Layered Peach Melba Jam

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Layered Peach Melba Jam

I love the ease and flavor of homemade jam. Peaches are in season now, and I scored an incredible deal for 75 lbs of peaches. I have canned some slices, canned peach jam, frozen peach slices, but my latest peach project has been a layered peach-raspberry jam, or peach melba jam.

The recipe I saw in the Ball Book calls for them to be combined, but I decided to play with the recipe a bit, split the two jams, and see what happened. That’s pretty much what I do with most recipes.

“Oh, this calls for chicken and sesame oil and chili powder…I think I’ll substitute pork, add some sesame seeds and sprinkle in some Cajun seasoning.”

Anybody else use perfectly nice recipes as a springboard for what you want to make?

This layered version is a bit involved, but the visual effect is worth it. Well, I think so anyway. It is a bit time consuming, I have to warn you.

 

You will need:

8 cups peeled chopped peaches

1 cup raspberries

4 1/2 cups sugar, divided

1 box lower sugar pectin, divided

Yield:approximately 9 half pints (6 layered peach melba jams and 3 peach jams)

 

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Start by prepping the fruit. Peeling the peaches is the most time-consuming part of the whole process.

Wash the jars and put in the hot canner.

I chose to make the raspberry jam first because I though it would look better that way and I figured it would be denser and more likely to stay in a layer at the bottom.

Crush the raspberries or give them a quick whirl in a food processor. Measure 1/2 cup of sugar for the raspberry jam. Whisk 1 tablespoon of the pectin and 2 tablespoons of the sugar together, then into the raspberries. Heat to a rolling boil, stirring constantly, then add the rest of the reserved 1/2 cup. Heat to a boil again, stirring constantly, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and carefully put 1/4 cup of the raspberry jam into each of 6 jars.

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You could of course make the layers thinner and put some in all 9 jars. Totally up to you.

Now it’s time to make the peach jam. Whisk the remaining pectin into 1/4 cup of the remaining sugar, then heat the peaches and the sugar/pectin mixture to a rolling boil. Add the rest of the sugar and heat to boiling again, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute, then turn off heat and remove pot from heat.

I like to live dangerously, so I just used what was left in the packet of pectin, rather than a whole other packet, which was risky.

It worked for me, and the jam set nicely, but you may want to use a whole packet.

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Carefully ladle the peach jam into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

Top with warmed lids and screw on rings gently.

Process half pints for 10 minutes.

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Peach Melba Jam Recipe

I love the look of a layered jam! I’m wondering if I should have put the raspberry on top, but it’s too late now. Maybe if I make another layered jam I’ll put the darker jam on top.

Blueberry and peach would be another pretty combination, don’t you think? I’ve combined them in a jam before, but it might be pretty to separate them.

Have you made a layered jam? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Summer is such a busy time in the kitchen. I’ve been working with blueberries, peaches, and figs are next!

 

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Touchablue Berry Farm: U-Pick Blueberries $1/lb

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If you do much produce shopping at all, you know that $1/lb. for fresh blueberries is a great price.

I had a wonderful experience at Touchablue Berry Farm, and I have 3 tips for you if you decide to go too!

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Usually the areas nearest the entrance are picked over really well. We showed up in the evening, saw the other vehicles, and planned to go into the rows a bit, but got caught almost immediately by the flush of berries. So many berries!!!

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The farm provides the containers lined with bags for picking. There are various sizes of buckets outfitted with ropes to hang around your neck, leaving both hands free for picking. The large black buckets hold about 8 lbs of berries, which get a bit heavy toward the end. The smaller black buckets hold about 3 lbs.

This picking arrangement was different than what I had used at Blue Basket Farms. It’s interesting seeing the different ways to hold blueberries while picking. πŸ™‚

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We ended up with 20 pounds of blueberries!! I made some blueberry jam the next morning. Can’t get much fresher than that-blueberries canned less than 24 hours after picking!

berry picking at Touchablue Berry Farm

Here’s me after about 1.5 hours of picking. Note the hat. I’ve pretty much gotten my face back after my fluorouracil cream saga, but my hat is a common addition to my outfits and sunscreen is a common part of my getting ready routine.

