02 December 2011

An Open Letter To My Wife

Dear Becky –

Shortly after my father died a few years ago, you posted an open letter to him on your blog. Recently it came to me that I wanted to write a letter to you and put it there as well. At first, I was not sure what I wanted to say. I could tell you how much I loved you, and love you still, but we said this often and you know it very well. Then something occurred to me that I don’t believe I did say to you nearly enough: “Thank you.”

Thank you for sharing over 33 years of your life with me in marriage. For allowing me to spend my life with you and for our most important joint work together: Two brilliant and beautiful little girls that have now become two brilliant and beautiful young ladies.

When we married, your mom said to me, “Well, Mike, your life will never be dull.” Truer words were never spoken. Thank you for all the fun. You once gave me a card with an appropriate picture on it that was addressed to me with the words, “From a high flier to feet-on-the-ground.” I think that was one of your favorite cards that you ever gave me. And I have come to realize even more, now that you have moved on and you are flying higher than ever, how much fun you created just by being you. With Becky around, flying so high, and holding onto her balloons with one hand and onto me with the other, even a stodgy old feet-on-the-ground guy like me was dragged along into new adventures of all sorts. Thank you for that.

But maybe you needed my role as an anchor for you as well. A couple that you and I came to know as friends just this last summer commented to me after you left us that they were really impressed by how well you and I “fit” together. With people, I am not sure that opposites attract so much as that they complement each other. I know you completed me, and maybe I did the same for you. You probably would say so.

Thank you for always supporting me in virtually everything I ever suggested we should do, even when it meant totally re-arranging our life together. You almost always said yes in the little things. But you always said yes in the big things, too--always ready to go along and always totally supportive.

When I suggested that maybe we should move from Dallas, Texas, to Huntsville, Alabama, where I had a great job offer, you said this would be fine if that is what I thought we should do. You totally supported this, even though we were moving away from a place where you had good friends and quite a bit of your family. As it turned out, we ended up driving to Alabama separately. You told me later that as you were driving out of Dallas, a place where you were always very happy, the radio started playing “Let's go to Luckenbach Texas with Willie and Waylon and the boys.” At that point, as it really hit you that we were leaving, you watched the Dallas skyline receding in the rear view mirror with tears streaming down your face. But despite this attachment, you had never hesitated for a second to sign up and go happily with me to a new place. Of course, that was not the end of your story. The very next song was the group Alabama singing “My Home’s in Alabama.” And you took that as a sign that we were doing exactly the right thing. And that made you happy again. That is so Becky. So much my Becky.

Another time a few years after we moved to Alabama, you came home one night to find me lying on the picnic table in the back yard, staring at the stars. Naturally, you asked what was going on. I explained with a lot of indecision that I was considering resigning my job at the company where I had a great salary and a lot of security and a nice recent promotion. The new opportunity would be helping to cofound a tiny high risk startup company that would mean very long hours and very low money, and it could very easily fail completely (as most of them do). So this was definitely a scary proposition. Your response was almost instantaneous (and you liked to quote yourself on this for years afterwards): “Let’s go for it!” You even quit your own job and joined us as our office manager and bookkeeper. That was quite an adventure, wasn’t it?

Thank you so much for your unfaltering and enthusiastic support in these things and in every big decision we made. I don’t think most people are lucky enough to be always given the gift of that kind of absolute support and confidence from their life partner.

Your constant example taught me so much about how we ought to be living our lives, even if I seemed to be resisting some of this a lot of the time. Beside our front door up in Tennessee, I recently noticed a small colorful notice that says, “Peace to All Who Enter Here” that you placed there a long time ago. But you didn’t put that up there just because it was a cute thing to do. You really meant it. You--with your bumper sticker saying “Teach Tolerance” and another one with a big equal sign and another one that says “Namaste” on it—you believed in these things, and you lived the example that our daughters and I saw in you every day. It was not just words with you, although you certainly had the conviction to say the words, too, even when facing people who might not agree with you. Your friends, and especially all your relatives, know that! Thank you for that example.

