August 2, 2021
I had a wave of nostalgia last week. I missed home, home in the some-one-else-is-baking, talking-in-the-kitchen way that I haven’t in quite some time. That home, my childhood home, those people, have been gone a long time now, but when I see a certain bird or hear its call, a special flower or catch a whiff of its particular fragrance, a summer, homegrown vegetable aching to be fried in batter, or a ripe, orange peach, I can be taken back to that feeling. Taken back to that deep, deep feeling that even thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes for the longing.
My husband doesn’t seem to suffer from this longing. He moves forward, thinking about tomorrow. He remembers things from his childhood, from his father, recently passed, and the childhood of our kids, but those things don’t make him melancholy like they do me.
I miss things.
So many things.
But last week I started thinking about cobbler.
There were fresh peaches at the grocery and as soon as I saw them, I pictured that cobbler of my MaMa’s. Now truth be told, she preferred it to be berries. Juicy, plump blackberries, raspberries, or best, black raspberries found in a old field or along a fence line completely by accident. Sun-warmed berries, scooped up in your shirt or your dress tail, stuffed in an old sack in the trunk. Carried like gold home to be baked into that batter cobbler.
That batter cobbler didn’t need a recipe. It needed that old dented pan just for that purpose, perhaps an old breadpan, the quick fixings, and those berries. It baked up like magic, the batter dumped on the bottom and those berries crowded on top, only to emerge from the oven quite the opposite, that batter nestled around with those juicy berries peeking from below. It was always a little bubbly when it came out of the oven, that particular sent of sugar and warm berries wafting out of the oven like a cloudy hug.
So last week when I saw those peaches, I wanted to make a batter cobbler. Not a cobbler with a fancy streusel top, not a cobbler where the fruit was beautifully fanned out over the top, a simple, homespun batter cobbler.
I have my grandmother’s recipe for batter cobbler written in her own hand, but this week instead of searching for her words, I searched the internet for the cobbler. I knew that I wasn’t the only pseudo-southerner with a batter cobbler recipe in my family tree.
I finally found that simple recipe.
A stick of butter melted in the pan as the oven heats up. The dry ingredients mixed together, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, equal ingredients of flour and sugar, then baking powder and salt. Those foremothers could be bothered with quarter cups and the like. My grandmother often used the palm of her hand as a measurement or a teacup, a teaspoon, a serving spoon. I use asked her about it and she said she could just ‘eyeball’ it. She knew it by muscle memory. After all, I imagine she made quite a few cobblers in her day.
After the dry ingredients, a dab of milk and an egg. Those peaches macerated in some sugar spooned on top. My grandmother didn’t use the word macerated when she taught me to make cobbler. She likely said to leave it there for a bit of time until the berries (or fruit) started to break down. Those peaches already smelling like the definition of summer as I mixed in the bowl with the sugar, bright orange like a sunset and floral like peach blossoms.
The recipe isn’t complicated or particularly special. While my family likes warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, they do not have the reaction that I do to all of its charms. They don’t have a memory of those found gooseberries, those raspberries tasted in their sweet, bitter, warmth on the fence row of that old century farm. But I’ll still be baking those summer cobblers, remembering those long-past summer, celebrating those peaches and berries, even when they come from the Whole Foods.
In my mind they will be those same fruits found a farm stand, shared from a neighbor, or spied in a fence row, stolen in a roadside… and baked by those long-fingered, soft hands of my grandmother.
Batter Cobbler (from the ages)
Four cups of fruit, if peaches about six peaches peeled and cored)
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
Add these to a saucepan and stir to combine. Cook on medium heat for just a few minutes until the sugar dissolves. This brings out the juice from the fruit. Remove from heat and set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice 6 tablespoons of cold butter into pieces and add to a 9×13 (give or take) baking dish. Place the pan in the oven while it preheats to allow the butter to melt. Once melted, remove the pan from the oven.
For the Batter:
6 Tbs. Butter
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. granulated sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 c. milk
In a bowl, mix together the sugar, flour, and baking powder. Stir the milk in, just until combined. Pour the mixture in the baking dish over the melted butter and smooth into an even layer.
Spoon the peaches and the juice (or the berries) over the batter. Sprinkle cinnamon generously over the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm, with a scoop of ice cream.
Savor the taste of summer.