American as Cobbler
The expression "American as apple pie" is indelibly ingrained in our brains. Remember the "baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet" commercials? But really, if you want to get down to the nitty gritty, the expression has been around only since the 1960s (according to "America in So Many Words: Words That Have Shaped America" by David K. Barnhart and Allan A. Metcalf), a relatively short time in the pie world.
The reason I bring up pie in a cobbler blog is because pie predates cobbler by a few hundred years - it was born in England, it seems, during the Middle Ages. When the English settled on this side of the Atlantic, they quickly began baking their beloved pies, but with a twist.
Enter the cobbler. (check this link for recipe details)
"Without the resources of brick ovens...colonial cooks often made cobblers -- also called slumps or grunts -- and their cousins, pandowdies, in pots over an open fire," according to "The Oxford Encyclopedia of food and Drink in America, Volume 2."
"In these types of pies, a filling made of fruit, meat or vegetable goes into a pot first; then a skin of dough is placed over the filling, followed by the pot's lid. As cobblers cook, the filling stews and creates its own sauce and gravy, while the pastry puffs up and dries."
So, really, we should change the expression to "as American as cobbler" - right?
There is something resourceful and ingenious about the cobbler. Made with a fraction of the flour required for a loaf of bread and with fruits and berries that Native Americans had been eating for centuries, the cobbler was a way to sustain and nourish several mouths at a time.
So, I argue that making a cobbler at the height of summer produce season is in keeping with this few-centuries-old tradition. Peaches are in their prime, and blackberries keep showing their beautiful plump selves at local farmer's markets. I couldn't resist mixing the two fruits together.
I used what I had -- a mix of white and yellow peaches -- and because they were so ripe, the skins yielded easily with the force of my fingers. The fruit is sweet, so I reduced the sugar amount by half recommended in the above-linked recipe. (If this is of interest, do try the fruit first to get a sweetness gauge.)
I added a little cinnamon, grated nutmeg and chopped crystallized ginger to perk up the mix, as well as a shot of dark rum. (completely optional)
It's a good idea to allow fruit to sit and talk together for about 15 minutes, allowing for their natural juices to release.
The topping is made of cream biscuits, and it's so easy I made it with one hand, while talking on the phone. The heavy cream acts as a tenderizer and yields a very tender biscuit. It's crisp and dry on the top, yet on the inside, soft and absorbent like a good pillow when it meets the baked fruit.
The result always yields oohs and aahs from fellow sweet-tooths, but I think there's something more to the cobbler than meets the dessert vulture's eye.
The cobbler is simple. It's homey, nothin' fancy. It cuts across socio-economic lines and is eaten in red and blue states alike. Its history is one of immigrant innovative spirit. How's that for American?
What's your favorite cobbler? Share in the comments area below.
Please email us to report offensive comments.
Posted by: Janet in Sacramento | August 11, 2006 2:08 PM
Posted by: Atlanta | August 11, 2006 2:21 PM
Posted by: Columbia | August 11, 2006 3:06 PM
Posted by: Kalorama | August 11, 2006 3:09 PM
Posted by: julie | August 11, 2006 11:03 PM
Posted by: Theresa | August 14, 2006 12:43 PM
Posted by: MJ | August 14, 2006 5:42 PM
Posted by: Denise S. | August 16, 2006 7:00 PM
Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | August 17, 2006 1:58 PM
The comments to this entry are closed.