Good and bad of blackberries

Published 12:35 pm Wednesday, July 24, 2019

By Peggy Walker, R.D.

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Oh blackberries! How I love you but how I do not love chiggers. DW set out three thornless blackberry plants last spring. They produced only a handful of berries this year, but we have high expectations for next year.

But the wild and thorny blackberries growing along our property line made up for them. Well, they out bloomed them. I don’t know who or what found the berries before we did, but they didn’t leave many for us. But thanks to a friend, we picked enough from her place to make a small cobbler.

Not exactly like grandmother’s. I do remember picking wild blackberries along a hot and dusty fence row on my McAlexander grandparents’ farm. Fun for a minute with cousins from out-of-town, but not so much fun getting pricked by the sharp little thorns, fighting bees, watching for snakes, and going back with chiggers.

MawMaw’s cobblers were big and delicious, especially after an afternoon of sitting around trying to stay cool while shelling peas. We had to work for our food on the farm!

My in-town grandmother bought blackberries in quart sized Mason jars from local blackberry peddlers, who had already dealt with the wild side of blackberries. She’d take the berries home and make a blackberry “pie” for Thursday dinner.

On Thursdays the businesses on the square in Holly Springs closed at noon. She’d stay home and cook.  Lunch was on the table when my granddaddy arrived…usually fried chicken, peas, okra, potato salad, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and onions in vinegar, soft and tender biscuits, and always a homemade dessert.

I called her GaGa and she had the lightest touch when it came to making pie crusts and biscuits. Her long and slender fingers aptly blended flour, milk and lard all at once, then she rolled out a perfect crust on the counter. The story goes that the cat and I would always be right beside her waiting on bites of the pastry scraps. I still like a bite of dough, just one.

She made her blackberry pie in the 2-lipped top of her double boiler. To the best of my recollection, she added a little water, sugar, and butter to the berries and heated them on the stove top first. Before she laid the thinly rolled, perfectly sized crust over the berries, she’d drop a few pieces of dough into the hot blackberry mixture.

My first serving would be just out of the oven, but I loved the leftover portion that she’d leave on the stove top after lunch.  The dumplings would absorb the sweet liquid. The crust would stay slightly crunchy on top, but get soft and doughy underneath. That was such good eating.  There’s no wonder I love food so much with the grandmothers I had.

Cheers for blackberries. With only 62 calories in a cup they’re full of vitamins C and K, fiber and the mineral manganese which aids in wound healing and making strong bones. And there’s more!  Blackberries have anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-chronic disease, even anti-heart attack properties and give us a brain boost to boot! Well worth the chiggers.

True story. This recipe is good…not as good as GaGa’s…but I’m not going to use lard which would diminish all the good properties of the berries. I barely had enough berries and juice to make this recently, but I did anyway. My pot holders were rather thin, so I doubled them to remove the hot pan from the oven to avoid burning my fingers.

I didn’t, but somehow lost my grip and the whole beautiful cobbler dumped right out onto the counter top. I scoped up all I could and we ate it anyway. Oh, for the love of blackberries.

Recipe of the Week

Southern Blackberry Cobbler

Maybe I’ll find more berries at the farmer’s market to make this again!

3 cups fresh blackberries or 32 ounces frozen blackberries, thawed

¾ cup sugar

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups water


1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3 tablespoons sugar

¼ cup shortening

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons whipping cream

¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons buttermilk

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 tablespoon sugar.

Place berries in lightly greased shallow 2-quart baking dish.  Combine sugar and flour. Stir in water, blending until flour is dissolved. Pour mixture over berries; bake in 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Make crust: combine flour, and next 3 ingredients.  Cut in shortening until mixture looks like coarse meal.  Pour cream and butter milk into meal mixture; blend until a soft dough forms.  Knead 4 – 5 times; roll out on lightly floured surface.  Cut dough to fit the baking dish and place on top of hot berry mixture. Brush wilt melted butter; sprinkle 1 tablespoon sugar over top. Bake at 425 degrees for about 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with ice cream or chilled real whipped cream.