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Thursday, February 26, 2009

One man’s junk; another man’s treasure


A friend gave Will a junker air compressor that the pressure switch was shot on. He and David spent several hours rigging a motor, changing pulleys, adding a cord and finally re-doing the pressure switch. After all was said and done, it worked! Now we can use air tools, like a nailer, paint sprayer and other pneumatic tools. That’ll come in especially handy when we start our new spring project, a wood shed/equipment barn/hay storage and small equipment garage. How nice.

Readers’ Questions:

Storing citrus fruits

I recently moved here to Southern Texas where the citrus is abound. Can you advise different ways I can store, freeze the oranges and grapefruit I have in my backyard? I hate to just let it go to waste.

Barry Eppley
League City, Texas

You can freeze the juice or home can the sections of fruit and/or juice. Canning citrus is easy. For instance, to do oranges: Remove fruit segments, peeling away the white membrane that could cause a bitter taste during the canning. Remove the seed. Make a light or medium syrup, as you wish and keep it hot. Pack orange segments in hot jars, gently shaking the jar to settle the fruit, leaving ½” of headspace. Ladle boiling syrup over fruit, leaving ½” of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim of the jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process pints and quarts for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.

To do grapefruit: Make a light or medium syrup, as you wish. Peel grapefruit with a sharp knife, removing the white membrane. Run your sharp knife between the pulp and skin of each section and lift out the sections without breaking. Remove and discard the seeds. Pack grapefruit in hot jars, leaving ½” of headspace. Cover with boiling syrup, leaving ½” of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim of jar clean, place hot, previously simmered lid on jar and screw down ring firmly tight. Process both pints and quarts for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Enjoy your citrus! — Jackie

Canning hot fudge sauce

I just made eight pints of hot fudge sauce, poured it hot into clean jars and they sealed. Normally I make half as many jars and keep them in the fridge, but with eight I would rather have them in the pantry. Do I need to process them?

Betsy Palmer
Saybrook, Illinois

It would depend on your recipe. Many have condensed milk and butter or margarine. These would require processing, but I don’t have a concrete time for you. This is probably one thing you may want to keep in the fridge. — Jackie

Processing snow geese

In an effort to control the snow geese population, the state has increased the daily limits on them. My husband has been bringing them home with regularity now. I’ve been saving feathers and eating the carcasses, but we’ve been throwing away the innards. This seems like a waste to me, so here’s my question: can we use the gizzard, livers and hearts of the wild birds like we use the ones from chickens?

Amanda Kemp
Dover, Delaware

Yes, you sure can. Like any other giblets, just make sure they are normal appearing. Then enjoy your bounty! — Jackie

Herbs for beef

I am trying to find out what kind of herbs you can use to help treat beef. I have found resources on herbs for horses, but can’t find any for bovine. What herbs are safe to use on beef?

Ivy Schexnayder
Winslow, Illinois

Try the book THE COMPLETE HERBAL HANDBOOK FOR FARM AND STABLE or type herbal remedies for beef cattle in your browser. There is a wealth of information on this subject out there. — Jackie

Frozen canned goods

My canning jars froze, will this ruin the contents of them?

Shay Martin
Troy, Maine

No, yes, and maybe. Or maybe not. I’ve had frozen jars because of our move here in February of 2004. They were really frozen…for months! My pickles were toast, some of the fruit was soft, but useable in baking. Most vegetables, all of my tomato products and meat was fine. All of the jars remained sealed. If yours are still sealed, open one at a time as you wish to use them and check out the contents. I’m thinking you may be surprised. — Jackie

Dehydrating frozen vegetables

Can I dehydrate frozen veggies like peas, or mixed veggies? If so, how? I can’t find any info in books!

Dave Harvey
Ammon, Idaho

Yes. I’ve dehydrated frozen peas by simply plunging them into boiling water to thaw them, then laying them on the dehydrator trays in a single layer. Dehydrate as if they were fresh. Enjoy. — Jackie

Canned cheese and butter

I have just read about canned cheese, and canned butter on another internet forum. These products are available from Internet grocery. The cheese was a Kraft product. Are you familiar with these or similar products, and what do you think of them.

Gary Minter
Acworth, Georgia

Yes I am. I’m sure they are probably good products but they are way too pricey for me. — Jackie

Zinc jar lids

I have seen several things on the zinc/glass or zinc jar lids. These appear to be reusable. Can you pressure with these or water bath with these safely? If so, how would I do it?

Gwen Koskinen
Celina, Texas

Sorry, Gwen. Grandma used the zinc lids with rubbers for her pickles and fruits. No I don’t recommend using them because you can’t tell for sure if a jar is sealed or not. This is very dangerous for canning low acid foods. I still have some, but use them for decoration and storing a few dehydrated foods. — Jackie

Dehydrated margarine

In our Mar/Apr 2009 issue #116, you said you buy dehydrated margarine from Emergency Essentials…so do we. How do you use it? We have tried to make it into a solid for spreading on bread but have not been able to find the right formula. Can you tell us how to do that?

Joan Bowman
Hereford, Arizona

I mix the margarine powder with corn oil to reach a spreadable consistency. I first tired water. Yuck!! — Jackie

Canning butter

A million thanks for answering so quickly about the walnut canning problem. I pulled the temperature down to 200 degrees and toasted the nuts 30-40 min. Then canned them. PERFECT! I am working with bushels.

Now, I took time to go through your blogs, for the first time. You told about canning butter 60 minutes in a boiling water bath. BUT, in Issue 112 (July/Aug 2008), page 73 you said 40 minutes That is where I first read about it. And I followed those instructions. Now, I am not sure if I should go back and Re-can my butter that I did. Will it get bacteria? HELP here, please.

