Category Archives: Helpful Hints

Canning the Modern Way???

Canning is in my blood. My mother, grandmother, and great grandmother before me all preserved food by canning to provide for their families. When puzzled people ask at how my husband and I managed to raise four kids and half of the neighborhood on a single, small income, I don’t have to look any further than my larder to find the answer. I planted the garden, the Good Lord provided the water and sunshine, and I harvested and preserved the produce. My daughter has recently married and is now walking in the footsteps of her ancestors, preserving food so that her family may eat in the future. But things have apparently changed since I learned to can.

Quart of blueberries sealed in 1946

Fruit jar seal still holding over seventy years later

The new box of canning jars she brought to the house  last week came with a note, boasting that her jars and lids would stay sealed for a whole eighteen months!! This is a joke, right? The jar of blueberries to the left was canned in 1946. Although the fruit has darkened through the years, seventy-two years later, this jar is still firmly sealed, and the jar companies are bragging that their seals will last eighteen months? Pitiful!

Recently, an elderly friend of mine passed away, and her family brought me hundreds of jars from her basement. At least half of them were filled. Among these were cases of peaches from 1970, all canned in mayonnaise jars. Just as beautiful and yellow as the day they were canned, these peaches had stood the test of time. Having an over abundance of jars myself, I decided to offer these jars to a friend, who, very politely, informed me that you couldn’t can in the old mayonnaise jars because they would break in the canner and destroy your food. I suppose someone should have told me that when I started canning in the late seventies, because I’ve been using them all of this time, and never had a single one break. In fact the only canning jars that have broken for me in the canner, were ones made specifically for canning.

Apple butter canned in Alfredo sauce jar

Marlin Miller
Photo by: John Beale / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (4/19/1999)

I have also been told that one can only safely can using the regular canning lids or the new equivalents. Whoops… I’ve messed up on this one too. When I was a kid my family would spend summers camping along the river. In a cabin not far away lived an elderly hermit named Marlin Miller who would often stop by for a chat. As self-sufficient as they come, Miller canned his own food… in spaghetti sauce jars. We were living on a very limited income when I first started out, and canning jars and lids were expensive. Almost forty years later, I still reuse smaller jars with pop lids (with rims that curl under, not out) for things like tomato sauce, jellies, juices, and apple butter. The lid on the jar of apple butter above has been reused (and perfectly sealed) twelve times so far.

Vegetable soup canned in antique jars

They also tell me that antique canning jars should only be used for dry storage. Fill them with rice, popcorn, or candy. Never, never can in them. Oh boy, I’m guilty again. I have jars that date back one hundred and fifty years. Do I can in them? Sure. Why not? They are three times the thickness of the new ones, and I’ve never had one break, not even in the pressure canner.

This week, as I helped my daughter can a ham, (Yes, youngsters, meat can be canned.) I had to wonder, should I teach her the old ways that have been passed down through the generations, or should I step back and allow that knowledge to fade into oblivion? I’m in favor of the old.



Filed under Helpful Hints, Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner

The Great Ketchup Experiment

This week I received an article from a good friend of mine, whose work often appears on this blog. I read the words over, then went to the top of the article and read them again. “No way!” I gasped out loud. “She has got to be joking! That can’t possibly work! There was no punch line. She was serious. Knowing that I would never be satisfied until I tried the experiment myself, I got out the ketchup and the salt shaker and went to work.

Read her article, then check out the photos of my experiment. This is incredible!


Inexpensive Kitchen Cleaners for Revere-ware

Do you have copper-bottomed (Revere-ware) pots and pans that need cleaned on the exterior bottom?

Do you think you need to buy some expensive cleaner to do so?

Nope, the remedy is right in your kitchen.

Put ketchup on the bottom of the pan, sprinkle a little table salt in the ketchup, let it set briefly, then rub. It may take some rubbing, but when you’re finished, the bottom shines.

An extra bonus: energy savings! With the bottom cleaned off, heat conducts more evenly and your food gets hot quicker.

P. Booher

Okay, let’s get this experiment started.



Subject: 1 copper measuring cup (Messy because a certain housewife left it set in a mixing bowl full of water all night.)





Step 1: Squirt on the ketchup.







Step 2: Generously sprinkle on salt.






