Real Food: Strawberry Honey Jam

If you read this blog with any regularity you know about my struggle with my weight, and  how recently (the end of April) I started my family on a mission to change our eating habits from a regular diet to eating real, organic foods.

When I made the switch I was incredibly worried about how my boys were going to react, and whether or not they would like the food.  I will say that they have honestly said they prefer it!  Well, at least 95% of it!  LOL  Joe Cool has said that he doesn’t car for the All Natural Cookie Dough ice cream because it is “grainy”, but The Genius has eaten the entire container, so I guess different palates like different things.

We changed our diet, and started eating organic produce, organic chicken, organic diary products and grass fed beef.  Along with all of this, I started canning more.  I had my first experience canning last year when I canned plain tomatoes from my garden, as well as canning stewed tomatoes. 

This year I decided to try my hand at making and canning Jam.  I did some research and saw that most recipes called for pectin and LOTS of sugar!  That was NOT what I wanted to add back in to my diet, so I did more research and saw that lots of people (especially this with organic or real food websites) were using apples to help thicken the jam, and honey to sweeten.  I read that pectin actually adds sugar to the jam, and decided not to use either pectin or sugar.

Now in order to can, you will need certain tools. The “must have” tools are:

  • Jars (of course) – I prefer the jars without shoulders. I buy them at the local grocery store.  For jelly I use the small jelly jars, and for tomatoes I use pint sized jars, or wide mouth pint size jars.  canningjarsbox
  • Ball Utensil set.  This set has a funnel, jar lifter, lid lifter, and bubble remover tool. I don’t really use the bubble remover tool, but everything else is essential. This set can be easily purchased online for about $10.00, if you can’t find it locally.ballutensilset
  • A Large pot.  I actually purchased a canning pot online because was able to purchase the pot with a rack and all the above pictured tools for about $40.00.  I didn’t want to mess with a pressure canner, and this does the job quite well.
  • canner
  • A ladle or big spoon to spoon your ingredients into the jars.
  • An analog or digital scale.  Many ingredients need to be measured.  Mine is not an expensive one.  I bought it from my lovely Pampered Chef consultant for about $30.00
  • A potato masher.  You will want your fruits to be mashed so your jam is “jammy” and not just cooked fruit. (I received a kitchen “power tool” for Christmas last year and used that to smash my fruit, but a good old potato masher is perfectly good as well)

Strawberry Jam recipe

  • 3 pounds of organic strawberries
  • 1.5 cup raw honey
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Rinse the strawberries, cut off the stem and cut them in half.  Place them in a large pot on the stove over medium high heat.  (I used my caldero, but any nice large pot will do).  Add the honey to the pot.  Grate the apple (including the skin) down to the core and add to the berry honey mixture.  Add the lemon juice.  Stir it together and heat to boiling.

Once it is boiling, turn the heat down a bit so it is a light boil, and cook for 30 to 60 minutes.  The time variation really depends on how thick you want your jam.  The longer you boil, the thicker it will become.  However, this recipe will not be as thick as store bought jams, or jams with pectin.  Scrape down the sides of the pot as the fruit cooks.  It will burst while cooking, so don’t worry if that happens.

Mash the berries with a potato masher.  Some foam will form on top of the berries as they are cooking.  Some people skim it off and discard it.  I just stirred it in, and didn’t worry about it.  The taste of the jam is the same either way.

Meanwhile fill the canning pot ¾ full with water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Be sure to wash all jar pieces in hot soapy water first.

Once the water is boiling turn off the heat. Test the temperature with your thermometer and when it reaches 180 degrees F put the jars, bands and lids into the pot. Leave everything in the hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.

When the jam is done cooking do a taste test to make sure the thickness and flavor is to your liking.

Remove the first jar from the hot water using your jar lifter tool and shake out excess water. Don’t touch inside of the jar in order to keep it sterilized. Insert clean canning funnel and ladle the jam into the jar leaving ¼ inch headspace at the top (this is where the headspace tool can come in handy – leaving more space at the top might not give as good of a seal). If there are any air bubbles you can slide a clean knife along the inside of the jar to remove them. Using a clean rag wipe excess off the outside of the jar and rim.

Using a magnetic lid lifter pull the first lid out of the hot water and set on top of the jar without touching the bottom of it. Then while only touching the outside of the band screw it onto the jar just firmly enough so it doesn’t feel wobbly on the grooves. Repeat until all jars are filled.

