Blackberry Cobbler!

blackberries1.jpgby George G. Morgan

We all have special memories from different times in our lives. My childhood is filled with memories of spending time at the home of my Aunt Mary Allen Morgan and my Grandmother Morgan. I spent weekdays in the summertime with these ladies while my parents worked. I learned a great deal about life, family history and traditions, and love during those summers.

October is Family History Month, and once again we have the opportunity to celebrate family and traditions. I’m sure that some of the special memories in your life are stories that you can share with relatives of all generations. Family History Month provides the opportunity to do just that. Make the time and create an opportunity to get together with family members and share some of these wonderful stories.

I like to share one of my favorite memories with you. After all, you as my readers have become family to me too. One of my most favorite memories involves blackberry cobbler.

Summer Sweets
My aunt and grandmother both had a sweet tooth. They loved having dessert at lunch and supper, and a mid-afternoon snack of cookies and freshly squeezed lemonade was a daily tradition. The desserts they had seldom were store-bought; they were, rather, usually homemade delicacies. There were pies, cakes, cookies, candied citrus rind, ambrosia, and anything that involved fruit and sugar.

My favorite of all the desserts made by my aunt was blackberry cobbler. As a child, I was usually sent out with a bucket to pick blackberries. If you’ve ever done this yourself, you know that blackberry vines have thorns. You have to be careful when you’re picking the berries so that you don’t get too badly scratched. One of the main joys of the task was tasting the berries as I was picking them. I always wore old clothes because, as you probably know, tasting these succulent berries can be a messy job.

When I got back to the house, I was charged with carefully washing the berries in a wire colander and removing any leftover leaves or pieces of vines. You had to be gentle with the berries because you didn’t want to crush them. My aunt then took the cleaned berries and placed them in a saucepan with water and began to simmer them. She didn’t cook them long but, during the process, she added sugar and a little bit of both vanilla and almond extract. At the same time, she began making the dough for the crust of the cobbler. She mixed flour and baking powder with water and began kneading and rolling the dough. She then cut the dough into long strips and laid them out on waxed paper on the top of the stove. When the berries had simmered just enough to produce a wonderful, sticky concoction, she poured the mixture into a Pyrex baking dish. She then began the process of weaving the strips of dough into a lattice on top of the berry mixture. It was fascinating to me to watch her fingers move so deftly as she created what would be a lattice crust. She then added a special type of sugar to the top of the woven dough and this sugar would ultimately crystallize.

By this time it was about eleven o’clock in the morning. My aunt placed the glass baking dish in the oven at just the right temperature to bake for about thirty minutes. Throughout the time she had been preparing the blackberry cobbler, pots of fresh vegetables had been cooking on the stove. My aunt and grandmother always had an all-vegetable lunch, followed by the inevitable desert. As my aunt checked the vegetables, the smell of the magnificent cobbler wafted from the oven.

Finally, into another saucepan on top of the stove, my aunt mixed water and white granulated sugar over a very low heat in order to make thick sugar syrup. (Obviously, the cobbler was not going to be sweet enough unless drizzled with this syrup.) My aunt stirred this syrup continuously over the low heat until it was just the right consistency. She then turned off the heat, covered the saucepan, and set it aside. She served vegetables onto plates for the three of us and carried them into the dining room. She then returned to the kitchen, turned off the oven, removed the cobbler, and set it on top of the stove. It looked like heaven to me!

Somehow I managed to make it through the vegetables at lunch. My mind was on the cobbler in the kitchen. At last, I was able to help clear the dishes from the table while my aunt scooped large servings of her homemade blackberry cobbler into bowls. She gently poured a bit of sugar syrup over the top of each serving, and then we carried the desserts back to the dining room. Never was there a dessert made that equaled that homemade blackberry cobbler!

Unfortunately, my aunt always made blackberry cobbler from memory, and she never wrote the recipe down. When she died in 1969, I searched through her collection of recipes but I never found her recipe for blackberry cobbler. I’ve tried to duplicate the recipe, and I’ve tasted those of other cooks. However, never have I found a blackberry cobbler to equal that made by my Aunt Mary Allen Morgan. And while her unique recipe may have been lost, the memory will live in my mind and my heart forever.

