What is my favorite memory from my childhood growing up on the orchard? Well, it’s hard to pick one thing, but if I had to pick one favorite that occurred most often, it would have to be picking fruit straight off the plant/bush/tree and popping it in my mouth. Sometimes I would walk through the orchard with my dad, Ed Weaver, but usually it was while running around barefoot with my siblings or cousins. (Back then, we did not have the same number of customers/employees/work traffic/etc. that we do now – we roamed free from a young age, and it was glorious.)
It was a short walk from my house to Grandpa and Grandma Weaver’s house, following the path down the hill a bit and by the pond and, for many years, right alongside the long row of blackberries. These days, that path puts you right by juicy cherries, but in my younger years, for a few weeks, my walk to or from home was accompanied by the sweet, dark juice of as many blackberries as I could eat without feeling (too) sick.
I know I will never fully appreciate the privilege of eating as much fruit grown by my Daddy whenever I wanted. But now, my own three boys experience the joy of evening golf cart rides to the berry patch to pick and eat the fruit grown by Grandpa and Uncle Justin (with some assistance from their own Daddy!). And my oldest often comments, “Mom, not many kids get to just pick fruit whenever they want – this is really special!” And I affirm how blessed we are to live here. Then we chase the beautiful sunsets with happy bellies.
Because of the way we grow blackberries now, the canes are much smaller than the gigantic ones that used to be by the pond. (I have fond memories of a previous employee, my coworker for a few years, and I crawling down and under the lush canes to find the darkest, sweetest berries to snack on and then make into a pie.) But my boys still enjoy helping me eat and pick blackberries, especially when promised a yummy treat with them afterward.
The key to a sweet blackberry (or raspberry) is to pick it when it is dark as can be and practically falling off the receptacle. (Did you know the white part in the middle of a blackberry or raspberry is called a receptacle?) However, having little helpers, or even the sun shining in the wrong direction, can mean some slightly sour berries in your basket! No matter – this simply delicious recipe can turn even the sour berries sweet. (And it can be used with any berry!)
- 3-4 cups of fresh berries (Frozen berries can be substituted, but you will need to reduce liquid or increase baking time.)
- ½ lemon or lime
- 1 ½ cups flour (unbleached or all purpose)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ¾ to 1 cup sugar
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 1 ½ tsp vanilla
- 6 Tbsp melted butter
- Preheat oven to 350F. Grease 9x13 baking dish.
- Wash fruit and set aside to drain. (If using frozen fruit, do not thaw first.)
- Whisk together all dry ingredients. (The original recipe calls for 1 ½ cups of sugar – but we reduce it to ¾ cup!)
- Add milk and vanilla and whisk until smooth.
- Pour this batter into greased baking dish.
- Squeeze lemon into berries and give a quick stir. Distribute fruit on top of batter.
- *We like ours chockfull of fruit (4 cups/1quart), but it does make the baking time a little longer due to the extra juice.
- Melt butter and drizzle over top.
- Bake for 25-35 minutes or until golden brown on top. (Can take 35-40 if using a larger amount of fruit.)
- Serve warm with vanilla ice cream, or our go to – whipped Kreider’s Heavy Cream with a dash of vanilla, and perhaps a sprinkle of sugar and/or cinnamon. All the flavor of vanilla ice cream, but little to no sugar!