When I was a kid in Oregon, we picked berries. Lots and lots of berries. We picked strawberries by the pound, and got paid about $2 a crate to do so. (We thought we had struck it rich when we came home with $10 in our pockets and sunburns on our noses after spending the day picking berries and singing Milli Vanilli songs with friends!). When we got older, my friends and I earned minimum wage by working a berry harvesting machine—a type of tractor that drives down a row of raspberries (or blueberries) and gently shakes them loose onto conveyor belts—eight hours a day, seven days a week for the first six to eight weeks of summer. And, when wild blackberry season came? It was cobbler time.
To me, cobbler isn’t something you use a recipe for. It’s something you make after a long walk through the woods with your mom (or other family and friends), when you’ve happened on just the right patch of ripe summer berries, and have brought them home in a hat, the butter dish you raced down the hill and through the kitchen door to get, or a bucket you brought along just in case.
How much of anything you use, what size baking dish, and even the taste largely depends on how many berries you’ve brought home and how naturally sweet they are. (When the berries are ripe and sweet, you don’t need to add anything to them, although, you can add honey if you need to.) It’s the topping that gets a little tricky. As a kid I learned to make an easy topping with Bisquick, sugar and milk. Obviously, in my new real food lifestyle, the Bisquick won’t cut it. (It’s just not real food!)
So far, this summer has been a lot like those summers growing up, at least in the sense that I’ve been picking a lot of berries lately. The blueberries are ripe and gorgeous at Frog Eye Farm, just over the border in Maryland. Mia and I have been there nearly every week, often picking side by side with our friends from Sunny Knoll EcoFarm. And no matter how many berries we pick (we ate almost three gallons of blueberries in four days) we never seem to be able to save enough to freeze. There is just no end to delicious when it comes to these little barrels of antioxidant.
Most of the time, we eat them plain, straight out of the picking container. However, some of them we reserve for special treats. Sarah (from Sunny Knoll EcoFarm) makes amazing blueberry ice cream. It is the perfect pair for my grain-free (Bisquick free) blueberry cobbler. In fact, they go together so well that Sarah asked me for the cobbler recipe.
“You need to post this on your blog before the season is over,” she said to me as our families polished off bowls of cobbler topped with ice cream.
The only problem? I don’t have a recipe. In fact, my attempt to write it out for her was pretty much a failure. After she made it, she wrote me a quick e-mail, “Thanks for writing this down and sending it to me!! I made it, and it was good, but not as good as when you made it. It was quite different, actually, from when you made it.”
I frowned. I had been planning on publishing it on the blog that same day. Instead, I pulled my recipe out and tried to make it. And, guess what? It was still good, but it wasn’t my cobbler. I’ve tried it a few times since and the only way it turns out is if I don’t use a recipe. Any attempt to write it down and use the same quantities results in something that isn’t quite right. Good, but not quite right.
But, the real thing—the no-recipe version—is fantastic! So good that I have to share.
So, here’s my proposition. I’m going to share this as a non-recipe. Rather than making the Hard-Core Traditional Cook’s cobbler, you should use your tastes and senses to guide you and come up with your own cobbler. Practice. Experiment. It’s bound to be edible, and most likely really good. Eventually you’ll develop a method that is just right for your family and their tastes!
Oils: Use a combination of butter and coconut oil, or just coconut oil. I use about 4 oz butter and 4 oz coconut oil, but sometimes it’s a lot more coconut oil and less butter. It depends on the weather (and softness of the oil) to some extent. It also depends on what I have on hand.
- 4 oz butter
- 4 oz coconut oil
Binding: 1 to 2 pastured, farm fresh eggs, or a cup of chia seeds soaked in water to form a paste. (This is to bind the cobbler into a dough. I usually start with one egg and only add another if I need more liquid.)
Sweetener: 2 heaping tablespoons of honey (or up to ¼ cup)
Coconut Flour: 4 to 6 oz of coconut flour.
Nuts and Texture: Unsweetened coconut (without preservative) 1 cup (or more when you aren’t using nuts), a handful of chia seeds, and a few handfuls of nuts. If you are leaving out the nuts, experiment with more coconut or chia.
Spices: Cinnamon to taste ( I use gobs and gobs)
Berries: Enough blueberries to fill your baking dish one or two inches high
Cream oil (start with 4 oz of each), egg, and honey until soft. Add coconut flour. You should get a really soft, not quite as stiff as frosting texture. Don’t be afraid to taste your dough at this point. If it feels chalky on the tongue, you need more oil or egg. If it’s soft and gooey, add the coconut, nuts and spices. It should be about the consistency of a cookie dough. If it’s not, it needs more liquid. If it tastes or feels chalky, it needs more liquid. If it crumbles to bits, it probably needs more binder (and maybe more liquid). Experiment until you have a dough that tastes good raw—like something you’d eat out of the tube if you bought it at the store. Place your berries in their baking dish. Crumble or spread your dough over top.
Bake at 350 until brown.
Serve with homemade blueberry ice cream. (If you can bribe Sarah for her recipe!)
(You can also serve this with homemade vanilla yogurt—that makes it breakfast!)
Cook’s Note: We used to love our Bisquick growing up. It was a staple of sorts in our home. We made pancakes with it and everything else! So, why have I scorned the boxed mix that has treated me so well for so many years? For one thing, although you can eat flour from a box or bag, it actually begins to degrade very quickly once it is milled—it can take a few months to become fully and completely rancid, but the destruction of vitamins, micronutrients, and amino acids starts right away. (A few months, you say? That’s a long time! But, how long has your flour been sitting in a warehouse or the supermarket?) All bagged flours are at least partly rancid and thus not at their nutritional prime!
Another strike against Bisquick? It’s an industrial processed food full of commercial food producer’s favorite ingredients. Bisquick’s ingredient list includes enriched flour (that means white flour with nutrients added in because the flour is going to go rancid in the box, of maybe even before they mixed it into the bisquick mix) partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil (TRANS FAT ALERT!!), baking soda (and sodium ALUMINUM phosphate), dextrose, and salt. So-called “Heart Smart Bisquick” subs in canola oil for the fat (if you think canola oil is a heart healthy oil, check out the link below), and contains added texturizers and fillers like corn starch. (GMO ALERT) What it comes down to is that I just don’t eat stuff like that anymore.
Want to know more about the fats you eat, or the ones you think you shouldn’t, but see me cooking with all the time? Read The Oiling of America. This is an excellent article written by Mary G. Enig and Sally Fallon on the Weston A. Price Foundation website.