Process the Jars: Bring large pot of water back to a boil. Using your jar lifter (or canning rack) carefully lower as many jars that will fit without overcrowding into the boiling water so they are covered by at least 1 – 2 inches of water. I use a rack inside the canner, so the jars do not directly touch the bottom of the pot (so hot water can flow beneath them). From the moment the water is boiling and the entire first batch of jars are submerged set the timer and process them for 10 minutes.

When 10 minutes is over use the jar lifter to carefully remove the jars from the water. Put them on the counter and don’t move them right away. You will hear your jar lids “popping” which means they have been sealed properly. If jars aren’t sealed within 12 hours then move them to the fridge and eat within 3 – 4 weeks.

Remove bands from sealed jars and with a clean, wet cloth wipe off any jam that has congealed on the outside rim of the jar. This prevents mold from forming on the band. The band can be reapplied, but don’t screw them on too tightly.

Label jars and store in a cool, dry, dark place for up to 1 year.

Tools for jam making
Tools for jam making
Strawberries rinsed
Strawberries rinsed

sberriesin pan

honey

strawberries and honey in pot
strawberries and honey in pot
appleforjam
organic gala apple for jam
Everybody is in the pot ready!
Everybody is in the pot ready!
Ready to cook!
Ready to cook!
The power tool I received for Christmas last year.  I used to mash the berries, leaving some yummy chunks!
The power tool I received for Christmas last year. I used to mash the berries, leaving some yummy chunks!
Ready for the jars
Ready for the jars
lids and jars in canner
lids and jars in canner

funnelinjar

jaminjars

lidsoutofcanner

Wipe the tops of jars with a paper towel or cloth towel, then they are ready for lids
Wipe the tops of jars with a paper towel or cloth towel, then they are ready for lids
after lids and rings are placed on jars, they process for 10 minutes
after lids and rings are placed on jars, they process for 10 minutes
ready to be stored away for later consumption!
ready to be stored away for later consumption!

sberryjamjarssberryjam

Delicious!
Delicious!

 

I also made Blackberry jam sweetened with honey, that post will be coming soon! YUM!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I feel ashamed because I am fat

I have not had a physical in two years.  I am 47 and am supposed to have a mammogram every year now. I have not had a mammogram in two years.  The last time I visited the doctor she was concerned about my borderline diabetic blood sugar levels.  I have not had my blood sugar levels checked in two years.  She was also concerned about my cholesterol.  Also not checked in two years. I have heart disease that runs in my family, however, even that has not moved me to go to the doctor.

I have health insurance.  It is affordable health insurance (TRICARE) and my co-pays are obscenely low. (Something I feel a bit guilty about, but that is a post for another day). I am in the medical field, and know the risks of all of these health concerns, yet I still have not gone.

So with my health on a borderline level, and the fact that I am over 45 and have different health needs, why haven’t I been to the doctor in two years? Easy…. it is because I am fat.  Overweight.  Actually, I am obese.  I am 90 pounds over what I am “supposed” to be.

ashamed

Now I know how people are supposed to feel.  I know we are not supposed to judge and we are supposed to be loving and kind to all people.  I am a kind person, I am generous, I am compassionate.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect, if you do me wrong, I can be amazingly cold, but 98% of the time, that is not the case.

Instead of feeling good about the positive aspects of my personality, all I focus on is my weight.  I refuse to look in mirrors, and won’t let anyone take pictures of me.  My clothes are all baggy, and I am so embarrassed that I have to shop in the “woman’s” section.

I haven’t been to the doctor in two years because I am ashamed.  Ashamed of my weight.  Ashamed that I have not been able to lose weight.  To go to the doctor’s office is excruciatingly painful.  I have to get on a scale….(I close my eyes and tell the nurse not to tell me).  I don’t own a scale. I don’t want to know. When I see the doctor she will tell me I need to lose weight.  That my blood pressure is getting high.  (It was probably fine until I started driving to the doctor’s office).  She will tell me I am borderline diabetic and that she will want to check my blood sugar again in two months.  Of course I won’t show up for that appointment.  I will reschedule a few times, then just call and cancel.

I read blogs and other people’s stories.  I read about other women who are obese and they are happy with their bodies.  They talk about how they are “Big and Beautiful”.  There are even websites devoted to how to be “big and beautiful”.

