Oh my goodness! Today I’m very excited to finally share an actual recipe for my Grandma’s blackberry cobbler. Oh yes, this is a big deal as it was a recipe she never wrote down and something mom and I learned from her. Not sure who else learned to make it – for sure it has been an adventure trying to remember how. It has been a goal for us to get it down on paper and share it with everyone so you too can enjoy the best blackberry cobbler ever. No lie, it’s THE BEST.
Here’s a picture of Maebell (my grandma) as a young woman – sometime mid 1930′s. I just LOVE this photo of her. My grandparents were married during the Great Depression and started out with nothing, their first home being a shack. Most of their household items were handed down to them by grandpa’s parents. We’re pretty sure she inherited the colander / juicer used to make this cobbler from them (it’s just always been in the family.)
Maebell was an amazing cook and gardener. She canned fruits and vegetables, made jam and jelly. She also crocheted beautiful afghans and doilies. And of course she made the most wonderful blackberry cobbler. She used to make cobbler as a treat for the family… the kids would help pick blackberries so she could make jars of blackberry jelly. While she did that she would take some of that juice and make a little cobbler for lunch. Now Uncle Jack remembers her making blackberry cobbler when he was 2 or 3 so we think this cobbler has been made since at least 1940. Basically this cobbler has been made in our family for about 72 years!
Maebell’s colander has been passed down in the family… it is my mom’s but I have it right now since she let me borrow it and I’m a bad girl and have yet to give it back. My mom loves me, so it’s ok. Now if you’d like your own vintage colander like this you can sometimes find them in antique stores, eBay and possibly Etsy. You’ll want to do a search for a combination of words like vintage colander / strainer / juicer / canning. The wood pestle (to mash the berries) is a must.
You can however, make this cobbler without an actual vintage colander. We know, because my friend Kyndal bought a vintage one and I asked her to bring her colander but she brought an actual colander / strainer (ha! miscommunication.) Anyway, we tried making it with a very fine mesh strainer and a wooden spoon. It did a pretty good job but the vintage colander with the pestle gets more juice out of the berries. Oh, and you’ll need two pots… one to cook the cobbler in and another to press the juice into. You can use a deep pan for baking the cobbler as well.
Maebell’s Blackberry Cobbler
for the juice:
8 cups blackberries (about 2 qts)
1 and 1/2 cups sugar*
1 T cornstarch
2 T butter
for the dough:
2 cups of flour
1/3 cup sugar
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup shortening (room temperature)
1 and 3/4 cups milk**
* sugar has always been added “to taste” depending on the berries – sometimes they are more tart or sweet to begin with. Our family loves this cobbler sweet – so we have easily made this cobbler juice with up to 2 cups sugar. If you like the juice a bit tart, you might like 1 cup. It’s best to start out with 1/2 cup increments and adjust to taste.
** the dough is more of a pour / drop texture, less milk (like 1 cup) will yield a crispier crust. Maebell’s cobbler dough was a soft, yummy dough and not crispy.
First things first, rinse your berries in the sink. After rinsing put the berries in a big pot (I use my 8 qt. stock pot.) Add just enough water to cover berries.
Bring the berries to a boil, stirring occasionally for about 5-10 min. When the berries start to smell amazing it’s pretty much ready for juicing. Nom nom nom.
Be careful because this berry stuff is hot! Now you need your other big pot, and your strainer. If you have the vintage colander with the little stand you’ll want a pot that the whole stand can fit into (like in these photos.) It makes it so much easier and less messy. If you have a brave friend (Kyndal!) and they are willing to hold that little strainer for you, then you can use that. Oh and WEAR AN APRON. Trust me, blackberry juice travels and it will get on your clothes. I know. ;)
Anyway, pour the hot berry mixture into the strainer. Press the berries over and over until you have squeezed the little boogers to death. What we’re doing is juicing the berries and leaving the seeds / pulp behind. What?! Yesssssss. This is the secret to Maebell’s blackberry cobbler: we remove the seeds! All my life I have had blackberry cobbler only one way: without seeds.
One time at Disney there was blackberry cobbler on the menu and I was SO excited!! Then I got my cobbler and there were whole blackberries in it, and a crispy crust! WHOA. That was just wrong. Like crime against nature wrong. Anytime we looked up recipes (to help in our quest to recreate this one) no one juiced the berries. Kyndal thought it was crazy we were removing the seeds. Now she says “oh it’s good. REALLY GOOD.”
Now let’s make the dough – I use a fork to cut the shortening into the flour. In these photos we used 1 and 3/4 cup milk. It ended up making a quite runny dough which was fine because the dough kind of all lumps together in the pot anyway. But you might try 1 and 1/2 cup (I will next time) you still want it to be soft and not holding it’s shape too much. If you do want a crispy crust then use 1 cup milk only. It will give you the “drop” biscuits and they will keep their form and get crunchy on top.
Now it’s time to season the juice! Before baking, Maebell always added the dough to the hot juice. Since the juice has sat a little I will heat it back up to a simmer. Add 2 T cornstarch, 2 T butter and sugar to taste. Stir until sugar and cornstarch dissolves and butter melts. **REMEMBER** sugar to taste (oh and try not to burn your tongue ha.) Start with 1/2 cup sugar. If you like a sweet cobbler juice (like we do) then you will use about 1 and 1/2 cups or even 2 cups sugar. 1 cup if you like the juice a bit tart. Once the juice is to your liking, and you’ve heated it up it is time to drop / pour the dough in.
Notice that my dough here is one big crust. It’s fine, because our cobbler has always looked like this. The juice will stain the dough purple here and there. If you made the dough thicker it will be more like drops of biscuits on the juice. Whatever floats your boat – but Maebell made it like this (give or take.)
Bake the cobbler uncovered, in the oven at 450° for 30 min. or until crust starts to brown. Sprinkle the crust with sugar after taking it out (I also sprinkle a little sugar on the crust just before baking.) It’s best served warm out of the oven. For our family reunions it is always baked ahead of time then reheated in the oven. At home we’ll reheat a bowl in the microwave for about 40-60 seconds. I love this blackberry cobbler as is but most of my family insists on topping it with whipped cream or vanilla Blue Bell ice cream. Yum!
Yay!! We now have a recipe for Maebell’s blackberry cobbler! My family absolutely LOVES this tasty tradition and I hope you enjoy it too! xoxo B