Old Fashioned Blackberry Cobbler (vegan)

  reading time: 8 min




It's September, which means two things:

1) It's my birthday month, and
2) it is blackberry season!

I just LOVE this time of year! Everything around me is getting ready for harvesting, and I love this rustling feeling of autumn, which to me means even more baking, preserving, fermenting, and decluttering. It's kind of like building a cosy nest for winter, really ☺️

Every year around my birthday (which is on the same date as Mabon, the 21st of September) my fiancé J and I go to a secluded spot in our area out in the fields where we pick a few blackberries to enjoy on our walk. This year J and I really kept an eye out for more blackberry bushes, and set out twice to forage for enough blackberries to bake this delicious juicy blackberry cobbler :) I've always wanted to make a blackberry cobbler Рjust because I really like the sound of it, haha!

This blackberry cobbler is made with wildcrafted blackberries (although you can simply use store-bought blackberries or other berries instead!), and it is the perfect late summer dessert that I imagine eating on my back porch while I watch the sun set – unfortunately, I don't have a back porch yet, lol.

The blackberries in this recipe are paired with autumnal apple, topped with a crisp biscuity top, and served with some coconut ice cream. If you don't have blackberries, you can easily replace them with blueberries, peaches, plums, cherries, or any other summer berries. If you are using larger fruits, make sure to chop them into bite-sized pieces.

Have you ever wondered what exactly makes a cobbler a cobbler? And how it differs from a crisp or a crumble? And then there's also a buckle and a Betty?! Help!

Well, even if you haven't, I'm going to give you the answer today:

A crumble is fresh fruits baked with a streusel-like topping, usually consisting of butter, flour and sugar, resembling bread crumbs or a crumb cake.
Very similar to that is the crisp, like my strawberry and rhubarb crisp, which is also fruits baked with a sugary streusel-like topping, but it typically also contains cereal – granola or oatmeal – or nuts (or both), and is more crunchy and less clumpy than the crumble.

A cobbler
– like the one we're making today – has the same kind of fruit base, but a clumpy biscuit topping or even cake batter or cookie dough instead of streusel. It is usually baked in a deep pie dish, and the topping is spooned over the fruit in dollops, giving it the appearance of cobblestone – hence the name.
A buckle is a single-layer cake baked with fruits and a crumble topping (oats optional), having more batter than fruit. The weight of the fruit often sinks a bit, making the cake appearing to "buckle". It resembles a coffee cake.

A Betty on the other hand is made with sweetened bread crumbs (or bread pieces, or graham cracker crumbs) and less cake-like. Unlike with the crisp and the crumble, the flour mixture is at the bottom of the fruit AND over it. The fruit used is usually diced apples, but also berries or pears. Typically served with lemon sauce or whipped cream.


Where and How to Harvest Blackberries

Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus) – also known as brambles or bramble berries – are found in a variety of locations including gardens, woodland, along forest trails, hedgerows, fence rows, wasteground, roadsides, parks, and borders. They prefer full sun, but thrive in partial shade, too. Honestly, they grow pretty much everywhere!

Their botanical genus name "Rubus" is Latin for "red", which is also the origin for the name of Rubeus Hagrid in the Harry Potter universe!

Blackberry plants are probably most known for their sweet plump black fruits that will stain your fingers purplish-red when picking them, as well as for the thick tangle of twisted long prickled branches they grow in. The leaves are palmate, meaning the leaflets radiate out from a central point like a palm. White to pink flowers appear in spring and summer that are
important to pollinators. They are followed by segmented fruits – blackberries – which a great food source for birds (and humans), packed with vitamin C. Once the wild berries begin to ripen, they turn from green to red and then dark purple / black. They can be picked when they are purplish black all over, from July to September. Avoid picking ones with a pinkish hue – those are still unripe and sour tasting.

Blackberries can be eaten raw (e. g. in smoothies or sprinkled over granola) or cooked, and can be made into jam, jelly, syrup, vinegar, wine, pie, chutney, cordial, fruit leather and pudding. You can even make a purple to dull blue dye from the fruits!

Just like raspberry leaves, blackberry leaves are also a great medicinal. They can be dried and made into an herbal infusion to treat diarrhoea, digestive and urinary tract disorders, sore throats, mouth ulcers, oral thrush, and haemorrhoids. The young leaves are best.

