So desserts for many years after that were not bad, good enough, but not the kind that brought tears. And, if you had a mama who made good food, like I do (Retro Rose), you know the kind of food I’m talking about. It’s the kind of food that is remembered… no revered, because this kind of food can blur the memories of the bad times, or the harshness of life, of a stern or absent father or a divorce, a year of poverty, an illness or being unpopular in school. Desserts tend to be remembered because even in the midst of tears the sweet smell of the kitchen shoots a little happy to the heart. And, it really is that sentimental, because as a child, there is no shot of whiskey, or illegal drug to turn to. There are just tears and maybe desserts from a woman in an apron.
Fast forward to last week and I was struggling with what to bring to a family reunion where this legendary country kitchen queen left a small city of children, grand children and great and great great grand children. This is the kind of family that loves story telling and there isn’t a gathering I’ve witnessed that doesn’t pay tribute to Meemaw and her pies.
If I bring a tart (I always bring tarts) it might appear too fancy and not in “family reunion” spirit. So whatever I decide, it better be good, but hearty, earthy, crowd pleasing, seasonal, and something that will lift the hearts at a family reunion of working women who don’t do much baking and maybe conjure up some memories that a few who’ve lost their mamas and their Meemaws are holding onto.
So, last Saturday after consulting with a girlfriend (who is all southern with a sweet tooth who wears cowboy boots because she rides real horses ), I made what she calls cobbler, even though I might call it pie. This was not made with a batter, but with a pie crust. I’m not used to calling anything “cobbler” when it has a pie crust, but I’m told that as long as the top has a lattice dough crust and you can see the fruit, it’s cobbler. And, to make sure there is no dispute, she told me to bake it in a big azz cast iron pan. A pan so big, you need two pot-holder hands to take it out of the oven. And, don’t try to cut it in nice pieces. This is served from a big AZZ spoon with vanilla ice cream.
And, in the midst of pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, and greens, I stuffed myself on four helpings, okay maybe five, of this blackberry cobbler. But, I finally wiped the sweat off of my brow when the handsome cousin in cowboy boots who is married to a country western star (for real) called out from the kitchen, “this cobbler is great.” Only he said, “graate”
I smiled ear to ear because this yankee who ventured many years in California has adapted enough southern ways to please the palate that grew up on Meemaw’s legendary fried pies.
I’ve learned a few things from my blackberry experiences this summer (which have been many), and I knew how to sweeten and sass up the insides of that pie to anyone’s liking. And, my pie crust is as good as I’ve had anywhere, so I was pretty confident of that. I also discovered about a year ago that pie crust refrigerated for one whole day (or more) cooperates a little better. The gluten relaxes, the butter chills and the pie crust is tender.
I made enough for two pies not knowing how much dough I would need and it was just about right. This is one BIG AZZ PIE.
So tell me, what do hope to see on the food table at your family reunion?
- Pie Crust Ingredients
- 2 sticks butter
- 2½ cups of flour
- ¾ teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 4-6 ounces ice cold water
- blackberries (can mix in blueberries and other berries ) enough for about 4 cups
- 1 cup sugar (maybe more, you have to taste)
- juice of half a lemon (or a lemon syrup)
- 2 tablespoons instant tapioca
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoons vanilla
- dash nutmeg
- Make PIe Dough. Cut butter into small cubes. Freeze. Mix flour, salt, sugar in food processor.
- Add butter evenly in flour mixture. Process just until you have large pea size pieces. Stream in water, slowly and stop as soon as dough forms. Flour your hands, take out dough and if it’s too wet, four each ball (make two and wrap in plastic overnight. You can make the same day, but refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Roll out, making sure you have a somewhat thick bottom (cast iron will make sure it cooks).
- Mix sugar, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, nutmeg and blackberries together.
- Taste your berries. Make them sweeter than you think you need to, as blackberries get more bitter when cooking.
- Add in tapioca.
- Cut dough into two circles, one large than the other. Roll out bottom and place in pan.
- Roll out remaining and cut into strips. Place in lattice pattern.
- Bake at 400 for 1 hour for medium size pie.
- Cut off dough that hangs over pie. Roll out remaining dough and cut strips. Place over pan in lattice pattern. Brush with milk and sprinkle some sugar.