Mrs. Ollie Taylor’s Pumpkin Bread: The Only Recipe I’ll Actually Follow

If you’ve followed this blog for very long, you know two things about me. One, I don’t follow recipes. Two, we follow a gluten-free menu. My son is gluten intolerant. His sensitivity is so strong, that he doesn’t touch foods or eat at restaurants that could cross contaminate his meals. Over the years, we’ve tried (with varying degrees of calamity) to purchase or adapt foods he loves. I finally decided it was disrespectful to him to keep dragging home gluten-free substitutes from the grocery. They always disappointed. So rather than keep trying to substitute it, we simply walked away from flour when preparing family meals.

A few weeks ago, Sam mentioned that living a gluten-free life wasn’t all that bad. He admitted that sometimes he misses PB&J’s. I know he misses other things too, but he never complains and never cheats. With fall in full swing, I decided I would try once again to find a something that he’d enjoy. Chocolate covered cashews and lemon macarons are awesome, but its fall. We all wanted something with pumpkin spice.

Back in the 1980’s my mother purchased a Ohio County Extension Homemakers Cookbook. We lived in Beaver Dam between 1979 and 1982. Most likely, she bought the cookbook from a friend or co-worker to support their fundraiser. Because it contains some really good recipes, she also bought a copy for me because it included recipes from a couple of my high school home ec teachers. My edition is well worn, as I still thumb through it for ideas. At the bottom of the page 28, is the only recipe I’ve ever followed ingredient-by-ingredient, line-by-line: Pumpkin Bread, by Mrs. Ollie Taylor, Mailbox Member.

I have no idea who Mrs. Ollie Taylor is or was. All I know is that her Pumpkin Bread recipe is delicious and I can always depend upon it to be perfect. The only tweaking I’ve ever done to her masterpiece, is that sometimes I add chopped pecans and golden raisins. Other than that, Mrs. Ollie Taylor’s Pumpkin Bread recipe is untouched. I’ve made it in loaves and as muffins. It is perfect every time!

So here was my challenge? Should I / could I attempt to make it gluten-free? Vince suggested we use Glutino instead of the all-purpose flour as called for. Filled with a need to provide Sam a treat that he loves, I considered the suggestion. A package of Glutino is equal to 3 cups. I considered altering the rest of the recipe — but that is a hassle. So, I decided to include a 1/2 cup of Almond Flour. Since it was a small amount, it wouldn’t overwhelm the bake. Vince next suggested greasing the loaf pans and “flour” them with the Almond Flour. He was right, it provided a great texture. Needless to say, the first two loaves quickly disappeared. As did the second set of loaves. And the third. We’re thrilled to have found a gluten-free option for Mrs. Ollie Taylor’s recipe.

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Look at that bake! The crumble is perfect. Vince did an outstanding job making pumpkin bread for breakfast. With this bake, he only added chopped pecans.

Pumpkin Bread
by Mrs. Ollie Taylor
Ohio County Extension Homemakers Cookbook

3 cups sugar
1 cup salad oil
4 eggs, beaten
1-16 ounce can of pumpkin
2/3 cup of wager
3 1/2 cups flour (To make gluten-free substitute one 3-cup box of Glutino mixed 1/2 cup of Almond Flour)
2 teaspoons of baking soda
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 teaspoon of allspice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves

Cream sugar and oil together. Add eggs and pumpkin; mix well. Sift together dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients alternately with water. Pour into 2-well greased and floured (we used Almond flour) 9×5 loaf pans. Bake 1 1/2 hours at 350 until done. Let stand 10 minutes, remove from pan to cool. Makes two loaves.

*Add 1/2 cup of chopped pecans and 1/2 cup of golden raisins, if desired.

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Anna Mae’s Potato Soup Gets an Upgrade

Vince does the majority of our grocery shopping. He uses a shopping app on his phone to make sure our pantry is always stocked with our staple items. So when he bought two 10-lb bags of potatoes during separate shopping trips this week, and a small bag of new potatoes, I knew potato soup would be on the menu this weekend.

Anna Mae's Kitchen

There aren’t many photos of my Grandmother Gentry in her kitchen. She’d probably say there was a reason for that. Cooking wasn’t something she enjoyed. It was just she did three times a day. She never measured. Never followed a recipe. Whenever she burned something, she’d always tell us it was just a little brown. Eat it anyway, and we did.

