Goodness on a vine. You simply can’t talk about the South without talking about blackberries as a characteristic ingredient of Southern living. I could never get enough of this berry as a child: in a cobbler, in a pie, on Sunday afternoon with freshly churned ice cream. My friends and I would set out with buckets and sticks to harvest gallons of these berries. We would set off on a mission with our hopes high and buckets empty. The motivation was that there was no shortage of households willing to buy the berries. But for me, the money I could earn was small tidings compared with what I knew Mother could create with a bucket full of berries. My goal was always to collect enough berries for two pies.
As these outings were usually on a Saturday afternoon, I knew those amazing pies were destined for the Sunday supper, my favorite meal of the week. Blackberry cobbler placed on the dining table with a tub of homemade ice cream was the closest I would get to heaven on that day, whether I’d gone to church or not.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a medium saucepan, sprinkle the blackberries with 1/4 cup of the sugar. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, vanilla extract, lemon juice, cornstarch, and cold water and toss well to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately pour the blackberry mixture into a 9-inch deep-dish pie tin or a greased glass or ceramic pie dish.
- In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup sugar, the flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. While stirring, gradually add the buttermilk. Mix well to combine. Drop the dough by spoonfuls on top of the blackberries.
- Bake until the dough is golden, 40 to 50 minutes.
- Serve immediately with whipped cream or ice cream, if desired.
Excerpted MEALS, MUSIC, AND MUSES: Recipes From My African American Kitchen by Alexander Smalls with Veronica Chambers. Copyright © 2020 by Alexander Smalls. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Beatriz da Costa.