Step 3: Smear the salt and ketchup all over the copper surface. (If you have a cut on your finger, you might wish to wear kitchen gloves for this part!) Then I eat a Christmas cookie while I wait for this mixture to do its work.




Step 4: Using a damp (not wet) dishcloth or sponge rub the copper well, then rinse.  Wow! This really does work! You actually can clean copper with ketchup and salt! Sorry, my friend, for ever doubting you!



Filed under Helpful Hints, Money Saving Tips

Ode to Leftover Turkey

It’s Thanksgiving morning, and  Bobby can’t wait

Until that old buzzard’s resigned to his fate.

He’ll have turkey with stuffing and gravy, and pie,

Hot mashed potatoes and turkey piled high!

Yams that were candied with marshmallow goo,

And when that is finished, he’ll have turkey too!

It seems on Thanksgiving that Bobby can’t wait

To get a big piece of that bird on his plate.

But after Thanksgiving with the passing of days,

It seems that our Bobby has changed in his ways.

He’s had turkey daily and now has a hunch

That turkey will show up at school in his lunch.

So, if it is true that we are what we eat,

He’ll soon grow pinfeathers and forked turkey feet.

I know it’s not Helen Steiner Rice, but give me a break, I’ve been sick. Earlier this week as I sat at my computer whining about my runny nose. I spent some time checking the Internet for some solutions to the “What do we do with all of this leftover turkey?” problem. I found that there are thirty-two Internet pages claiming to provide recipes for left0 ver turkey. (Yes, I was exceptionally lifeless this week.) Some sites offered very little, and others left me wondering if I were suffering from the Google Redirect Virus again. The low carb site was a blank, white page. (Eating nothing will keep your carbs low, but it won’t do much about the leftover turkey problem.) Many other sites contained numerous pop-ups that were meant to gobble up one’s attention. I steered away from these. After searching for quite some time, I thought perhaps some of you might profit from my boredom if I listed the most promising recipe sites here.

(I make no guarantees about the content of any of these sites.)

Wise Bread

All Recipes

Pinch My Salt – this site has a great looking curried turkey salad recipe!


Simply Recipes

Forty Something



Lesley’s Recipe Archive



Filed under Helpful Hints, Money Saving Tips, Sue's Corner

Not All Bugs Should Die

It’s time for those of us in the northeast to begin the sad process of tearing down our gardens, and I thought I would take a moment to pass on a few pest prevention tips that are commonly overlooked.

Tip no. 1: A caterpillar covered with eggs is an asset. Place it and its cargo somewhere where it will not be injured and allow it to live. These eggs belong to parasitic wasps. The young will hatch and feed upon the caterpillar. When they mature, these youngsters will find a caterpillar host for their own eggs. (Natural pest control)

Tip no. 2: If while cleaning your garden you encounter a wolf spider with young, don’t disturb her. This head of cabbage should have been picked long ago, but the female wolf spider and her brood of hundreds are far more valuable than the cabbage they call home. If you take a close look (Not too close, these monsters bite) the pattern on her back is actually a living cloak of baby spiders that cling to their mother for safety. Mother spider and her children will find a safe place to burrow into for the winter, and wake again next spring to protect your garden from destructive pests.

Tip no. 3: The nursery web spider is a gardener’s friend. These elegant predators can grow to amazing sizes, even in the northern states. This beauty, that decided to rear her young on my son’s car, measures sixty millimeters (2 5/8 inches), and she is not fully grown. The female of this species carries her eggs with her in a cocoon-like sack until they are almost ready to hatch. She then builds a web, on a branch, or in our case under the edge of a fender, opens the cocoon, and stands guard in anticipation of her brood’s arrival. Nursery web spiders don’t panic easily, making gardening in close proximity less nerve racking. (Caution: the nursery web spider will administer a painful bite if trapped or cornered.)

Tip no. 4: Don’t kill the ladybugs, even if there are a thousand of them holding a rally on your aluminum siding. Their cute red and black bodies disguise their predatory nature. Ladybugs devour the smaller insects that destroy our vegetables and flowers.

Tip no. 5: Yellow and black garden spiders are not only a beautiful addition to the garden, but they also have voracious appetites. Just don’t expect one to eat a Japanese beetle. Yuck! (Yes, these ones will bite as well. Been there, done that, and it doesn’t feel good!)

