HOW TO... ... make a clay pot

Clay is not a par­tic­u­larly fun-look­ing raw in­gre­di­ent, but it has been an es­sen­tial part of man’s evo­lu­tion. Jonny Crock­ett looks at how to cre­ate a cook­ing pot from scratch

Sporting Shooter - - Crockett’s Country -

In the UK, you are never more than three miles from clay, or so they say. They’re prob­a­bly right, but have you ever thought why that should be so im­por­tant? When you’re in the mid­dle of nowhere in a camp you re­turn to time and time again you’ll prob­a­bly have the means to light a fire, shel­ter, ac­cess to some ed­i­ble morsels, but have you any­thing to cook in? You need a pot!

It’s eas­ier than you think. Firstly, you need to find a damp patch in the woods or fields. Dig down with your hand into the soil and ex­am­ine it. Does it look like clay? If it’s sticky, hold­ing wa­ter and feels like tooth­paste, then it prob­a­bly is. Re­move a size­able chunk of clay (pic 1) and break it up.

The next step will take a lit­tle time, but per­se­vere. You need to re­move all the ‘or­gan­ics’ from the clay (pic 2). Re­ally get stuck in here. Ev­ery bit of leaf, grass, stalk, root or other plant life needs to be sep­a­rated so that when you come to fire the pot, it doesn’t burn through and leave a hole or crack the pot.

Now for the fun part. With the clay free of or­ganic mat­ter, you need to grab a hand­ful, mix it with a lit­tle wa­ter and knead it and knead it and knead it. When you think you’ve kneaded it enough, then knead it again. You should then add a lit­tle grog. This is a finely ground sand or pottery sherd. You need this so that if you get a mi­cro­scopic crack it’ll end at the grog par­ti­cle.

Then mould it into a pot shape (pic 3). Keep it sim­ple! The sim­pler it is the bet­ter it’ll be if you’re a begin­ner. If you have ex­pe­ri­ence of pot mak­ing,

knock your­self out and go bold. Put han­dles on it and make an elab­o­rate prize win­ner. If you are go­ing to cook with it, it is worth mak­ing a lid too (pic 4). I’ve dec­o­rated mine with a snake mo­tif from the Chin­cha Prov­ince in Peru.

The down­side to this process is that you now need to dry it out slowly. This can take a few weeks. I left mine for three months.

It is now time to light a fire (pic 5). The fire needs to be big enough to get se­ri­ously hot and should also have a wide base to it so that it can sup­port the pot(s) that you are fir­ing. Do not put the pots straight into the fire; they need to slowly warm up (as il­lus­trated by this ther­mal im­age; pic 6). If you put the pots into the heat straight away, they will go into ther­mal shock and will ex­plode as the inside ex­pands more quickly than the out­side. Fun, but ul­ti­mately a waste of your time. When they are hand hot or just a lit­tle bit warmer, place them at the very edge of the fire us­ing a glove. You can now start to nudge them into the cen­tre of the fire. The fire needs to ex­ceed 890°C. Keep the fire go­ing for a good cou­ple of hours; af­ter that, let the fire burn out but leave the pots in the em­bers (pic 7). If you re­move the pots too soon they will go into ther­mal shock again as the out­side cools quicker than the inside. This will make them crack.

When they’ve cooled nat­u­rally, they are good to use (pic 8). You might like to glaze them but it’s not nec­es­sary. There is some­thing re­ally sat­is­fy­ing about for­ag­ing for a meal and then cook­ing it in a pot you’ve made your­self. Bon ap­petit!

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