It’s The Berries

Here’s another great post by Kay Bess on growing up in southern West Virginia.  If you try the recipe at the end, make sure you don’t skimp on the main ingredient: fresh picked berries.

Berries on the Vine

FYI:   A great place for berry picking in southern WV is Morgan Orchard in Monroe County.  I spoke with them today (7/16/10) and they have blackberries available to pick (or they do have them already picked and ready).  They also have clinging peaches, nectarines and plums ripe.  Eating apples (canning apples available now) are expected to be ready by August 1st!

It’s The Berries

Growing up in southern West Virginia, our family loved enjoying four distinct seasons. In the mountains, you get it all.

But I can honestly say that summer was by far my favorite.  It still is,  for a lot of reasons: warm summer days, going barefoot, and the food.  Oh, yes, the food!

My parents and grandparents both planted vegetable gardens, so our summertime meals consisted of fresh cooked green beans that we helped string and snap. And there was mouth-watering corn on the cob, dripping with sweet butter and just the right amount of salt.  Also broccoli, cauliflower, squash, zucchini and juicy red and yellow tomatoes so ripe they pulled the vines down.

But for my siblings and I, berry picking time never came soon enough to suit us.  Sometimes we picked in the heat of the day (what was that all about?!).  And sometimes we waited until after my dad got home from work and dinner was over.  Either way, berry picking was special.

Once we arrived at the picking site, we got the standard warnings to watch out for snakes. YIKES!  And, of course, we each got our own plastic bucket to place the berries in. Our preferred method was to pick four, eat two. So mom thought we were goofing off instead of picking when our bucket never got full.

We picked strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and raspberries when they were in season. Blackberries had the worst stickers and briers.  First aid was sometimes administered in the form of a Band Aid and a kiss.

It was fun, but it was also hot, hard work.  And we were willing to endure some misery when we knew the end result would be a pie, cobbler, tart, or other dessert made with the berries.  Some berries were made into jams and jellies for fall and winter consumption on biscuits, cornbread, or just on our peanut butter sandwich.

My mom would make traditional jam, which involved cooking the berries, sterilizing the jars, filling the jars, and processing them in a canner or hot water bath.  But she also made freezer jam which was simply cooking the berries, placing in sterilized jars and placing in the freezer.

Last summer, I made strawberry, blackberry, and blueberry freezer jam.  I gave some away as gifts and kept some to enjoy.  The list of recipes you can enjoy from berries is endless, but one of my favorites is Cream Cheese Berry Cake.

Here’s my recipe for West Virginia Cream Cheese Berry Cake:

1/3 cup cream cheese
¾ cup sugar, divided
2 egg whites
1 tsp lemon peel
1 cup flour plus 2 tbsp flour
½ tsp baking soda
1/3 cup sour cream
3 cups fresh mixed berries (can be strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries)
1 ½ cups whipping cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat cream cheese and ½ cup sugar till well blended.  Add egg whites and lemon peel.  Mix 1 cup four and  the soda.  Add to cream cheese mixture alternately with sour cream.  Beat well.

Spray 9 inch springform pan with Pam.  Spread cream cheese mixture in bottom and 1” up sides of pan.  Toss 2 cups of berries with ¼ cup sugar and 2 tbsp flour. Spoon over cream cheese.
Bake 40-45 minutes or till toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes before removing rim of pan.  Top with remaining 1 cup berries.  Top each slice with fresh whipped cream.  Makes 12 servings.

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