In 1949 my parents bought 76 acres about 4 miles north of Hayward. The land was a quarter mile west of the Namekagon River. They could have bought 80 acres on the river for the same price, but my mother was afraid that her children would drown playing in the river and my father liked the idea that there were two small fields on the 76 acre parcel.
Their decision meant that my mother fretted more about her offspring disappearing in the swimming hole below the rapids than she would have if we had built a home on the river. The fact that our home was a quarter mile from the river meant only that we had farther to walk before getting wet. She or Dad walked with us the first couple of years until they decided that we could be trusted to be careful in the water.
On hot days in summer we spent most of the day at the swimming hole. Gus, our farmer neighbor, had fenced a watering spot for his cows there, and they kept the grass nicely trimmed. As cows will, they fertilized the area too, but it was a small neat herd, and we were careful where we stepped.
When cousins or friends came to visit, we enjoyed showing off the mysteries of the river. Caddis fly houses of many different kinds, mayfly nymphs crawling on rocks lifted out of the water, crayfish darting backwards when you scared them and fish finning on the bottom of the pool that you could almost touch if you could hold your breath long enough and your face mask didn’t leak too much. Most were suckers but once in a while a northern pike would glide in front of you or a trout would flash away.
Though the days were hot, Mom still baked desserts. Strawberry shortcake in early summer and berry cobblers and pies later. We picked raspberries in late June and over the Fourth of July, blueberries in late July and blackberries for most of August. Mom had a rule: No swimming until the berries are picked and delivered. We picked and swam and ate well.
Mom’s berry cobblers were simple affairs. Berries covered by a batter baked golden brown. If we were lucky, there would be a scoop of ice cream on top.
This recipe is from a cookbook put together by the ladies of the United Methodist Church in Rosalia, Kansas where Jerri grew up. It is a simple cookbook made with a spirit duplicator, but like most church cookbooks it includes some really good recipes. Etta’s Easy Cobbler is one.
1/2 cup sugar
2 T shortening
1/2 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 T baking powder
2 to 2 1/2 cups berries sweetened with 3 to 5 T sugar
First pick 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fresh raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. Wash them in cold water and remove any leaves, stems or other contaminants. Stir the sugar into the berries and crush a few to release the juice. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Cream the sugar and shortening. Sift one third of the flour, baking powder and salt into the sugar, stir in about 1/3 of the milk and mix well. Add the rest of the flour mixture and milk by thirds and mix well.
Pour the batter into a 2 quart baking dish and pour the berries over the top. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the batter has risen to the top and is well browned. Serves four to six.
NOTES: As was the case when I was a boy, this cobbler is especially good topped with a scoop of ice cream. Etta’s recipe calls for a can of sweetened berries, which works fine too.