I have even tried to look in the mirror and find parts of my body I do like.  I have done that.  I like my eyes, my lips, my hair,  and my calves.  So I am happy from my chin up, and my knees down.  That leaves A LOT that I don’t like.

To be honest, I have tried, over and over, but I just can’t feel good about my body and my size.  I am so happy for the women that have been able to feel big and “beautiful”, but for me, it just doesn’t work.   I look in the mirror and want to cry.  It doesn’t help that aging requires a lot of emotional stamina and bravery.  Lines show up that didn’t used to be there, my metabolism (which has always been slow anyway) has gone on permanent hiatus.  My hair has become more gray, and my joints have begun aching.

I truly believe that despite the recent trend to “love yourself” no mater what, I have spoken with other women who feel the same way I do.  I have tried many times and ways to lose weight.  I have changed from “white” foods to “brown” foods, I have cut switched to sugar free baking.  I have made Cheesecake, choc chip cookies, chocolate death pudding cake, and many other things trying to reduce my sugar.  I even joined Weight Watchers and after 6 months, I had ended up gaining 3 pounds…….

So in a last ditch effort I have joined Jillian Michaels to try to make changes for my health.  I have had some success, but I am still fat,  I am less fat, but still fat.  Still ashamed, still afraid of catching a glimpse of myself in the mirror when I shower.

I don’t know if this fat shaming in our society will ever end.  I know there is some that is overt and some that is less so, but for me, I am the best at shaming myself.  I don’t need their help.  So for everyone who sees me and thinks not so nice things, believe me when I tell you that I have said and thought much worse about myself.  I don’t need anyone else to help me feel bad, and less than.

What can I do about my Dark spots? Help for hyperpigmentation.

I know I have shared with you all about the fact that I am a Skin Care specialist for an amazing local dermatologist.  I have been in the medical field for over 25 years.  I have talked to you all about moisturizers, and acne, and today I want to talk some about another issues that are very problematic.  DARK SPOTS!!!!!

Dark spots, or hyperpigmentation (the correct medical term) is a skin problem that can affect men and women of all ages, and can be very embarrassing and make people self conscious. It affects how we feel about the way we look.  Acne is troublesome also, but that can usually be cleared up rather quickly with the correct medication.  Dark spots do not clear up as quickly, and sometimes it can take a combination of preventative measures, corrective products and procedures to keep our skin looking the way we want it to look.  I am going to talk today about Melasma, sun damage, and acne induced dark spots.
I understand the difficulties of uneven skin tone and dark areas on your skin very well.  Not only do 95% of my patients come see me to correct uneven skin tone, but I also suffer from an uneven skin tone problem.  I am an olive complected caucasian, and I have a skin condition called Melasma.  That is where I want to start today.

Melasma is a skin condition that affects women more than men, and is caused by our hormones, (great, one more thing to blame our hormones on).  It affects all skin tones (caucasian, african american, asian and latin) people.  It can sometimes be easier to see on women with a lighter skin tone (skin tone 1-2) because of the contrast between their regular skin tone and the melasma.  The skin is usually “splotchy”.  The dark areas do not have even borders, and can even appear like “spatters” of dark spots on the face.  As if someone took a paintbrush and dipped in a darker skin tone and then spattered your face with the darker color.

Melasma on my forehead
Melasma on my forehead

Those are a few ways it can look on different skin tones.  The skin can look as if you have a mustache on the upper lip.  It is also referred to as the “mask of pregnancy”.  That is because often when women are pregnant and their hormones are all over the place, melasma shows up.  I can tell you though that you DO NOT have to be pregnant to get melasma.

Sun damaged skin can look very similar to Melasma, however, it usually shows up looking more like dark brown circles on the face that have very clear borders, unlike melasma. Sun damage spots are more visible in skin tones that are lighter such as caucasian, asian and latin.  African American and Arabic skin, while it can also get sun damage will have less than lighter skin tones because of the darker skin tones, which offer more protection from sun damage than lighter skin tones.

Then there are the dreaded spots from acne.  Patients will call me and say they have “acne scarring”, or “Blemishes” or simply “dark spots” from acne.  These discolorations can occur on the face, neck, chest, shoulders and back.  Anywhere there has been an acne bump.  Acne causes redness and inflammation many times, and in skin of color inflammation or redness commonly leads to a dark spot.  The dark spots will be worse if you “pick” or “squeeze” your acne bumps.

