Foraging Out on the Farm
People in small farm communities up through the 1950s or 60s were not far from our hunter/gatherer ancestors. We’ll talk about the hunting part on another day, but today I’m thinking in two articles about the gathering wild foods. Yesterday Grandma Vera Anderson and I went to the woods for mushrooms. But we could find plenty of other edibles out in the woods or the abandoned fields of the farms. Of course the wild foods included blackberries and raspberries hiding shyly underneath Br’er Rabbits bramble bushes. And I’m pretty sure that my Daddy would have wanted to read me a story about Br’er Rabbit as a preface to berry hunting. I remember going out on the Anderson farm with my Uncle Bill and Uncle Herb and my Dad and some other folks and coming back with berries for cobbler and pie. My brother remembers a different berry hunting story.
Foraging to Earn a Pie of Grass
Contributed by Bro Kaser
My father, Paul Kaser, never believed my mother made enough pies. Once when we lived in a rural area, a neighbor woman came to borrow a rolling pin. I distinctly remember my mother saying as she handed over the implement, “I can’t tell you how many hundreds of pies I’ve made with that.” I remember it distinctly because of what my father said when the woman had gone on down the road, “Oh, Harriette, shame on you. You told that poor innocent country woman you’ve made hundreds of pies and she believed you. What did you do with all those hundreds of pies? I never saw them.”
Once, when we had a blackberry bramble patch out back, Mom said to my pie-starved father, “If you and Billy go out there and fill these five cartons with berries, I’ll make you berry pies.” We went out, I’m sure with the best of intentions. If you’ve ever picked blackberries on a hot day, you know that it’s as sticky, jaggy experience that leaves your hands red and itchy. But a berry pie is a soothing reward. We picked until our fingers were anointed with stains and our hands were red with scratches. We picked and picked, but we could not get enough to fill the last two cartons. Finally my father said, “If you want that pie, you’d better do what I do.” He stuffed his last carton with grass and covered the top with a layer of berries. I filled my last box similarly, figuring we would show them, then sneak them away while she made the pies from the full baskets. My mother took away all five cartons before we could pull the switch. That night two pies were presented. “The one over there is for you and Billy,” she said coolly to Dad. “I didn’t have enough berries for that one and had to supplement with the grass you picked by accident.”
A Berry, Berry Good BLACKBERRY Pie
Although Mother Would not have needed a recipe, this is the way she would have made her blackberry pie. If you have more blackberries than grass in your bucket after picking wild foods, you may want to try this pie. This recipe is adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook,1953 first edition, a relic of her home economics teaching days. Even the reproduction issue of this edition is now out of print and available only through independent sources. This recipe includes the finishing detail of how mother glazed her fruit pie crust for a beautiful crust.