Blackberry Edition!

Strawberry picking season is over in the south. That makes me sad. But the fact that it’s blackberry season makes me feel a little bit better! So how about we do a blackberry edition?! And because I’ve fallen a bit behind, I’ve got two recipes for you today!! Last week, we took a road trip to Greenville, SC to visit with two of our favorite people, Uncle Sam and Auntie JoJo!! Oliver had a blast. He LOVES his “Do Do” (JoJo) and is still asking for her. We miss them so!

During our visit, we decided to take advantage of blackberry season and visited a local farm to buy baskets full of them. Oliver is going through quite the berry obsession, which makes this mama happy. I was thrilled to buy great heaps of them fresh from the field. He ate them by the fist full turning his mouth (and face) a deep shade of purple. Joanna drove us about 20 minutes from their house to a place called “Berry Acres” located on Strawberry Road. I can’t make this stuff up. How cute is that?! So… We found ourselves with a fridge full of yummies! What to do?!?! Blackberry cobbler and blackberry jam, of course!!!

I’ve made blackberry cobbler before following Mamaw’s recipe for peach cobbler, which you can find in a previous post.
I just use blackberry pie filling instead of peaches. So good! But here’s the recipe we came up with using the fresh berries:

Berry Acres Blackberry Cobbler
Prepare fruit:
Drizzle 3 c fresh blackberries with 1/4 c of melted butter
Coat mixture with 1 tbsp cornstarch and 1/4 c sugar
Pour berries into a greased baking dish

Mix together:
1 c self rising flour
1 c sugar
1 c milk
1 stick butter, melted
Add mixture to baking dish
Bake at 375 until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean

Serve with vanilla ice cream!

As I’ve told you in a previous post, Joanna and I had similar upbringings. As we measured and stirred she told me about her own sweet grandparents. Like me, she holds dear memories of being her grandmother’s shadow in the kitchen. I’m so glad she was too because she is indeed THE baker in the family. I often text her with questions and she is so good to bless us with her baking skills. She even baked our gender reveal cake with the bright blue filling!! What a happy day that was!! She told me that her grandparents had a deal where baking was concerned. Her grandmother, it seems, baked with wild abandon, leaving a disastrous mess in the wake of her concoctions. This resulted, however, in delicious treats enjoyed by the whole family. And her grandfather lovingly said that he was happy to clean up behind his beloved in exchange for reaping the tasty rewards. They were super smitten with one another it seems. I thoroughly enjoy hearing love stories and I love baking alongside of the very knowledgeable Joanna.

Now for jam… Literally, for my entire life, I’ve wanted to learn how to make jam. And Billy LOVES it, which for some reason I find completely adorable! So, I have an extra reason to learn. When Joanna suggested that we make blackberry jam together…. I could barely contain my excitement!!!! And as we “jammed”, I realized just how completely clueless I was to the process. In some ways it was more complicated than I thought and in other ways, so simple… I know that it’s something I can successfully do. Although, I think it’s best done in pairs. Lots of hot splatters and jars you’re working with. I’m so glad to have now seen and participated in the process. I see strawberry, blackberry, and peach jam and even orange marmalade in my family’s future! So exciting!

Blackberry Jam

5 cups crushed berries
4 cups sugar
1 pack of Sure Jell (we used the low sugar kind)

Really, you can just follow the directions on the Sure Jell box… But I still wrote out what we did for you in my own language.

You’ll also need:
6-7 jelly jars with new lids
Canning Tongs
Pressure cooker or big pot with a rack on the bottom
Tall boiling pot
Food mill (if you’d like to remove seeds)

Boil jars in pressure cooker
Crush berries in food mill to remove seeds
Bring 5 c of berries to a rolling boil, while stirring continuously
Mix 1/4 c of sugar to Sure Jell packet and stir into fruit
Bring to full boil then stir in remaining sugar
Return to full boil and constantly for one minute
Ladle the berry mixture into jars leaving 1/4 inch of room
Wipe the rims if the jars clean to ensure that they seal properly
Place lids on jars (careful, HOT)
Place jars back in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Remove jars using the tongs.
You should hear them seal as they cool!
Hint: You’ll know the lids are sealed if they don’t click when you press their middle.
You’re done!!

As it turns out, it was not only a handy skill to learn, but it proved to be therapeutic. It felt good to be productive together with our heavy hearts. Right before we left town, 2 dear family friends of mine passed away. And while we were there, unthinkable violence and tragedy struck too close to home in Orlando. I fought back tears and anxieties all week long. As I worked to pulverize the blackberries removing the unwanted seeds, I thought they must bear a perfect resemblance to my own very broken heart… And to the hearts of so many others right now. But I am reminded that Jesus is near to us in our times of distress. He is near to those who are broken-hearted. He holds us together and covers us in His sweet love. He seals it tight within our souls so that nothing can seperate us from it. Not even terror. Not even shame. Not even loss. Not even hate. Not even death. And we cling to the hope that He is coming back for us. And even so… Come quickly, Lord Jesus!! Come quickly indeed!

Psalm 34:18 The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers,39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So… This stuff is good, y’all. Really good! I hope you enjoy it. Now I need to learn how to make biscuits from scratch for my jam… Recipes are most welcome! I don’t have a homemade biscuit recipe! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section! Your email address won’t be shared with the world!