Don’t Lose Your Family Memories!
The family traditions in your own family should be preserved forever. If there’s a special story, memory, recipe, or something else that needs to be recorded, please invest the time to do it now. If you do nothing else to commemorate Family History Month this year, write down one or more of these family traditions so they may be preserved for posterity. Your family will be forever grateful.
Visit George’s website for information about his company, speaking engagements, and presentation topics. You can also listen to George and Drew Smith’s “Genealogy Guys” podcast.

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18 thoughts on “Blackberry Cobbler!

  1. Our family loves food! But our family is 3-in-1, having in common residence in a house. So, last year I solicited recipes, photos and written memories from those of us who lived in that house and then produced a cookbook/memory book. We distributed copies to all living relatives/descendents. Such a project was well worth the effort.The up-coming holiday season, when families are most apt to get together, might be a good opportunity to get started on your family heritage cookbook!

  2. I really enjoyed George’s story. All of us have wonderful memories like that. I, too, have searched through my grandmother’s recipes to no avail for her potato salad dressing which by the way tasted like Marzetti’s Slaw Dressing(not potato salad dressing). So when I use that it tastes almost the very same. It is such a good idea to write down what you think you remember about a recipe or life event. Others in your family may contribute their own memories of it and you just might find the answer. Another important idea mentioned this week was to label all your photos so that some great-grandchild will be able to identify family members. I have so many photos from the 1880s forward that I cannot identify and no one is alive to help me. One picture of a baby kept surfacing over and over again, so when my mother was still alive I finally got her to look at the old photos and sure enough we identified the baby to be her father–the eyes were the same as when he was an older man! My grandfather whose name was Marion had a little autograph book, which was very popular back in the 1880s and 1890s. I asked my mom about it when I found it and she said it was my grandpa’s. But on further inspection it was written in before my grandpa was born. That’s when I found out that he was named for an uncle that had died a few weeks before he was born and they passed down the little book for him to continue with. My mom never knew that: she never really paid much attention. Dates are so important!!!

  3. My mother remembers the special flavor of her grandmother’s apple pie. Through the years, we’ve tried to duplicate the recipe. One day my sister-in-law Judith had to supply a pie for her son’s school class dinner, and with no apples on hand, baked one of those “fake apple” pies, using crackers in lieu of sliced apples. She made an extra pie, and served a slice to my mother, who started raving about this wonderful pie – just like her grandmother’s!! She made comments such as, “The seasonings have to be just right. I know grandma used nutmeg as well as cinnamon,” and “I think the variety of apples must be important, too.” Judith and I were nearly rolling in laughter — we think we have discovered grandma’s secret recipe!

  4. In reading George’s article on Blackberry Cobbler, his mention of a Pyrex Baking Dish made me wonder how long Pyrex has been around. So I “googled” the phrase “Pyrex history” and came up with a number of interesting and informative sites. The first of those sites follows:

    (And I thought that George was too old to have used Pyrex as a young boy – shame on me!)

  5. I have discovered that my mother’s family were confectioners in Yorkshire. I have gathered together all the old family recipes for candy, etc. that I could find and then added a few others that I like to start a family recipe book of confections. This can now be handed down to future generations.

  6. I loved Mona’s secret apple pie recipe. I have never tried that. Does it really taste like apple pie? I want to make one.

  7. I know the secret to any cobbler is that the filling must be piping hot before you drop the soft, shortbread-like dough on the top. If contemporary recipes don’t seem to taste the same, consider that WILD blackberries are generally sweeter and more flavorful than their domesticated cousins. Next, I recall MY mother using sweet cream and/or butter in this topping rather than some oleo or Crisco concoction. The sparkly sugar on top would have to have been “perl saker”, or pearl sugar, found in international-specialty shops. I believe it is imorted from Scandinavia.

  8. The crust was made of flour, baking powder, and water. No shortening was required? I can see that would reduce the fat, as nutritionists tell us we should do. I use corn oil liquid shortening instead of a solid fat, like Crisco. Is that correct, that she didn’t use any fat?

  9. Food always evokes memories mostly good. In our family as a child my grandmother would visit from Michigan . On these visits she made he mother’s old recipe for Butter Tarts. These contained Currants and Walnuts in small tart shells. They are still a Christmas Tradition in our home

  10. It is not fair. You just reminded of my years gone past and my mothers bkackberri cobbler. We lived on five acres and a portion of that was a bunch of blackberry bushes. It was my job to pick them (I was 15). I remembered the needles but ours also seemed full of spiders too.

