May 26 • 11:44 PM

Blackberrying before tech gadget's arrival

September 01, 2010
Rummaging through my memoirs, I came across the following written in August of 1989. I would like to share this one with you. The good ol' days.

"My morning walks have turned up a delicious new find. I discovered a few bushes of wild blackberries. They are more flavorful, sweeter and have not as many seeds as the black raspberries that grow around our old chicken coop. We have been enjoying them on our cereal, in a sauce dish, on ice cream and blackberry cobbler. I will share the recipe with you later.

"The July 1971 issue of Gourmet magazine had an article, "Blackberrying," and I saved it. The author's story of her childhood rang a bell. The following is my story.

"My mother had a little basket with a hinged cover that she gave me to carry when we went picking wildflowers back in our woods or when we went berrying. The berry briars were (still are) treacherous and we wore long sleeved shirts and tied bag strings around our pant legs to keep the mosquitoes out. I had a little straw hat and Mom wore one of Daddy's farmer straw hats.

"In my high school years, huckleberrying in a huckleberry swamp near Lakeville was Mom's great joy. In the blackberrying article in Gourmet, the author mentioned that "mother regarded any time away from the farmhouse as 'freedom,' a reprieve fromm ordinary chores. Freedom was the essence of a day spent berrying." I am sure huckleberrying was Mom's reprieve also. Together with a neighbor, Lizzie Messer and several other friends, they would pack lunches, dress up in gosh-awful looking clothes including high boots to protect them from snakes. There had been stories of rattlers in that swamp. I was happy to be elected to get dinner for Daddy, his hired help and Grandpa and Grandma Miller who lived with us. Grandpa had suffered a stroke, was paralyzed on his right side and could not talk. It took most of Grandma's time caring for him.

"There was home-canned beef with its delicious juice for gravy, leaf lettuce, string beans and potatoes from the garden...and, of course, homemade bread. Mom taught me at an early age to make cherry pie and her favorite cocoa cake. I especially liked cherry pie made from our own cherries and that is what I baked. In the summer we used a kerosene stove complete with an oven instead of the hot wood or coal-fed Range Eternal.

"The day following Mom's huckleberrying trip an old white sheet covered the dining room table. The berries were carefully poured on the sheet and Mom, Grandma and I set about "picking the berries clean" of twigs and leaves, rolling the berries off the table into dish pans in our laps. We rolled off a few green ones also to give the necessary tartness to the bland huckleberries. Then the canning process would begin. The blue, quart canning jars with raised letters on the side spelling out 'Ball Ideal' were sterilized. Using a tin canning funnel, each jar was filled to the neck and covered with a simple syrup. The rims of the jars were wiped clean and Mom passed a finger around each rim making sure they had not been chipped and the zinc lids were tightened. The jars were put inside the cold-packer and hot water poured around the jars until neck-deep. Then the boiling water bath began, making the kitchen a little more than warm. Those winter-time huckleberry pies were certainly yummy.

"Now for 'Mother's Blackberry Cobbler:' Toss 5 cups fresh blackberries with 1 cup sugar and pour them into a well-buttered 1 1/2 quart oblong baking dish. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons sifted flour over the berries, dot them with butter, and set aside. In a bowl, sift 2 cups flour with 2 tablespoons sugar, 4 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and cream of tartar. Cut in 1 stick or 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in 1/2 cup milk and form the mixture into a ball. Roll the dough out 1/4 inch thick. Cover the blackberries with the dough and trim the edges. Cut a vent in the center of the dough and sprinkle the top generously with sugar. Bake the cobbler in a hot oven 400 degrees (I found this too hot for my oven) for 40 minutes or until the crust is golden. Serve with cream (ice cream at our house)."

Happy eating!

—Country Cousin

P.S. Ada Van Dyke gave me some of her huge, delicious blackberries today. What a treat! I will downsize the above recipe and still have some left to eat fresh. Thanks, Ada!

Gertie Brooks is a lifelong Almont area resident. A 'farm girl,' Gertie is the premier historian for the Almont area, and frequently offers her memories and first-hand accounts in her 'Country Cousin' columns.
Castle Creek
Milnes Ford
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