Tuesday, June 8, 2010

berries from the yard

Let's put it this way: no garden society is ever going to ask us to be on their tour. We don't even have a real garden, really; we have a yard. A tumbledown yard with leaning fences, old pallets, piles of broken concrete, weeds, and brambles.
 But at this time of year, the brambles sport olallieberries.
The center berry always ripens first. I wonder why that is.
"Quickberry! Quackberry! Pick me a blackberry!"1 When the cap loses its green color, the berry is ripe and will practically drop into your hand.
And in half an hour, we can fill a colander.
Pie is just a double crust filled with a mixture of berries, sugar and a little flour to thicken. My older son and I love blackberry pie above all others.
But my go-to berry dessert is this cobbler shortcake from the back pages of Sunset Magazine, June 2000, and credited to Patricia Yee of Concord, California.
Below is an exact transcription, but I'll add that it's an incredibly forgiving and flexible recipe. When I don't have buttermilk, I'll substitute plain yogurt. When I don't have lemon zest, I'll use only orange, and vice versa. I've also left out the zest completely and forgotten or reduced the sugar. Since we keep hens and have odd-sized eggs, I often throw in an extra one for good measure. The cake always comes out fine.

And though it would churn up easily in a food processor, I think what I like best about this recipe is that it goes just as quickly mixed by hand in a couple of bowls. At the end of a long summer day, there is something peaceful and relaxing about making a simple dessert by hand.

Berry Cobbler Shortcake
prep and cook time: about 1 hour

2 cups all-purpose flour
about 1-1/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
about 3/4 cup butter, cut into chunks
2 large eggs
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 quarts berries, rinsed and drained (use one kind or mix several), such as blueberries, boysenberries, loganberries, olallieberries, raspberries, or hulled strawberries
1 cup whipping cream

  1. In a bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder, lemon peel, orange peel, baking soda and salt. With a pastry blender or your fingers, cut or rub in 3/4 cup butter until coarse crumbs form.
  2. In another bowl, mix eggs and buttermilk to blend. Add to flour mixture; stir with a fork until evenly moistened. Spread batter in a buttered shallow 9-by-13-inch casserole.
  3. Slice strawberries, if using. In a bowl, mix berries with 1/4 cup sugar. Spoon 3 cups berries evenly over batter. If desired, sweeten remaining berries with more sugar to taste.
  4. Bake cobbler in a 350 degree oven until browned, 30 to 40 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, in a bowl with a mixer on high speed, whip cream until it holds soft peaks; sweeten with about 2 tablespoons sugar to taste.
  6. Cut warm or cool cobbler into 8 portions. With a wide spatula, transfer portions to plates. top equally with remaining berries and whipped cream.

When I was a kid, my friends and I sometimes picked blackberries roadside. They grow in the most difficult places: down steep creekbanks, over asphalt, around chainlink fences. They grow wild and sprawling without any need for tending. I suppose that's why they grow in our yard.

I love our yard.

1from one of our kids' favorite picture books, Jamberry, by Bruce Degen


  1. Ollallieberries. Would never have known the diff. (And still would think they were blackberries.) Amazing you have so many and can make desserts (when they make it to the colander, that is). All looks yummy!

  2. you take the most amazing photos!

  3. Madeline and Gabriel's DadJune 8, 2010 at 1:57 PM

    Wow. Steph sent me a link to this, and for the past ten minutes I have been whisked away from the craziness at work to your amazing backyard. Your photos and narrative exude love and warmth and family. Thanks for sharing this with all of us!

  4. Your pictures are the next best thing to being there. The Ollallieberry treats look amazing. They make my mouth water...thanks for the recipe too. I love your blog!

  5. Thanks for all the nice comments. I guess olallieberries (sorry for my misspelling in the post--I've corrected it now) are technically only half-blackberry, but I use the words interchangeably, as you can see!


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