    Mom made the cobbler just like yours. and I still miss them.

    Thanks for reminding. PJS

  11. Reading the blackberry cobbler story reminded me of spending time at my grandparents in 1948. I would be 4 years old in Feb. 1949. My grandparents had a four room house . My grandparents and i would pick blackberries during the summer and grandma would can them and use them in cobblers in the winter.Every Christmas there was a cobbler and laying in bed on Christmas Eve watching the flames from the fireplace make big dark shadows on the wall and listning to the cold wind whip around the corners of the house i would think about the cobbler we would be having the next day. My parents and other relatives would be there early to help with the cooking. It was a wonderful time in my life and i wish everyone could have such happy memories at 3 and 4 years old.

  12. Like George, I too have wonderful memories of picking blackberries on my grandparents farm, when I was a child. As a teenager, my aunt finally taught me the recipe for my grandmother’s blackberry cobbler. It’s my Dad’s favorite! It’s a little different that George’s family, but I’d be happy to share it with him, if he’d like!

  13. Last Christmas, I was at a loss as to what to give to my nieces who range in age from 11-15 years old. I decided to take photos of all my Mom’s recipes and typed them all out. I then gave the girls each a scrapbbok and let them make the books themselves during our Christmas party. They now have a wonderful keepsake with pictures of family occasions, close-ups of the food and the recipes to go with them.

  14. How simple life was back then when we were children. Donna Rippy’s memories of the 4 room house and fireplace on Christmas eve and thinking of the cobbler they would have the next day really touched me. Back then we really seemed to have time to think about our surroundings and little things like wind whipping around corners of the house and feeling safe and warm. Wonderful. I wonder if children think those things now when they live in such huge houses that people are so sequestered away in different rooms watching tv or playing game boys?

  15. I think food always tasted better when you were young. I used to love my mother’s vinigar dumplings. Recently I decided to make some for myself, and I know I cooked them just like my mother did. They were good, but didn’t taste nearly as delectablle as when I was young 50 years ago.
    Penny Gardner

  16. I, too, have memories of my grandmother’s cooking — she lived next door — how convenient! We, too, picked blackberries but they never made it into any recipe. One (among many) of my best memories made by my grandmother was her pickled peaches. They were small peaches and tasted so fantastic! I have all of her recipes but can’t find that one any where. After reading this article, I’m getting a big push to get into that project I’ve been saving for “one day” — that of sorting out her recipes, deciding which were really the ones she used (she has many given to her by her friends) and assembling them into a book for my cousins — all of whom are younger than me and also who lived out of state and have not enjoyed my grandmother’s cooking as did my sister and I. Also, I need to choose certain recipes and contact our local newspaper which, to this day, publishes her favorite column, the Ask-It Basket, to see if anyone can send me those recipes of old. I know she found many of her favorite recipes there!

  17. My grandmother made the best chocolate carmels I have ever eaten. When she could no longer made them, both my mother and my aunt tried to make them using her recipe. They didn’t have the knack and their’s were never as good as Grammy’s!

  18. My Dutch relatives were great scratch cooks, growing and preserving many jars of home-grown bounty for winter use in wonderful recipes. One of my favorite memories of my rural West Michigan childhood combines baseball and produce. My parents lived on a three-acre parcel cut from Grandpa Westrate’s 80-acre farm. I spent much more time with Grandpa and Grandma than I did at home. Grandma was a devoted Detroit Tigers fan, a proclivity she passed down to my Aunt Marie and me. I remember many summer Saturdays, picking a bushel or more of green beans as soon as conditions were dry enough to prevent the bean bushes from developing rust as a result of being touched when wet. We would bring the beans into the living room and spend a good part of the afternoon drinking iced tea and snipping beans, while watching tiny, grayish Tigers running bases on the small round, snowy screen of the first television set in the neighborhood, a gift from my Uncle Len. How Grandma would have loved the 1968 and 1984 World Series, not to mention the 2006 classic! Unfortunately, grandma died in 1959 and Marie followed in the mid-1980s. I miss them so much. The great Ernie Harwell became our play-by-play man in 1960. Grandma would have loved him as much as Marie and I did. Kudos to ESPN for featuring Ernie’s play-by-play on a playoff game this fall; he’s still got it!

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