Cook's Corner: Berries offer sweet rewards

Published 4:21 pm Wednesday, May 2, 2007

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
I believe we are in the middle of the peak of the blackberry season - and I'm a little upset. The reason for my being upset is because I can't find any blackberries. Well, maybe it's dewberries I'm looking for, but either way I haven't found what I'm looking for this season.
Those delicious, sweet, tart blackberries are wonderful even if you do have to go through some pain to get them. I can't imagine how many thorns I have picked out of my hands and fingers after a morning of picking berries. But I will always say the reward is worth the fight.
I can remember growing up picking wild blackberries beside the road and in some wooded areas around Brewton. I have had black stain on my fingers for days after picking berries and you can bet there were a few squished on the bottom of my feet as well. I would like to give my child those same kinds of memories, but with the shortage of wild berry bushes, that is not likely to happen.
Several years ago, I got a copy of the Blueberry Festival cookbook and found a wonderfully easy recipe for Blueberry Swirled Cobbler. It was very easy and sounded very good, so I tried it with blackberries. It turned out beautifully and mighty tasty.
So even though I've decided to fill this week's space with recipes using blackberries, you should give some thought into changing the fruit around a little. I think that most berries can be substituted for another in most recipes.
This first recipe is for a very easy cobbler. It calls for blackberries but I'm certain most any berry would be fine as a substitute if you don't like blackberries.
Blackberry Cobbler
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 and one-half cups white sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking powder
One-half tsp. salt
6 tbsp. cold butter
One-fourth cup boiling water
2 tbsp. cornstarch
One-fourth cup cold water
1 tbsp. lemon juice
4 cups fresh blackberries, rinsed and drained
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. In a large bowl, mix the flour, one-half cup sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in boiling water just until mixture is evenly moist. In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in cold water. Mix in remaining 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries. Transfer to a cast iron skillet, and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Drop dough into the skillet by spoonfuls. Place skillet on the foil lined baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until dough is golden brown.
This would be wonderful with a little (or big) scoop of vanilla ice cream or even some whipped topping plopped on the top.
This next recipe is a very old one. I know it's been around for many, many years. It's hard sometimes to decipher some people's handwriting, but this one was one that was salvaged from the recipes of an elderly woman I once knew.
Nanny's Black Cake
2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups white sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
One-half cup butter
1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup raisins
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour three 8 inch round cake layer pans. Dissolve the baking soda in the buttermilk. Combine the sugar, 3 and one-half cups of the flour, ground nutmeg, ground cloves, ground cinnamon and the butter. Stir in the buttermilk mixture. Toss the blackberries and raisins with the remaining one-half cup of flour to coat. Mix in the blackberries and the raisins into the batter and stir until evenly distributed. Pour batter into the prepared pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cakes comes out clean.
This next recipe is one that sounds pretty good and won't be messy for the kids to eat. The dripping of a good blackberry pie is what makes it even more delicious, but those blackberry stains can be a pain to get rid out of some fabrics.
Blackberry Yummies
3 tbsp. butter
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 and one-half cups sifted all-purpose flour
One-half tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
One-half tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 pinch ground nutmeg
2 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
One-third cup apple juice
1 and one-fourth cups fresh blackberries
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease one 8×8 inch baking pan. In large bowl beat the butter or margarine together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Combine the flour, slat baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the flour mixture to the sugar mixture and stir to combine. Mix in the vinegar and juice. Fold in the blackberries. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake at 325 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool in pan and cut into squares.
I hope that you enjoy these recipes. They certainly bring back some memories for me as far as blackberries are concerned.
By the way, if you know where there is a field of wild blackberries that I can pick from, please let me know. And, I'd rather pick in a field where I'm not worried that I'll be shot by a mad landowner.
Most recipes that call for fresh blueberries probably would work well even if you used the frozen ones. There are a couple of things you need to remembr if you decide to give that option a try: thaw them completely and drain very well. I know that blackberries as a rule are pretty juicy, but for some reason frozen berries can turn to mush if you aren't careful.
The best way to thaw a berry is to bring it to room temperture gradually. Never, ever, thaw a berry in the micrwave if you want it to retain its shape. Even if you put the microwave cycle on thaw or defrost, there is still a certain amount of cooking going on in that little box when you press the button.
If you have success in making some substitutions with any of the recipes you find in this space, please let me know. I'm always looking for a shortcut or a way to make somebody else's recipe more like my own. I hope that you can make some of these your own and create a new memory for your family and friends.
If you have a recipe that you'd like to share I'd love to hear from you. And, if you are searching for a particular recipe that you're having trouble locating, let me know about it. I'll be happy to help you hunt through my files to see if I can help you out.
You can contact me by phone at 867-4876, by email at or you are welcome to drop by the office at 407 St. Nicholas Street.
Until next week, Happy Cooking!

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