A lot of these things, I did not appreciate as much before as I do now. I should have, but I just did not see all of them as clearly. There was often no need to push myself along some of these paths because all I had to do was to hold your hand and be dragged along to fall into the right place.

Even when you became sick, your positive attitude never failed. Your doctors all loved to see you because of your fantastic attitude and because you cheered them up. When we were doing those all day long medical visits, during our lunch break you would suggest we go to a nice restaurant. And despite everything, you would be upbeat; and we would have a great lunch and really enjoy spending the time together. That bubbly personality and virtually perpetual optimism carried all of us along and supported us all. These last few years could have been a lot harder, but you made it so much easier for everyone around you. Thank you for that gift, too.

Just about two hours before you finally left us, as you sat up in your bed, you spoke in a cheery and very casual voice to someone I could not see. You said, “OK, let’s go!” You said it twice, a minute or so apart, and you spoke in a much clearer stronger voice than any other time in those last two weeks or so. I was confused at the time, but you weren’t. Now I understand that someone had come to get you, and you were ready to go with them. And now you are on a new part of the journey without me. Temporarily without me.

From the beginning of our lives together, you and I never talked in terms of “Til death do us part.” Instead, our way of referring to our love was “Forever and always.” We both understood that this never meant there would not be other people entering our lives. Certainly when our children arrived, we loved them at least as much as we loved each other. There is always enough love. But this understanding of our permanence meant that, whatever else might be added to our lives later, our own bond would never ever be broken.

The last text message you sent to me on your phone was from the Vanderbilt Hospital in response to something I had written saying I would be back to your room later. But now I think your note had a double meaning—one that neither of us understood at the time. Your very last message said simply, “I will wait for you.” I know that you want me to get along with my life here, and I have been doing that, and I will continue to do so. I intend to keep trying new things and building new relationships and growing. And I know you would totally approve and encourage all of that. But I also know that eventually, in some way, we will be coming together again. And I know that you will be waiting for me. Thank you for that, too.

You were always unusual, so sparkling, and so very special. I always knew that about you, even before there was an “us” when you were just my sister’s pretty college roommate. But I see it even more clearly now than I ever did before, and I appreciate it even more.

Thank you so much for agreeing to share your life with me, darling, and for our two wonderful daughters.

I love you, Becky. Forever and always.


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30 November 2011

Final Health Update

A post from Becky’s husband:

As Becky’s husband of over 33 years, I have put together for her a final health update. Only week or so before we lost her, when it first became clear how this was likely to turn out, she asked me to write a synopsis of the history of her illness, with more details about the later stages, for a final blog entry she wanted to make about this. The reason for my involvement was to save her time and effort; she would edit my draft to make it her own without the need to do all the writing from scratch. I began right away, but I did not get it ready for her soon enough. There was a lot going on, and we all thought we would have more time—probably a few weeks. However, I have decided finally to complete this task as best I can and get it posted for her at last. She would have converted it all to first person as she modified it into her own words, of course, but I don’t think I can really do that for her.

This will not be the last entry to her blog. I have also written a letter to her that I intend to post here in a day or two. The words below mainly give an account of her illness. I think that is what she wanted to do in her health update. My words to be offered later will be a personal but open letter.

Final Health Update

Early in 2005 Becky had a routine physical with her general practitioner, who noticed that she had an unusual number of bruises. One possible cause for this can be low platelet count. To be safe, he ordered blood tests. Results did show her platelet count was slightly below normal. He explained that a number slightly below normal was probably not a significant problem; but being careful, he referred her to a hematologist who specializes in blood disorders.