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3 Blueberry Picking Tips

  1. Plan for an evening picking session. We arrived around 6:30 pm, and that meant that shadows were lengthening and it was getting cooler, but we still had plenty of time to get lots of berries.
  2. If you want to fill a large bucket, I recommend you to fill a smaller bucket and transfer it to a larger. A 8 lb bucket around your neck gets a bit heavy after a while.
  3. Bring a hat, there’s not much shade until about 7:30 pm unless you hide behind a bush. πŸ™‚

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    Touchablue Berry Farm Map

We had a wonderful time picking. They have a nice roofed station set up for weighing the produce (it’s on the honor system), sink for washing your hands, paper cones for water, and a picnic table, and even a portapotty. πŸ™‚

It’s a great setup and a wonderful place for a family evening. They also have long rows of muscadine grapes, which will also be $1/ lb when they’re in season. Maybe I’ll try making some grape jelly this year. Hard to beat that price!

You can like them on Facebook to see what others are saying and hopefully they will update when grapes are ready.

June can be tough for being outside, but there are still things to do and even crops to plant. Look for a post on what you can do in the June garden soon!

From Train Wreck to Horror Movie: The Saga of My Face

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WARNING: If you cannot handle pictures of gross peeling skin, you should not read this post nor consider a medical career.

At first, people asked me if I got a sunburn or if I was having an allergic reaction. There was also the classic, “What happened to your face?!” This question was often accompanied by varying looks of horror and amazement.

Days 14 and 15 ( the last day and the first day of healing) I had some stinging and irritation. A friend mentioned coconut oil to me.

I am not a coconut oil fanatic, but I did have a bit languishing in the back of my pantry. I tried a bit on my chin first and felt almost instant relief. I spread it all over my face and was so grateful for the reprieve.

Days 18 and 19 were the worst. Day 18 I woke up to a face that was really stiff. It hurt to eat, talk, laugh. Those two days I struggled with fatigue and discouragement.

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Day 19 was the worst day of all. I woke up to a very scary face that was extraordinarily stiff, dry, cracking, peeling, and painful.

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I globbed petroleum jelly on it. That made it feel better, but it looked really gross as you can see in the above picture.

I took some acetaminophen. The skin softened and it didn’t hurt so much, until it did. I took another about 4 hours later.

Now my face hurt when I talked and was shiny with either petroleum jelly(for stiffness) or coconut oil(for itching or irritation). I was tired too. Opening my mouth to eat was painful, as was chewing.

Day 19 was the day I cried.

I felt guilty for feeling sorry for myself, knowing that there are so many others who have it far worse, are dealing with more serious conditions, and so there was crying and then guilt for crying.

I had been able to handle the hideousness of it, was prepared for the looks and tactless comments, but that day especially was rough.

I took pictures, but didn’t know if I would ever share them. My face was gross. I looked diseased.

I regretted every beach trip, every car wash without sunscreen; this was what my vanity had gotten me. I had nobody to blame but myself. My mom had warned me, my fair-skinned aunt had encouraged me to care of my skin, sunscreen had been available to me, but I had stubbornly persisted in my quest for a tan.

My dermatologist’s nurse called me back on Day 19. She reassured me that the brown drying skin was normal, the pain was normal, and that she would put some face cream samples(Biafine) at the front desk for me.

I was started to gently rub off the petroleum jelly-softened skin. I’m not sure if I was supposed to do that, but taking a soft warm wet washcloth and very softly rubbing off some of the nastiness felt so good to my face.

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I was careful to remove what came off easily, and I started feeling relief from the stiffness.Β I looked marginally better too. I think that as the dead areas dried, they stiffened, causing additional discomfort and itching.

Once the brown crusty skin was being removed, the new red skin underneath was seen.Β  Now I was going back to looking like a sunburned person, rather than a quarantine candidate.

Day 20 was better, and I began to see improvement. I wasn’t waking up and and wondering what new horrors I was going to see; I was eager to see what improvement had occurred during the night.