Tip no. 6: A full-grown praying mantis is the ultimate six-legged predator in northern gardens. She is not only an exceptional hunter, but her graceful movements and her gentle nature around humans also make her an excellent garden companion. Caution: a praying mantis is not above making a snack out of a humming bird. Hang your humming bird feeder far away from plants and trees that the mantis can use as camouflage.

Tip no. 7: A toad will urinate on you if you pick him up, but he won’t actually give you warts and he does eat plenty of bugs.

Tip no. 8: Don’t kill that little snake unless he’s poisonous. A small garter snake is a great addition to any garden.

So as you clear your garden of dying plants and mulch it down for the winter, be sure not to destroy the little things that help to keep your garden pest free.



Filed under Helpful Hints, Photography, Plants and Gardening, Sue's Corner, Wildlife

If You Try to Fix it and Fail, It’s Still Just Broken.

About three months ago, the right hinge on my laptop snapped. I wasn’t overly concerned until just recently when I opened the cover and suddenly discovered the screen had no support at all. The other hinge had snapped as well. Because I had never replaced the hinges on a laptop and had absolutely no idea where to begin, I decided that this was a job for the professionals. I hurried to my favorite computer store for an estimate. Without cracking a smile, the clerk behind the desk quoted a repair price of $400.00! I waited a moment for the punch line, but he wasn’t joking.
My Dell Latitude has been a good little laptop. It was a business computer. I bought it refurbished about three years ago. Because of its background, it was really decked out. The cover is custom made of metal, not plastic, and in spite of its age, my laptop is extremely fast, but $400.00 is a huge amount of money to put into a five-year-old laptop.
I had two options.

  1. Continue propping it open against a wall or books, or holding it open with rubber bands and string.
  2. Repair it myself.


Option one got old very quickly. So looking at the problem logically, I decided that if I didn’t do anything, my computer was broken. If I tried to fix it and failed, my computer was still broken, but if I tried to fix it and succeeded, my computer would be back in working order. I would be able to keep the machine I have become accustomed to, and save some money as well. I had nothing to lose but the price of the parts.

Not as complicated as it seemed!

I checked out Ebay and found that I could order both latches new, not reconditioned, for 2.99 plus 3.99 shipping and handling. I was willing to risk $6.98, but the low price made me suspect that this job was going to be a nightmare. I read over web sites and copied directions as I waited for the parts to be shipped from Hong Kong.

Back in working order!

Armed with far more tools than I needed, a digital camera, and a case of the nervous jitters, I began a job that I was sure would take me three days. Taking photos along the way, I began removing one part at a time, placing every screw on a piece of tape and marking where it came from. Once I got the machine open, I was amazed at how simple of a job it was. In a little over an hour, my laptop was reassembled and in perfect working order. I had even taken time to clean her up some while she was apart. My savings? $393.02.

The moral of this story is: If your computer is out of warranty, and the computer experts want almost as much to repair it as the price of a new computer, check out the tech sites, and the technical manuals offered on line by the manufacturers. Find a safe place in your home (free of pets and children), and try fixing it yourself. Just don’t forget the camera and the tape. They’ll come in handy.


Filed under Helpful Hints, Money Saving Tips

Scouring Aluminum Pans the Easy Way

Several years ago, my brother gave me a set of heavy aluminum army pans that I simply love. I do a lot of cooking for large groups and pans this size are a time saver, but unlike my stainless cookware, if someone forgets and puts them in the dishwasher or boils water in them they turn black and dingy. As any housewife knows, scouring pots this size is not fun.

While remodeling my house, I came up with an easier way. A fine grit, drywall sanding sponge can remove the black stains from old aluminum pots and pans in less than a third of the time spend scouring. Finish with a quick buff using steel wool to bring out a beautiful shine, then wash and dry the pot as usual.


This procedure not only saves time, but also money spend on steel wool soap pads. The drywall sponge in this photo is two years old and still going strong.

For more info on removing stains from cookware, check out these websites:  
An easy way to remove stains from the inside of aluminum cookware:
To remove lime stains from the inside of aluminum pots:
 To remove stains from non-stick cookware: 
To remove burn stains from stainless steel:
To remove stains from crockpots:
To remove stains from enamel cookware:  

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Filed under Helpful Hints