The hematologist ordered more tests and diagnosed her condition as a very early stage of MDS or Myelodysplastic Syndrome. The basis for this problem is an acquired genetic defect. That is, it results from genetic errors acquired over time. These errors are neither inherited from parents nor passed on to descendants. MDS causes low blood counts that may affect one, two, or all three blood cell lines (red cells, white cells, platelets). The course of MDS can be highly variable and is not readily predictable. In some people it may progress rapidly; in others it progresses extremely slowly, and it may be many years before it begins to cause serious problems. In its earliest stages when the counts are not low enough to cause weakness (due to a low red count) or excessive susceptibility to infection (due to a low white count) or bleeding problems (due to a low platelet count), the usual course is simply to follow the patient and administer no treatment.

So that is what we did. However during this period while conventional medicine had nothing to offer anyway, we tried various treatments based upon complementary medicine that were largely non-pharmacological and noninvasive. These included things such as energy healing methods, cold laser, etc. These methods can cause no harm, and they may well have slowed the progression of her disease. No one can authoritatively say for sure. But certainly these methods did not bring about a physical cure.

There were two recently approved drugs that can be used to treat MDS when it progresses, but they are not curative. These can be effective in halting progression and even reversing the problems in many cases, for either short or long periods of time, but they are not helpful for everyone. The only cure recognized by traditional Western medicine is a transplant of bone marrow or marrow stem cells from a healthy matched donor.

Becky’s blood counts were relatively stable for a couple of years, but did decline very slowly. A second opinion was sought and obtained when we traveled to New York for a meeting with a leading expert in treating MDS cases. However, the results of this trip and the advice offered were essentially the same as that of our local doctors. Eventually all three cell lines were involved, and her counts became extremely low. She began to require transfusions of red cells, and eventually of platelets as well.

As things began to move faster, she tried both of the available drugs, one after the other, in 2008 and early 2009. However, both were ineffective for her; and in July of 2009, she underwent a bone marrow stem cell transplant performed at Vanderbilt University Hospital in Nashville with a team of hematologist/oncologists. She was only in the hospital for about 10 days but was required to live very nearby in Nashville for about 4 months, with daily trips (typically lasting almost all day long) to the clinic for about 2 months. Later the frequency of clinic visits was reduced to alternate days and then less often. After 4 months, we moved back to Huntsville but continued monthly visits to Vanderbilt.

For a year or so, the transplant results were exceptionally good, and her counts returned to normal and became stable. Eventually her strength returned as well. However, in the fall of 2010, her counts began to fall once again; and by the end of the year, she once more required regular transfusions of red cells and later platelets as well. Nevertheless, buoyed by an infusion of red cells (and her boundless optimism), she and I went along on a school trip to France with our younger daughter in the spring of 2011. Becky did pretty well, including going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Nevertheless, by late April it seemed to us that she had less energy than she should have, even accounting for low red cell counts.

There were very important events coming up: Our younger daughter was graduating from high school in May, our elder daughter was to be married (at Disneyworld) in June with a reception at our farm in Tennessee to follow 10 days later, and Becky’s dish convention was coming up in July. And, at least for the wedding, there were some details still to be worked out. During the spring, her doctors at Vanderbilt recommended that she start treatments with a low dose of a drug she had tried before, which she did. A higher dose was not recommended this soon after transplant. And although this drug had not been effective earlier, her new immune system after transplant offered a very different host environment where it might be effective this time around. Also, it causes relatively few side effects and would not likely interfere with the upcoming happy events.

The plan was to try this for a while and see how it might work. If it did not reverse the disease in a few months, then we would return to Vanderbilt early in July after the graduation and the wedding to discuss what steps we should take next to make her well once again. So while this was a serious situation, we all remained optimistic. Our attitude was that we had been through all this before, after all; and we could do it again if necessary.

Becky attended and enjoyed the graduation and the wedding and the wedding reception, but she did seem to be getting weaker; and by the time of the reception she was also having a little shortness of breath. By the end of June, it was becoming clear that some new problems were developing. In addition to having trouble breathing, she began to have trouble swallowing and her voice also became nasal and a little hoarse.

