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,