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Stewart Castle, Off the Main in Trelawny Jamaica

Stewart Castle

A year or so ago, Dr. Ivor Connolley of Falmouth Heritage Renewal asked me to join them for a site visit to Stewart Castle. I was unable to go but I was curious and intrigued.

A castle – in Jamaica? Where was this Stewart Castle and why hadn’t I heard of it before?

But as happens sometimes, life got in the way and I forgot about Stewart Castle. Then on one of my trips to Kingston, I spotted its hard-to-miss yellow, black and green sign about ten miles from Falmouth, capital of Trelawny. So that’s where it is, I thought to myself. The next time, I decided to stop.

Stewart Castle is a fortified cut-stone mansion that was owned by James Stewart who came to the island from Scotland in 1754. By 1756, he owned 167 acres. The Castle was built around 1880.

I didn’t know what to expect as we turned off the main highway on to Stewart Castle Drive, a bumpy road that is overgrown, in parts, by a variety of shrubs that I didn’t recognize, and trees. We followed Stewart Castle Drive, which is no wider than one lane, as it meanders through a small community of modest homes, looking for the Castle. After about a half mile, we saw the turn off.

Situated on a small hill, its location would have given James Stewart clear views of his workers below. (If you’ve been reading my blog about plantation houses in Jamaica, you’ll notice that they were all built at higher elevations offering the owners unobstructed views of their operations.)

Though now in ruins and surrounded by a thicket of fruit and other trees, it isn’t hard to imagine how Stewart Castle might have looked back when the estate hummed with the activities of the three-story main house and a sugar works.

The amenities included a cellar, indoor water tank and a fortified outhouse. In addition, there were indoor gun ports, and a perimeter wall protected the estate and the family from attack.

By 1799, Stewart Castle had expanded to 1200 acres, including quarters for the 300 slaves who kept the sugar works in operation. With its proximity to the Caribbean Sea, there probably would have also had a jetty to load sugar for transport to ships in Falmouth harbor.

Although the castle’s stone-cut walls still look relatively solid from a distance, I didn’t get too close as I was unsure of the condition of the structure, and I might add, I’m afraid of things that creep and crawl. I didn’t do much exploring of the grounds so I’m not sure what, if anything, remains of the sugar works.

JB Kidd's Stewart Castle

J.B. Kidd’s Stewart Castle 1835

Stewart Castle remained in the Stewart family for three generations. It passed to Stewart’s son, also named James, who established Stewart Town, a community in Trelawny, and became custos of the parish in 1812.

The estate changed hands several more times before Kaiser Bauxite Company bought it in 1930 and turned over the Castle, in ruins, in 1960, to the Jamaica National Heritage Trust Company.

Archeological digs on the property have unearthed a Taino site. There have been proposals to transform the property into a park.

JB Kidd’s painting of Stewart Castle from daacs.org.

This week, I’m linking this post to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox and  Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check out the other photos that are posted there.

 

Rum Punch

Rum Punch

The rum punch flowed freely at two events I attended last week. And as I sipped my third glass at the most recent – a birthday party for a long time family friend – I got to wondering about the history of this popular concoction.

According to Wikipedia, punch has been around for centuries. Seventeenth-century Royal Navy sailors who were used to receiving daily beer rations brought it back to England from India.

Wine or brandy was used until around 1655, when Jamaican rum became the fashionable spirit and a new flavor of punch was created. (Rum also replaced beer and the daily ration became known as the rum ration. The rum ration continued until the 1970s.)

Rum Punch

Calico Jack Rum Punch

From England, the use of punch expanded to other European countries and eventually, naturally, to the colonies.

Ask most Jamaicans how to make rum punch and you’re likely to be given the following direction: One of sour (lime juice), two of sweet (syrup), three of strong (Wray & Nephew Overproof rum), four of weak (water) – simple enough, right? You’ll also see this direction is the description of Planter’s Punch, a type of rum punch that apparently, was created in Jamaica.

A wine-glass with lemon juice fill, of sugar the same glass fill twice
Then rub them together until
The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.
Of rum then three wine glasses add,
And four of cold water please take. A Drink then you’ll have that’s not bad —
At least, so they say in Jamaica.
- From the September 1878 issue of the London magazine, Fun.

Just goes to show, there’s a story behind even the simplest food or drink.

Even with a recipe as simple as this, in my opinion, it takes a certain level of skill, and perhaps experience, to mix these four ingredients, to balance them so one doesn’t dominate the other.

Although it can last for several months after it’s been made (and usually tastes richer), we usually make it from scratch for each occasion, and most people I know wouldn’t even touch the prepared stuff.

