Our family history and traditions are sometimes carved so deep in the family tree that they reach all the way to the roots. “Our family has been doing it,” whatever it is, “for hundreds of years,” I can hear my parents say. Born in Alabama and Georgia, my family hasn’t ventured too far from the South, where they’ve grown up on farms learning life skills I longingly wish I had.
Dairy cows, homemade butter, fruit trees, berry bushes, row crops, tractors, red painted barns, and farmhouses are the essence of who my family is, and despite not learning how to tend a garden until my thirties, it’s born into me as well. When I think about who I am, I believe I’m a collection of stories and experiences I remember from my childhood braided with life as it happens today. Here are a few of my favorite memories from back on the farm.
Buttermilk: A Treasure of the South
There’s something special about buttermilk if you ask my relatives. Known for sippin’ a glass a’ buttermilk before bed, the family’s buttermilk had a rich buttery taste being it was the byproduct of churning their butter at home. Much different than the buttermilk we enjoy in our biscuits and home baked breads today, I’m told this buttermilk had a unique sweetness and wasn’t thick and gloppy like the buttermilk we’re used to seeing on our grocery shelves. Even so, I use store bought buttermilk when my recipe calls for it, or if I’m not able to make a trip to the store, I add a tablespoon or two of white vinegar to whole milk to create a similar curdled, thick, buttermilk-like substitute.
Deep down, I hope to taste the real thing one day, especially if it’s anything like my grandparents, which was paired with rocking in an old chair on the porch with the dog asleep at their feet, waving to the neighbors as they pass by.
Barn Pickin’ with Man’s Best Friend
A dog isn’t just man’s best friend because Pop shares his morning biscuit with the family dog. No, that dog’s soul has imprinted on yours, and he’s devoted to the end of your days. How do I know? ‘Cause every family dog on our farm has selflessly kept watch, ready to alert at anything he senses is awry, and would walk fearlessly into danger to ensure my family is safe. And that’s to include performing a sweep prior to going barn pickin’ in the old country house back in our pasture, scaring off snakes, mice, and all the creepy crawlies so that, girl, you can pick to your heart’s content.
Walk on with confidence and you go find those old antiques in the barn because, well, they deserve love too.
Pickin’ Blackberries off Country Roads
When I was a young thing, I can remember my grandmother picking berries off the side of our country roads. She was always the first taste tester, as she said, “in case it’s poisonous,” but secretly I think it’s so she had first pick at the juiciest berries on the vine.
She was a wise woman in more ways than one. Beyond getting first dibs, she instilled a fear of snakes in my sister and I, always reminding us that blackberry bushes were where snakes loved to hide. I’ve never seen a snake in the blackberry bushes, but I think it’s because her dog, Honey, was always by her side, quick to scare off the snakes.
After gathering her freshly picked bounty, Grammy was notorious for her quick berry cobblers. Hers had the perfect balance of crumble and pie dough cooked overtop the messiest, most delightful berry filling. Paired with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream, you could convince yourself it’s the main course if you let it sit long enough to melt into a soupy, sugary bowl of pure heaven.
Looking for a cobbler recipe? Here’s Grammy’s tried and true. Enjoy!
Grammy’s Blackberry Cobbler Recipe
Dough: In a bowl of a food processor combine 2.5 cups all purpose flour, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tbsp sugar. Add 2 sticks unsalted butter (chilled and chopped into 1 inch cubes) and process for 10 seconds. With the machine running, slowly add 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water through the feed tube. Pulse no more than 30 seconds until pie dough starts to stick together. Pour onto a long sheet of plastic wrap until ready for use (or freeze up to a month to make a cobbler later!).
Cobbler: In a medium bowl, combine washed berries, 1/2 cup sugar, and 2 tablespoons of flour. Set aside. Press pie dough into the bottom of your favorite pie pan leaving enough pie pieces to scatter overtop the cobbler. Pour berry mixture into the pan and top with remaining pie pieces. Sprinkle sugar overtop, and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes.
Leave to cool for a few minutes as you take vanilla ice cream out of the freezer and serve together in a bowl with a big ol’ spoon to scoop up the cobbler and melted ice cream. Settle in a rocking chair on the porch and wave to your neighbors like the good ole days.
We look forward to seeing how your cobbler turned out on our social channels, @southernwaterdogs.