Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Testing out Ms. B

We are still working on the ends and outs and all abouts of the small gas kiln, Ms. B
She has her moments and produces some decent pots in and around the kiln. In fact there are more good ones than bad ones.
The questions is, "what is a bad pot?'
The very bottom shelf just does not reach the same temperature as the rest of the kiln. Mark is able to get a good 10 at the top, but no more then an 8 at the bottom. With that in mind we went for some test in the bottom of the kiln just to see how that would do.

This test was a cone 10 glaze with a six used together to see how the two would work. There are properties that I like about this and possibilities to work through. We plan to do some research into cone 8 glazes to see what we can come up with.

On the top of the kiln we had some of the new vases that I have been carving. These are in B-mix, a nice white stoneware. I see possibilities to explore with these as well. They still look like some really fancy drinking vessels and I guess that would be alright too. I do like the way Mark has cut the feet on these.

Just more things to expore all the time.

On the teaching front.
I had my last day for the summer session on Monday. Kilns fired, unloaded, students picking up work, clean up and paperwork.
I have been asked to stay while they are hiring the new instructor. I said yes. I'm looking forward to continuing with the students from the summer session, along with the new students that will be enrolling.  
I have some time off before I go back for the fall and the routine of being here, catching up, seeing family and working on my own pots will be a priority.

There are more pictures coming from Ms. B, we'll let you be the judge on results.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Now we are talking about Jam

 I have a little book that I bought when I first moved here 1976-1977. This book is put out by the Ball canning company The cover is now gone and many of the pages are splattered  with bits of this and that. In that little book are packed more useful information than many of the books written on canning. It has simple instructions on prep, care, safety and some of the best jam, jelly preserve recipes I have used.

I have early memories of picking fruit with my grandmother, brothers and sisters. After we were done, she would take the fruit and turn it into the best jams, jellies and preserves. I  remember how hot it was in the kitchen and how much I wanted to be in there with her. The kitchen was small and hot and I am sure now she wanted to keep me safe from the boiling water. It would be years before I would take it on my own to step into her role and make the jams, jellies and preserves of my youth. I always use the fruits that are local, in season and as fresh as possible.
The prep part is the major part of the work.
One you have done the prep the making is the easy part.

July is my favorite time to pick up peaches.

Peach Jam
2 quarts of peeled, crushed peaches
1 Tbs. lemon juice
6 cups of sugar
Combine peaches and sugar, bring to a boil, stirring occasionally
until sugar dissolves. Cook until thick; the recipe says 15 minutes, but I cook longer and slower, until it turns a golden color and is more jam like. Be sure and skim off the foam as you go along. Before you pack in jars make sure you have taken all the foam off. Once it is the thickness that you want, pack in clean, hot jars and water bath for 10-15 minutes.
Remove, let them sit for 24 hours before you store them.

The last two days I have been working on Blackberry Jelly.
I extract the juice by heating the berries, straining them and then letting the juice stand overnight. I find that the juice will settle leaving you a nice clear juice at the top. I use that juice for the jelly.
Here is the recipe.
Blackberry Jelly
4 cups of Blackberry juice
I Tbs. lemon juice
3 cups of sugar
Heat juice, lemon and sugar in a pan and bring to a boil.
As it is boiling, skim off the foam.
I boil this until it hits the jelly stage. It takes at least 30 minutes.
I can't give you exact time as I am always checking the jelly stage by placing a bit in the freezer and looking at how it shifts off the stirring spoon. I pack this in hot jars and process for 10 minutes. 

Here is what I found out the other day. I was out of lemon so I did not add it. I had more foam and a sticky mess on the sides of the pan.  I remembered that you could add a Tbs. of butter to help with the foam. I tried that but it was still doing the same thing. On the second round I added the butter and 1 Tbs. of white vinegar. The acid of the vinegar worked to bring the foam down to a doable amount.
Also, I do not use the box pectin. You can if you like, it will save you some time and there are times that I have used it, but your results will be different.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

While the cats away

 the mouse stays busy making pots.
Mark has been steadily working on the days that I am gone to teach.
He has made pots, but is kind enough to wait for me to make some before he fires the large gas kiln.
While he waits for me to get some pots made he has glazed and loaded the small gas kiln with some pots.
We added some test glazes to this load in order to figure out if we could come up with something that would work on the bottom shelf. We both figure that lowering the glaze melting temperature might be the only way to fire this kiln. We tested a few cone 8-9ish glazes to see if those would work on the bottom.
It is frustrating to have most of the pots down there come out under fired. We either have to fire them again in the large kiln or hit them over the head with a hammer.

If we ever get this kiln worked out for firing it would be a  good way for Mark to fire smaller loads and not even wait for me.
 I have one day left in the summer semester then I am off for 3 1/2 weeks.
I have a lot of things to catch up on during that time.
Let's see how well I do.

Blueberries are here.
Just in case you missed this recipe because you hate facebook, TB, I am posting here as well.

Blueberry Crumb, no, I did not follow the recipe, more like a crisp, very tasty!

Preheat oven to 375
1 tsp butter. I used a Tbs. ( I know shoot me)
2 pt.blueberries, I used what the pan could hold- somewhere between 5-6 cups
1/2 cup sugar, I used 1/4th and I used brown sugar
1 TBS. cornstarch, I did this once and don't like the flavor, I used 1 TBS. flour
1/2 cup apple cider, I used one fresh lemon with 1/4th cup water.
1 tsp. vanilla extract, I added 1/2 tsp lemon extract as well.
Plus: 1 good size tsp. cinnamon

1 cup all purpose flour, I used 3/4 cup and 1/4 almond meal
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, I used 1/2 brown and 1/4 raw
6 TBS. butter- yep!
1/2 cup rolled old fashion oats.

 Put the butter in your pan- 8x8  works well mine is larger since I use more berries, and rub it all over the pan.
Make the filling and gently fold it all together, set it aside.
Then before you make topping add to pan.

Make the topping, get your hands in there and make crumbs until it is like peas.
Dump that goodness on top and bake 30 minutes.
I turned the oven back to 350 after 5 minutes and added another 5 minutes to my bake time.
You want those berries to bubble.

Cool enough to eat.
You can cool and eat with good ice cream or you can make this:
1/2 container of good, the real stuff, yogurt.
Take it and strain it through about 3 coffee filters by placing it in a berry bowl ( Made by yours truly),set over a bowl, until most of the water drains out.
It should be nice and thick.
You can now add my favorite maple syrup, or brown sugar to taste ( my taste is 3 TBS.- less if using sugar), then hit it with more cinnamon.
This is a great topping for any pie or fruit.
You really want to kick it up add about 1/4 cup cream.

Next up we are going to talk about making jam.
Are you in?