Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kaya's Berry Crisp

The tastiest way to eat cooked berries I know.

It's officially summer time, which means it's berry season! This time of year used to mean a special treat for my siblings and our neighbors, because we used to have tons of wild blackberry bushes lining our shared driveway. They'd usually flower in June, get berries in July that started off bright red and sour before turning black and juicy a few weeks later. We used to get a pretty good haul if we were patient, but usually we weren't - it was too much fun to just sneak a couple ripe ones every time we went down to the mailbox!

Unfortunately, my other neighbors at the time who have since moved away weed whacked the bushes into oblivion one year. They've never grown back, which is something I think we're all still deeply resentful of, and so those halcyon days are gone.

I'm still certainly fond of blackberries though, and you guys already know that Kaya would have been, too! although this isn't a dessert Kaya would have enjoyed in 1764, it's definitely a tasty way to serve up any berries or fruit you've got around the house, and is perfect for any time of year.

Berries were an important staple of the Nimíipuu diet, and a good or bad harvest could really make a difference for families in the coming months, who would eat some of the berries immediately, but preserve the others for consumption later during the year. Collecting berries was an important job that could be done by someone of pretty much any age, although it was certainly a task that was more often preformed by women than men.

All of the berries we're using today are native to North America and would have been found in Washington, Oregon and Idaho in 1764. They're modern versions of what Kaya and her family would have eaten, in that obviously these aren't wild and have been selected by farmers to be a fair bit bigger and maybe even a little different tasting than their wild counterparts. I'm still disappointed we don't have a source of huckleberries nearby!

 This recipe comes from my mom - I'm not sure where she first learned it from and it doesn't really have exact measurements, but it's ridiculous simple to make, and is very easily customizable. I know I've been doing a lot of recipes I've marketed as "ridculously easy" lately, but it's true! As long as you've got fruit in the house - well okay, maybe not something like watermelon - you can throw a variation of this dish together in under ten minutes and have it ready to go in less than an hour.

It's also great because it's something that works year round! This version of the crisp is more summery because it uses summer fruits, but if you wanted to make it with apples or something else, it can easily be a treat enjoyed in the fall or winter. My mom makes it throughout the year whenever she needs something that could feed a lot of people but can be made quickly, and has a little more health benefits than a cake. A crisp is very similar to a cobbler, but has more of a crumb topping instead of something thicker and baked like biscuits or batter on a cobbler.

You start off by greasing a baking dish and then tossing in your fruit. If you're just using one kind of fruit, you just need to make sure it's sort of evenly distributed through the pan, but if you're making it with a variety, definitely try to make sure that every scoop is going to get a good balance of your different fruits.

Then you make the topping. You take about a half a cup of sugar, brown sugar, and a half stick of butter, and cut it all together with a pastry cutter. In theory you can do this with a food processor or a fork too, but the pastry cutter is the simplest option for me.

You want to have some decent sized chunks of butter left intact, maybe around the size of a pea ideally.

This is also when you add your spices, which is another thing that can affect the seasonal flavor of the dish. Cloves and all spice make it more of a winter or fall dish, while cinnamon is simple enough to give it a little extra flavor without making it seem like something you'd see at Christmas. You can eyeball this, too.

Then you add in some oats. This is another thing you can switch up depending on how much you like oats - if you like them a lot, feel free to add in a couple scoops. If you're not as much of a fan, scale back a little.

This goes right over the top of the fruit.

This bakes in the oven for about half an hour or so at about 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When you take it out, the top should be a little browned, and the fruit should be nice and hot, and definitely pretty liquidy.

Scooping it out and making it look pretty can be a bit of a challenge since there's no real form to it, but it's tasty enough that I don't think anyone minds.

After letting it cool off a little, you can serve it warm or cool, although I personally prefer mine at least a little warm. It also goes well with ice cream if you're looking to add just that little extra oomph.

Kaya's often a difficult doll to represent equally on my blog because so much of the food she ate isn't local to where I live and can be hard for me to get my hands on. It also doesn't help that there's not a ton of variation in what she would have eaten, so almost everything needs to have a modern twist on it instead of being truly authentic. Still, when I find things like this and get an opportunity to look into the history of different local foods, I don't mind as much that everything can't be fully authentic. It also definitely helps that the stuff we have found has been really tasty!

Fortunately, I've got another dish I definitely want to try and sneak in before the end of the summer, and I hope to get back to our Lewis and Clark themed dishes soon, too. Let's cross our fingers that my schedule isn't too insane over the next couple weeks!

Now to go back to my hunt for huckleberries...


  1. This looks really good and easy! I somehow have never made a really good crisp. I'll have to try this out!

    1. Let me know how it turns out if you do! :D

  2. Ooo, that's easy enough and I have blackberry bushes here in the PNW, so I can do this for Kaya's birthday here! (here we give her birthday on August 1st cause it's the same as my grandma.)

    1. I might have to steal that idea, I've been debating when to celebrate her birthday. c:

    2. I think AG officially used to do her birthday celebration in August at some point.

  3. Too bad your blackberry bushes are gone. We have loads here, and they're just everywhere. They also spread like crazy. The berry crisp looks amazing!

    1. Thank you! I was actually really surprised they never grew back, I think they almost got wiped out a little before the berry apocalypse and wound up growing back, so I'm not sure what happened. :c

  4. No worries about being authentic all the time with Kaya. I think you do a nice modern spin on things. The crisp sounds like a nice, quick dessert for a crowd.

    1. Thank you! It really is, I can't recommend it enough. c: