This story started with a simple question from Ken. “Do you know the history of the blackberry cobbler?” When asked, I had to stop and think for a moment. I knew I liked blackberry cobbler because over the years I have eaten a lot of it. I recalled that my grandmother made a great cobbler from wild blackberries; however, I had to admit I not did know the real history of the cobbler. Without hesitation, I committed to learning about and sharing my findings.
It appears that the cobbler was inspired by the English and according to our friends at Wikipedia, Cobblers were a development of necessity because the folks in the British American colonies were not able to secure the proper ingredients or cooking equipment required to make their customary suet puddings.
Biscuits were standard, and the idea of using a layer of uncooked biscuits mixed with the stewed filling was born. While the origin of the name cobbler it unsure, it was supposedly recorded for the first time in the mid-1800’s. The cobbler also became a favorite dish on the Chuckwagon for the Cowboys.
There are savory and sweet cobblers, and in the south, some of us enjoy our blackberry, peach and apple cobbler with a scoop or two of ice-cream.
Warm summer days and sweet plump blackberries in the Carolinas makes for many excellent memories. Not so long ago I had the opportunity to work on a story about the official NC Blackberry Festival in historic downtown Lenoir, NC.
Over the three days that we attended, the high temperature averaged in the low 90’s. The humidity was modest, and the shade provided a nice respite from the sun. One of the good things about downtown Lenoir is that there are several places that you can step into for a refreshing beverage and a bite to eat. We were sure to take advantage of both.
The blackberry festival was kicked off with, “An Evening of Everything Blackberry” A good portion of the main street was closed off to traffic with tables lined up in the center of the street and set for dinner. There was a swing band playing, and there was an abundance of food which was creatively infused with blackberries. One of the more interesting food items was grilled frog legs covered with Jeff Crane’s Blackberry BBQ sauce. There was also a cobbler, but not the big one that would come on Saturday.
Friday evening featured the Blackberry Belle Pageant, a music contest, blackberry recipe contest, a late night 5K Glow Run and a beer garden that among other things included Blackberry infused beer.
The big day for the Blackberry Festival was Saturday, and we arrived as the vendors were getting set up. We made the Highlands Coffee shop our staging area, and we quickly went into production. It did not take long for the crowd to arrive. The weather was clear and the streets were soon filled with approximately 25,000 festival attendees.
Lineberger’s Farm had lines of people buying blackberries and blackberry cider. I can attest to the good flavor of both. We were then pleased to meet the newly crowned Little Miss Blackberry Belle Princess and then it was time to witness the blackberry eating contest.
There were three age groups with a surprise for the adults. A new no hands rule was added for the adults, which evidently lead to the upset for the past four-year champion.
And then is was finally time for the colorful and energy filled “Colossal Cobbler Parade” which was very impressive. The parade made its way through town and at the end delivered what is reportedly world’s largest patchwork blackberry cobbler.
As soon as the cobbler was displayed, it was served up to lines of festival attendees. In talking with several people, the cobbler is an awaited annual tradition which keeps them coming back year after year. The blackberry cobbler seemed to hold many family memories of grandmothers and aunts who made great cobblers.
I am grateful for the early day repurposing of biscuit dough and for the NC Blackberry Festival for celebrating our love of blackberries and for having a grand parade that features the largest patchwork blackberry cobbler in the world.
I can still hear the beat of the drummer. God Bless America and our beloved, cobbler!