As an only child, after school activities included making microwave popcorn and watching Facts of Life until my mom came home and cooked dinner. Sadly, I don't remember anything terribly remarkable about specific days except that I learned you cannot make microwave popcorn in Tupperware bowls- I'm pretty sure- even 30 (and then some) years later- my mom still hangs on that popcorn pocked melted plastic bowl just because it still cracks her up.
My summers were spent mainly at our local Girls' Club, and while I do remember those days with fondness, my favorite memories of summertime are the ones of my yearly week-long visits to Texarkana at my Aunt Evelyn's house and playing with my two younger cousins. As I got older, I did less playing and more hiding in the bathroom, but I still enjoyed the visits and the break from the chaos and sometimes boredom that was the Girls' Club.
During the day, us kids would ride bikes up and down their dirt road, eat Tupperware mold popsicles made from koolaid or pepsi, and get all kinds of sticky and dirty, while my Aunt sat on the porch and smoked Virginia Slims and hollered for us to watch out for poison ivy and fire ants. We ran around never even thinking about snakes or ticks, but definitely knew to steer clear of the dirt mounds that housed an irate army of fire ants just waiting to devour your legs and the poison ivy that left you itchy and miserable for weeks afterward. Those were the days... let me tell you.
At night, dinners were simple fare- sauerkraut and hot dogs, mac & cheese, pinto beans, fried potatoes... you get the drift. Home cookin'. Said with my best South Arkansas accent. I know my Aunt Evelyn cooked some, and I remember her deep fried biscuit doughnuts with mouth watering fondness, but I also remember my Uncle Horace cooking dinner for us many times. We'd come in and get washed up and I thought it was so awesome that my cousins got to eat on those little metal lap trays- you remember them... set 'em in the floor over your legs, TV trays for kids. We would watch Disney movies or the Cosby Show and my Uncle Ho would get so tickled at us- or the TV. I loved his laugh- a full on belly laugh so contagious you couldn't help but laugh with him.
Some of my favorite food came straight out of the summer garden. As kids we'd not even bother to wash the dirt off before we were munching on fresh strawberries, peaches, plums, cucumbers and snap peas. Back then, getting to help pick vegetables was a treat and more ended up in our tummies than our buckets, but we'd have a blast running through the rows, getting yelled at to, "mind the peas and tomatoes!"
Berry picking was a good time to be had by all and we always came home with stained hands, sticky mouths and scratched up limbs from picking blackberries. My Nanny made some mouthwatering fried pies, but a close second was her peach or blackberry cobbler topped off with my own Mama's homemade ice cream.
2 cups fresh (or frozen) blackberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 TBSP corn starch
1/2 cup of water or apple juice
So there's a couple ways to go about making your filling and it entirely depends on personal preference. If you like cobbler filling that's more cooked down and jam-like with dumplings, then you'll put all the filling ingredients into a medium saucepan and cook over low to medium heat for 20 or so minutes until it's bubbly and thickened a bit. Then proceed with adding small pinches of crust to the hot bubbly fruit and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Dump the filling into a greased 9x9 glass baking dish and cover with your crust.
If you're like me and you prefer large berries that maintain some of their original texture and bite, you'll wash, drain, and toss them in the sugar and cornstarch until coated, turn them out into a greased 9x9 glass baking dish, add pats of butter, and then cover with your crust.
For the Crust:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup Crisco OR butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 TBSP granulated sugar
1/4 cup cold water
Add to a mixing bowl: flour, salt and Crisco (and YES, brand matters. Crisco.).
Use a pastry cutter to cut the Crisco into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbly mixture.
Add cold water 1 TBSP at a time and squish together with your hands until you can form a ball without pieces flying off. It should be smooth and you may have to work it just a little for the pieces to come together but stop as soon as they do.
Now again, this is personal taste time. You can either wrap your crust in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes or you can just go for it. Chilled crust will make your top more crisp and flaky. Roll out your crust to fit 9x9 dish.
If you're feeling fancy or are aiming to impress the company, you can cut into strips and weave a lattice top. Either way you go make sure to leave a vent for the steam to escape as it bakes- no one likes a gooey pie crust. Brush the top of the crust with an egg wash or water, sprinkle a spoon full of granulated sugar evenly over the crust and bake your sugary concoction at 375* for 25-30 minutes or until it is bubbly and the crust is golden. Serve warm with some of my Mama's delicious homemade ice cream. (see recipe)
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