About Me

My photo
Denman Island, British Columbia, Canada
Jean Cockburn retired from her professional career as an academic librarian in 2008 to become a textile artist living on Denman Island, British Columbia. She draws, quilts, embroiders, knits and crochets, makes wearable art, weaves baskets, dyes fabric, and paints watercolours. Her work has been exhibited locally in juried and group shows on Denman Island, in Courtenay, Comox, and Duncan on Vancouver Island, in West Vancouver, and across Canada with the Surface Design Association.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Fall crocus blooms signal that Autumn is here

Fall crocus in the front garden bed

There was a honey been on these oregano blossoms, but it would not stay still .....

Mahonia Berry Jam

Mahonia berries, also known as Oregon Grape

Precious jars of intense flavour

Labels are important as the jam keeps for three years
Mahonia nervosa is also known as low growing Oregon Grape. We have lots of the dwarf bushes growing on our property and because this has been such a wet summer, the berries are large and juicy. Picking is a pain as you have to stoop, the leaves are prickly, and creeping blackberry vines are ready to grab your wrists and ankles. The bushes grown underneath Douglas Fir, so the container of berries also contains many fir needles that have to be picked out. So I only make this jam every few years, but the results are stupendous - such flavour!
Jam recipe follows:
Pick what you can of the berries (I had about 4 cups). Rinse and pick over, then boil with a few tablespoons of water to soften the berries. Cool and put through a food mill to remove the large seeds. Measure the pulp back into a heavy pan and add 1 cup sugar for each cup of pulp, which is the standard jam making ratio. I had 3 1/2 cups of pulp and I added 4 cups of sugar as the berries are very tart. Bring to a rolling  boil, then turn to simmer and attach a jam thermometer. When the temperature reaches 105 C. / 218 F. the jam stage has been achieved. Warning! this happens very fast with mahonia, much faster than it does for plum or blackberry jam. So be ready and have your small jars and snap lids ready to roll. Label your snap lids and refrigerate any that do not snap sealed. All of mine snapped so they will be stored in a dark place and eaten over the next 2 to 3 years. Aging improves flavour.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tree Island Quilt




Seedless Blackberry Jam



How to Make Seedless Blackberry Jam

This jam takes some effort, but the results are wonderful. The seedless jam is intense in flavour and easy on the teeth. It improves with age. If you want to make regular blackberry jam, follow the instructions below but skip the removal of the seeds in step 1.

When you pick the berries, if you cannot make jam within a day or two, put them into 2 cup plastic containers and freeze immediately without rinsing, as they keep better that way. When you are ready to make jam, just dump the frozen berries into the pot and proceed.

Allow about 5 hours for the whole process. You will not be working the whole time, but you have to be there to stir and monitor. Have a book handy that you can hold in one hand and read while you stir with the other.

Essential equipment includes a candy thermometer and food mill (you can use a sieve but that takes a strong arm and stamina).

Four steps:
1. Making the seedless fruit puree.
2. Cooking the jam.
3. Preparing the sealer jars.
4. Putting the jam into the jars.

Step 1: Making the seedless puree.
Try doing this step before lunch so the puree can cool while you eat lunch.
Use anywhere from 4 to 12 cups of blackberries. Rinse fresh berries and put into a large heavy pot with only the water clinging to the berries or use frozen without rinsing. Put over low heat and be patient and stir occasionally while the fruit comes to a boil. Do not try to rush with high heat as you will scorch the berries. Simmer the fruit and stir until it turns very liquid. Take the pot off the heat and allow to cool somewhat while you have lunch. Put a sieve or food mill over a bowl and push the cooked berries through, saving the puree and discarding the seeds.

