The humble blackberry was the star of the kitchen at Wallace State Community College’s Academy of Culinary Arts as the tart fruits were picked fresh off the vines and quickly turned into a fresh blackberry cobbler.
As part of its ongoing sustainability plan, in partnership with the college’s horticulture department, students from Culinary Arts visit the campus gardens each week to check on and harvest the fresh fruits and vegetables growing there. “It’s all about sustainability,” said Chef Chris Villa, director of the Academy of Culinary Arts.
The horticulture department has planted numerous fruits and vegetables the culinary students can use in their lessons. On this day, it’s the blackberries that were ready for picking, along with a few strawberries, peppers and basil leaves. The tomato plants still needed some time to bear usable fruit.
As the students prepared to pick the blackberries, Anthony Hilliard, director of the Horticulture Department, told them to look for berries that were mostly black, and avoid those that were more red. Though pleasing to the eye, the red berries would not be pleasing to the taste buds.
After picking about 8 cups of blackberries, the students made their way back to the kitchens where a recipe for blackberry cobbler awaited. After giving the berries and good rinse and getting their ingredients in place, they were ready to make a classic dessert from the berries.
Fresh Blackberry Cobbler
2 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup cold water
1 ½ cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 cups blackberries, picked over, rinsed and drained
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, cold, cut in small pieces
¼ cup boiling water
In a large bowl, stir together the cornstarch and ¼ cup cold water until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Add 1 cup sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries; combine gently. Transfer to a cast-iron skillet, about 8-inch.
In a bowl, combine the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, and salt. Blend in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ¼ cup boiling water and stir the mixture just until a soft dough is formed.
Bring the blackberry mixture to a boil, stirring. Drop spoonfuls of the dough carefully onto the boiling mixture, and bake the cobbler on a baking sheet (line with foil to avoid a mess) in the middle of a preheated 400° oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until topping is golden. Serve with vanilla ice cream
NOTE: If you like, you may sprinkle the top of the cobbler with additional sugar before baking in the oven. This gives added sweetness and crunch to the topping.