Thursday, February 26, 2015

Family Recipe Friday - Nanna Carriage's Blackberry Jam

Late January through to February is Blackberry time in Australia. Blackberry bushes have long been recognised as one of the most noxious weeds in Australia and are the bane of many a farmer because of their tendency  to take over valuable pastures

However for those of us who delight in the bushes sweet succulent fruit it is a different matter.  Over the past 150 years or so, children have delighted in heading out to pick the berries in the summer time and bring them home for their mothers and grandmothers to make jam, pies and other delights.  

As I outlined in my recent post, Sharing Memories - It's Blackberry time! blackberry picking in our summer school holidays was something we really looked forward to.

We would head out early in the morning and pick the berries, bringing them back to our Nanna, Christina Carriage's kitchen, ready for her to make her jam.  The obvious next part of this story is the actual jam making, so today I would like to share with you Nanna Carriage's Blackberry Jam.

Nanna Carriage's Blackberry Jam

6lbs fresh firm blackberries
1/2 cup of water
4 tablespoons of lemon juice

Sort berries, to check there are no old, overripe or damaged berries.  Wash in a colander, drain and place into a large preserving pan or saucepan. Add water and lemon juice. Press the berries with a wooden spoon to release their juices. Place on a low heat and bring slowly to boil. Continue to boil slowly for approximately half an hour until the fruit is soft and liquid reduced.  

Add sugar (which has been preheated) to the berry mixture.  Stir till dissolved, then turn heat up and boil quickly until the jam sets when tested.

Pour the jam mixture into warm sterile jars and seal with airtight lids or jam papers. Label, date and store in a cool place. 

Nanna had some other tips for making good jam:

1. If you didn't have lemons, a peeled green apple can be added to the berries when cooking and this will aid in setting the jam.
2. Cook the fruit slowly, and only bring to the boil once the added sugar is dissolved. Remember it is the fruit that requires the cooking not the sugar, so low heat when cooking the fruit to soften, when the sugar is added heat is turned up to cook quickly.
3.  To test if the jam is ready,  drop a little jam into cold water in a saucer and push with finger, if the mixture is set and surface wrinkles it is ready.
4.  To sterilize bottles wash in hot water, dry thoroughly and then place into warm oven before filling with jam.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sentimental Sunday - Sharing Memories - It's Blackberry time!!

Black stained fingers and a purple grin!!

Yes it is blackberry picking season again.  My son and grandsons  had just returned from the swimming hole in the near by river and were delighted with the haul of blackberries they had picked from the bushes surrounding their swimming spot.  A large container of juicy black berries was proudly displayed, neatly packed into plastic container ready to deliver to Aunty Jo so she could make the family's favorite berry jam!   My grandsons had been hanging out for another jar of this jam, as the last jar had run out over six months ago.

Part of the Blackberry Haul
Their sticky fingers and stained smiles brought back childhood memories of summer holidays at my Nanna's (Christina Sterland Carraige, nee Lee) house in Milton, NSW.  My sisters and I,  and my cousins would head out from our Nanna's house early in the morning to collect blackberries from the nearby fields in the dairy farms that surrounded the small township.  

Dressed in old clothes, we would head off with buckets, gardening gloves, gumboots and long sleeve shirts (protection from the sharp spikes of the blackberry bushes). The youngest family members would tag along behind with smaller containers ready to assist. 

Those of us with long legs would climb over the fences and then help the youngest scramble over into the field.  We would make our way through the long paspalum grass, still damp with the morning dew. We were careful to not disturb the diary cows, flicking the summer flies with their tails as they munched on the grass.

At the bottom of the field we would find the large clumps of blackberry bushes, you could smell the sweet ripe fruit and see the clumps of black shiny berries hanging ready for the picking.   First things first!! testing if they tasted any good! We would all pick some of the berries and shove them into our mouths, sweet, juicy and warm from the morning sun! The juice would run down our chins as we grinned with delight.

Then Nanna's voice fare-welling us earlier in the morning would bring us back to reality "Don't  eat them all! Bring lots back so I can make some blackberry jam and blackberry pie!"  Visions of Nanna's chunky jam on fresh bread with cream and bowls of fresh berries topped with vanilla ice-cream spurred us into action. Buckets were placed strategically near the bushes and we started to fill up the smaller containers from the bushes and then carefully tipping them into the larger buckets. 

By mid morning the bedraggled group of cousins, full buckets in hand, arms and legs adorned with purple stains and scratches, faces glowing with a mixture of berry juice and a little sunburn would head back to Nanna's house.  Proudly the buckets would be placed on the bench in Nanna's kitchen! 

In a short time, with hands and faces washed, the band of cousins would all sit around the kitchen table and hoe into the pile of fresh sandwiches and large glasses of cold cordial that Nanna has prepared.  As we munched we would watch her wash and carefully weigh out the berries, preparing them for her part of the blackberry story - the jam making!!


Friday, February 6, 2015

Sepia Saturday - The Original McGregor Family Photo

In late 2013 when visiting my Aunt I was excited to discover a photocopy of a picture of the McGregor Family with the names of each of the members of the family inserted over the picture. This picture was a wonderful source of information on the family history and helped me break down a number of those "brick walls" that all family tree research come across.  I always wondered who had a copy of the original picture and who had been able to identify each of the family members. 

Just before Christmas last year, a distant cousin contacted me after reading my blogs on the McGregor Family. To cut a long story short, we met for lunch and shared family stories, photographs and memories. (he he!).  Among the photos that he had to show me was a copy of the original photo of the McGregor Family taken at the turn of the 20th Century.

Margaret and Jams McGregor and their family 1900 - Balmain, NSW
 My cousin was able to enlighten me on the person who had been able to identify everyone in the picture.  At a funeral in 1975 Stan Sterland, who at that time was the last person from this picture still living, wrote down the names of each person in the picture.  Stan is the small boy second from the right at the front of the picture.

I have to reflect on how fortunate we are that we not only have this wonderful family picture, but also that on that day in 1975 Stan was able to sit down and identify each family member and helped to keep the story of the McGregor family alive and to provide us with vital clues in tracing their history.
If you are interested, some of the stories of the McGregor Family can be found on these links

1. Walking in the Steps of my Grandparents- James McGregor and Margaret McPherson
2. The McGregor Family Bible
3. Mary Anne McPherson McGregor
4. Catherine McGregor
5. Isabelle Allan McGregor
6. Christine McGregor

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Sentimental Sunday - Pic from Aunty Glad's Suitcase - Alexander McDonald

Time to share another treasure from Aunty Glad's Suitcase.  This time it is a picture of  my gg uncle Alexander McDonald's gravestone at Gallipoli.

Corporal Alexander McDonald died on the 25th April, 1915, while helping his troops embarking.

Recently, another descendant of another member of 11th Battalion who died on the same day brought to my attention, that Corporal McDonald was mentioned in Roy Denning's published Diary "Anzac Digger, an Engineer in Gallipoli and France",  He is mentioned a number of time in the early section of this book, up until his death.

Roy Denning describes the moment Alexander was shot. "Only a few seconds elapsed before the hillsides were alive with spiteful flashes the steel decks of the destroyer alive with hissing hot lead splashing fire and fragments in every direction.

The decks were soon running blood and slippery, Corporal McDonald was standing up calmly shouting orders when his voice trailed off in a gurgle and he crumpled to the deck. The Turks must have had machine guns trained onto the destroyer".* 

I was excited to find among the treasures in Aunty Glad's suitcase a picture of Alexander headstone, taken by one of my cousins when she visited Anzac Cove in 2000.

Corporal Alexander McDonald - 25 April 1915
* Denning, Roy and Lorna, 2004, Anzac Digger, an Engineer in Gallipoli and France, Australian Military History Publications, Loftus Australia, p.15.

Also may be of interest:
2013 Trans-Tasman ANZAC Day Blog Challenge - Alexander Joseph McDonald

Letter from Major McCall,

Monday, January 26, 2015

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks #2: Stri-KING Gold - Peter McGregor 1809-1882

The theme proposed by Amy Johnson Crowe's Challenge for the second week of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is "King".  I have been wracking my brain all week for a connection to this theme to no avail. 

However, this morning when discussing the theme with my husband over our Saturday morning "flat white", he suggested using "stri-king".  Light bulb moment thank you Steve!  As many of my ancestors came to Australia with the hope of "Stri-King" gold, why not tell one of their stories.

