Fall fruit is here, and I am just LOVING it!! But, there is actually something else that I am loving right now…and it doesn’t have anything to do with food – although I am using it to post this entry right now. It is my new Surface. As you know, I try to keep my blogging life separate from my work life, but occasionally the paths do cross. Aside from my family and food – I have another passion – it is my work.
When I graduated from High School, my father told me he would buy me a computer for my graduation gift. This was 1987. This was long before the internet, and before there was a computer in every home and on every desk. This was quite a gift. At this time, most people my age were going for the Macs – they were cute, a nice rectangular shape – and they were starting to pop up everywhere. I didn’t want a Mac though – I wanted a PC. I read about Windows, and Microsoft’s vision for computing – and I was sold. I loved my computer – and if I wasn’t so focused on majoring in mathematics, I probably would have switched to computer science – instead I took a few classes as electives. When it was time for me to start thinking about what I was going to be when I grew up – I decided I wanted to work for Microsoft. I went to the library to look up where Microsoft was located, and it was in Redmond, Washington. Well – at that point – living my entire life on the east coast, I didn’t think I would ever visit Washington, let alone live there. So I decided that becoming an Actuary would be more realistic.
At first I liked my job – but it soon became boring. I couldn’t imagine spending my life calculating the ROI on insurance products. The only thing that got me excited was being able to get into the actuarial software and program my own solutions. I loved Microsoft Excel – when I wasn’t programming, I would create elaborate spreadsheets to calculate premiums using formulas in Excel. I remember staring at my computer one day wishing I worked somewhere that produced a tangible product – like Microsoft. Everyone used it – Windows was popping up everywhere as PCs became more and more mainstream. I knew what I had to do – I just had to figure out how I was going to do it.
In 1996 my husband and I were deciding where to move next – he had to do his post-doctoral work, and we had narrowed it down to two cities – Seattle and Boston. Secretly I wanted to move to Seattle so I could work for Microsoft – but I sent them my resume, and didn’t hear back. I had a job offer with an insurance company, so I resigned to continuing my actuarial work. That only lasted 18 more months, before the opportunity fell into my lap to go work for Microsoft. They were looking for accountants, and I convinced them that I was good enough with numbers that I could figure it out. Ok, so I had never taken an accounting class, but I could learn quickly – and I did. It was amazing – my job was exciting, and the career opportunities were endless. I switched jobs every year and a half for the first 5 years, and loved every minute of each of them. 15 years later, I am still at Microsoft, and as passionate as ever about our products. I know we are the underdog now. I know we are considered old and stodgy – but I believe in what we can do – and that things will turn around. The last few years have been tough – it has been hard to watch (some of) my family turn and support our competitors. I take it personally. I have put my heart and soul into this company. Well – with Windows 8 and Surface, I believe we have a new opportunity. I am extremely proud of what we have been able to accomplish, and I hope the world will give us another chance.
I had to find something really special to post using my new Surface, and this is just about as good as it gets. The bonus is it makes your entire house smell like fall. I think I am going to be making this Pear Butter every weekend until the Pears are gone, yes, it is that good. My husband is completely addicted, and the girls eat this with a spoon. It is like a very thick applesauce, but so much better. It spreads so nicely and is perfect on an English muffin – or just spread on more fruit. Thanks Food in Jars for yet another amazing recipe! Now I have to go get myself another spoon of this stuff, while I play with my Surface some more…oh, and did I tell you about the touch keyboard?? Magical…
- 10 cups cored and chopped pears (about 5 pounds)
- 2 to 3 cups of sugar, or as needed
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Place the pears in a 4-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 1 hour. If you have an older slow cooker, they cook cooler, so you may need to cook on high.
Remove the lid and give the pears a stir. From this point forward, you will want to keep the lid slightly cracked. I have found that propping it open with a wooden spoon or chopstick gives just enough room for the evaporating steam to escape.
Continue to cook the pears down for an additional 5 to 7 hours, checking every hour and stirring. After it has cooked for 4 hours, blend the butter for a smoother texture. For a chunkier consistency, use a potato masher to help break down the pears.
In the final hour of cooking, taste the pears and add 2 to 3 cups of sugar. Use your judgment and taste buds to determine the correct sugar level. Add the lemon zest and juice and the spices and stir to combine.
If you need to speed up the process of cooking the pears down, remove the lid and turn the slow cooker to high. Stay close when it’s on high and stir often.
When the butter is nearing completion, fill your canning pot with water and begin to bring it to temperature. Wash your jars and rings in warm soapy water and set aside. Put your lids in a small pot of water and heat (but do not boil) in order to soften the sealing compound.
When it has reached a consistency that is thick and spreadable, ladle the butter into the prepared jars. Wipe rims and apply lids. Screw on the bands and lower into the water. Process in the hot water bath 15 minutes. When time is up, remove from water and cool on the counter. When the jars are cooled, check the seal by pressing on the top of the jar. If there’s no movement, the jar has sealed. Store up to one year in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months
Makes 3 pints (yield varies depending on width of pot, cooking length and juiciness of fruit).
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