When she went to her regular appointment on July 5 at Vanderbilt, they decided to put her into the hospital for a few days for tests. The tests included various CT scans, an MRI of her brain, and visits with the ear, nose, and throat doctors who used a scope to examine her nasal passages and throat. They found no structural problems. A spinal tap was also performed. The last visit was with a speech pathologist, who suggested that there were issues in the soft palate and her epiglottis was probably not opening and closing properly. No further diagnosis was made at this point. However, she seemed to improve slightly over the 3 or 4 days she was in the hospital. So she was released while the doctors pondered the test results. About the only thing they had to say at this point was to voice the opinion that this new set of problems probably was (surprisingly) unrelated to her bone marrow problems.

Her improvement was brief, however. When she returned for a regular appointment with her doctor in Huntsville on July 18, her breathing, swallowing, and speaking had become seriously impaired. He said she needed to return immediately to her transplant doctors at Vanderbilt for more attention. At Vanderbilt, the doctors were still puzzled and concerned that she was worse, rather than improved. By this time she needed oxygen, and things were beginning to look quite serious. At almost the last minute, Becky’s travel to the dish convention had to be cancelled because she really had become unable to travel safely.

She spent the next week in the hospital undergoing a new series of tests, this time focused mostly on neurology. The common denominator appeared to have to do with the motor neurons—the nerves that move muscles. She was not breathing well because the muscles that control breathing and the diaphragm were not moving properly. She was not swallowing or speaking normally because the muscles of the soft palate were not functioning properly. Tests included a swallowing study and tests of the nerves affecting muscular movement, as well as nerve conduction studies. An electromyogram test was performed to help understand what sorts of signals the nerves were sending to the muscles and how the muscles were responding. An extensive panel of cell studies was ordered, but final results of some of those tests were expected to take weeks.

It was not until about July 21 or 22 that some consensus was reached about the true nature of Becky’s new disease process, and even then a very precise diagnosis was not possible. However, the news was not good. The general opinion was that this definitely was some sort of neuromuscular disease. Because it had been progressing very rapidly, the most likely expectation for the future was that it might continue to progress very rapidly. The prognosis was poor, although again it was stressed that nobody could really predict the course the disease would take because it was an extremely rare situation.

Nonetheless, most of the doctors involved (certainly all the neurologists) expected that—if she decided she wanted to continue—eventually a feeding tube would be needed for nourishment as swallowing would become impossible, and a respirator would be needed to breathe for her because breathing would also become impossible. Becky has always felt she would not want to live like that. Now faced with the reality of the situation, her opinions held unchanged. Becky made her decisions and signed forms indicating “Do Not Resuscitate.”

Hospice care was first mentioned on Friday, July 22. She stayed in the hospital over the weekend in an attempt to help her become accustomed to the noninvasive Bi-Pap breathing support machine to be sent home with her (breathing masks to be worn at night, oxygen to be available at all times.) A lot of careful consideration and soul searching took place over that weekend, but no change of her heart or mind occurred. On Monday, more forms were signed indicating that no invasive treatments were to be used, and arrangements were made for hospice care at home and for appropriate equipment to be delivered.

On Tuesday, July 26, she returned home. While everyone agreed that spontaneous remission can happen and that nobody really could predict for sure what might lie ahead, it was clear that the doctors’ expectations were that she would not recover and that she had no more than a few weeks left. We made a round trip visit to Vanderbilt on Thursday to see a new pulmonologist. Becky liked her, but this doctor had little new to offer.

We lost Becky on Friday morning. The neuromuscular disease had progressed more quickly than anyone, including her doctors, had expected.
She was mentally clear right up to the end, and she even walked a few steps (with a lot of help) about 5 am on Friday; this was only 2 or 3 hours before her body stopped functioning. It is still believed that the new rare disease was unrelated to the older rare disease. The combination of two unrelated diseases this rare in a single person is extraordinarily unusual.

