Life is just a bowl of berries


Linda Conway Eriksson - Contributing Columnist



Aren’t we lucky we can go a few miles or a few blocks away from home to a grocery store and get the food we need? Actually, we are and we aren’t.

Many years ago, when I spent a part of every summer at grandmother and granddaddy’s in North Carolina, I loved to go out in the backyard to the vegetable garden and dig up potatoes. Grandmother showed me how and where to dig for the biggest ones. I couldn’t have been more excited when we found a huge one than if we’d been digging for gold. Those potatoes had a sweetness when we had them with dinner that no supermarket potato can match.

The eggs grandmother gathered every morning from her hens seldom reached the refrigerator — they were eaten too fast. She would bring them to the house, wash them in the kitchen sink, and put them in a certain bowl in a cabinet in the kitchen. I could choose the one I wanted for breakfast. Of course, I tried to get a big one, slightly elongated, in the hope that when it was cracked into the skillet I’d have a double-yolk egg.

Just as freshly dug potatoes tasted slightly sweet, grandmother’s eggs tasted the way eggs are supposed to taste. My daughter Heather and her daughter Jacqueline carry on the tradition in this generation with their backyard chickens. When “the girls” lay more than their family can eat I sometimes reap the bounty.

The thing my cousin Bobby and I most looked forward to when I would visit my grandparents was walking back to the property line, each with a kitchen bowl, to pick blackberries. They grew in great profusion on the fence that marked the lot line. If we could pick one whole bowlful, it would be enough for grandmother to make a pie. Had we not eaten quite so many berries as we picked, there would have been lots more blackberry pies for dessert. Grandmother never failed to remind us to “be careful and watch for snakes.” According to grandmother, snakes loved to eat blackberries; thus, they could sometimes be spotted lurking back in the blackberry brambles, none too happy to see Bobby and me coming for some of their berries.

I’ve picked blackberries in North Carolina, raspberries in Sweden and blueberries in Massachusetts, Florida and again in Sweden. I have to say, I enjoyed the blackberries best raw. Raspberries are good however you eat them. While red raspberries are plentiful, get a bunch and try this.

RASPBERRY APPLE TART

Butter Pastry

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen

3 tablespoons ice water

1 cup all purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

Filling

6-8 large Rome baking apples

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup raspberries

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, frozen and cut into pieces

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2/3 cup light brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the pastry:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the butter into 1-inch slices. Put the butter, ice water, flour and sugar into a food processor fitted with a steel blade; blend until the mixture forms a ball. Roll out the dough and fit it into a 9-inch flan pan (a shallow pan) with a removable ring. Place a piece of wax paper and 1 cup of raw rice in the bottom of the flan pan (to hold down the pastry as it cooks). Cook the pastry for 8 minutes, then remove the wax paper and rice and cook for 8 more minutes. Remove from the oven and make a few small knife holes in the pastry to let out air. Leave the oven on while you’re making the tart.

For the filling:

Peel and core the apples and cut into bite-sized pieces. Place the apples in a bowl with the flour, sugar, raspberries, and cinnamon, gently mixing them with your hands. Fill the pastry shell.

For the topping:

Place the topping ingredients in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until little pebbles and grains appear. Top the tart with this mixture and put the tart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until the juice has thickened and the tart is bubbling.

Cool and serve.

Serves six to eight.

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Linda Conway Eriksson

Contributing Columnist

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.

Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached at lindaconwayeriksson@gmail.com.