We were having a frustrating day with Mr. Buns. He isn’t allowed on the couch due to an unfortunate peeing incident in which he tried to convince the Hubs that he was the man of the house by peeing on Hubs’ spot on the couch. Ever since there has been a strict no house rabbit on the couch policy. And usually he’s pretty good about it. But the other day he was having none of the second class citizenship he felt he was subjected to (which is more believable when he isn’t munching away on an expensive farmer’s market apple). He wouldn’t stay down and we were getting more frustrated. So when I put him down for the millionth (4th?) time, I started roughing him up. By that I mean I was scritchy-scratching his back and rump. He stretched out and just enjoyed the attention. It was a light bulb moment: he was trying to get our attention. Hey! Tall people! Scratch my ears! Love me!!! He is by no means a neglected house pet. He gets all manner of treats and when he follows me into the bathroom, which he pretty much does whenever he’s out, he gets his ears scratched extensively. So we didn’t think we were neglecting this silly wabbit. But we have altered our routine in the wake up hours a little; it was stretch, stumble to kitchen, coffee!!!, open Mr. Bun’s crate, check email, ease into the new day. Now we go with a stumble into kitchen, oh my somebody start the coffee!, let rabbit out, sit in floor and love on that spoiled fur baby, drink coffee, ease into the new day. This has worked wonders on his couch surfing misbehavior. He will still occasionally try to get up here and we put him down and rough him up when he does, but he has been so much better. We also noticed when we are not in or near the couch, neither is he. He has been following us around the house more lately. He hangs out with us in the kitchen while we cook, he gets his ears scratched while I’m working online or at the kitchen table, he follows us to the bathroom. We just had to learn to speak his language a little better. The cats know how to get what they want; they get in a lap, put their face on our hands and demand we cease and desist all activities that do not include petting the cat. They cry and meow and pace like poor Timmy fell down the well until we follow them to find a dime-sized space of food missing from the bowl that needs to immediately be filled in or they will starve to death. We understand how to speak “cat”. They trained us thoroughly. We are now learning how to speak “rabbit”. He has been giving us cues since the day he got here, and we didn’t listen. But we are learning. Sometimes the most difficult but rewarding part of relationships is letting the other person communicate the best way for them, and learning how to understand what they say. It makes us all grow a little.
I was wrestling my huge stockpot my parents got us for the Christmas coming up in the sink. The thing is huge! Big enough to process enough casserole to fill 5 pans for the oven. One of the things we do when we help mom and dad butcher chickens and ducks is cook down the left over bits and make stock, which I will be canning some of later today; we only have maybe 20-30 gallons. And we take the cooked chicken or duck meats and make them into pre-prepped meals that we can freeze to take out and enjoy later. These are perfect for the days we just roll out of bed late and don’t have time to cook dinner before I go to work.
So I’m trying to wash this stock pot. It holds 22 quarts, so that gives you an idea of how big it is. There is water on the floor, the counters, me. The Hubs says, oh I usually rinse that thing in the bathtub. Damn, why didn’t I think of that? As I’m swearing and wrangling, I remember this article I saw online the other day. It talked about the 10 trends in home renovations that were going out of style. It was a cautionary article- don’t do these things to your home if you ever want to sell it. As you may or may not know, sometime in the future, who knows when, the Hubby and I want to move to a bigger plot of land. We want enough space to raise cows and pigs, have multiple gardens, have an orchard, put a huge workshop up for him to craft his knives and of course, have chickens. We want to be far enough away from any neighbors, that the thought of mowing our property isn’t at the front of any of their minds. So when we talk about things we want to do to the house, we have to factor in what might be a turn-off for many homebuyers. We aren’t putting up a really nice sturdy chicken house and run because enough people would look at it and think about the amount of work it might be to tear it down, for example. One of the trends the article mentioned was farmhouse sinks in the kitchen, and really that made me stop to think. There is this thing we do where people see what is typically a utilitarian tool and make it cute and fashionable, then market it to people who would never use the original incarnation. I would love to have a huge, usable, stainless steel or copper (like I could afford that) farmhouse sink. A sink where I could feasibly wash this stockpot, or clean up chicken before it is packaged and frozen, or rinse off a sink full of apples or pears waiting to be made into pear butter or a jam. But we decided against installing one; what if the house takes forever to sell because people see my usable, working kitchen as not chic enough? Not fashionable? Oh, wow, these people have not looked through a magazine since the ’90s, ewww a farmhouse sink?? So last season. And it irritated me to my unfashionable core. The real reason for a large farmhouse sink isn’t because it’s cute or “in”; it’s so we can get work done around here! Crazy fashion forward people ruin it for the rest of us. Maybe when we redo the kitchen, because it does need it, I will throw caution to the wind and put in a nice, big, usable, unfashionable, our kitchen is never photo shoot ready because we work here farmhouse kitchen sink! I mean, come on! Just this week alone, I have made a huge pot of chicken vegetable soup, mustard was made and canned, spices were ordered and organized, and my handsome Husband cooked down duck fat and clarified it to make duck fat ghee. For fashionable foodies the world around, ghee is fancy schmancy. Maybe I will tell them the beautiful clear-golden color was only attainable because of the farmhouse sink when we go to sell the house. Think that will work?
