To Preserve (Bottle) Raspberry

This recipe is on page six of Althea’s recipe book. It is dated 1889, which is some twenty years after the recipes just a couple of pages back. There seems little doubt that Althea wrote up her recipes at a later date, as the times continue to jump about all over the place throughout the book.

To Preserve (Bottle) Raspberry. Pick the finest and ripest of the fruit. Pound and sift some loaf sugar. Equalize w. scales putting a basin in each scale. Put fruit in one basin sugar in the other – weight for weight. Pour both into a large earthen basin and mix well with a wooden spoon until the fruit is crushed and the sugar dissolved. Bottle and fasten down with bungs and cover with resin. Keep in a cool dry place. They will keep 2 or 3 years. For creams, a tablespoon with cream poured on top.

Just like with jam-making, the sugar acts as a preservative, the difference being with this method that the mixture is not heated to ‘set’. The smell of the raspberries when I crush them with the sugar is intoxicating and the resulting mixture a vibrant red. The raspberries are rendered excruciatingly sweet and a little goes a long way. I don’t have resin and bungs and so try to rely on sterilising the kilner bottles. After just a few days though, a tell-tale furry blue covering of mould appears at the top. I pour it off and store the mixture in the fridge, where it appears happier, but I start to think that there’s a reason why we don’t tend to bottle in this way anymore (and it starts with B for Botulism).

I am guessing that the grounds of Newby Bridge House supplied a great deal of produce for the family, as was the fashion in Victorian times. (Apparently the hotel that now occupies the House boasts a ‘Victorian kitchen garden’ that provides produce for their kitchens.) Little evidence remains about the actual Victorian gardens. When it was put on sale in 1926, it was said that ‘The Mansion House contains four reception-rooms and 10 bedrooms, ample kitchen accommodation, and outside buildings.’ There is no indication though of the type or extent of the gardens.

Local newspapers though tell us a little about the horticultural exploits of the occupants. In 1879, at the Leven Valley District Flower Show, it was reported that ‘The attractiveness of the room was greatly heightened by a number of exotic, greenhouse, foliage, and other plants, with the loan of which the Committee were favoured by James Harrison, Esq. of Newby Bridge; G.J.M. Ridehalgh, Esq, Fell Foot; Mrs Baldwin, Woodcroft, Haversthwaite.’ In 1881, James is a judge at the Coniston Horticultural Show. Over the years, he also wins prizes in other competitions, which gives us some insight into what was grown at Newby Bridge House. In 1870, he wins second prize for his fuchsias, first prize for a hand-tied bouquet and another second for his currants (white, best half-pint). In 1872, there are accolades for his ornamental leafed plants, geraniums, cherries, redcurrants and cabbages.

Althea died in 1905, so James found himself a widower at just 69. Daughter Ethel never married and continued to live with him but, even so, it must have been a quiet house, as compared to a few years earlier when he had a wife and five children. In these years, he took up growing chrysanthemums, as can be evidenced by the prizes that he wins at several local shows.

Illustration in Wells’ Book on the Culture of the Chrysanthemum for Exhibition, Decoration, Cut Flower, and Market, 1910. This isn’t James but in photographs of him at the time he looks remarkably similar!

James appears to have been assisted by several gardeners over the years; Mr Armstrong, Mr Briggs and Mr Norris all get a mention as his gardener in various judging dispatches. And, if there were any doubt as to the importance of gardeners to the family, when Althea and James’s son James Kay Maberly Harrison died in 1935 at nearby Cark Manor, he left a particular bequest:

Lancashire Evening Post, 15 August 1935

Mr William Dickinson must have been a faithful servant indeed. According to The National Archives, in today’s money £200 would be worth over £10,000. Back then, it was equivalent to 140 days of wages for a skilled tradesman. William was 66 when he inherited but he didn’t retire; four years later, in 1939, he is still working as a gardener at Cark Manor.

2 thoughts on “To Preserve (Bottle) Raspberry

    • It’s so strange how many of these recipes are disappointing! I think the lack of proper instructions is often a problem – or maybe they just had different tastes. I have a whole spare room full of ‘family history’ that I need to sort through so this process is very helpful!

      Liked by 1 person

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