CHEROKEE EATS: Blackberries
Wild blackberries grow near a roadside in northeast Oklahoma. The berries grown in open areas because of the need for sunlight. They fully ripen from late June to mid-July. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Jan Ballou, front, and her sister, Faye, say they pick blackberries annually to make cobblers and pies for their families. COURTESY
Cherokee Nation citizen and Public Health educator Tricia Nichols and her mother make preparations for a blackberry cobbler on June 24 in Kenwood. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Cherokee Nation citizen Tricia Nichols carefully places a layer of crust on top of prepared blackberries to be baked into a cobbler. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A fresh blackberry cobbler is made by CN citizens Tricia Nichols and Jan Ballou using wild, handpicked blackberries. Ballou is Nichols’ mother. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
BlackberriesWhen and where to find them:
Blackberries blossoms can commonly be seen in the late spring though the fruit does not fully ripen until late June to mid-July. They can be found on a forest edge or in open prairies because of the need for sunlight.
Cherokee Nation citizen and Public Health educator Tricia Nichols said she learned from her mother and aunt that she could find blackberry plants on the side of the road and gather 2 to 3 gallons worth to make pies or cobblers. “I learned from them. Every summer that’s what they did.”How to pick them:
When blackberries are ripe, meaning plump and black in color, they can simply be pulled from their stems. Blackberries grow on a vine from the ground and many can grow on one vine. Some people may want to wear rubber gloves when picking because the vines have small thorns that can penetrate the skin. Health benefits:
Blackberries are rich in vitamin C, an important antioxidant, which helps strengthen the body’s immune system. The berries are also high in manganese, which can help with wound healing, and high in fiber, which is heart healthy. They can also help regulate blood sugar levels and help keep a person full, CN dietitian Tonya Swim said.How to clean them:
Nichols said she places them in a bowl or strainer and simply rinses them with cool water at least two times to ensure they are clean for preparation. She added that blackberries can be frozen for later use, but she uses them right away to make her dish.Blackberry cobbler:
Ingredients include blackberries, flour, sugar, cornstarch, milk and water.
Begin with prepping blackberries by adding 4 to 5 cups to a saucepan. After boiling for a few minutes, add 1 cup of sugar. To thicken berry juice, add cornstarch/water mix and stir to desired thickness. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
“It makes its own water and I sweeten them with sugar. You put your cornstarch in water, mix it up and that’s how you thicken it. You just pour it in, stir it a little bit to see how thick it gets,” Nichols said.
To make a crust – add one 5-pound bag of flour into a mixing bowl, 2 cups shortening, and 1 cup of milk. Blend and knead until dough is firm (all flour will not be used). It should make enough for a bottom and top layer.
“For a big cobbler, we’ll use 3 cups of Crisco and then half of what I use for the Crisco of milk. So if I use 3 cups of Crisco then I use a cup and a half of milk,” Nichols said.
After rolling out the dough, place the bottom layer into a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking pan. Pour in blackberry mixture and lay on crust topping. Bake for 45 minutes to one hour. Makes up to 12 servings. Carrying on tradition:
Nichols said it was important that she and her sister learn to cook from her mother so that they are able to provide meals for their families.
“Learning from my grandma, mom and aunt, I’m happy that we’re able to absorb that information and be able to do the things that they do because there’s not really a lot of people my age that even cook and carry on the tradition,” she said.
Nichols’ mother, Jan Ballou, shared her daughter’s sentiments about passing on her cooking knowledge to her children.
“I just never really realized the importance of it whenever they were little, and we did all those things together until she started cooking, and boy, I loved that. I didn’t have to make all the pies and cobblers by myself anymore. I guess you’d say it’s a blessing to have daughters that can help out and learn how to do all the cooking just on their own, just by experience,” the CN citizen said.