The speed with which this all progressed frankly astonished everyone involved, including her doctors. Although sad and very disappointed, Becky was never frightened about all this. She was sad about leaving us, very frustrated after all we had been through, and uncomfortable for the last week or two. But her belief system (and mine) accepted a much larger reality than we see around us and a continuation after death. She described herself as “spiritual, but not religious.” This belief system supported her well right up to her last moments. She was never afraid, just disappointed to have to leave us and concerned about her daughters.
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20 July 2011

Medical Update ~ 20 July 2011

I haven't done a medical update in quite a while, so it is past time. Currently I am in the hospital at Vanderbilt. It has been two years and two days since my bone marrow transplant and I was not really planning on being back in the hospital now. Photobucket

A recap: The first year and a half after the transplant I did very well. Then, starting last fall, my platelet count began dropping. I had a bone marrow biopsy, we watched the counts for a bit, and after another bone marrow biopsy the decision was made to start treating me with Vidaza. Hopefully the drug would knock out the dysplasia that was trying to come back and let my new donor bone marrow take over.

I seemed to be maintaining, though not improving a lot with the Vidaza. My other blood counts began to drop (an expected side effect), so I have been getting transfusions of red cells and platelets once or twice a week, depending on how low the counts get. However, because of our trip to France in March, Tori's graduation in May and Abbey's wedding and reception in June, we decided to keep on the Vidaza path until after the EVENTS, then reassess. (I kept telling all the docs I didn't have time to be Photobucket!)

So we got to the end of June and time for reassessment. And then something weird happened. A couple of days after the reception at the farm I started getting hoarse, having a hard time breathing and a hard time swallowing. This has gotten progressively worse for the last month. When I came for my monthly appointment at Vanderbilt week before last, they put me in the hospital here to run some tests.

They did a whole battery of things: brain MRI, chest and abdominal CT scans, spinal tap, a myriad of blood tests, etc. Only to not be able to find out anything. Best guesses are that it is (a) maybe related to the emergency root canal I had right before the wedding that affected some nerves either at that time or (maybe more likely) in the healing process that followed, (b) maybe a virus, or (c) "idiopathic causes," which means they really have no idea and may never figure it out. I seemed to be getting a little better so they sent me home.

Monday I went to my doc at home and he was very concerned with how I sounded, gasping for breath, etc. Obviously I had gotten worse again by then. He called my Vanderbilt doc and they immediately sent me to the ER at Vandy. ER is supposed to make admission easier. HA! Do not believe anyone that tells you that. It was 8 hours from checking into ER before they put me in a room on the transplant floor in the hospital.

However, I've been here another two days and had more tests. More are scheduled. As a matter of fact they are coming shortly to take me for some neurological test called EMG. Swallowing, talking and breathing are all difficult, though they have me on oxygen to help with the breathing. And I get quite weak and tired when I try walking more than a few steps. They've been wheeling me around in a wheelchair. Photobucket My doc is hopeful they can figure something out by Friday. And until we get this under control we aren't really doing anything else about the MDS. So this is kind of an update without an end. Will post more as they figure it out.

Thanks so much for stopping by today!


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14 July 2011

Ice Cream Social ~ Peach Ice Cream

During the summer when I was a little girl I always enjoyed ice cream at my great-grandmother, Louise's, house. Every night before they went to bed, Louise and Daddydear always had a bowl of vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup. Louise rarely bought ice cream, but made her own. The churn was a wooden bucket that held the ice and ice cream salt, with a metal container and dasher that had to be hand cranked. She always put the ice cream in an enamelled pan with a sliding lid to store it in the freezer. When we would visit we thought it was a wonderful treat to have a bowl of ice cream at night.

