“See those baby alligators,” I whispered, while motioning Brittney closer. On the side of a canal within the 1.4 million-acre Atchafalaya River Basin in south Louisiana, it was no surprise we found the reptiles lurking near the edge of the water. As she walked closer, Brittney spotted them as they slithered off while calling for their mother.
Problem was, we had just found a blackberry patch near the water’s edge, the only one producing after searching all afternoon as we dodged water moccasins. After a careful scan of the water, I felt it safe enough to venture deeper into the bush. I was lured farther down the bank by gobs of perfectly ripe berries. So many, in fact, that when you think you’ve picked most of them, looking from another angle uncovers a dozen or so more. That afternoon we ended up with around five pounds of berries with plenty of time to walk back before the sun set over the swamp.
“What should we do with the berries we don’t eat?” Brittney’s question was more rhetorical than anything, as we both knew very well we’d be making some sort of dessert.
“How about a cobbler,” I copied, knowing there needn’t be an answer. Cobbler it was.
A cobbler is a long-standing tradition in the South. What differentiates it from a pie is there is no crust on the bottom, only the top. Some like to layer the crust while others sprinkle it on. This version is a different take on the dessert, more like a cake than a cobbler with a few ingredients from my neck of the woods. In south Louisiana, sugar cane grows in abundance, not corn or soybeans. Thus, we have plenty of fresh, pure cane syrup to go around. The staple here is made by Steen’s, down the road in Abbeville. Their syrup is still kettle-cooked to perfection the old-fashioned way. It’s my “secret” ingredient, offering a touch of sweetness and a taste of home no matter where I am.
• 1 stick butter
• 1/2 cup Steen’s pure cane syrup
• 4 cups blackberries
• 2 cups self-rising flour
• 2 cups Maple Hill organic grass-fed yogurt (or whole milk)
1. Melt butter
2. Mix Steen’s syrup, flour and yogurt
3. Add melted butter
4. Carefully mix in blackberries
5. Pour into cast iron pot
6. Sprinkle more berries on top.
7. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 45 minutes or until golden brown
Photos by Jonathan Olivier
Jonathan Olivier is traveling throughout 2018 with his partner, Brittney, with the goal of learning everything they can about farming. He is a freelance journalist, having covered the environment and outdoors for Outside, Backpacker, REI, Louisiana Sportsman, and a host of other publications. In 2016, he published his debut novel, Between the Levees. Follow Jonathan on his website and Instagram.
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