Monthly Archives: September 2010

Apple Catchers…

Apple Catchers n. – a traditional Herefordshire name for outsized, or generously proportioned knickers (so big one could use them for harvesting apples).
Before yesterday, I too thought Apple Catcher was a term for large, frilly knickers.  That is before Julian fashioned his own apple catcher from a long branch and a metal coat hanger.  The loop on the end was perfect for plucking the apples that have remained out of reach at the top of the trees.  For the really large, red and juicy apples which cunningly seemed to nestle only at the very top of the tree, we had to go back to the common to find a longer stick.  125kg of apples now wait patiently in boxes and dustbins, their skins softening, ready for the inaugural pressing next weekend….the first step in the process of cider making.  Never made cider before, but with all the apple trees in the garden it is the perfect time to experiment.
Some  friends and fellow cider makers pressed their apples last weekend and eeked out 8 gallons of pure juice which has already started to ferment.  Luckily we have managed to lay our hands on a second-hand apple press and don’t have to resort to a net curtain, 2 pieces of kitchen worktop and a car jack….although apparently the contraption did the job perfectly!

The ingenious apple catcher reaches those who thought they were safe!

Get right up there.....leave no apple up picked!

Hummm...they look like tennis balls....but they don't taste like them...

Yes...ha ha...this one looks like a bottom....

Extra long apple catcher in action...

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Filed under Food For Free

Sloe Gin

Turned into Squirrel Nutkin…or Old Mother Hubbard (only my cupboard is certainly not bare).  Only since moving to the sticks have the seasonal changes in the hedgerows become so apparent and lure of foraging for food for free is too appealing.

I have never paid much interest to these little blighters….Sloes, the fruit of the Blackthorn tree.  Unpalatable direct from the tree, they are intensely bitter.  I hear some sugar and a litre of gin sorts that out though, so we are giving Sloe Gin a whirl.  Add it to the growing collection of Blackberry Vodka, Rhubarb Schnapps and Apple and Cinnamon Schnapps, and I think we will be fine if we get snowed in again this winter!

It is suggested that the best time to pick sloes is after the first frost, as this reduces the bitterness, but who know when this will be and whether other eager hunter gatherers will have got their first (doubt it!),  so we’ve picked them already and stuck them in the freezer overnight instead.

As usual, far too many sloes were picked, about 4, so we also now have Sloe and Apple jam, and the rest were given away to other experimental gin makers…..

The recipe is as follows, you need to shake it every couple of days for the first month, then leave it for 3 months (in time for Christmas) to a year to mature.

450g Sloes

70cl Cheap Gin (I used Tesco value)

100g Granulated sugar

2-3 drops almond essence (optional)

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Blackberry Bonanza

Picked nearly 3kg of blackberries on Sunday.  Poor Flo thought she was going for a walk, but instead stood bemused as we kept stopping to delve into the thorny undergrowth to retrieve juicy berries.  A successful walk if measured on fullness of bucket, but not if scoring on miles travelled.  She doesn’t seem to like blackberries either, so not much to interest her at all.

What delectations can be produced with such a mass of free fruit…..well stand aside Paul Hollywood from the Great British Bake Off, who said blackberries are not ideal in cakes.  This blackberry and apple cake……oh yes…with crumble topping would give you a run for your money.   With the rest we have a bounty of blackberry jam and in time for Christmas, a little tipple of blackberry vodka….. and there was still some left to put in the freezer for a blackberry and apple pie treat sometime soon.

It is apparently a bumper year for Autumn fruits due to the late Spring and early heat wave.  We’ve certainly been making the most of the harvest.  Julian was also relishing in the prospect of ‘puffball on toast’ for Sunday lunch, having foraged a few from the common on the way home…….luckily he thought he would check first in the fungus book before smothering them in butter and garlic and was disappointed to find out that what he collected were in fact the far less palatable and indeed poisonous Earthballs.  Identifiable by their black insides.  He had to plump for a ham and cheese toasty instead, but at least he was rewarded with blackberry cake for afternoon tea…..

Colander No. 1

Jam Making

Quickest and easiest jam ever. 30 mins - all done.

Blackberry and Apple Cake.......one to lock the door and eat in private!

Blackberry Vodka

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Filed under Baking, Cooking

Potters Block…..?

After a pot free month, a few disasters in the kiln, some glimmers of hope, but mostly pots worthy of the bin, I have diagnosed myself with ‘Potters Block’.  I am also shocked to see that my last blog post was a month ago.  It’s not that there has been no activity, just that it has not been pottery related.  I will share my pickling and preserving delights with you later…..

One person has described it as a ‘Creative Slump’……a term I can relate to, but reassuringly goes on to say he came out the other side of it a better painter (maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel?)

Some research puts forward the following (non-exhaustive) suggestions as offerings of help:

  • Do something entirely different for a while (doesn’t say how long!….there is only so much jam one can make….)
  • Try to remember that it’s just a pot and nothing more. The world will not end if your pot comes out badly….am used to this…..
  • Whisky?  (again doesn’t say how long for…..)
  • Doodle….
  • Imagine the pot in your mind without touching a piece of clay.
  • Start with something small and simple
  • Work in a group (tried this, but ended up chatting and eating cake….made nothing! – (had nice time though)
  • Be reassured that it is normal and the drought will come to an end
  • Clean up your studio…..(not that desperate yet!)
  • Copy the work of someone you like….tried this….funnily enough…did not end up with a replica Picasso : (
  • Indulge yourself in other work that appeals to you

I particularly like this website which gives tips for helping with creative block.  Press F5 each time for a new tip. http://creativeblock.monomoda.com/

Someone else suggest that his creative blocks usually occur when there is “nothing to feel down about or he feels happy with life”. Well maybe this is true, where does that leave you when the only thing that is getting you down….is the lack of pot production……

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