Appalachian Food

Blackberry Pie from Choestoe

Today’s guest post was written by Ethelene Dyer Jones.

hand holding blackberries over sink of water

The First Blackberry Pie

On the farm in the mountains where I grew up, we looked forward to the first ripe blackberries. If enough had ripened, it would mean a blackberry cobbler for dessert after we’d picked, looked and washed them.

I don’t remember any recipe for making blackberry pie. My mother knew how to do it, just because she’d done it so long. I remember watching her and then doing it as nearly she did as possible.

Basically, it took a “pie pan” to place the berries in. I don’t mean by this a “pie plate” like we used for making pies with a rolled-out crust and a filling.

A cobbler pie pan was a round pan about 8 or 9 inches in diameter with sides about 2 and ½ inches up and holding about 2 quarts. Put the washed and “looked” berries (making sure no stems remained) in the pan.

Cover with water, and a little more than covered.

Put in about a cup and a half of sugar.

Bring to boil. Put in 1 teaspoon of vanilla. This seasoning helps to take the bitterness out of wild blackberries.

Make pie crust—not the regular kind, but rich biscuit dough, with more shortening (in those days we used lard!) than for regular biscuits.

Roll out the dough on a floured board until very thin.

Cut strips of dough and drop about 2-inch lengths into the boiling berry mixture.

Turn down heat (or if using a wood stove like we did when I was a child, move to a cooler part of the stove.)

Let this first layer of berries and “dumplings” cook until the dough is cooked through and set, and you still have plenty of juice, but it’s thickened. Then roll out a thin crust, and again cut strips, but this time “lace” them to cover the top of the berry/dumplings mixture.

If you have cream saved from milk, spread it over the top of pie. Sprinkle sugar on top.

Put in heated oven and bake until the crust is golden brown. Remove from oven. If you like it hot, spoon out a serving and enjoy. Or, if you can do so, wait and serve for dessert after lunch or supper.

You may have to experiment with this old fashioned way of making berry cobbler until you get the feel of having the right amount of berries, water, dough for dumplings to thicken the mixture, and the top crust which you want to bake to a golden brown.

The only drawback to gathering wild blackberries for making homemade jelly, delicious cobbler pies, and canning the berries for winter use is all the “chiggers” caught while picking them. We used to rub kerosene on our legs and arms to try to ward off chiggers. But I still recall that those little pests had a heyday with berry pickers’ arms and legs. But our buckets of ripe, juicy berries were always recompense for any discomfort of chigger bites. Why don’t you go berry-picking and reward yourself and your family with this Appalachian treat: Blackberry Cobbler!


I’ve made Ethelene’s blackberry pie and it is delicious! I use one of my cast iron frying pans for the cobbler and it works perfectly.


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  • Reply
    July 1, 2019 at 9:03 pm

    I was cleaning out the freezer a few weeks ago to make room for blueberries. I found two quart bags of blackberries from last year. I had blackberry cobbler for three days. So far we have picked about 12 gallons and our neighbors gathered 2 gallons. This looks like it will be a 30 gallon year.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2019 at 3:13 pm

    Yumminess,……. you know when something is described like that above, you can remember just how it taste and smells cooking. I loved picking blackberries with my granddaddy and granny as a child…till the sweat just rolled off your face. Wasn’t it just wonderful when you’d pull up a lower vine full of huge berries. My Granny made cobbler just like that above ,except she cooked and then squeezed the seeds out of the berries first ,then proceeded. She had false teeth and didn’t like the seeds…. aren’t those cobblers so so good….. I don’t remember ever getting chiggers in my younger days. My Granny’s cure was to paint clear fingernail polish over the bite…. tobacco juice for the mosquitoes…. Love just a bowl of washed berries too.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 1, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    When I was about 7 or 8, me and Harold awoke one morning to a 4″ snow on the ground. That meant after breakfast we’d head to Emmit’s Meadow and try to get a Rabbit or two. We’d kick the creek banks of Valley River and the rabbits would come out like crazy, the fiests would catch and eat some of them. But this one was a Mountain Rabbit, stripped, and he’d head across the field with the dogs right behind. Me or Harold couldn’t shoot, afraid we’d hit a dog. I had a modified choke 12 gauge J.C. Higgins that would bring a Rabbit down by just pointing the way he went. My older brother, Harold, had a full choke 12. That Winchester was terrific.

    Anyway, that ole Rabbit made it across the field and to the Mountain where he was home. In a few minutes, he came back down, the exact way he went up. He had jumped behind a tree and waited for the dogs to go on by. Only trouble is Me and Harold was waiting for him. We cut loose on that thing and blowed him all to pieces. Even his Cottontail was gone.