Last we spoke, I said I would make sure to share recipes with you when I decided if I was happy them. I’m kind of picky; I want it to be pretty and I want it to taste great. I decided I was ready to at least share a jam recipe when my hubby mentioned one night he had eaten a jar of the carrot cake jam pretty much just with a spoon. There might have been a slice of bread involved, but I didn’t ask for details. That was all the seal of approval I needed. I spent two days canning a few different things, which was the end of a bunch of produce that needed to be processed. We had tomatoes from mom and dad’s garden. They are in the part of the year where tomatoes and all things tomato related are bad, no good, stupid freaking, why did you pick those, again with the tomatoes??? That is to say, we have seen a lot of tomatoes. Next year when they plant their garden, and we plant ours, we will miraculously forget how worn out with canning tomatoes we become and we will plant a ton. We also had jalapenos a friend of mine brought to me at work. The Hubs loves spicy stuff, peppers especially and was ecstatic to see me walk in with a bag of peppers that day. Oh, salsa! The salsa recipe is his, and by his, I mean he created it, and, well, by recipe I mean he starts cooking, adds spices, tomatoes, peppers, onions, whatever he thinks will work, and cooks and tastes things, and maybe a dash of this, or hmmmm…… I think this needs just a pinch of that. And voila!! We have salsa. He is a chef, he just makes food. There is no recipe and it probably won’t be the same the next time. But it will be excellent every time.
The jam is carrot cake jam and it used up a bunch of pears. I got the recipe from my friend Angela, who also gave me the pears. I have that recipe, which is from a book, and I don’t know which one, so I apologize ahead of time if I am stealing your jam recipe. It’s just so delicious, I wanted to share. If this recipe does belong to you, leave me a message and I will make sure I give credit. In proper APA format. Because I’m a nurse. Can’t help it.
Anyway, so here is the carrot cake jam recipe:
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups pears, I peeled and chopped mine as small as possible
1 3/4 cups pineapple and juice
3 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package fruit pectin (powdered)
6 1/2 cups sugar (don’t skimp on the sugar, it helps the jam set up)
- I used a water bath canner, so get some water in it, get your sterilized jars warming up and get those lids prepped. If you are not familiar with this process there are instructions with the pectin usually. Also with the lids or jars.
- In a large stainless steel pot, combine carrots, pears, pineapple and juice, lemon juice, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and whisk in pectin until dissolved. Return to heat, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil hard for about 1 minute. At this point, the first time I did this, I was freaking out, because it says to boil for a minute, and frankly, I had no juice to boil. No worries, the sugar makes a sauce, it boils. Remove from heat and skim foam off the top.
- Ladle into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims clean, put on your lids and screw on bands.
- Place jars in canner, completely covered (by about 2 inches) with water. Bring to a boil. Process for 10 minutes covered.
- Turn off heat, remove canner lid and allow to cool for a few minutes. Cool for about 24 hours before storing.
Just to let you know, I am not guaranteeing these canning methods are safe, nor do I guarantee you won’t get botulism. Make sure you follow all guidelines for canning safely and if you have any questions or concerns about the quality of the end product, don’t taste it, throw it out! There are also numerous canning websites and resources on the internet. They can offer you a guide as well. But I’m not a professional, so I am not responsible for your canning methods or mishaps.
That being said, I need to brag, so here are some pictures of our hard work.
When I went off to college, I decided I needed a job. I was painfully shy, to the point that if I were called on in class, I would turn bright red and possibly throw up. I didn’t talk to strangers well or easily. So, when I thought about what job would be the best for me, I picked out one of the busiest locally owned restaurants in Lexington and I applied to wait tables. I must have lost my damn mind. While it was painful, so horribly painful, I eventually came out of my shell. Kicking and screaming the whole time, yes, but now, if you ask someone who hasn’t known me that long, they will tell you, you can’t get me to shut up. I inherited a trait from my father that just needed a little priming to come to full fruition- he can talk to any one. And now, thanks to jumping into the deep end fully unprepared, so can I. That’s usually how I take things on, be it a new project, new hobby, new job, new home, whatever. I jump in without too much thought to what might go wrong. Not to say that I am wandering blindly into situations, but more like I packed a light lunch for a weekend camping trip in the mountains. I know that I will need more food than that, but I figure that’s what the weekend is for, right? Finding what you need where you are. So when I set my mind to having a garden, and maybe some livestock, and of course I’m keeping my two jobs, duh, I didn’t necessarily pack three days worth of food. I just grabbed a sandwich and hit the trail. The result is that now we are finding new ways to work together to get food preserved, and I am losing sleep and probably health along the way. But it has been such an exciting journey! I have learned new recipes for canning fruit that I never would have dreamed of. I have started learning how to make cheese. We are preparing to fence our field, and we are planning out the best way to pasture a cow without upsetting the already delicate balance of our lives. The Hubby started his own business. Talk about jumping into the deep end. I am proud to say that he crafts his own hand forged knives and other blades. He has been working my nurse hours on this too- 12 hour shifts, 5 or 6 days a week. He is going stir crazy right now because one of his tools broke and we are (patiently) waiting for it’s replacement. He is wearing a rut in the floor pacing. With all that free time though he has prepped a ton of pears for me. My friend Angela asked casually if I could find a way to preserve some pears, she had a few extra. See, I didn’t ask questions, I just said sure, whatever you need to get rid of. That’s how I ended up the proud owner of what we estimate to be about 40 lbs of pears in need of processing. Between myself and the Hubs, we managed to can a bunch of jam, preserves, and freeze some pears. I am also in the process of turning the last unfrozen batch into pear butter. I will share pictures and recipes when I am sure everything came out the way I wanted it to.
We have never been busier in our life together. And I can say that we have never been happier either. Once harvest and preserving time has come to an end, and we slow down to spend some free time with family and friends, we will catch our breath. But for the time being, I think we are going to keep diving head first into the deep end. That’s what life is for, right? Living.