Also, since you are blogging your LIFE I would like to ask…who is Will? I think I must have missed something? Am I being too inquisitive? If so, don’t answer. I am excited about the book you are writing about canning, etc. Good for you…but WHERE do you find the time? I can barely get all I need to do done and you do twice/three times more than I. Does it have to do with organizational skills? Do you make lists? What is your secret?

Jan Eylar
Savannah, Missouri

As canning butter is still an “experimental” canning process, there are no experts’ recipes. Many folks who are canning butter successfully don’t even water bath it at all. I’m not comfortable with that, so I followed first a recipe that recommended 40 minutes processing, then I upped it to 60 minutes, as that is what we process milk for. Sorry to be confusing.

Will is my boyfriend. We’ve been writing, calling and flying back and forth, visiting, for over 2 years now, as he lived in Washington state. As you know, he’s now here, permanently, partnering in our backwoods homestead.

No, I have absolutely NO organizational skills. Ask anyone who knows me. I just keep going until it’s either done or I’m too tired to move. I’m kind of like the tortoise, pretty slow, but steady. Remember that I don’t do EVERYTHING, EVERYDAY. Everything has it’s time. I’m usually late, but I just keep working at the edges until it gets done. — Jackie

Shelling peas

I’ve done a search here on the web site and could not find any info on shelling peas, other than putting them in a bag and beating the crap out of them.

I know the two hands the Good Lord gave me will get the job done but was hoping for something a little faster. The search I’ve done on the www brings up a name brand Sheller both hand crank and electric but the reviews I’ve found are not favorable. I did however find a couple designs for homemade ones.

Since my husband has been Active Duty Army for the past 21 years and is just in the process of retiring a lot of this is very new to me and while I’ve left various fruit tree and berry bushes in numerous states and even a different continent this will be my first attempt at peas.

Dawn Norcross
Orion, Illinois

I’m sorry to report that in my opinion, the shellers really aren’t so hot. I’m back to sitting on the porch, in the shade and shelling peas by hand. I poke my thumbnail in the seam and pop the pea pod open, then run it down the row of peas, popping them out into my bowl. I’m really pretty fast and last summer I canned a whole lot of peas and mixed vegetables with peas in them. I have a crank/electric mixer sheller, but I’m really faster than it is, plus I don’t get peas all over the floor. (If you par-boil the peas just until the pod is limp, they don’t shoot all over the room as you shell, but they still kind of miss the bowl on occasion.) I knew one woman who used her wringer washer wringer to shell peas, but that seems a little overkill to me! It’s kind of gardener’s zen to sit, shelling peas on the porch. — Jackie

All American Canner

An update from last weeks 2 questions on “Failure to seal”…This is my third time to try to get a completely sealed batch, I canned up 5 qts of deboned chicken and broth…ALL FIVE SEALED!! I didn’t rush the cooling off and waited 5 minutes after the gauge went to 0. Then lifted the petcock off and Viola!! I guess my brand spanking new All American Canner and I will be friends after all!

Darnell Rogers
Arden, North Carolina

Wow! I’m so very, very happy for you. And your new friend. I’m sure it will be the start of a long and meaningful relationship. — Jackie

Dill pickles

I was wondering if you would share with me your recipe for dill pickles? I looked through the archives of your columns to see if you answered my question already, but couldn’t find just what I wanted. My pickles always come out limp, although my husband says they taste good. I’ve tried soaking in ice water, using alum, lime, etc., but nothing seems to work. I pack my pickles cold in jars, then process. I don’t know what I am doing wrong?

I would also appreciate advice on canning sweet corn, most the of the books I have on canning say canned corn turns brown, but I know it can be done somehow.

Angela Billings
Stronghurst, Illinois

The longer you “cook” (or boil) pickles, the softer they will become. In the old days, people never water bathed their pickles. But as safety became more of an issue, they began to process the pickles after they were put into jars. So the shortest time in the water bath canner usually results in the crisper pickles. Some helps I’ve found are to use totally fresh, smaller cukes, harvested in the morning (not after sitting in the hot garden sun all day), then processing them right away. I wash them in cold water and hold them in cold water until they are ready to can. I use a recipe that packs the cold cucumbers in a hot jar, with boiling brine poured over them. Then the pints are processed for 10 minutes. (Quarts take 15 minutes, so I don’t do quarts.) I hope this will help you.

Sweet corn very seldom gets brown when you can it. I’ve never had a jar of brown corn, and mine is always much better than any store corn that I’ve ever eaten. Follow the directions in your canning manual and enjoy! — Jackie



  1. For Gwen in TX, when I was young I remember my grandmother canning Kraut in jars with zinc caps and also green beans. You will need the jar rubber rings that go with them, if you look in old cook books or google it you may find for sure how to use them. I believe when you processed them in the pressure canner (we always use a pressure canner even for fruits (5 lbs for 5 min.) but the zinc caps require you to complete the seal I think by pulling slightly on the tab that is on the rubber gasket.

  2. Pea Shellers, If any of you live in a densely populated are with Old Order Mennonites or Amish, you may well find by asking them, they have giant pea shellers that really do a good job of shelling peas. Here in Western Virginia, there is a large Old Order Mennonite group and they have pea shellers and will shell peas for people.

    Also, they will know how to can with the Zinc Caps, they are a wealth of information when it comes to canning, as they can not hundreds of quarts per year but thousands of qts. per year, here I know some that have 4 gas stoves and 8 pressure canners going all summer long.

    They are and excellent resource when it comes to canning.