Sunday 15 December 2013

Santa and the Bunny Rabbit

One little girl in the village is going to receive a nice surprise on the 25th; this little daughter of either Ginny or Padfoot. Money has changed hands to secure the deal but 'Santy' (as they call him in these parts) is hanging on to the little bunny for the moment and she will be collected on Christmas Eve once a hutch, a bag of food, some hay, a drinker and a book on how to keep rabbits has also been secured. I sense that these people intend to look after the rabbit properly. A pet is for life, not just for Christmas, as they say. I did not, however, manage to persuade Santa to take the other female bunny on a "Buy Two for the Price of One and a Half" deal even though I pleaded the case for not leaving the poor sister-doe all alone, but maybe Santa will relent on Christmas Eve.

Multi tasking. Plucking while
chatting to Diamond on the phone
Meanwhile there is one job that we will NOT be including in the portfolio of Enjoyable Tasks, Living the Dream and all that. That is Plucking Geese. We have got quite good and fast at the chickens by now - we can pluck and dress a chook in 45 minutes without breaking sweat. Geese turn out to be a whole different species (as you'd expect, I guess!). They have a gazillion feathers, many of which are very well glued in AND under that they have a complete layer of fluffy down which puffs chokingly into the air at every twitch of your feather collecting bag.

Oven ready at 3.8 and 4.0 kg respectively.

Now I can see Mentor Anne leaping for the keyboard at this stage to give out to us for our incompetence and we KNOW there are options around dipping the bird in hot water to loosen the feathers, and even using melted wax in the manner of a ladies' beauty treatment to de-fluff the carcass but we'd gone with cold straight plucking and it took AGES. We were easily into 2 and a half hours per bird including the gutting, our hands were raw and Liz at one stage resorted to gloves and a pair of pliers. If people can do a goose in less time then they are 'better men than us' and we are quite happy with that. So annoyed were we by the job that we both decided that it is not anything we want to get involved in long term, or to any great degree, into the future. If we do breed geese in the future (as opposed to just collecting the eggs) then we will be trying to sell them 'live' for finishing by someone else and most of what we keep will probably be skinned and cooked wrapped in bacon or some such. I went into this thinking the actual killing would be the worst part. We survived that but never dreamed the plucking could actually be worse!

We got through the plucking task in the end and the singe-ing and the gutting out and produced 2 nice looking, oven ready birds which weighed in at (we think) 3.8 and 4.0 kg respectively. The cat managed to knock our nice digital kitchen scales off the worktop and kill them, so I was weighing these by jumping on and off the bathroom scales with and without birds. Good weighty birds anyway, more than enough for our Christmas table, one staying here, the other being delivered to Steak Lady in Portmarnock (Co. Dublin) tomorrow. Other seasonal catering includes a huge batch of braised spicy red cabbage. Liz likes to do these kind of foods in big batches and freeze 4/5 of the product. Today's task is the first batch of mince pies.

Rolo (l) and Blue (r) looking handsome at 18 months
We love a good Olde Fashioned cook book in this house, and Liz finds good ones on the internet, recently also downloading them from 'Project Gutenburg' down to her Kindle e-book. One is old enough to include instructions like "Smite thee the lamb into gobbets" (I love that!) but today's is by one Elizabeth Moxon who in 1764 wrote the snappily titled  "English Housewifery exemplified (in above 450 receipts giving directions for most part of cookery)". From this tome comes the rather breathlessly punctuated "To Make Apricock Pudding:" as follows "Take ten apricocks, pare, stone, and cut them in two, put them into a pan with a quarter of a pound of loaf sugar, boil them pretty quick whilst they look clear, so let them stand whilst they are cold; then take six eggs, (leave out half of the whites) beat them very well, add to them a pint of cream, mix the cream and eggs well together with a spoon full of rose water, then put in your apricocks, and beat them very well together, with four ounces of clarified butter, then put it into your dish with a thin paste under it; half an hour will bake it". From reading these in the context we know that 'whilst' would be written 'until' nowadays, and the 'paste' is a 'pastry case'.

Big wild mountainy trout. 
In a previous post, I spoke of a high quality fine porcelain table cruet in sheepy form, generously given to us by the Silverwoods. We actually came away well laden with gifts for which we are very grateful. As well as the cruet sheep, we were handed a 2CV badge for my collection of 2CV bits and pieces, two orange tear-drop shaped squashes which we need to identify and find a "receipt" for (Perhaps E Moxon can help?), and three very fine, big wild river trout caught by one of the Silverwoods' neighbours in the nearby mountains. One of these has been used up already and was so big when cooked that we managed only 3/4 of the 'meat' between 2 of us at Dinner.

No comments: