Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Blackberry Days

In August, I always think of the days when our mother sent us out to the fields and woods to gather blackberries. We each carried a pail and didn't go home until they were full. Most of the berries were small, but there was one spot where the canes grew up into the trees and yielded huge oval berries. The pails filled up quickly with those berries!

Seeing blackberries growing along roads or trails always reminds me of those lazy, hot summer days. The sounds and colors of August in western Pennsylvania are so distinctive. Locusts singing in otherwise still days, grass and tree leaves beginning to dry and brown, high humidity and heat, and days beginning to shorten -- all contribute to the feel of August.

I recall my mother taking some of the blackberries to make Blackberry Cobbler, her version that had dumplings cooked on top of the sweetened blackberries. Served with milk poured over it, this constituted the evening meal. Today, it would seem outrageous to serve something so simple and so full of carbs for the evening meal. It was surely a treat when I was a child.

The rest of the blackberries were used to make blackberry jelly or jam, and sometimes a pie or two. I always preferred jelly because it didn't have all those dastardly little seeds in it.

Other berries we picked were blueberries. My father planted several blueberry bushes and they were always prolific. We never had a lot of raspberries, but collected what we could find. My mother favored the chokecherry trees and their fruit. She made jelly from those every year, and we used that jelly on her homemade pancakes, rather than maple syrup. There was also a quince tree way back in the woods, and Mom would pick that fruit and make quince jelly. I never cared for the flavor of quince when I was a child, and haven't tasted it as an adult. Who knows, I might love it today.
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