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Mrs. Amasa Rust's Blackberry Cordial

Mrs. Amasa Rust's Blackberry Cordial

Press the juice from the berries and to 1 quart of juice put ½ pound

loaf sugar, 1 tablespoon of each cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg.

Scald together, strain, and add ½ pint good brandy.


Being far from properly equipped – and skilled - to press juice from blackberries, our test kitchen resorted to a rather crude method utilizing a potato masher, food mill and strainer. Amazingly, we ended up with almost seed-free juice. That said, the next time we make it, we will use a more professional method and pay more attention to straining the pulp from the juice.

Loaf sugar is an archaic preparation of refined sugar and is no longer readily available. For this our test batch we used raw sugar; however, granulated sugar should work fine. Keeping in mind that loaf sugar has a higher moisture content and is probably slightly heavier, we compensated by using slightly less sugar.

This is the adjusted version of the recipe we used:

4 cups of blackberry juice

Slightly less than 1 cup of raw granulated sugar

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon cloves

1 tablespoon allspice

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 cup brandy

Combine all ingredients except brandy and scald – gently heat until nearly boiling but do not allow to boil. Then remove from heat. After straining add brandy. (The Castle test kitchen added the brandy while the mixture was still hot\warm.) After cooling and placing in an airtight container, we refrigerated. However, we allowed it to return to room temperature before serving.

Mrs. Amasa Rust

An image of Mrs. Amasa Rust

"A Brilliant social event and pretty ending for the old year was the wedding Saturday evening of Miss Helen Grace Knowlton, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Willis Taylor Knowlton, and Amasa Miller Rust, only grandson of the later Amasa Rust." The Saginaw News, February 2, 1953

In the cookbook Savoring Saginaw, this recipe is simply identified as “Mrs. Amasa Rust’s Blackberry Cordial.” The original source was not given and has not been located. It is precise and accurate – at least by the standards of a nineteenth century recipe. However, it leaves one large question unanswered: which Mrs. Amasa Rust created this recipe? In the Saginaw’s Rust family, Amasa is a common name Our research narrowed the list to two likely candidates: Mariette Grout Rust, born August 19, 1833, married to Amasa Rust 1849, and died June 28,1910, and Helen Knowlton Rust, born February 2, 1886, married Amasa M. Rust 1906 and died May 19, 1974.

Although our proof is not positive, we believe the author of this recipe was Marietta Grout Rust. The evidence that directed us to this decision included - the ingredients and style of the recipe - freshly pressed blackberries, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and loaf sugar – loaf sugar would have been old-fashioned by the early 20th century. Also, the authors of Savoring Saginaw have provided a tantalizing clue. They have Included in the publication is a recipe for “Mr. Hoffman’s Piano Polish.” The source of which is Mrs. Amasa Rust’s cookbook from 1871 – which would have been Marrietta Grout Rust.

Marriette Grout was born in Fairfax County, Vermont ion May 11, 1833. In 1840 she her family travelled to St. Clair Michigan in 1840 by way of covered wagon and the Erie Canal - her obituary notes that “the Michigan town, which was in those days the far west.”

In 1849 she married Amasa Rust and in 1855 they would move to Saginaw City. Amasa Rust and his brothers prospered during Michigan’s great lumber boom. The paper noted “The name of Mr. Rust is linked with those pioneers of Michigan who formed the foundation for the great lumber industry that made the state famous.”

“During her long residence in Saginaw Mrs. Rust devoted a great share of her times to benevolent and philanthropic enterprises and with her husband was identified with movement for the progress of the city. Following the death of Mr. Rust, Jan. 26, 1893, she continued her benevolent work and endeared herself to all who came to know her. She was charter member of the Saginaw Reading Club, and always identified with its work, and was also and associate member of the Saginaw Art Club from its organization. She was identified with the organization of the Saginaw General hospital and served as a member of the board of trustees as long her health permitted. Even while on her sick bed she dictated a liberal contribution to the Y.M.C.A, building Fund. A Member of St. John’s Episcopal church, she was devoted in her work in the society, and identified with various organizations.”

“Mrs. Rust was the mother of five children, one of who died in infancy and one in early years. Her oldest son. Chas. A. Rust died in February 1909. A son, Ezra F. Rust, and daughter, Mrs. James G. Macpherson, survive. She also leaves six grandchildren, Mrs. Howard Heinz Pittsburgh; Amasa M. Rust, Mrs. F.E. Hudson, Miss Katharine Rust, Rust Macpherson, Ida Rust Macpherson of this city. There are three great grandchildren, Gardner K. Grout of this city, and V.H. Grout of Leslie are brothers, and Mrs. Wm. Taylor of Leslie, is a sister of Mrs. Rust.” The Saginaw Daily News, June 29, 1910

A quick quiz, something to ponder over while pressing blackberries.

The question: Which of one these help wanted advertisements was placed by Marriette Grout Rust?

“WANTED – Competent cook. \Apply Mrs. Amasa Rust, 215 N. Michigan Avenue.” The Saginaw Courier Herald: January 10, 1919

“WANTED -Competent second girl. Apply Mrs. Amasa Rust, 207 S Harrison.” The Saginaw Daily News, May 9, 1910

We will provide the answer to this quiz later in the week, when we feature the history of the Amasa Rust family home – affectionately named the Green Dragon.


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