My Grandmother Gentry loved potato soup. It was her go-to cure-all if anyone was sick. It was an easy meal on a cold and windy day. And it was a good way to use potatoes unsuited for mashing. Her soup was basically boiled potatoes and butter, with a thin watery base and a few floury lumps from her attempts to thicken it. Don’t get me wrong, I loved her potato soup. Loved. It. But let’s face it, it was hardly special and it’s long past time her recipe got an upgrade.

If you know me, then you know my most prized possession is a 9-qt Marseille Blue LeCreuset dutch oven. Purchased as the ultimate splurge, my heart sings every time I touch it because I know no matter what I’m cooking, the results will be perfect.

After lunch, with a couple loads of laundry and a few obligatory house chores completed, I headed to the kitchen to get a jump on dinner. With 23 pounds of potatoes staring at me, I decided to play around with the potato soup recipe. It had to be gluten-free. It had to be wholesome with a density to satiate picky taste buds.

For inspiration, I looked at a few cookbooks and I searched the internet for ideas. As usual, I didn’t find anything that fit my needs. I landed on the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, mostly because I liked her step-by-step photos. It must be noted that my potato soup recipe is far different from hers. But I’m happy to acknowledge that she got me started.

I wanted my soup to get us through dinner and provide plenty of leftovers, so I washed and chopped a double recipe: 12 potatoes, 6 carrots,  2 yellow onions, and 1 head of garlic. Note: I did not peel the potatoes.

Like the Pioneer Woman’s recipe, most of the recipes I read suggested frying bacon first, then frying the veggies in the grease rendering. Since bacon isn’t one of our staples, I couldn’t do that. But my sweet and southern born husband keeps drippins in the fridge. Problem solved. As I dipped the spoon into the rendered fat, I couldn’t wait to see his reaction when I sweetly whisper in his ear that I had used drippins in the soup base. In my mind, it would be the middle-age equivalent of a come-on.

Once the drippins melted, I tossed the yellow onions, carrots, and garlic (because I don’t do anything without a head of garlic) into the grease and let them sauté. When tender, I tossed in the potatoes and let them sauté for 5-7 minutes more before adding 8 cups of water, lots of sea salt, and cracked black pepper.

All the fancy cookbooks that I own and all the fancy potato soup recipes I found on the internet suggested adding chicken stock to the tender vegetables. I don’t know about you, but why on earth would they add chicken stock to potato soup? It’s ridiculous. I don’t want my homemade potato soup to taste like chicken soup. I want it to taste like potatoes — therefore I used water. Besides, using water means my recipe has less calories, less sodium, and less fat.

With the beauty of time on my hands, I turned down the heat and let the soup simmer.

Twenty minutes later, I went to stir the pot. I realized that it needed more vegetables. Now, I could have added more potatoes, carrots, and onions. But I decided to add flavor instead, so I added a can of northern beans. (Someday there will be a post about my love of white beans, but not today.) Trust me on this, that can of beans just ramped up my potato soup as much as the freshly chopped chives and crumbled sausage did when I added them at the end. And on a whim, I added a bag of frozen broccoli and four mushrooms from the fridge that needed to be used.

Then, I turned up the heat for 20 minutes to bring everything back to a soft boil. Once that was achieved, I turned it back down to a simmer, placed the lid on it, and for the next three hours my dutch oven worked its magic.

When dinnertime came and Vince began making cornbread, I taste tested the soup. It was a thick golden broth that matched the color of the potatoes. Far from the thin watery base my grandmother made, this had body from the potato peels, onion, garlic, northern beans, and broccoli that had cooked down to become an earthy gluten-free broth, that was neither thin or lumpy. I added more salt and pepper to taste, then I added four tablespoons of butter. Finally, I stirred in eight ounces of sour cream and fresh chives, then placed the cover back on the pot, and turned off the stove.

As Vince pulled the cornbread out of the oven, I began ladling up the soup. The compliments began before they ever took their first taste.

“There have been amazing wafts from this soup reaching my room, all afternoon!”

“This is exactly what I’ve been wanting!”