Dark spots caused by acne.
Dark spots caused by acne.

Okay, so I have told you about a few different kinds of hyperpigmentation.  So now you want to know what you can do to make it GO AWAY!!  Right?  okay, I will talk about that now.

So what can you do to clear up your skin???  Well, the first step is to prevention.  For melasma and sun damage that means 1) SPF 30 (at least) sunscreen on your face EVERY day that you are outside.  2) Try not to be in direct sunlight without covering your face with a hat, visor, umbrella, etc.  I wear a visor ALL summer long.  We went to the beach for our weekly vacation and my body was protected with sunscreen.  My face was protected with a big floppy hat.  If my arms and legs are brown and my face is not I am totally okay with that.  I battle melasma all the time, so I protect my face from the sun as much as possible.  HATS are your best friend.

For acne the best prevention is an appointment with a good dermatologist to get medication that will prevent you form continuing to get bumps.  I talk more about acne and treatments here.  Truly the key with acne is the proper medication to keep the bumps from coming in the first place.  Second, if you do get bumps, DO NOT PICK, SQUEEZE or otherwise mess with them.  That will help tremendously to avoid dark spots!

The next step is products.  There are even prescriptions you can use to help with lightening dark spots.  Specifically the medication is “Hydroquinone”.  It has 4% hydroquinone which is a skin lightener in it, however it can be VERY expensive (most of the time at least $60.00 to sometimes over $100.00).  For comparison, a very nice over the counter product you can use to lighten dark spots is Ambi, or Porcelana fading cream.  They have 2% hydroquinone, so they are less potent than a prescription, but are more affordable.

However, my FAVORITE product that I have had LOTS of success with (I use it myself and LOVE it),  is Genius Ultra Pads by Arbonne. I have sold this product to many patients, and every single one of them has seen improvement using it. (I use it and it works for me also) As a matter of fact, most of them say it works better than the prescription Hydroquinone.  It is used in the evening and is botanically based which is why I love it so much.  It has ingredients in there that are botanical: phytinol (plant retinol), mandelic acid, grain alcohol, and other botanical ingredients.  Those botanics are natural lighteners and it works beautifully, and smells great!!

genius-before-nd-after

genius

Step three is procedures that are done in the doctor’s office or a spa.  Procedures administered in a doctor’s office are generally stronger than the ones at a spa, but not always.  In our office we administer Theraplex and Vitalize peels as well as microdermabrasions (which are for people who cannot tolerate a peel).  While a peel will usually work more quickly on dark spots, not everyone can tolerate a peel, and if a peel is used on a sensitive person the skin can be burned and permanently damaged.  Lower strength Glycolic peels can be purchased online as well, and used at home, but I would caution anyone who is considering doing that to make sure your skin can tolerate a peel.  Truly the best way to know is to make an appointment with a skin care specialist, dermatologist, etc who has been trained to know what questions to ask, and understands the complexities of skin.  Everyone is different and because there is the potential for long term or even permanent damage to ones skin, proceeding with care is important!  The peels we administer are: Theraplex 20% and 30% salicylic acid peels  and Vitalize peels which are Salicylic acid, lactic acid, resorcinol, and retinoic acid.  Obviously the Vitalize peels are stronger, however I have used them on people of all skin tones.

We also administer microdermabrasions for dark spots on people who cannot tolerate chemical peels.  They sometimes take a bit longer to see results, but over time they work well also.  We use the smart peel microdermabrasion system, but there are others that work well also.

Some physicians have also touted laser as the best way to remove dark spots from acne, sun damage and melasma.  I have to admit I have never used a laser on a patient but I can tell you while I have heard very good things about them, please do your research. Lasers can be costly, and it can take many treatments.  In addition laser is not as effective on darker skin tones.  It is best suited for lighter Caucasian skin.  I as a darker toned Caucasian would need to be cautious also.

There are many other treatments, products and peel systems out there.  The best thing I can say is if you have questions do your research, find a good Dermatologist and make an appointment. If they don’t answer your questions to your satisfaction, find another one.  Doctors are vying for business and are affected by the recession just as we all are.  Therefore they WANT your business and should work to keep your business.  And if you live in the Hampton Roads area and have questions, let me know, I give FREE consultations and work on Mon – Sat.   If you don’t live near me, come visit!!!  🙂