If I have to do the fluorouracil treatment again, this is what I want to remember:

Use Coconut oil for itching and irritation, Vaseline for stiffness and dryness.

Use Coconut oil for itching and irritation, Vaseline for stiffness and dryness.

Use Coconut oil for itching and irritation, Vaseline for stiffness and dryness.

I alternated those two during the healing phase, depending on my most pressing discomfort. I added the Biafine the last few days, sometimes dabbing it on because rubbing it in on some parts just hurt too much. The Biafine seemed to help my face stay soft through the night too.

I’m no fashionista, but I do have some cosmetic tips for the treatment and healing phases. πŸ™‚

  1. Always wear a shade of lipstick darker that your spots.
  2. You can wear some powder at the beginning to extend your “normal” appearance.
  3. Mascara, eyeliner, and eye shadow may draw some attention from your face. Be sure to gently powder under your eyes so your mascara doesn’t get dissolved by whatever you’re using to soften your face.
  4. Avoid wearing pink or red near your face, as that seems to draw more attention to the redness.
  5. No matter what you do, people will look and stare and utter tactless comments. Remember you will not always look this way. I knew these types of comments would come and that I would look pretty bad, so the comments didn’t really bother me.

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The healing is almost complete now.

I applied the cream for 14 days, and it took about 14 days to return to looking human again. The original 4 spots that concerned me are still a bit pink to me, but they are the same texture as the rest of my skin, not rough and sensitive as they had been. I think they were thicker than the other spots, and so the new skin is deeper and newer.

I share my story and experience so that if I have to do this treatment again, I can look back at what worked for me, what was normal, and to give myself hope that I will recover.

I also know that many of my readers may need to visit a dermatologist. I figured I would have to go at some point, but I didn’t think I had been out in the sun enough to cause much damage, but if I had, I figured I wouldn’t have problems for another 20 years. It was my makeup that sent me to a dermatologist; maybe my story will be what turns your nagging suspicions into reluctant action.

If you have rough sensitive pink spots, please go. It is my dermatologist’s hope (and mine!) that doing this treatment has prevented those spots from turning into something worse.

Waiting will not make the answer better.

I am still going to enjoy my garden, and work on reclaiming it from the neglect of the past few weeks, but this time I will be much more cognizant of my sun exposure. If I’m not working in the shade, I need to be wearing SPF 30 or higher and a hat.

I’ll let you in on some of my summer garden plans soon, but for now I’m enjoying getting my face back.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a medical professional at all, so follow the advice of your doctor or dermatologist, not the advice of some random lady you found on the internet(me)!

Congratulations Class of 2016!

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Summer is here, and the new crop of graduates is being released from school to take a break!

Some will start college this fall, some grad school, some will finally get to work that job for which they have trained so long.

How about some cake?

coral peonies

Does homemade chocolate cake with mocha frosting sound good? I thought so, and gauging from the rate at which it disappeared, so did the teens for whom it was made.

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That’s all that was left.

I like baking for teenagers; they’re not shy about coming back for seconds!

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I made the coral peonies on pieces of parchment paper, then popped them in the freezer until I was ready to place them on the frosted cake.

The mocha frosting was firm from the fridge, so I had a bit of liberty as I placed them to change my mind and adjust them slightly. This was much less stressful than trying to pipe perfect peonies at just the right spot on the cake. I added the leaves once they were in place. I love the Wilton tip#352 for leaves.

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I had fun with the bottom border, and you can see it a bit in this picture.

Well, actually it started out that I wasn’t sure that I would have enough coral buttercream to do the bead border, so I just did it in spots, then decided to pipe some leaves and yellow dots and so it turned out pretty fancy. I think I did have enough coral, but I do like the more involved border sometimes. πŸ™‚

I have fun making cakes, and I do like decorating them with garden fresh flowers, and sometimes it’s fun to make a woodland cake with fondant toadstools.

Now I’m in the mood for more ChocaMocha cake!

Congratulations class of 2016!

