NEWS FROM THE HILLS

Approaching autumn is laying a soft hand upon our hills, leaving subtle imprints wherever she goes. The trees are taking on a yellowish cast as their leaves began to change from the brilliant green of summer. Here and there a red maple tree dazzles the eye with bright crimson

The days are growing shorter, and at nightfall the crickets sing their mournful song, accompanied by the cry of the katydid. Garden crops have dwindled away to the occasional sweet pepper or tomato, and the last mess of green beans. My dad always relished the last of the half runners, with part of them shelled out, rich and meaty.

Autumn has always been my favorite season of the year. Summer is good, but fast and hectic. We have always raised a big garden, and the days of summer are filled with hard labor. Aside from cultivating the garden, crops have to be harvested as they mature and it is a race with time to can and freeze them as they reach their peak.

The secret to preparing summer vegetables is to pick them fresh and prepare them as soon as possible. Whether you are fixing them for table use, or preserving them for the cellar, a good rule is “from the garden to the pot” as quickly as possible.

Sweet corn especially loses much of its sweetness and flavor if it is allowed to set for any length of time. Criss wants to have the water boiling as he pulls and silks the corn for freezing. Our son-in-law Bob was an invaluable help when we processed the corn patch this summer.

He uses a double propane heater to boil the water (this was done outside) and after the corn is cooled in cold water, he plunges the ears of corn in an ice chest filled with crushed ice. The corn is chilled promptly, and is ready to drain on bath towels. We have always used the kitchen for this chore—this was so much easier. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Although we wait eagerly for the first fresh vegetables in the spring, it is a relief when the garden is gone. We will miss the juicy tomatoes and crunchy cucumbers, but we won’t miss the hot, dry days of gathering and canning. I reckon this is why fall is my favorite time of the year.

The torrid days are replaced by the cooler ones and the nights are crisp and refreshing. School begins, and the little ones are out from underfoot—I was never one to grieve when the kids went back to school. (Six youngsters in school at one time? What did I have to grieve about?)

The slowing down of summer brings the slowing down of hot weather chores, and there is time to roam in the woods, forage for wild foods, and rest in the serenity of nature. God had a master plan when he created the four seasons. Just as the land needs time to rest and restore, so do we.

This last bout of rainy weather has encouraged the wild mushrooms to abound. Criss found a firm white puffball, which is one of his favorites. I rolled it in flour, salt and pepper, and fried it in butter. He ate all of it.
The meadow mushrooms, those tender little fellows with the pink underskirt, have popped up all over the fields. I chopped some of them, sautéed them in butter along with chopped green pepper and a little onion, and made a luscious omelet.

Jeff Braley sent us some oyster mushrooms, which we rolled in seafood seasoning mix and fried in oil. They taste like the finest seafood. West Virginia woods have delicacies to offer this time of year.

We do have some answers to previous requests from some of our readers. Helen Whited was looking for blackberry pie made in a crock pot. Carol Kerns of Bethany Beach, Delaware, and Janet Tucker sent similar recipes. My sister Mary Ellen says she has made it, and it is quite good.

 

Crock Pot Blackberry Cobbler

 

One package (14 oz.) frozen blackberries, or three cups, thawed and drained

1/2 cup sugar

1/3 cup water

One teaspoon lemon juice

One cup Bisquick original baking mix

2 tablespoons sugar

1/3 cup milk

Ground cinnamon

Whipped cream or ice cream, if desired

 

Mix blackberries, ½ cup sugar, water, and lemon juice in crockpot. Cover and cook on low three to four hours, or until mixture is boiling. Mix Bisquick and two tablespoons sugar in small bowl. Stir in milk just until dry ingredients are moistened. Drop dough by six spoonsful onto hot berry mixture. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and cook on high 20 to 30 minutes. To serve, spoon dumpling into dessert dish. Spoon berry mixture over dumpling. Top with whipping cream or ice cream.

This sounds very much like the blackberry dumplings that Mom used to make. She had never heard of a crock pot, but used a big cooker to heat the blackberries and sugar. Then she would drop dumplings into the boiling mixture. We loved it.

The Waynedale News Staff
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