Picking blackberries is one of the most fun and rewarding activities in late summer, however they don't make it easy on you! The best and biggest berries are usually at the very top of the sometimes 2 meters high bushes, and they are well protected by some serious thorns. Make sure to wear long sleeves and pants as well as closed shoes as a precaution, and maybe grab a pair of gloves, too.

The easiest way to collect blackberries is in a colander so that they can be easily washed at home. I recommend not only rinsing your hand-picked blackberries, but also soaking them in a bowl of water for half an hour or so, to give all the tiny animals you don't want to have in your dessert a chance to desert.

Most people will recognize a blackberry bush, the fruits are easy to identify, but there are still possible lookalikes, such as (black) raspberries, cloudberries, dewberries, stone bramble, loganberry and tayberry. However, all these are edible, so you cannot go too wrong. The easiest way to tell apart a blackberry bramble from other plants is a) their large sharp thorns, and b) their palmate leaves.

General Foraging Guidelines:

  • You should be 100 % certain you are identifying the correct plant. If you do not know what it is, DO NOT eat it! Do not pick if you're in doubt!

  • Don't harvest from contaminated areas such as busy roadsides, near industrial facilities, where dogs pee, along the edges of agricultural fields, old landfill sites etc.

  • Be mindful & harvest sustainably. Only pick from areas that have a plentiful supply, and never more than 1/4 of a plant, ideally only about 5 %.

  • Leave the harvesting area litter-free.


OLD FASHIONED BLACKBERRY COBBLER

Preparation time: 45 mins
Main ingredients: blackberries, spelt flour, margarine, brown sugar
difficulty level: easy
serves: 4
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, soy-free

Ingredients

Filling:
3 cups (450 g) fresh blackberries, cleaned
1 apple, peeled, cored and chopped

1 tbsp brown sugar, honey or maple syrup
1 tbsp cornstarch
grated zest of 1 lemon


Topping:
1 cup (135 g) spelt flour (I used type 1050) *
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup (100 g) vegan butter or margarine, softened
1/4 cup (25 g) raw cane sugar, coconut sugar or brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 tbsp non-dairy milk


* If you are confused about that flour type, check out this website which explains the difference between German flour types and US-American flour types.  


Instructions

Preheat oven to 400 °F / 200 °C.

For the filling:

Combine the blackberries an chopped apple in a saucepan or oven-safe skillet. Add sugar, cornstarch, and lemon zest, and toss to combine. Bring everything to a simmer over medium high heat. Simmer the berry mixture for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn off the heat, and set aside.


For the topping:

While the berry mixture is simmering, prepare the cobbler topping.

In a mixing bowl, mix spelt flour, baking powder, softened vegan butter, raw cane sugar, vanilla essence, and non-dairy milk. Using an electric hand mixer or your hands, mix thoroughly until a thick soft dough forms.

To assemble:

Transfer the fruit filling into a greased baking dish, spreading the fruit as evenly as possible. (If you have been using a cast iron skillet to simmer your berries, no need to do anything at this point.)

Drop 2-tablespoon clumps of dough on the blackberry mixture – do not spread it out. This will later create the desired "cobbled" crust.

Bake in the preheated oven at 400 °F / 200 °C for 25–30 minutes, or until the berry filling is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Remove cobbler from the oven, and serve hot or at room temperature.

This is optional, but I highly suggest topping your cobbler with a scoop of (vegan) coconut or vanilla ice cream. Yum! 

Cover and refrigerate up to 4 days.


TIPS:
- Double or triple the recipe if serving more than 4 people.
- You can make this crumble gluten-free by replacing the spelt flour with gluten-free flour. Or replace flour with ground oats altogether.
- For variation in flavour, use orange zest instead of lemon zest, or add some cinnamon for a more wintry taste.
- If you fancy, sprinkle slivered almonds or chopped pecans on top of the cobbler before baking. They will get nice and toasty!
- You can also use frozen blackberries for this recipe, but keep in mind that fresh berries tend to be sweeter, and frozen fruit also releases more water through thawing, so the end result may be a bit runnier. To compensate this, use a bit more sugar and cornstarch.
-
If you've bought or harvested too many blackberries to eat over the course of two or three days, it's best to freeze them. Simply rinse them under running water (or even better: soak them) and spread them on a tray to dry the tray. Don't put too many berries on the tray – they should be spread in one layer, and not stacked on top of each other. Place the tray into the freezer for 1 to 2 hours. Then transfer the blackberries into a sealable containers and freeze properly.




Maisy



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