Cobbler, Crisp, Buckle, Crumble, Fool, Grunt, and Slump

Rowena Morrel

Though the title may sound like a tale about Seven Dwarfs, and though the story does take you down the garden path…, this is a true story about a real little girl who lived on a farm, right here in Virginia; who now, a grandmother herself, loves to pick berries and make all sorts of delicious dishes with them.

I remember the long, lazy, hot summer days. Walking along the garden path I could feel the warmth of the earth beneath my feet, hear the bees buzzing among the flowers, and see butterflies flitting in and out. At the end of long rows of tomatoes, corn, and beans there was a berry patch. Here grew blueberry and gooseberry bushes, raspberries' and blackberries' briars growing higher than the fence posts, strawberries growing on the ground, and a grape arbor, like a small stage where vines and leaves formed a sort of curtain. I used to like to play on the stage pretending the rows of garden vegetables were my audience. There, I'd say the rhymes and sing songs… From mid-May until late September, I could find a berry or two, ready for the picking. I remembered their tart-sweet taste, from one summer to the next, and could hardly wait until their pale green color would start to turn, first to pale pink and then take on their ripened jewel-like colors of ruby red, sapphire blue, and onyx black.

I'd walk down to the berry patch almost every day in the summer and pick a few berries to snack on while I took a look around. If there were lots of berries, I would go back to the house and get my berry-picking basket, a rather small basket, shaped like a purse, that hung from my arm while I picked. If I could fill that basket with ripe berries, it would mean a wonderful berry dessert for dinner. If there were more ripe berries than my basket would hold, there were probably enough berries to make jam or to put in the freezer to eat in the winter.

My grandmother taught me to wait until the berries were ripe for the picking, telling me that berries do not ripen after they are picked, as do some fruits like apples, bananas, peaches, and pears. When blackberries are ripe they are shiny and black. Each little beaded cluster looks as if it will burst and the cap is golden brown; when the cap is green the berry is not fully ripe. Blueberries are sweet when they are fat and dark blue covered in a white haze. And, raspberries are ripe when they turn ruby red and tumble from their caps into your hand as you touch them. Of course, I had to experiment for myself and soon learned that unripened berries are quite sour. So I would wait impatiently for the right signs for picking to catch berries at their peak of flavor.

The berries didn't ripen all at the same time; pickings were slow in the beginning - a few today, a few more the next day, and then maybe a basket full. But at the peak of their season we could pick buckets full. There would be all sorts of berries for breakfast, lunch, snacks, dessert, with enough left over to freeze for winter, and to make jam. To make jam we placed equal weight of berries and sugar into a large pot and simmered them slowly until the berries cook down and the mixture thickened like syrup. This syrup, thick with berries, was poured into hot jars and sealed. It tasted wonderful on toast, hot buttered bread, or peanut butter sandwiches, …and it was like my own private secret to know that the jam came from my berry patch.

When there were lots of berries to pick, my mother and grandmother came to help. I would fill my small basket over and over again while we all dumped our pickings into large buckets. These berries were put in the refrigerator unwashed because berries should be washed only when they are ready to be used. Washing berries in advance causes the skins to break down, diminishing the flavor and texture. Berries destined for the freezer were spread in a single layer on cookie sheets - my job, and placed in the freezer. Frozen berries were put in plastic bags and placed back into the freezer. When it was time to use the berries, they could be poured out in any amount and used frozen in recipes that contained batter like pancakes cobbler, buckle, grunt, or slump. And thawed to make into pies, crisp, crumble or fool. I also liked to add them frozen to smoothies or to lemonade to make them pink or blue and ice cold. Now, if you're wondering, cobbler, crisp, buckle, crumble, fool, grunt, and slump are not the names of Seven Dwarfs, but the names given to cooked berry desserts, all slightly different and all deliciously similar.

All of these desserts are fun to make and share with family and friends. But I love the taste of fresh berries so much. I eat them raw, popping them into my mouth while I'm picking; warm off the vine, the tangy sweet juice squirts into my mouth and the telltale signs of juice stains my lips and tongue. My next favorite is berry shortcake, made with raw berries and Chantilly cream (whipped cream sweetened with confectioner's sugar and vanilla) piled high on a piece of cake.

Visiting orchards and berry farms is great fun. Here are a few things to remember when planning to go on a picking excursion: take along some sunscreen, insect repellent, and something cool to drink; wear a hat and carry a small pail or basket to hold the fruit while picking. Remember the tips my grandmother taught me about picking only ripe berries. Berry picking is the perfect opportunity for a picnic too. Enjoy!

Berry Coulis
For a fresh-tasting berry sauce that requires no cooking, puree each kind of fresh berry separately in a food processor. Using a rubber spatula, force the mixture through a very fine mesh strainer to remove the seeds. Add confectioner's sugar to taste. This sauce is called a "coulis". Prepare the different berry coulis, put them into squirt bottles, and create designs on the dessert plates, adding the dessert on top, just like the professional chefs do. Keep coulis refrigerated.

Fruit Cobbler
Here is my favorite fruit cobbler recipe. It may be used with most any kind of fresh or frozen fruit. Heat oven to 350 degrees

Ingredients

5 cups fruit
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon lemon, vanilla or almond extract (optional)

Equipment

Paring knife
Measuring cups and spoons
Medium mixing bowl
9x13x3 baking dish
Rubber spatula
Strainer

Preparation

If using apples, or stone fruit, peel and slice into thin slices; if using fresh berries, wash them or use frozen berries. Toss prepared fruit with 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup flour; set aside. Melt 3/4 cup butter in baking dish in the oven. Combine 2 cups self-rising flour and 1 cup sugar; stir in milk and flavoring. Remove dish from the oven, pour in batter, and smooth out with rubber spatula. Spread fruit and accumulated juice on top of batter. Scatter with 1/2 cup sugar, dot with 1/4 cup chilled butter, return to oven, and bake for about 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean. Remove to cooling rack and serve hot or room temperature.

Rowena T. Morrel is publisher of In The Kitchen Magazine. Be sure to check out her monthly publication that contains a column called "Kids Corner".

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