    We didn’t have no gloves, we had sox on our hands. I thought I’d tell this true Story. …Ken

  • Reply
    Garland Davis
    July 1, 2019 at 11:32 am

    From the tme I could walk until I left for the Navy, I was in the woods every chance I got. My friends and I knew the location of every blackberry thicket for miles around. Mama promised that she would make dumplings every day we brought her blackberries. We kept her busy.

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    July 1, 2019 at 11:10 am

    Sounds heavenly. Always had a hard time getting enough for a cobbler when I was a kid. Too many right in the mouth. Lord only knows how many worms I ate, but I surely didn’t care. I really appreciate the note about using one of your cast iron skillets. I’ll do the same. The blackberries up here aren’t as big, but maybe one of the farmers at the market grows them that might come close.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2019 at 10:18 am

    best recipe I have used for blackberry cobbler, is on the side of a 5 pound bag of SOUTHERN BISCUIT FLOUR. It has the real taste and texture of a true blackberry cobbler.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2019 at 9:42 am

    In my youth blackberries were everywhere, and we would always have a surplus. What was I thinking, because I did not like to eat blackberries because of seeds. My grandmother would have a huge pot of blackberry dumplings setting on the side of her wood cook stove, which I never tried. Now love them. I had recently gotten some blackberries from a cousin and made the old recipe where you use cup of flour, cup, of sugar, and cup of milk with a stick of butter melted in pan. I had sweetened the blackberries and cooked them first. My young niece was literally scraping the residue from the bottom of the pan. Fast Food houses cannot duplicate those old recipes. Great post, and I love anything Ethelene adds to your blog. I had missed her! Oh the copperheads were always the biggest concern in the blackberry patch. My uncle recently mentioned having to wear his winter boots.

  • Reply
    July 1, 2019 at 9:20 am

    The timing of sharing this recipe is perfect as blackberries get ripe around the 4th of July here in KY. The old lady who used to own this farm told me she would take two five gallon buckets and head out early morning and pick berries nearly all day. She never carried a gun to kill the snakes that are notorious for hanging around blackberry patches. She said her dog was the only protection she took with her. Not too many wild berry vines can be found after plows and chemicals found their way to this area. I would like to blame the lack of berries on the deer. They ate all the leaves off my peach trees (as far as they could reach), stripped the grapevines of leaves and grapes, ate five rose bushes and made my garden look like a weedeater went through it. I put a dent in the deer population a few weeks ago when I hit one with my car. He won the battle because he made a dent much bigger than I did.

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    July 1, 2019 at 9:05 am

    And Ethelene,
    We had a Cast Iron Frying Pan that had no handle. It must have been 15 inches around, but it takes a big “un for our family of boys. Boy, that ole woodstove got a workout. There is nothing Better than having a big Blackberry Cobler with just enough Vanilla to make it taste right for Supper. Mama would wrao a towel around the pan, to keep it from being so heavy. Talk about “lip smackin’ good, if it’d been any better, we couldn’t stand it.”

    In the summertime, me, Harold, and sometimes John would go into the edge of the cornfield and pick Blackberries. We did this everyday until the Berries were gone, by that time, we had plenty. Mama would Can us plenty of berries for the Cold Winter that was to follow. Those were “the good times.” …Ken

  • Reply
    Wanda Devers
    July 1, 2019 at 9:03 am

    Sounds delicious!

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    July 1, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Ah yes, them chiggers, but the various troubles; chiggers, scratches, heat, etc are ‘sweetners’ to the final product that store-bought doesn’t have. I treasure the memories of berry picking with my Grandma, my Aunt and my Mom. Those who have gathered from nature know what I mean.

    My wife has made juice with our blackberries. I have been using it for ice cream topping and in iced tea. One of these days when we have pancakes I’ plan to use some on them.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    July 1, 2019 at 7:59 am

    As always, I thoroughly enjoyed Ethelene’s post. She used a description for checking berries (“looked”) I hadn’t heard in a ”coon’s age, and the recipe sounds scrumptious as well as being sufficiently different from y standard one to be tempted to give it a try.

    I would disagree a bit on chiggers being the only drawback. Since I am, as I type this, licking my wounds from a losing encounter with wasps about 30 minutes ago (although I was picking blueberries, not blackberries, wasps will build nests in both), stings are another problem.

    Still, as Ethelene rightly suggests, the gain is well worth the pain.

    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    aw griff
    July 1, 2019 at 7:38 am

    I do love blackberry dumplings or cobbler but I dread the chiggers. Wild touch me not will stop the itch and help bites heal. Some people are immune to chiggers just like being immune to poison ivy. Dad never had chigger bites and could work in poison ivy without getting the rash.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    July 1, 2019 at 6:45 am

    That sounds wonderful! When I was a kid a trip to the blackberry patch was always followed, immediately, with a bath with a generous helping of salt to kill the chiggers. I have this fair skin that has always been susceptible to bugs and bites of all kinds. A soak in the salt water helped tremendously!

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