In the Moosehead Lake region, many folks have a favorite wild blueberry field where they head to pick their own fruit in late July or August. Farmers in Maine also cultivate the wild variety of blueberries (small but flavorful berries that grow on low bushes); tempting displays appear in season at roadside stands, farmers’ markets, and small-town grocery stores. Raspberry bushes grow in the woods in recently-logged areas that are open to sunlight; as the tree canopy regenerates and shades the bushes, berry production dwindles. When Mother and I bought our land on First Roach Pond, we had a bountiful raspberry patch. Over time, we were delighted to see our fir and birch and maple trees thriving, but the tradeoff was that we lost our berry crop. Blackberries (my personal favorite) are harder to find, but I’m generally able to locate a farmer who has some available. I make pies or cobblers when berries are fresh and freeze some so I have a supply throughout the winter. I also make and can blackberry jam, because I’ve never found any available for sale that suits my taste quite as well as my own does. I believe the key to preserving berries’ flavor when freezing or canning is to keep the time between picking and processing to an absolute minimum.
For the filling: Put 4 cups berries (whole berries, fresh or unthawed frozen); 1 cup sugar; and 1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons of flour in a pot. Bring to a full boil, stirring as the mixture heats so it doesn’t burn. Let it boil for a minute or so (still stirring it) and remove from heat. Take a spoonful and let it cool enough to taste it; add more sugar if desired (for blackberries, which tend to be on the sour side, 1 1/3 cup sugar generally suits my taste).
For the biscuit topping: I use the standard Bakewell Cream biscuit recipe, available at the King Arthur website here, except that I cut the salt to half of what the recipe recommends. For the quantity of berries in the filling directions above (4 cups), I make one quarter of the biscuit recipe (1 cup flour, 1 tsp Bakewell Cream, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/8 tsp salt, 2 tbs butter, 6 tbs milk), and cut the flattened dough into 5-6 biscuits.
For baking, I use a standard bread pan (measuring the inside of the pan, mine is about 8 1/2 inches long by 4 1/2 inches wide at the top, and it’s about 2 5/8 inches deep). Butter the pan. Spoon the still-hot filling into the pan, top with biscuits, and bake for about 25 minutes at 400 degrees (keep an eye on the biscuits toward the end of the cooking time; if they are getting too dark, cover the pan with foil).
(Photo: Blackberry cobbler baked in the propane oven in my cabin on First Roach Pond.)