Sneaking out to the Garden

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Let’s look at something besides my face, shall we?

It still hurts pretty bad from the Fluorouricil cream and its effects, but I can’t complain. I have a friend currently having treatment for melanoma.

There’s a difference between a face that hurts when it smiles and a smile that is hurting.

I have had a great year with my zucchini already. Usually I get about 4 squash, then the squash vine borers arrive to kill the plants. I planted black zucchini (I still think they look green) and they have done so well.

The cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen, and I have been pleased with the ‘Tendergreen’ beans. They’re one of my new favorites.

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InΒ  North Florida, the blackberries are ripe! I been foraging twice and have made some jam. You should go look for some too. I saw a 12 oz package of blackberries for $5.99 yesterday!!

Granted, the ones I found are much smaller, but you can’t beat the price!

I’ve had to do my picking and gardening in the shade because of the treatment for my pre-skin cancer spots, but I feel so much better some time in the garden.

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I think today might be a good day to make some chocolate zucchini bread.

I have some more gardening tips and ideas for you, especially if your daikon radishes are still bolting. If the seedpods have already dried, you can save the seeds like a ninja! I have harvested my potatoes, so also look for a post on how to harvest a small crop of potatoes.

Congratulations to all the graduates out there- I made a homemade chocolate cake with mocha frosting and coral peonies- pictures of that coming soon too.

I hope you get to go outside and do some gardening, but please wear a hat and sunscreen!

 

My Face is Like a Train Wreck…

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You just. can’t. stop. looking. at. it.

You know it’s bad when your dermatologist jumps and says “Whoa!” when she comes in to see you.DSCN7642

It has been an eye-opener (literally and figuratively) to see how much damage I have.

For those of you who may be wondering how my follow-up appointment went, my dermatologist recovered from her initial shock, told me that the treatment had gone well, and that hopefully treating the precancer spots now will prevent them from turning into something worse later.

Many have been supportive, sharing stories of when they or somebody they knew had to do this treatment.

There have been others caught staring.

“What are you looking at?”

“It’s just scary,” said my dear husband.

“Scary?!”

He clarified, “It’s just scary that all that has been there and we didn’t even know it.”

Nice save, dear. Nice save.

Seriously though, he has been very supportive and it has actually got him thinking about getting checked. If you’re reading this, and you have pink patches that just won’t go away, or spots that are concerning you, I hope you get an appointment. It probably won’t cost as much as you think, and it may help prevent something worse.

I love to garden, but my gardening hat has not been used nearly as much as it should. I am so much more conscious of sun damage now, and I hope sharing my experience will help others.

To read more about how I decided to go to the dermatologist, you can read How my Makeup Sent Me to the Dermatolgist and Turned Me into a Vampire.

Florida sun is harsh. Wear a hat!

How my Makeup Sent Me to the Dermatolgist and Turned Me into a Vampire

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I am pale. Not tan. My tan comes in polka dots, aka freckles. I have accepted this. I am happy with my skin color and have accepted that being tan is not for me.

I have not always been this way. My high school best friend was part Puerto Rican and her “pale” winter tone was tanner than I could ever hope to be. Many others in my peer group were tan, and being a teenager, I wanted to be tan too, rather than being content and confident in my skin.

Here’s a confession from a Florida resident: I don’t actually like going to the beach. It’s hot, bright, sandy, and if you get wet you leave sticky and sandy.

If you’re me, you also are probably sunburned.

During my high school and college years, my days following a beach excursion were spent lying under a fan, icy washcloths on my skin, walking stifflegged up stairs because it hurt to bend my knees, blistering, and eventually peeling.

I actually only had 8 or so such experiences, and they were my fault. Not enough sunscreen, trying to get tan…all foolish.

I really didn’t think that I had created much sun damage.

Wrong. Here’s where the makeup part comes in to the story. I noticed that I was always dabbing foundation to cover the same red spots. At first I thought they were zits that I had popped(Oh, you know you’ve popped them too!) and were trying to heal, but they didn’t go away, and then I noticed that the spot on my cheek was a little tender.

