Hello, and welcome back to Down Home Food. Today we’re going blackberry pickin, or at least on paper we are.

My mother always loved being outdoors, as did her mother. Mama talked about loving to pick blackberries when she was growing up. One of her favorite “pickin’ spots” was in the area of the bypass right about where the traffic light is. There was a huge flat rock there that she referred to as “Indian rock.” I guess she must have imagined Indians having been there.

She also used to go berry pickin’ with her brother Bill Lawson. Uncle Bill also shared that love for being outdoors. He was an avid fisherman, and a bit of an inventor. He took a spoon, and cut the end off (the part you eat with). All that was left was the handle. He bent it in a manner to hook over your belt or pants waistband. You could then hang your berry bucket from it, and pick your berries with both hands. Pretty clever wasn’t it? I still have a couple of those that he made.

My grandmother always worried about the snakes Mama might run into while berry pickin’. That probably goes back to when was a little girl growing up in Hancock County and pickin’ blackberries herself. She told me about an incident when she was a little girl and about to step over a wooden fence and happened to see a copperhead on the other side. I’m sure that was common for the time and area where she lived.

No thank you, is my reaction to this. I like to be outdoors too, but I draw the line when it comes to any possibility of a snake. Green snake, black snake, copperhead, or rattlesnake, they’re all the same to me, and I HATE them all! I’ve always said, “The only good snake is a dead snake.” Also, I’m not so crazy about the bugs, chiggers, and briars that go with blackberry pickin’. I love the berries, but all that other stuff is for the birds. I’ll just do my berry pickin’ at the produce market or Walmart.

Blackberries are very good for you. They’re low in calories at only 62 calories per cup. They’re very high in antioxidants, and they contain more fiber than a cup of bran flakes. Blackberries contain compounds that may help protect you from heart, brain, and cell damage. Research suggests that their vitamin content may help reduce your risk of heart problems, periodontal disease, and age-related decline in motor skills and cognitive function.

Ancient cultures believed the blackberry plant to be a weed or wild plant, yet its medicinal history goes back to more than 2000 years. History records the traditional usage of blackberry fruit, leaf, bark, and roots by the Romans and Greeks for healing numerous health conditions ranging from mild infections to venomous bites. In fact, during the 18th century, the Greek cure of using blackberry to treating gout was so influential in Europe that it was famously known as the “gout berry”.

I’m sharing three recipes today using blackberries. These may be a bit late for the wild blackberries, but tame blackberries are still available. You can also use frozen blackberries in these recipes.

As always, enjoy!

Blackberry Cobbler

2 1/2 cups blackberries, washed

1 cup sugar

1 cup flour

2 Teaspoon baking powder

½ Teaspoon salt

1 cup milk

½ cup unsalted butter, melted

How to make it:

Stir together just the berries and sugar in a large bowl and let it sit out for 25-30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375F. Stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, and milk with a wooden spoon. Next, stir in the melted butter and hand-mix it until the ingredients are well incorporated and you have few clumps. Pour batter into medium baking dish and smooth it out. You can choose to line it with parchment paper or not, but don’t grease the pan. Finally, pour the macerated blackberries on top with all the sugar included and evenly distribute it over the batter.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how golden you prefer it to be. Let it cool for 5 minutes so it will hold its shape.

Blackberry Dumplings

A warm, soft dumpling cooked in sweet blackberry sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients:

4 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or juice of 1/2 lemon

1 cup all purpose flour

½ Teaspoon baking powder

1/4 Teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons shortening

1/4 cup milk

1 egg

1 Teaspoon vanilla

Instructions:

Bring berries, sugar, water and lemon juice to a boil in a large skillet using high heat. Cook for 10 minutes lowering heat just a little. Stirring occasionally. Put remaining ingredients into a bowl and mix together using an electric mixer. Dough will be somewhat stiff. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls into cooked berries. Cover and cook dumplings for 5 minutes. Turn dumplings over and cook covered another few minutes or until dumplings are cooked through. Serve warm by itself or with a scoop of ice cream.

Giving them a flip helps to cook through and coat them with the flavorful juice

After the berries were cooked I used 2 spoons to drop the dumpling batter into the juice among the berries.

Flaky Blackberry Turnovers

Prep time: 20 mins.; Cook time: 30 mins.; Total time: 50 mins.

Ingredients:

Flaky Pastry Crust

1 cup Sour Cream

½ cup Sugar

4 cup all-purpose or whole wheat pastry flour

1 Teaspoon sea salt

1 ½ cups cold butter, cut into small pieces

2 Tablespoons room-temperature butter

Blackberry Filling

3 cups blackberries

1/3 cup sugar

3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

Additional sugar for dusting

INSTRUCTIONS:

Flaky Pastry Crust

Stir sour cream and sugar together. Set aside

Mix together flour, and salt. Cut cold butter into the flour mixture, until mixture resembles course meal. Using a fork gently toss sour cream in with flour mixture. Dough will be very soft.

Divide dough into two. Shape into a rectangle using plastic wrap and cover. Refrigerate dough at least 1 hour.

Remove one piece of dough from the refrigerator and roll into a 9 inch x 18 inch rectangle between plastic wrap or parchment paper. Spread with room temperature butter and fold dough in thirds like a business letter. Repeat folding dough in thirds in opposite direction to end with a square. Wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours. Repeat with remaining dough.

Blackberry Filling

Mix blackberries, sugar and flour. Set aside. If using frozen blackberries set aside until blackberries defrost.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheets with Silpat® or parchment paper.

Roll each piece of dough to 1/8-inch thick. Cut out 4 one-half inch rounds. You can gather scrapes, chill and re-roll dough to make additional turnovers. Each piece of dough will yield about 7 or 8 turnovers.

Transfer each round to baking sheet and fill with 2 tablespoons blackberries.. Moisten edge of dough with a little water on your finger and fold turnovers in half, using a fork to crimp the edge of dough. Poke 4 steam holes using a fork in the center of each turnover.

Sprinkle each turnover with a pinch of sugar.

Bake for 20-30 minutes. Rotating baking sheets 10 minutes into baking. Bake until turnovers are puffed, firm to the touch and golden brown. Remove to a cooling rack.

A tip from a cookbook over 100 years old:

What can be done so the berry pie will not be too juicy. Put the berries in a colander or strainer, pour cold water over; when well drained, sprinkle liberally with flour, put in crust. Mix 1/4 cup sugar with 1 Tablespoon flour and sprinkle over the top of the berries. Brush the edge of bottom crust with milk before putting on top crust, and press firmly. This will keep the juice from coming out. Raspberry, red currant, and gooseberries can be prepared in same manner.