Q. I have a salsa recipe we really like. Can you tell me how to can it at home?
A. Salsas are a mixture of acid and low-acid ingredients. They are appropriate for canning in the boiling water canner if, and only if, the final pH of all components is adequate to prevent botulism poisoning. The United States Department of Agriculture and Extension provide salsa recipes developed for canning in the boiling water canner. These recipes have been researched to determine the proper mixtures of tomatoes, fruit, peppers, onions, garlic, herbs and spices with an acid to create a final pH safe for canning as an acid food. Heat penetration studies have been conducted to determine the proper processing times. These recipes must be followed as written.
The other problem with an original salsa recipe is that once it is canned, it may lose the characteristics and flavors you like in the fresh product. Canning involves precooking and heating. Also, spices often change with heating, so the flavors in a canned product may not taste like they do in a fresh product. If you have an original salsa recipe, it is safest to freeze it.
Q. I have these huge striped, fat spiders in my yard. Are they harmful and should I get rid of them?
A. All spiders in your garden could be considered beneficial because they eat pest insects like aphids. Only a few spiders, like the black widow, out of the thousands of species, cause any ill effects on humans. In the fall, there are gorgeous Orb Weaver spiders that create the iconic spider webs just in time for Halloween.
Q. With water rationing and water curtailments, could nitrate poisoning be more likely in hay and grazing?
A. Yes, it could, if careful steps are not taken to monitor and test hay, especially hay grown under water stress. Nitrate poisoning can kill large numbers of livestock when new feed is improperly introduced to a herd. Problems with nitrate poisoning can occur in grazing, hay and silage situations when plant stress occurs in any form, but especially from inadequate irrigation or rainfall when nitrogen fertility is high, or when certain weeds known to be nitrate accumulators are present.
Prevention of nitrate accumulation by not over-fertilizing, testing suspect forages, introducing new feed slowly and limiting feeding of high nitrate feeds will help reduce the risk of nitrate poisoning. Applying these steps in the day-to-day operations of a livestock operation will assist in protecting livestock health. More information can be found on nitrate poisoning in ruminants at http://bit.ly/1UDkqKA.