This week we are profiling one of our master glazers, Jennifer Grelk, who is also an avid gardener. It is currently peak summer season in Wisconsin and the lovely weather has produced high yields. Jennifer is known to share the bounty of the season with the staff at Ephraim and fill our kitchen with fresh greens, watermelons, preserves and all sorts of delicious garden experiments. We are the sort of people who love to share. The studio is a place where ice cream bars, fresh eggs, furniture or other random finds are commonly offered. The land where Jennifer grows her garden is owned by our wood artist, John Raymond. It is the perfect use of his old farmstead and an idyllic meeting place for friends to gather.
How does your time in the garden enhance your abilities as an artist?
Our pottery largely features natural motifs and by working directly – planting, tending and harvesting those exact elements, I have the best possible understanding of their intricacies. In growing my own nasturtiums I gained an intimate understanding of them which allowed me to design a successful Artist Anniversary Series piece – the “Nasturtium Pitcher” (May 2015- May 2016). I find similarities in how I need to plan and organize for both gardening and glazing. Both activities are calming, yet expressive and highly enjoyable. In previous years I have focused on growing mainly vegetables and herbs, but this year I have really expanded the variety of florals that I am growing to include more Ephraim flowers, like coneflowers, heirloom nasturtiums, and sunflowers.
How did you become interested in becoming a ceramic artist?
From a very young age, I was always drawn to art and when asked the ubiquitous question: what do you want to be when you grow up? – I consistently answered “an artist”. However, as I grew older I feared that that would not be an attainable goal. That’s until I found Ephraim Pottery. I was also very fortunate to attend a high school with a strong arts curriculum – especially in ceramics. I received exposure to a wide variety of ceramic methods – both brushing and spraying glaze applications, use of blow torches, low fire glazes, high fire glazes, you name it! This early exposure helped me get a start at Ephraim. Since that time I have had so many gains in my understanding of glaze knowledge through my search for innovative avenues and also as a result of the widely varied custom order requests. These new discoveries are hugely rewarding.
Would you share a favorite recipe for preserving the flavors of the garden?
Sure! A current favorite is my “Spicy Dilly Bean” recipe. I’m also about to try “Pickled Spicy Asian Carrots” that I’m guessing is going to be amazing on noodle bowls. I like trying different vinegars, like apple cider vinegar, as well as experimenting with herb blends instead of dill.
Spicy Dilly Beans
- 3 pounds green beans
- 2 1/2 cups white vinegar
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 4 tablespoons pickling salt
- 5 medium cloves garlic
- 5 teaspoons dill seed (not dill weed)
- 5 teaspoons red chili flakes
Prepare a boiling water bath and 5 regular mouth pint jars. Place lids in a small saucepan over very low heat to simmer while you prepare the pickles.
Wash and trim beans so that they fit in jar. If you have particularly long beans, cut them in half. Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While the pickling liquid heats, pack your beans into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch for headspace. To each jar, add 1 clove of garlic, 1 teaspoon dill seeds, and 1 teaspoon red chili flakes.
Slowly pour the hot brine over the beans, leaving 1/2 inch for headspace. After all the jars are full, use a wooden chopstick to work the air bubbles out of the jars. Check the headspace again and add more brine if necessary.
Wipe the rims, apply lids and rings and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Let pickles sit for at least one week before eating.
Thank you and enjoy the rest of this energetic season!