Step 2:  Cooking the jam.
Remove any seeds clinging inside the pot, and measure the puree back into it, counting how many cups. Then add one cup of white sugar for every cup of puree. This seems like a lot, but this is what jam is – an amalgam of sugar and fruit. The sugar prevents bacterial growth and when cooked with the fruit to a high temperature, binds with the pectin in the fruit to create jam. The addition of the sugar will have increased the volume a lot, and when cooking the jam it really boils up, so you may have to use two pots. Each pot should be only about 1/8 full when you start. Put the pot back over medium low heat and stir while it comes to a boil. Let it come to a full rolling boil (now you see why you need a big pot), then turn down to a fast simmer. Attach your candy thermometer and stir occasionally while you wait for it to come to the jam creation temperature of 105 C. / 220 F. This can take an hour or more and seems painfully slow. The book is useful at this time.

Step 3:  Preparing the sealer jars.
While the jam is cooking, get the jars ready. I like small wide mouth jars. Pour boiling water into each jar, then put upside down on a clean towel to drain. Put the new snap lids into a small pan of water, ready to boil for 5 minutes before sealing. Get a heatproof surface ready to hold the jars once filled – I use my large wooden carving block.

Step 4:  Putting the jam into the jars.
Boil the snap lids for 5 minutes to soften the sealing compound. Put the jars on the heatproof surface. Use a canning funnel and fill each jar to within ¼ inch from the top – do not leave a larger gap, slightly less is better. Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the rim of each jar as there must be no residue to interfere with the seal. Put a hot snap lid on each jar and screw on the bands firmly. Leave the jars to cool. Within the hour you should hear each lip “snap” down to seal. Do not touch the screw bands again as they will tighten as they cool and hand tightening again may break the seal. Label each jar on the snap lid with the date and put aside in a cool dark place to store. If any jar does not snap seal, refrigerate and eat within a month. The sealed jars will keep for 3 years, and like wine, will improve and mellow with age.


Blackberry Pie


Delicious, Luscious, Fresh Blackberry Pie
5 cups blackberries, 3 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup water, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1 baked 9 or 10 inch pie shell.
Crush and sieve one cup of berries and combine the seedless juice with the cornstarch, sugar and water. Cook and stir over medium heat until thick and clear, about 10 minutes. Add the lemon juice and the rest of the berries and mix lightly. Pile into the pie shell and chill for a couple of hours. Serve with whipped cream.
My favourite pastry calls for 1/2 pound of lard, 3 cups of flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup orange juice. Cut the lard into the salt and flour, then mix with the orange juice until it forms a ball. Flatten into two discs and roll out for two crusts. Bake until dark brown, not just golden, for the best flavour.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Quilted mats and crochet covered rocks for B. and L.

L.'s crochet covered rock



L.'s table mat

L.'s table mat detail

L.'s table mat detail

L.'s table mat detail

L.'s table mat detail

L.'s table mat detail

B. and L. put so much effort into the Arts Marketing Project over the past year, so I decided to make them some gifts. The pics above show the table mat and crochet covered rock for L.

Crochet covered rock for B. and its box

Table mat for B. with her rock

Crochet covered rock for B. and its box

Table mat "B.'s Island"


Table mat "B.'s Island" detail

Table mat "B.'s Island" detail

Detail of the table mat for B.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Art Studio Tour

I went to the quilting studios on the Denman Island Art Studio Tour  on August 13 & 14 weekend.






Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crochet covered rocks

Why crochet over rocks you may ask? Well, the results are very beautiful with the contrast of the lace over the hard rock. And the covered rocks are very useful to hold books open while cooking, knitting, or as below, while reading outdoors. If you look closely, you will see that I am almost finished reading War and Peace, for the second time, the first time being between 35 and 40 years ago. I am on page 1118 of Volume IV, Part Four, XVIII.
I am reading as part of the Team Tolstoy read-along with the Dove Grey Reader troika riders.

I love using this small quilt on the outdoor table for breakfast in the summer.

Here is a close up, but I do not think you can read the print.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Sock Summit 2011

Sock Summit was wonderful and Portland was amazing. I learned a lot, bought beautiful yarn and enjoyed exploring a new city with fantastic public transit. And the sun shone, which is more than it has done at home.