My mom has had spots burned off her face, and has been seeing a dermatologist for about 10 years, so I knew there was a history for me, but I didn’t think I had done enough to doΒ  much damage.

I made an appointment.

Sure enough, the spots are pre-skin cancer. I was told to use a cream all over my face. Technically, it’s a chemotherapy agent. The first few days you can’t really tell any difference.

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You may notice the three pink spots on the bridge of my nose and the pink spot on my left cheek. That was about Day 4.

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By about Day 6, more spots are beginning to appear. One of the warnings with this cream is that the treatment is “unsightly”.Β  It’s a tactful way of saying that it’s gonna get pretty bad.

Direct sun is to be avoided. I was in the sun for about 45 seconds watering my daylilies and my face felt a bit tight after just that little exposure.

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Day 9 and it’s starting to be much more noticeable. I dusted a little powder on my skin for church, but the thought of removing foundation from my skin dissuaded me from doing much more on the skin.

My face is getting redder, and more spots are appearing, and I regret staying so long at the beach, not wearing sunscreen faithfully, and my vanity that was in vain.

I’m hoping that by doing this early I will avoid more tragic consequences in the future.

I still have a few days left, and if I’m feeling brave I’ll post some pictures of the end.

Morals of the story: use sunscreen, wear a hat, be content with the skin God gave you, and go see a dermatologist if you have little pink spots that just won’t go away(or a weird flesh-colored raised patch).

The application time is 2 weeks, and I am to expect a 2 week healing period. My mom tells me I will have super soft skin after it is all over.

I look forward to that, and to being able to crinkle my nose again.

Foraging for Blackberries

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I was excited to see all the pretty white flowers in my front yard landscaping this spring.

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I have given up on eradicating the brambles, and have been rewarded with berries. Last year I had roses and berries growing together and I embraced the beautiful chaos.What else can you do when a new baby demands attention?

That particular variety seems to be done(dewberries, maybe?) and others are ready elsewhere.

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Keeping an eye out for other patches of flowers led me to some yummy blackberries this evening.

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We took home about 6 pints, and probably about another pint was enjoyed super-fresh.

Right now my plan is to make some blackberry jam, enjoy some fresh, and maybe make a cobbler. Any other bright ideas?

If you are in North Florida, now is the time to look for these delicious berries!

 

This is Why You Grow Fresh Herbs

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Per pound, fresh herbs are some of the most expensive items in a produce department. However, what would spaghetti be without basil and oregano? Salsa without cilantro? Refrigerator pickles without dill?

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If you have ever had one of those with fresh herbs, I’m sure you recognized the difference immediately. Once I enjoyed fresh parsley over classic spaghetti and meatballs, I found it hard to go without it the next time.

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Ahh…fresh herbed dipping oil. Gotta love the smell of sun-warmed basil.

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It’s handy to step outside for fresh chives to sprinkle over a simple baked potato.

Of course, we look forward to the taste of the first homemade pickles of the year, perhaps even more than we so for those first tomatoes.

If you have never made pickles, you have got to try this recipe for Amazing Refrigerator Pickles!! If you can make potato salad, you can make these pickles.

What’s your favorite herb to grow?

 

Eatin’ Local

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Concerned about food miles? I still get excited about serving my family veggies that were harvested from our backyard.

Sometimes we sit down to eat greens that were harvested, washed, prepared, then served. Food miles:0

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Zero food miles and incredible freshness.

I love farmer’s markets, but it’s also fun to shop in my backyard.

Our first two cucumbers didn’t even make it to the table. πŸ™‚

Have you been considering starting a garden? Love the idea of growing vegetables in your backyard but think you have a black thumb?

Maybe your previous attempts failed.

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Try again.

Find out what other gardeners are planting in your area. Find out where they’re planting them-sun or shade? Copy them shamelessly; they won’t mind.

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Once you pop that first sprig of fresh mint into your tea, eat that first real tomato, find out what cucumbers are supposed to taste like; you’ll be ruined.

Eat local. It’s so wonderful.