A tribute to my mother
1930 - 2015
Wild Alabama blackberries ripen in the warm June sunshine and have been part of my life as far back as I can remember. My grandmother, then my mother, were the true blackberry pickers in our family. With nimble fingers stained purple, they picked the berries each summer, filling bucket after bucket, while keeping a wary eye out for hornets and snakes that also were attracted to the wild tangled thorny bushes found in the hedgerows that separated cotton fields.
Summer dinners and suppers sometimes included fresh berries in milk or sometimes just simply a bowl of fresh berries dusted with sugar that formed a sweet syrup.
In the South, dinner is the midday meal, and supper is the evening meal.
Wild berries are small and packed with intense flavor not found in the large cultivated blackberries sold in grocery stores. Just as you've never tasted a real tomato until you've eaten a home-grown one, you've never tasted blackberries until you've tasted ones growing in the wild.
Hydrangeas grown in my mother's flower beds bloom during blackberry-picking season. Hydrangeas and blackberries... one tame in the yard and lovingly tended all year; the other wild and lovingly harvested in June. Both staples of my mother's southern home and hospitality.
There were always more than enough berries to share generously with extended family members, neighbors, fellow church members, or "anyone who slowed down long enough" to receive some.
None went to waste. What wasn't eaten, was canned for the dark winter months. Some jars were filled with berries in sugar syrup for cobblers; other jars were filled with sweet blackberry jam to spread on homemade biscuits for breakfast.
Most of the time, blackberry cobbler was how we ate the fresh blackberries. Mother made a simple cobbler. First, butter melted in the pan, followed by a batter of flour, milk, and sugar, and then topped with blackberries in a sugar syrup thickened by boiling. The batter rose through the berries as the cobbler baked, creating a browned crust on top of the juicy berries.
The loving southern Christian hospitality she exemplified and taught all of us lives on.
My sister-in-law is the keeper of the family tradition of blackberry picking now. As she picked wild Alabama blackberries growing on her farm this June, she shared them with everyone "who slowed down long enough" to receive them in the true southern-generosity tradition.
These two jars are ones I gave my dear friends who lovingly cared for our cats while we were in Alabama saying our goodbyes to Mother.
Blackberry Winter now includes another dimension to its definition for me.
Please join me at these inspiring sites where I am honoring my mother with this tribute.