Stay tuned for updates and a new look to the blog!! Thanks for being here!

I sure do appreciate you all!

Zucchini Bread!!!!!!!

Oh my gosh. Oh my goodness. Oh my word!!!! Can you tell how excited I am?? I’m seriously excited!

A few weeks ago, Billy and I attended a silent auction for the private school where I teach American Sign Language (The Foundation Academy). They had beautiful zucchini plants, complete with garden boxes up for bid. We have (fairly) recently purchased a home with a big yard complete with fruit trees and have high hopes of planting a vegetable garden. We simply had to have one of these plants as the first vegetable in our yard. We indeed won one, and it proceeded to yield a gigantic zucchini and gorgeous blossoms. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep a close watch while Billy was away on business, and our beautiful prize developed some type of problem. Pest? Disease? I don’t know enough about gardening to know what happened. It is truly a shame. I am ashamed. I grew up spending summers and holidays on a farm, y’all. I helped with many harvests. I helped repair a fence or two. I helped “throw calves” while they became steer (you don’t want to know). Cane grinding day was one of my favorite days of the year. I gathered many a beautiful brown egg. And I have sat for countless lovely hours shelling peas with my Mamaw and Pa. I shelled until my thumbs were raw. And we talked and talked in the peaceful silence that surrounded us. ***Side note: Am I the only person who longs for the days before we were inundated with technology and obligation and NOISE? I miss quiet, focused conversations and not feeling pulled in a hundred different directions. I miss the sweet simplicity of sitting at the family table, measuring productivity, not by deadlines or numbers of shares or the number in a bank account, but by how many bowls full of fresh peas you shelled. I miss filling my love tank with real conversation or even quiet togetherness and not the number of likes or comments or followers.*** So, when we saw this peaceful yard, full of gardening potential smack dab in the middle of the city we love living in… We knew it was ours.  

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We have big plans and have been researching and plotting in hopes of gardening success. It’s no farm… But it’s enough for us, and I’m excited. At least I was excited, until I realize that I apparently can’t even keep one zucchini plant alive!! You see… The sad truth is, I “helped” on the farm. But I never learned how to do the planting. I was really just a poser farm girl and my family graciously allowed me to enjoy the fruits of their labor. But I wish I had sown seeds by their side and it’s funny that the very week that my beautiful plant gave up on life… I stumbled upon the speech Lucile (my Mamaw) wrote and presented at her high school’s senior banquet. I love that she preserved those words in her scrapbook and I think they apply here. She titled it “Planning Life’s Garden”. She encourages them to plan their own garden of life. Decide on a pattern, whether straight rows or untamed andimage rambling. Be the planner, the worker, and the harvester. The garden’s success is dependent on the gardeners’ effort. The design is whatever you choose, but the success relies on you alone. What a “Garden of Life” she planned and cultivated for herself! It wasn’t for everyone, but it was fruitful, resilient to the storms of life, and always yielding to her Master Gardener’s divine plan. She insisted that her classmates tend to it themselves. “No one else will care for your garden. It’s up to you!” And even so is the garden of our faith. No one else will tend it! And yesterday’s harvest won’t carry you through forever. Always til, always sow, always nurture, always guard, and always share your harvest!

And so, I’m taking my time in planning my backyard garden, but the one of life (of faith and love)… It has ebbed and flowed in its’ bearing of fruit. There have been weeds and even some foxes over the years. One thing I’ve learned, is to never stop its’ tending. Just like my zucchini plant, I proudly harvested one giant vegetable and thought it was taking care of itself. But you see, I know nothing of zucchini plants. And I didn’t plant this one! I naively boasted about it and showed visitors and envisioned stuffed blossoms and roasted side dishes. Before I knew it though, something had invaded, crept in while I admired it’s beauty from my kitchen window. And one day, it’s leaves were brown, the next day, it’s “fruit” was rotting. I failed to keep watch. I failed to protect it. I failed to give it enough nourishment. And so, it failed to produce goodness. And such is the garden of life and of faith. “You will get out of it exactly what you put into it.” Young Lucile’s words still apply today.

So… I had one perfect zucchini and I knew what it’s purpose would be! Mamaw made THE BEST zucchini bread EVER. Like best ever in the whole history of zucchini bread! I loved it and I didn’t even know her recipe was in the box! But it is!!!!!!!!!! It is so good and I love that I was able to sneak a vegetable into Oliver’s diet this week! Billy and Oliver have been enjoying it and I couldn’t believe that I was actually able to make it to perfection. SO good. It’s especially good straight from the oven and slathered in butter. In the words of Oliver “Mmmmmmmmmmmmm.” Well said, little Bear.

Mamaw’s (Amazing) Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
2 c sugar
1 c oil
2 c grated zucchini
1 c nuts (if you like nuts)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon

Beat eggs
Add sugar, oil, and zucchini
Add remaining dry ingredients
Mix well
Add vanilla and nuts (I left the nuts out of Billy and Oliver’s loaves)
Pour into 2 greased loaf pans or 4 mini (1 lb) loaf pans
Bake at 350 for 1 hour