We had planned an evening of binge watching the final episodes of Daredevil Season 3 on Netflix. So we settled in and as the action warmed up on the show, I watched my family warm up with bowls of homemade soup. My grandmother probably wouldn’t have been a Daredevil fan, but I’m sure she would have loved my redux of her potato soup.

Gluten Free Potato Soup

I simmered the soup all for hours. So the potato peels, onions, garlic, northern beans, and broccoli cooked down to become an earthy gluten-free broth that was both satisfying and packed with nutrients.

Gluten-Free Potato Soup  (double batch)

12 potatoes, chopped and unpeeled
6 carrots, chopped and unpeeled
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves divided
10 cups of water
1 can Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1 bag of chopped broccoli pieces
8 ounces of sour cream
4 tablespoons of butter
1/4 cup fresh chives

Over medium heat, spoon 4 T of bacon drippings into a dutch oven. When melted, add carrots, onions, and garlic. Brown until onions are near translucence. Add potatoes and continue to brown the vegetables for 5 minutes. Add 10 cups of water, salt and pepper. Bring to a soft boil. Add a can of Great Northern Beans and one bag of frozen chopped broccoli pieces. Bring back to a soft boil. Then reduce temperature to a simmer. (On my gas stove, I turned to 1.5). Simmer for up to three hours.

Twenty minutes before eating, add 4 tablespoons of butter and 8 ounces of sour cream. Then add more salt and pepper to taste and as many fresh chives as desired. Cover and turn off heat. Eat with homemade cornbread.

One Recipe, Multiple Meals

I watch a lot of different YouTube channels. I have a few favorite vloggers. One particular young man is a freelance videographer. Nearly everyday for the past three years, he’s recorded his travels, his hobbies, his job, his exercise routine, his process for making homemade sauerkraut, his laundry, and his meals. I love his channel. If you loved Seinfeld, which was a show about nothing, then Robby Huang’s YouTube channel is for you.

Among the routines of his day, Robby videos meal preparation. Sometimes, the vlog is about preparing a meal. Sometimes, it about eating the meal while watching YouTube. Honestly, its fascinating to watch. Overtime, I’ve come to realize that he has an amazing food rut. Day after day, he eats the same food, cooked the same way. I’ve watched him make fried sweet potatoes for hundreds of episodes. Thanks to his storytelling skills, it never gets old. If you had asked me before I began watching his channel if we ate the same thing everyday, I would have gaffed. I would have declared (with a huff, mind you) that we had a wide and varied menu, packed with farm-fresh veggies and local meat.

I would have been wrong.

Watching him stir eggs in a drinking glass, then scramble them in a skillet using chopsticks, for months on end, I’ve gained perspective about the our diet. Like him, we’re all living in food rut.

Truth. We do eat a lot of locally grown foods, especially in the summer. But our grocery list stays constant and rarely varies. Like most Americans, we purchase and eat the same stuff all the time. Kroger recognizes it and graciously sends us loyalty coupons for our favorite brands. Occasionally they’ll toss in a couple brands or items for something similar to our usual fare, but those coupons never get used. Even the vendors at our farmer’s market know what I’m going to buy and who I’m going to buy from. The Medlocks have a well-trenched food rut that is paved with brand loyalty.

There is one meal that I love to make: chicken, broccoli, and rice. This is the meal that made realize that like my favorite vlogger, we nearly eat the same thing day after day. I make this meal as a stir-fry, a soup, a casserole, and as a stew. I’ve even tossed the leftovers onto a cheese pizza on a Friday night. The ingredients are nearly always the same (because we buy the same items!) and its always gluten-free.

Sometimes I mix things up a bit, especially when I’m lacking an ingredient or something we love is in season (like okra). Sometimes, I’ll make our favorite meal Tex-Mex style (skip the broccoli, add corn, black beans, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, and the juice from one lime). Sometimes, if I’m feeling really exotic or we’re out of broccoli, I’ll roast the veggies. There is nothing more mouth watering than a roast chicken with roasted mushrooms, Italian peppers, onions, garlic, and rosemary. Sometimes, I’ll make the dish as fried rice (more rice, less veggies). And sometimes, although rarely, I’ll make it as a meal: Chicken. Broccoli. And rice. Thanks to my cooking skills and dislike of measuring ingredients, it never tastes the same or becomes boring. No matter how many times I make it.