Another way I enjoyed ice cream as a child was when my grandmother would let us walk up the street to the general store in their little town and get an ice cream treat. She would either give me a nickle or let me charge it to her account. Typically I would get an Eskimo Pie. (And btw, does anyone know why this ice cream on a stick is called a pie?) For those of you who might be unfamiliar with an Eskimo Pie, it is a small block of vanilla ice cream dipped in chocolate so that it has a chocolate shell and is on a popsicle stick. My grandfather always grew lots of strawberries, so Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream was also a summertime treat at their house.

When I was a teenager I decided I liked ice cream sandwiches - chocolate cookie with vanilla ice cream. And my early teen years were when my best friend and I ran the Peach Stand on the highway for her grandfather's peach farm. We always had tons of peaches in the summer and peach ice cream was a treat we really enjoyed. Later, when I was married and moved to Texas, I discovered Bluebell Fresh Peach Ice Cream. That was a great facsimile of what we had made at home in earlier years. Luckily, my grandmother had given me a Waring Ice Cream Parlour machine one year for my birthday. It was electric and used table salt, but it was still messy. However, it was much easier than hand-cranking or having to find ice cream salt.

Sometime after that I sort of lost my taste for ice cream. It's not something I buy or keep around the house. But a few years ago we had an excess of fresh figs on our tree and of course I had a recipe for Fig Ice Cream. I got a Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker and gave it a try. Oh my! That ice cream was so good and the Cuisinart made it so easy to make ice cream, that I have been making fresh fruit ice creams every summer. And a few times in the winter I have made Nigella's Pomegranate Ice Cream.

Which brings us to today. First, Suzy from Kitchen Bouquet is hosting another Ice Cream Social this year. Click on the logo to join in or just to see all the wonderful frozen treats being brought to the party.

Second, this weekend we celebrate not only National Ice Cream Day, but National Peach Ice Cream Day. I want to take part in the Ice Cream Social and we have lots of peaches on our trees.

What could be more perfect?

Before we get busy in the kitchen, I will say that this is my basic fruit ice cream recipe. While today peach is on the menu, you can use figs, strawberries, other berries, stone fruit, etc.

Let's start the custard by getting the egg (free-range from my CSA) and sugar in the pot.

Custard cooked until it coated the spoon:

Peaches sliced with sugar and lemon juice added:

Ingredients in Cuisinart:

Dipped out and ready for the social:

Homemade Peach Ice Cream

2 cups chopped fresh peaches
1 Tbsp lemon juice
generous 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 cup whole milk
1 cup heavy cream, whipped slightly

Combine fruit, lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar. Let stand until sugar is dissolved.

Mix remaining sugar with egg in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in the milk and cook, continuing to stir constantly, until mixture is thick and creamy. Remove from heat and refrigerate custard several hours to chill. Combine fruit mixture with milk mixture and fold in the slightly whipped cream.

Freeze in 2 quart ice cream freezer according to manufacturer's instructions. Then place in airtight container in freezer to ripen for several hours.

With this recipe I'm also joining:
Michael Lee's Foodie Friday @ Designs By Gollum
Friday's Favourites by Sandi & Bill @ Whistlestop Cafe Cooking

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

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10 July 2011

Cherry Peach Preserves

Another wonderful preserve recipe using beautiful summer fruits: Cherries and Peaches.

Fruits mixed together with sugar:

Juice draining into maslin pan:

Juices cooking:

Temperature approaching 220°F:

Preserves in jars waiting to seal:

Cherry Peach Preserves
adapted from the recipe I use for Peach Preserves
makes 5 or 6 half pints

5-6 cups, pitted, peeled and sliced peaches
2-3 cups pitted, quartered cherries
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

Sterilise jars and lids and keep warm.

Measure fruit. You need about 8 cups total. Gently mix fruit and pour the sugar on them. Turn gently and allow to sit at room temperature 2-3 hours. Place a colander over your preserving pan and pour the fruit and liquid into it. Let the juice drain for about 15 minutes. Put the fruit back in the bowl and set aside.