Peter McGregor was my great great great grandfather and was born in Redgorton, Perthshire Scotland around 1809, the second son of John McGregor and Isabella McGlashan.  He married  his first wife Ann  on the 20 May in 1830.  Peter and Ann has four children John, James (my gg grandfather), Isabella and Peter.  Sadly Ann passed away in 1840 leaving Peter with four young children to look after.  It must have been difficult for him to look after his family on his own.  On the 25 June 1848 Peter remarried Christina Guthrie (nee Miller) in Barony Lanark Scotland

In the following year Peter, Christina and their children, including Christina's son James from her first marriage, left Scotland on board the Diana bound for Australia. Peter's occupation on the shipping manifest is listed as a Sawyer.  Once they had arrived in Australia on the 9 June 1948, the family moved to the gold fields at Araluen, in the Braidwood district of the southern highlands of New South Wales. 

Shipping List for Diana - showing members of the McGregor family
Peter McGregor was given a Crown Grant of 100 Acres in the parish of Jinglemoney near Araluen.  It is reported that he sold this land to Mr James Laing, however the family continued to live on this land until 1863.  A map of this block of land can be found on my blog, Mappy Monday - Jinglemoney Araluen. Peter and his sons along with the McPherson Family worked on the gold mines in the Araluen district and later at Bombay on the Shoalhaven River.  

1863 was not a good year for Peter and his family.  Late in the evening of 16th October 1863, Christina McGregor lost her way and fell into a mine shaft and drowned. Following, Christina's death the family continued to live in the district.  Isabella (married to Andrew Bowman) and Peter (married Annie Honeywell Couch) both stayed in the district.  James (married Margaret McPherson) and John (married to Catherine Wallace) both moved with their families to live in Sydney in the late 1870's.

Peter McGregor stayed in the Braidwood district until he passed away on the 10th January 1882.  He was buried in the Braidwood Cemetery.
Peter McGregor, daughter Isabella and her husband Andrew Bowman

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday - from Aunty Glad's Suitcase - WW1 Field Card

It is time to dig into Aunty Glad's suitcase for some more WWI history.

Among the collection of WWI post cards from Angus Shepherd and Malcolm Michael Shepherd I found one that intrigued me.  This was what you would call a "fill in the gaps" post card.  i.e. the card had a number of messages on the back which the sender could cross out and keep the appropriate message.  Handy I thought, something today's post card printers should consider for the traveler who wants to send a message home with the minimum of effort.

However, with this post card this was not the case.  The card, from Angus, was sent to his mother Mrs Lynn Shepherd from somewhere in Europe on the 4th October 1817.  You will note that instructions on the front of the card state that the only thing to be written on the front of the card is the address and "If anything else is added the post card will be destroyed"! 

Field post cards were an early form of censorship that were designed for troops to send home.  The message from the soldier was compiled by crossing out the irrelevant lines, they were not permitted to write any additional information other than their signature and the date.

Soldiers were not allowed to disclose their whereabouts, and I am sure many soldiers were glad to be able to send their family a simple greeting, without having to disclose the reality of their life in the battle field. 

These post cards served a number of purposes.  Not only did they provide their loved ones at home with the knowledge that they were still alive but also gave the soldiers something to do.  Boredom was an issue for the soldiers in the field and writing was one of the few activities that they were able to do and provided them with some distraction from the horrors of war. 

Playing a part in the War propaganda, the Field Cards not only delivering those at home with news of their loved ones in the forces but also helped to sustain the popularity of the war effort on the home front and protecting families from the reality of the Australian War effort in Europe and North Africa.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Wishful Wednesday - Out with the Old and in with the New

2014 is almost done! New Year celebrations are looming, time for reflection on the year that has past and the excitement of the year to come. 

Today is a day is a first for me. Writing a blog on my IPad, so it will be short and sweet, as I learn the nuances of my blogger app. 

I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to read and comment on my jottings over the past twelve months.  2014 has not been one of my most productive years for blogging, however I have connected with a number of new family members who have helped me link with many new family stories, photographs and memories. I hope that 2015 will prove to be a year when I can spend more time relating these stories.

Happy New Year to All, may 2015 bring good health, happiness and lots more stories!