Making pickles

Do you have a recipe for making dill cucumbers with lemon juice instead of vinegar? It just sounds healthier, if it is possible.

Nancy Hoppe
Cinebar, Washington

You could use a substitution in your dill pickle recipe, using 6 cups of water and 4 cups of lemon juice in place of vinegar, if you wish. But it will be more costly. And if you have health concerns, use apple cider vinegar in place of white distilled vinegar in your recipes as it is a natural product. — Jackie

Preserving squash

I thought maybe someone would like a quick way to process squash. Maybe it isn’t correct, if not, please let me know. I wash the exterior. Then poke a few holes in it with a knife. I then microwave it till tender. Let it cool completely. Cut it in half, remove seeds. Put it in food processor and process till smooth. Can either use it then for pie or can it. I started doing it that way as didn’t have strength enough in my hands to cut it!

Floyd, Iowa

Sorry, Lorraine, but it is no longer considered safe to can pureed squash or pumpkin. You sure can do that to make pies or puree for any baked goods. You could partially microwave your squash, then cut it into cubes instead of pureeing it, then can it, covering it with boiling water. Dense products like pureed squash, might not heat enough in the center of the jar for safe processing. — Jackie

Growing squash

This is the second year I have planted the Hopi Pale Grey squash. Last year I had planted green hubbard and buttercup that didn’t do anything, except for a few sickly squash that I threw out. The Hopi Pale Grey did well, but were only about 30 feet from the other squash. Now I have two small green hubbard looking squash in among the Hopi Pale Grey, which was the only type I planted this year — from the seeds I saved. Not remembering my genetics class from long ago, will the seeds from those Hopi Pale Grey that seem true to “form” be good to save for next year, or should I just start over? It looks like I will get only one mature squash per plant. Is this normal for the shorter growing season areas? I sent seeds to my daughter in Utah. She is impressed with her squash. She wanted to know when she should harvest them. I said to treat them like pumpkins. Was I wrong on that? I saw the pictures of your squash on the 4-wheeler after the recent freeze you had. Last year I’d brought mine into our shop after it got down unexpectedly to 25 . Still have one out there. So I assumed they could stand a “light” freeze.

Final question: In reference to canning — your two books arrived in the mail yesterday. I am just starting this endeavor. What other canning book would you recommend?
Vala Johnson
Harlem, Montana

Hopi Pale Grey squash will happily cross with any C. maxima squash or pumpkin/squash such as Atlantic Giant. Hubbards and buttercups are C. maximas and as you found out, they will cross. You can slowly breed back to a true strain — relatively so, by choosing correct type Hopis, saving seed from them and continuing through the years, weeding out (not saving seed from) “off” types. I’ve grown these squash on the high plains, in the mountains of Montana, and here in northern Minnesota and they usually have plenty of squash, per plant. They can stand a light frost but freezing can damage them, causing early rotting in storage.

Yep, you harvest the squash like pumpkins, bringing them in when a hard freeze threatens, leaving them on the vine until then to completely mature. I even have one immature Hopi Pale Grey that had not turned blue-grey yet and it has stored for over a year now on our greenhouse floor!

The Ball Blue Book is always an old standard, but if you’ve got my book, Growing and Canning Your Own Food, you won’t need another! It is the most complete canning book out there with not only canning information, but freezing and dehydrating also, and there are more recipes to can up more different foods than any of the others, combined. — Jackie