Add the lemon juice to the preserving pan and cook over high heat. You want to cook this into a syrup that is 222°F. How long it takes depends on the size and shape of your pan. I use a maslin pan and it takes about half an hour or so with the heat on high.

As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, pour in the fruit and any other juice that has accumulated. Cook over high heat, stirring as needed, until the peaches begin to get translucent. This usually takes me about another half hour or so.

Pour preserves into jars, wipe rims, place on lids and rings. Process in BWB for 5 minutes. Remove from canner and allow to cool before storing. Be sure to listen for the pings that tell you the jars are sealed.

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

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09 July 2011

Peach Preserves

Fresh peaches are one of the best delights of summer. We have lots of them growing at the farm and I love to make Peach Preserves.

When I was growing up in Louisiana, my best friend's grandparents had a peach orchard ~ Phil-Lora brand peaches. Every summer her grandad would hire a bunch of us kids to either pick peaches or man the peach stand out at the highway. Trish and I always opted for peach stand duty. Summer in Louisiana is HOT and we got to work in the shade. During peach season my Mom and grandmother put up lots of peaches - mostly frozen and in preserves. I can remember my grandmother always put a peach kernel in every jar of her peach preserves.

Back in 1993, I got a copy of Preserving the Taste, by Edon Waycott. A number of recipes for the book were developed by her for La Brea Bakery and are quite popular there. I got this book when it was new and have loved a lot of her ideas. I was particularly delighted when I found this method of making peach preserves by cooking the juice into a syrup first, and will never make peach preserves any other way. They have to be the best we have ever tasted. Very much a fresh peach flavour, just bursting from every bite and not too sweet. The finished product is mostly fruit.

Peaches, peaches, peaches:

Sliced and measuring:

Sugar stirred into peaches:

Cooking in the maslin pan:

Sealed in jars:

Peach Preserves
adapted from Preserving the Taste
makes 5 or 6 half pints

6-7 lbs peaches
2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 or 6 almonds (one per jar), if desired

Sterilise jars and lids and keep warm.

Peel and slice the peaches. You should have approximately 8 cups. Pour the sugar on them and mix gently. Allow to sit at room temperature 2-3 hours. Place a colander over your preserving pan and pour the peaches and liquid into it. Let the juice drain for about 15 minutes. Put the peaches back in the bowl and set aside.

Add the lemon juice to the preserving pan and cook over high heat. You want to cook this into a syrup that is 222°F. How long it takes depends on the size and shape of your pan. I use a maslin pan and it takes about half an hour.

As soon as the syrup reaches the proper temperature, pour in the peaches and any other juice that has accumulated. Cook over high heat, stirring as needed, until the peaches begin to get translucent. This took me about another half hour or so.

Pour preserves into jars and add an almond to each if you are using those. Process in BWB for 5 minutes. Remove from canner and allow to cool before storing. Be sure to listen for the pings that tell you the jars are sealed.

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

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08 July 2011

Blues and Bay - a canning recipe

Another new recipe to use blueberries. Blues and Bay - just the name sounds intriguing. And it's a super easy recipe, too. The berries can be served with yogurt for breakfast or as a topping for ice cream, pound cake, cheesecake, pancakes, etc.

Fresh organic blueberries:

In the jars with a home grown fresh bay leaf from my bay tree:

Canned and listening for the ping of the seal:

Blues and Bay
adapted from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook
The delicate note of fresh bay complements the blueberries perfectly.
makes 6 half-pint jars

3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 1/2 lbs blueberries
6 fresh bay leaves

Sterilise jars and lids and keep warm.

Make a simple syrup with the sugar and water. Mix the sugar with the water in a saucepan and bring to a slow boil to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat and add lemon juice.

Pack blueberries firmly into jars without crushing them. Slide one bay leaf into each jar next to the glass.

Pour boiling syrup over fruit leaving 1/2" headspace. Wipe rims, top with lids and screwbands. Process 15 minutes in BWB.

Thanks so much for stopping by today!

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