I didn’t until my neighbor introduced me to Calico Jack Rum Punch. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the closest there is to the real thing. I served it at a dinner party last Christmas and even my finicky aunt (who knows a thing or two about making rum punch) agreed that it was good. Unfortunately, I have not found it outside Jamaica.

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Pickapeppa Sauce, a Jamaican Original

Pickapeppa Sauce, a Jamaican Original

I hadn’t thought of Pickapeppa Sauce until my friend, Susan, asked me to pick up a bottle for her. Her supply had run out and she couldn’t find the popular sauce in her neighborhood grocery store.

Her simple request brought back a flood of memories reminded me how beloved this original Jamaican sauce is. It is the only prepared sauce my mother and grandmother used.

I remember being fascinated by Pickapeppa Sauce, from its distinctive label of a bird contemplating a bright red bird pepper to the unusual name of the rural community, Shooter’s Hill, where Pickapepper Company is located.

Pickapepper Sauce, a Jamaican Original

Pickapepper Sauce

Pickapeppa is versatile. You can use it as a marinade, a meat sauce, a steak sauce, barbecue and pepper sauce, and to flavor everything from vegetables to scrambled egg.

Slightly thick and dark, more sweet than peppery, Pickapeppa is made from onions, tomatoes, tamarind, mango, raisins, sugar, cane vinegar, salt, pepper, and spices. The ingredients are blended and left to age in oak barrels for a year before bottling.

The Pickapeppa Company has been making Pickappa Sauce for 93 years at its location in Shooter’s Hill, Manchester. The company, which has been family-owned since 1945, employs about 50 people and purchases approximately 80% of its raw materials from local farmers.

Pickapeppa exports 95% of its products and earns approximately US$1.5 million annually, primarily from exports to the US. This local favorite can be found in restaurants and pantries worldwide and, I’ve discovered, is even sold at Walmart and on Amazon.

Pickapeppa Baked Buffalo Style Wings
Serves 20
The easiest way to make hot wings that are crispy without being fried. You can add more cayenne or Pickapeppa Sauce to butter ratio if you like them spicer.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
45 min
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  2. ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  3. ½ tps garlic powder
  4. ½ tps salt
  5. 20 chicken wings
  6. ½ cup melted butter
  7. ½ cup Pickapeppa Sauce (your choice of heat and flavor)
Instructions
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and lightly grease with cooking spray. Place the flour, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, and salt into a resealable plastic bag, and shake to mix. Add the chicken wings, seal, and toss until well coasted with the flour mixture. Place the wings onto the prepared baking sheet, and place into the refrigerator. Refrigerate at least one hour.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
  3. Whisk together the melted butter and Pickapeppa Sauce in a small bowl. Dip the wings into the butter mixture, and place back on the baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven until the chicken is not longer pink in the center, and crispy on the outside, about 45 minutes. Turn the wings over halfway during cooking so they cook evenly.
InsideJourneys http://insidejourneys.com/
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The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

I thought it quite an achievement when I caught the once yearly flowering of the night-blooming cereus last year. I had experienced a phenomenon many flower lovers would probably give a vital body part to see.

Visiting a family friend over the weekend, I noticed several unopened buds on a cactus on the periphery of their property. How unusual, I thought to myself. You should get a photo. But I returned my attention to the people with whom I was speaking, people I hadn’t seen in a while.

During a lull in the evening’s activities, I looked over and saw that flowers had replaced the buds I had seen earlier. I didn’t have my camera so I grabbed my phone and practically dragged my cousin, an award-winning flower lover, over to where the night-blooming cactus was. She had seen it too and told me after that she planned to ask our family friend for a cutting.

The Short-Lived Night-Blooming Cactus

Cactus

(Jamaican women are passionate about their gardens and will willingly trade cuttings with friends and other flower lovers. So you’ll see the same flowers in the gardens of women who are friends.)

The flowers looked similar to the cereus I had seen last year. It was surprising to me then I remembered that the cereus is from the flowering cactus family.

Here’s a photo of the night-blooming cereus for comparison.

Night Blooming Cereus

Night-Blooming Cereus

While the night-blooming cereus lasts only one night, this genus of the night-blooming cactus lasts two. Both attract a special moth that causes them to pollinate.

As I write this I realize that one thing was different — the cactus didn’t have the subtle fragrance that accompanied the cereus. But it had rained, no poured, that evening so the rain could have washed away the scent.

Have you seen a night-blooming cactus?

This week, I’m linking this post to Budget Traveler’s Sandbox and  Travel Photo Monday. Be sure to check out the other photos that are posted there.