with any of the recipes I’ve seen. It’s perfectly safe to can using a boiling water bath canner. Do use an approved recipe so that you get the ratio of tomatoes/vinegar or lemon juice/vegetables right to make it safe to can, as a high acid food, in a boiling water bath. — Jackie

Root cellar

My husband and I are making plans to build a new house and would like to have a root cellar in the basement for food storage. We have been doing some reading and are finding that root cellars are supposed to be kept at 32-40 degrees. We plan to have a safe room in our home that is concrete all around (floor, ceiling, and walls). We know this room will not be as cold as 40 degrees because ground temperature is about 55 degrees and there will be some residual heat from the house. Will this be “good enough” for a root cellar environment? What else can we do to make the room more friendly to cold storage?

Amy Blattner
Fulton, Missouri

Insulate your ceiling and walls, but provide for some ventilation to keep humidity down. We have openings above the door to let air flow through the cellar. While 32-40 degrees is supposed to be ideal, our winter temperature in our cellar is 40 degrees and the summer sometimes gets to 55 degrees and we still have potatoes that are good from our last fall’s harvest.

Don’t forget to include some blankets in your safe room. While 55 degrees doesn’t seem all that cool, if you’re down there, ducking a tornado or other emergency situation, you’ll appreciate some blankets to keep you cozy. Store them in covered plastic totes and they will be ready when you need them — hopefully never! — Jackie

Heirloom beans

We had read somewhere that Kentucky Wonder pole beans are all “heirloom”; is that correct?
We saved some seed from last years’ plants, & planted a trial sample this year- they seem to be producing well, with normal growth. We’d hate to plant the entire crop of beans with saved seed only to find out later that they’ve gone all wacky. The beans from which we saved the seed were store bought KW seed packets. Good bet or bad?

Mason, New Hampshire

Good bet, Deb. Kentucky Wonders ARE heirloom beans and will produce true to their parent stock. Now you’re started at seed saving. What will you save this year? Isn’t it fun? — Jackie


  1. May I add something for the safety room? (in case of a tornado).
    Have a small box with copies of important papers, ie: birth cert., license, bank information, etc….It won’t take up much room, and sure would be helpful to have, in case of emergency.
    You could even put this information in the same tote as your blankets.
    “be prepared”!

  2. Jackie,

    Can you have a root cellar in a desert environment ? I live in southern AZ. We are very low humidity but pretty high temps.

    I appreciate you sharing your vast knowledge. What must seem second nature to you is often surprising to me!

    Ralph in AZ

  3. Mary D,

    Chili paste can be found in the Mexican or Oriental section of WalMart and other big stores. It can also be found in Oriental shops. It’s made by roasting and grinding red chiles, then adding vinegar and spices. Chili sauce doesn”t even come close to the mellow flavor of true chile paste. While it IS hot, it gives wonderful flavor to many dishes without making them hot,when used in moderation. A jar lasts a long time in the fridge.

    I always have it on hand. My favorite is Sambal Olek. without garlic.


  4. Hi Jackie,
    I am planning on making your Sloppy Joe Sauce. In the recipe it states to use 1 teaspoon of chili paste. I do not know what chili paste is, please explain what it is… you buy it already made or is the chili paste homemade?

    Is it the same as Heinz Chili Sauce?

    I bought the dried New Mexico chiles to soak in water to soften just in case that is what was used.
    I will be making this recipe up this Sat.
    Thank you in advance. Mary D.

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