Our favorite meal always begins with rice. Usually, there’s leftover rice in the fridge. But if there isn’t, it only takes 20 minutes to cook. If I’m making brown rice, it takes 45 minutes, which means I can toss a load of laundry in while I’m making dinner. Win. Win.

Next, I skim my favorite cast iron skillet with olive oil. No matter what happens to the ingredients to transform them into their final form, I typically stir-fry the veggies first. My family loves the char flavor that comes from my iron skillet. Over a high heat, I start with diced carrots because they take longer to cook. Then, I add chopped onion, whole-cloves of garlic, mushrooms, and green peppers. The secret to a great stir-fry is to leave the veggies alone. Avoid over stirring. When the veggies start to char, I add two bags of frozen chopped broccoli on top. Then I walk away and let the magic steam and my favorite cast-iron skillet do their job. They never let me down.

For the chicken, I grab a bag of whatever is on hand. Leftover grilled chicken breasts get diced and added on top of the broccoli. Or I’ll grab a bag of Tyson’s Fajita Chicken, dump it into a pie plate, and thaw it in the oven. Once thawed, I dice the chicken and add on top of the broccoli. From there I generally make one of three recipes.

  • If I only have a couple cups of chicken broth, I’ll thicken it with a rue. I add it slowly to the iron skillet full of veggies and chicken, then stir in a cup of rice. Let simmer for a few minutes. Bam! A delicious and easy chicken and rice stew.
  • If I’m making a casserole, everything gets tossed into a baking dish with two cans of Campbell’s Cream of Chicken & Mushroom soup and a cup (or two) of rice. Cook at 350 for 20 minutes. Bam! A creamy and satisfying casserole.
  • If I’m making soup, everything in the skillet gets tossed into a dutch oven that has two (or three) boxes of chicken broth. Generously add cumin seeds. We’re gluten-free, so instead of noodles, I add a cup (or two) of rice. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add a can of great northern beans. The northern beans add an awesome flavor to the soup. Simmer for another 10 minutes. Bam! Perfect soup when paired with homemade cornbread.

Multiple meals from the same (or nearly the same) recipe. Maybe I should start a YouTube channel like Robby and entertain the world with my one recipe meals? Nah, I’d have to clean my kitchen first.

What’s your go to meal?

Finally…

via Daily Prompt: Finally

Finally, the clock ticks toward midnight and the end of another year. I’m not sure I’ll ever think back to 2017 with fond memories. Certainly there were high points, but thankfully nothing horrible happened. We were hit with a few blows. Thankfully, we survived them. I can’t say that we’re stronger for 2017. Instead, I simply acknowledge we’re still standing despite it.

Today’s single-word writing prompt seems fitting — finally. It’s not a word that I use often unless I’m using it as an alternative to a curse word.

“Finally! I hope that tailgating jackass gets where he’s headed in such a hurray!”

“Finally! I never thought she’d shut up!”

“Finally! It’s good to see my driveway.”

Perhaps what I should say is that finally, I’m writing again. It happened unexpectedly. I sat down yesterday afternoon to do some housekeeping on another blog that I manage and saw the single-word writing prompt. Instead the task that I had planned, I wrote a short post on the word almost. It felt good to write again. So here I am again. Instead of going to bed or watching the ball drop in Times Square, I logged on to see what was today’s single-word writing prompt while finishing the last loads of laundry. If today’s prompt is finally, what will tomorrow’s be? New? Fresh? Beginnings? I certainly hope not.

 

 

Almost…

via Daily Prompt: Almost

It’s almost 2018 and I find myself sitting at my favorite writing spot, my desk in our tiny home library. We renovated this space, which was a tiny kitchen, into a quiet retreat. It was meant as a place to go when the rest of the house was in chaos. Primarily, it was a space for my husband to use while grading papers. Here, he could escape beyond the sounds of the television and conversations in the kitchen. Here, he could close the door and play whatever computer game he wanted. Or turn the volume up when Pandora played his favorite celtic band.

I appreciated it when he suggested that I could have a corner in the space. It was exactly the thing I needed. From my desk, I run our family corporation, dig around on genealogy sites, and it is where I write this blog. Its close proximity to the kitchen means that I could cook and write. Or write and cook, as it generally happens.

