October’s Canadian Food Experience Project challenged us to write about preserves; Canada’s foodways are of course deeply seasonal, and preservation of all types has played a major part in our culinary identity. Recently there has been a resurgence of interest in drying, smoking and canning, and my family certainly does all of these things; however for at least half a century the chest freezer has also played a huge role in provisioning across rural Canada. Though frozen food doesn’t exactly set a foodie’s eyelashes fluttering, and though my family’s deep freezes are now as likely to hold Costco Lasagne as sides of venison, deep freezes are really good for one specific thing; they provide an excellent means of preserving some of our summer bounty of berries.
Berries are harvested in large quantity across the country, both on farms and in the wild. I usually pick at least twenty or thirty pounds of blackberries each summer, and I freeze them on cookie trays and then transfer them to vacuum packed freezer bags; that way the berries can be used individually. This time of year as the temperature falls and the leaves turn I usually break out a first bag for a nice blackberry crisp, which is an excellent dessert after a heavy hot meal such as a seasonal stew, and in my family is also often eaten for breakfast.
The crisp recipe I use comes from my mother, and I often make it in individual baking dishes, as shown here. It is good with whip cream or ice cream.
Combine 5 cups of frozen blackberries with 3/4 cup of white sugar, and 1 tablespoon of tapioca, Let thaw and mix well, being careful to not break apart the berries.
In a medium bowl, mix 3/4 of a cup of brown sugar, a cup of brown sugar, a cup of steel cut rolled oats, a teaspoon of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of nutmeg. Mix in 1/3 cup of soft butter.
Pour the berries into an 8 x 8 baking dish, pie dish, or individual dishes. Crumble topping loosely onto the berries. Bake from 45-60 minutes at 350F, around 30 minutes for individual dishes. The topping should be golden but not burnt. Let cool slightly, and serve.