Sunday, August 23, 2009

Berries! (Don't even think about skipping the ice cream...)

When I was a girl (oh, hear we go again, the young ones sigh) and we said we were bored on a long, long, long July day (what happened to those July days? They aren't as long as they used to be) my mother, or Alice May's mother, would send us off berry picking.

Glad for a mission, Alice May and I would take a bucket and head out to the woods in search of black berries and raspberries, which grew in profusion in rural Carroll County, Maryland. Back there the woods are thick in the summertime, not only with trees but with weeds and wildflowers, poison oak and poison ivy, brambles and bushes...some of which were blackberry and raspberry bushes.

"Leave some for the birds," mother used to say. We did. We also kept an eye out for snakes, which were purported to like the berries too...

Eureka! Finding a bush laden with ripe fruit was like finding the mother lode -- might be enough on this bush so we can live like kings! Eat our fill and take home enough for our mothers to make into pies and preserves. Enough to make them smile when we returned, hunter-gatherers extraordinaire, hands stained, pants torn, proudly offering them our harvest.

Today I buy my berries at the grocery store, and they're usually from California or Mexico. Sometimes I chance upon them when hiking in Colorado, but I feel bad taking them from the wildlife. OK, maybe just one...

Berry Cobbler

2 lbs. mixed berries
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
a good dose of ground cinnamon, about 1/2 tsp.
1 tsp. ground ginger

For the cobbler topping:

2 and 1/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 Tbsp. chilled, unsalted butter cut into little pieces
1 lg. egg
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup finely minced crystallized ginger (optional, but really adds a nice touch)

Preheat oven to 375. Lightly butter a 9x13 inch baking dish.

Combine berries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and ground ginger in a bowl and toss to coat. Pour berry mixture into the baking dish.

To make topping by hand: In a separate bowl stir flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Scatter the butter pieces over the top and cut in the butter with a pastry blender, or two forks until the mixture resembles coarse meal. In another small bowl, whisk the egg and cream, then pour this mixture into the flour mixture, stirring and tossing with a fork until it holds together. Then stir in the crystallized ginger.

Place dollops of the topping (will be thick and sticky) evenly over the berries. Sprinkle a little more sugar on the top. Place the dish on a rimmed baking sheet and bake the cobbler until the top is golden and the filling is bubbling, about 35 minutes. Take out and let cool for 10-15 minutes.

Eat warm Don't even think about skipping the big scoop of vanilla ice cream that goes with it! Next morning, have some for breakfast, with a little milk poured over.

Bon appetit! Or as the country folk say, Good eatin'!


  1. I have a similar childhood memory of berry picking. But we were in North Denver. At night. It was hot and the evening were long. There were no Maryland forests, no bugs, no snakes. But we did have a few neighbors that had some raspberry hedges. Oh. And bats! We did have bats at night. We used to throw tennis balls straight up to them as they flew by at dusk. We got such a thrill from seeing their radar in action, swooping down to "catch" the ball...all of this while we plucked ripe raspberries to no end, from a wayward bramble in an alley somewhere between Vrain and Xavier St.

  2. And all this time I thought you were in your room, doing homework!

  3. It looks so luscious. I used to pick berries at my grandmother's house in the summer in California. I remember those torn pants.