I love this room. It’s constant northern light stirs my soul. It’s walls of bookshelves are the perfect backdrop to my musings. Through the window, I can see the pecan trees. Thanks to the perfect placement of my monitor, I don’t really see anything else. I can pretend that our quiet neighborhood almost doesn’t exist and that the only thing outside are the trees and sky. For me, it is the perfect spot.

This room is almost magazine perfect. My little corner is almost always (sorta kinda) organized. But behind my designated portion of the long black countertop, my husband has filled his section with things. I often look at the stacks of forgotten items and wonder if he’d miss any of it, should I ever decide to tackle his mess? I know the answer. He’d instantly know something was amiss, even if he hadn’t touched the thingamajig or whatchamacallit in years. He’d know it was a missing and look at me accusingly. So I’ve learned to ignore the mess beyond the printer that divides the workspace.

As I sit looking at the pecan trees and blue sky, I think about the single-word writing prompt that WordPress has suggested. Almost. It’s almost a new year. The current year is almost over. I’m almost over a bout of bronchitis. It’s almost my birthday. I’m almost 54. Wait, what?

I am almost 54.

That certainly wasn’t something I had thought about before typing that sentence. The truth is, I never really think about my birthday. They aren’t a big deal to me. I’m certainly proud to have them. But I certainly have never adopted the “princess for a day” attitude. I’ve got much too common-sense for all that. I’m not even that crazy about birthday presents. I typically mark the day with a new selfie to acknowledge that time is stomping its way across my face and document that the color has almost drained from my hair. Almost.

As light begins to fade, I realize that it’s almost dinner time. It’s almost time to cuddle up with my boys (tomcat and beagle hound included) and watch a couple of hours of television. Then, before I know it, it will almost be time for bed. The end of another, almost perfect day.

Food Memories Nourishes the Soul

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My brother may have a silly smile on his face, but he’s pretty happy about the food on his plate and the fun we had making it together.

“Do you remember how Mom made chili dog slaw?” my brother Bill asked. “You know, the one that tasted like slaw from Hanson?”

He’s asked the question to my sister Rita and me over the years. And more than once, we’ve mumbled non-descriptive answers. But this time, he wasn’t going to let us get away with a kinda, sorta, made up answer. His wife Diann had tried repeatedly to make the slaw, and because she never ate it or ever saw it, she was at her wits’ end trying to recreate it.

When we started rattling off our usual non-descriptive answer, I tried to deflect the fact we didn’t know by announcing that Vince had nailed our grandmother’s hot potato salad.

“You mean the hot one, with the green onions and eggs?” he asked with piqued interested.

“Yes, that one! Man, I didn’t think I’d ever eat that again,” I said.

“What about Nanaw’s Coconut Cake?” Rita added. “Mamaw Vivian always made one at Christmas. Does anybody have that recipe?”

“I do!”

“But what about the slaw? Does anybody know how Mama made the slaw?”

We shook our heads no, we didn’t. And that’s when I came up with the idea of getting together and making some of our favorite recipes that our mother, grandmothers, and great-grandmother enjoyed.

We pulled out our calendars and planned to get together on Saturday, January 16th. We’d meet at my brother and sister-in-law’s house and cook together. Each of us was tasked with preparing one of the recipes discussed.

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Vince, Rita, and Nick prepare our Grandmother Anna Mae Gentry’s Hot Potato Salad

When Vince and I arrived, the kitchen was already in full swing. My nephew Nick was helping his mom chop vegetables for the slaw. Rita had the cake ready, so she jumped in with Vince and me to quickly peel potatoes. Diann and I had both made chili for the hot dogs. And I had brought a bunch of turnip greens to go along with the hot potato salad.

It was a mixed-up menu, but each dish represented a thousand memories.

As we waited for the potatoes to boil, we explained to those who never experienced Mrs. Ligion’s coleslaw just how wonderful it tasted.

