Using tins to store food

I have been buying all the popcorn tins and smaller tins that I can find at the thrift store as I recall they are great for storing stuff to keep it away from mice. Now that I have them can you give me some advice as to what is good to store in them and more of what NOT to store in them? How do you label your tins so you know what is in them, since most are bumpy with pictures.
Lisa C.

I store a huge variety of foods in my tins: popcorn (unpopped), white rice, noodles, spaghetti, rolled oats, wheat berries, sugar, “store” cornmeal, masa harina, pearled barley, dry beans of all kinds, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, bags of chocolate (and other flavors) chips, and a whole lot more. I DON’T store opened bags of brown and powdered sugar as they get hard or clumpy. Left in the bag, they’re fine. Once opened, I store them in glass jars that have screw-down lids. I also don’t store our own fresh ground wheat flour, cornmeal, or brown rice. Whole grain products will get rancid pretty fast.

I use a peel-and-stick label and write on that. Big box stores are now carrying computer-friendly labels that are pretty and some canning product areas also carry pretty peel-and-stick labels. Everyone loves the look of my tins and I sure love the ease of having lots of food right at hand. — Jackie

Seed starting mix and canning horseradish

Do you make your own seed starting mix? The purchased ones are always so hard to get moist and I’m wondering if you have a recipe for a better mix.
We are in a cold climate, although not as cold as yours! Cracking on our fingers can be a problem and I’m wondering what you do for this.
A while back someone asked about canning horseradish. Here’s the recipe I use:
Horseradish for canning
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 tsp. kosher salt or pickling salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. ascorbic acid crystals (Fruit Fresh)
3 cups lightly packed, peeled and finely grated horseradish (2 to 3 pounds horseradish root) * Take your food processor outside to grate the horseradish.
In medium glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the vinegar, salt, sugar, and ascorbic acid crystals. Stir until everything is dissolved. Stir in horseradish. Ladle the horseradish into hot jars, leaving a inch headspace. Using a plastic knife, remove any trapped air bubbles. If necessary, add more horseradish to maintain a inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims and threads with a clean, damp cloth. Cover with hot lids and rings. Process half-pint jars in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Makes about 4 half-pints.

Cynthia Popeck
Hudson Falls, New York

While I have made my own seed-starting mix, using 1/2 good, sifted well-rotted compost-laden garden soil, 1/4 Perlite and 1/4 vermiculite, I’m now buying Pro-Mix seed starting mix (you can get it from local nurseries and greenhouses, sometimes Menards, too). When you use your own homemade mix, you must sterilize the soil by putting it in the oven in a large pan. This kills any pathogens that may cause disease in your tender seedlings. You need to heat it at 250 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, then let it cool before mixing it with the Perlite and vermiculite. The Pro-Mix is very good and DOES accept the water easily, where Jiffy Mix seed starter doesn’t.

For cracked hands, I use bag balm for cows. I put it on my hands before I go out in the morning, then a heavier coat in the evening. It keeps them as good as my hands ever get. Pinetree Garden Seeds ( carries a great selection of natural ingredients if you wish to make your own hand cream as well as books of recipes. — Jackie


  1. I use a cream for horse hooves made here in Buffalo Wyoming it is Hoof Alive. I put it on my hands before I do dishes then put medical gloves on the heat from the dishwater makes the cream soak into my hands. Works great on cracked hooves also.

  2. I haven’t painted any of my tins for the same reason although mine are stored out of sight. I just like the various pictures/designs too much to paint over them. However, on the buckets I’ve painted a good sized square to use for labeling. The tins “could” be painted.

  3. In the same cookbook, there is a recipe for a carrot relish that uses molasses. Molasses and clear corn syrup were the two sweeteners my family used, during my childhood. We grew the cane that molasses is made from, and my grandfather loved the corn syrup. I didn’t know if there were others out there might be interested in a recipe that used molasses as the sweetener. It has carrots, peppers, onions and cabbage. This is another recipe that I intend to try, it sounds really really good.

    In the horse-radish jelly recipe, I believe the vinegar is most likely apple cider, as ‘white vinegar’ is the term used in several other recipes. It may not make a bit of difference.

  4. From 1959 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook, pub. Doubleday & Co.

    Horseradish Jelly

    1/2 C. finely ground horse-radish
    1/2 C. vinegar
    3 1/2 C. sugar
    1/2 C. liquid pectin

    Combine horse-radish, sugar and vinegar, stirring to dissolve sugar.
    Bring to a boil and add pectin, stirring constantly. Boil hard for 1/2 minute.
    Remove from heat, skim and pour at once into small jelly molds which
    have been rinsed in cold water. Unmold when firm.
    Makes 5 small molds.

    ** I see no reason this couldn’t be put into small jelly jars and sealed, but I’m not sure. ** Wouldn’t this be good on hot cornbread, or a hot roast beef and provolone sandwich?
    I love the cranky turkey sandwiches a diner makes here, left over turkey warmed up, cream cheese, and leftover whole cranberry sauce, grilled.
    A little tart, a little sweet, and umm umm good.

  5. Ann,

    Good idea, but I could NEVER paint my tins. Each one has a homestead-type picture on them, deer, log cabins, dogs, woodland scenes. I couldn’t cover them up. It’s my “country decor”!

  6. when working in the soil I wear hospital gloves–you can purchase them at a drugstore, my hands stay soft.

  7. I recently started using blackboard paint on the outside of storage buckets and chalk to label. There is no reason that would not work for popcorn tins. I haven’t yet painted a tin so I use a strip of paper as a label putting a portion under the lid as I push the lid on. This has worked very well for me for several years as the lids on the tins fit tightly enough that the paper stays in place. I use a Sharpie to write my label.

  8. I’m happy to see horseradish was on someone else’s mind. I love jalepeno jelly, but I recently found a recipe for horseradish jelly, in a 1959 Farm Journals Country Cookbook. Should anyone be interested in it, and Miss Jackie not mind, I would gladly put the recipe in the comment section here.
    I haven’t made it myself, but I think I might give it a try. One of my daughter’s loves horseradish.

  9. Espoma seed starting mix also very good and it does wet down well. For cracked hands we’ve always used Cornhuskers Lotion, you can get that most places including Wal-Mart.

  10. Glad to see so many questions being answered. I used pro-mix for the first time this year and I love it. Thanks , Jackie for so much good information.

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