Mrs. Ligion operated a small drive up hut in Hanson. There’s is no telling how many hot dogs and ice cream cones were served out her pass-thru window. Her famous slaw dressed hot dogs and her famous footlong chili dogs. When Mrs. Ligion sold the establishment to her daughter, the hut became Kim’s Drive In sometime in the 1970’s. Later, it sold again. Sometime in the 1980’s, it closed. The little hut in Hanson, along Highway 41, had been a community institution. It was where everybody went after church. On hot summer evenings, station wagons and pickup trucks were parked all around it after softball games. Every little town in America had their version of Ligion’s. But only Hanson’s little hut had that sweet-and-sour slaw that mother had duplicated time and time again and my brother desperately wanted to taste once more.

With the meal ready and quickly blessed, each of us piled our plates. It was delicious. Every bite held a memory. Vince had once again recreated my grandmother Gentry’s hot potato salad. Diann did an outstanding job with the slaw. Frankly, I think it’s better than the original.

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My sister Rita tackled our Great-Grandmother Lelia Hailey’s Coconut Cake.

After lunch, I shared our family tree via ancestry.com. I’ve spent years collecting our family history, and in the past few months, I’ve been able to complete all the information back four generations (and beyond for some). It seemed a good time to share the new information after our lunch.

Afterwards, Rita sliced into her coconut cake which was delicious. Like so many family recipes, this coconut cake is different than most. It’s basically a white cake with thick coconut icing.

I loved sharing the stories and the food with my nephew Nick, who enjoys cooking. It was befitting to pass this experience to the next generation and hopefully, he’ll pass it on to the next.

 

Some Things Never Change

On Friday night, I received a text from my sister. It read, “I just needed to write tonight. So here it goes!”

Not knowing what to expect, I eagerly read what she sent.

A summer ritual in my family was the vegetable garden. My grandmother would start early in the spring, because she wanted tomatoes by the 4th of July. She also wanted to plant a second garden on the 4th. There was always a loud discussion prior to our holiday meal about planting a second garden, just when the first one was coming in. My grandmother always got her way, and she stayed busy preserving fresh garden items until late in the fall.

A couple of years ago, I took a couple of my girlfriends blackberry picking. I told them that wearing wide-brimmed hats were apart of my families tradition.

A couple of years ago, I took a couple of my girlfriends blackberry picking. I told them that wearing wide-brimmed hats were apart of my families tradition.

On the 4th, we usually went on our first trip blackberry picking. Never been? Well, first you have to “prepare” to pick the berries. Wild blackberries have thorns that would tear your clothes, your skin, often going deep enough to bleed. This means in 100 degree temperatures, on top of whatever shirt you’re wearing, you put on a long-sleeved shirt and then put rubber bands around each wrist. Then, while wearing your oldest pair of blue jeans, you stuff your feet down into heavy barn boots, tucking in your pant legs. Lastly, add gloves, sun hat, bucket, and a generous layer of mosquito repellent. Wearing such a fetching outfit helps to deter snakes, chiggers, or whatever to wants gnaw on you.

After we filled our buckets with berries, we would come out of the field or ditch hot, sweaty, and scratched up from the thorns. Nothing was sweeter than the fresh-squeezed lemonade that Momma had waiting for us. After we’d wash the berries, she’d send us off to take showers and throw our clothes in the washer before heading to our grandmother’s house to celebrate the 4th. The next day, Momma would make jars of blackberry jam and jelly to be eaten on cold winter mornings or nights when she’d make breakfast for supper.

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Rita’s husband Rocky reaches into the blackberry patch to pull out berry laden vines.

Today, my husband and I went back to the same farm where as a child, I picked blackberries. Rather than long-sleeves and pants, my husband wore short-sleeves and shorts. Instead of a sun hat and gloves, he was armed with a lawn-mower and a hoe. He mowed up the berries and brought the vines up to him using his hoe. (Effective tools against the snakes, but not the chiggers!). He picked three quarts of berries which have now been washed, stored in bags, and are now tucked away in the freezer. They’ll become a cobbler, jam, or jelly later this summer.

When I finished reading her text, I chuckled. Not at the sweet story she told, but because what she didn’t know was that just like her, I went searching for blackberries the same day. My favorite patch is almost ready for picking. Next weekend, I’ll get up extra early and dress up in long-sleeves, an old pair of blue jeans, gloves, and a sun hat to do what my sister and generations have done before me – I’ll go blackberry picking. Some things never change.

Enjoy this Despite Everything post from 2013 about blackberry picking.

When the Blackberries Ripen