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Friday, February 10, 2012

Dessert

   Now if you're like me and Stanley finding dessert in the Oklahoma woods is the easiest thing in the world, or at least it was a lot easier than trying to figure out how to cook. We used to wonder through the woods grazing like a couple of deer and depending the time of year we could have our choice of several different kinds of wild grapes, plums and berries, some of which were ripe during the spring and others in the fall. Mulberries in the spring were not only great eating but they were ripe at the same time Deepfork River overflowed every spring. The neat thing about that was the fact that carp and gar also liked them and bow hunting for big fish was lots of fun. The water seldom got over knee deep when the river flooded so we could wade out through the Mulberry trees and watch for their backs to show above the water. You just don't know what you're missing until you have a thirty or forty pound carp on the end of a light line! But I'm supposed to be talking about dessert here, not fishing. Another treat was in the fall when the persimmons were ripe. You want to make sure that when you bite into a persimmon that it is for sure ripe because if it isn't you just won't believe the "pucker power" there is in such a small fruit. Make sure they are soft all over and the sweetness will surprise you.

   Even though our main way of eating these goodies was to just munch away on the raw ones we did make a few attempts at cooking some of them. One thing I will always remember about growing up was the making of blackberry jelly. Everyone, including us kids would spend days picking blackberries and when the women thought we had enough they would build a fire in the yard and cook them down in big number four washtubs. You could smell them cooking from a couple of miles if the wind was right which made it kind of hard when you're out squirrel hunting. It's really hard to keep your mind on hunting while you're wondering around the woods drooling. There are two different kinds of Blackberries down home. One grows on long vines that are covered in stickers which really hurt when they pole you (if you doubt that, just ask Stanley how it felt to get thrown off a horse and land in the middle of a patch of them) the other kid are called Dew Berries and they seem to grow the best along the railroad tracks on short bushy vines with smaller stickers on them. They both taste the same and that's the part that counts.

   Our first attempt at cooking berries happened when we got the idea of having pancakes cooked over a campfire down by the river. We remembered to take everything we needed to make the cakes but when we got to the river we realized we had forgotten one main thing, syrup! Not to fear! We came up with the great idea of making blackberry syrup. Now I know that any of you who are reading this and actually know how to make syrup and jelly will laugh at this but I thought you could just put some blackberries in a pot, mix in a little water and cook it. For a couple of dumb kids it did kind of work. It was more like blackberry flavored water but the pancakes did soak it up and it was a lot better than eating them dry.

   If you do like making jams and jellies, blackberries are great for either one. I prefer jam just because it's easier to spread on a piece of toast. If you can find them, be sure and add about one quarter volume of possum grapes. Blackberries can be really sweet and it you add the tartness of the possum grapes it makes some really good jam. You can also use persimmons, sand hill plums, dew berries and mulberries for jams and jellies. If you can get mulberries be sure to add a few of the red ones to offset the sweetness.



                                         BlackBerries, Don't all in these and be sure to wear gloves!

                                           Dewberries. Smaller stickers and a little bit sweeter flavor.
                                                 
                                                                     Possum Grapes

                                              Sandhill Plumbs. If you happen to find a grove of these just find a good spot to lay back, watch the word go by and graze till you can't eat any more. Be sure and take a few home to share if you don't get to stuffed.

                                          Persommons. Great sweet flavor as long as you pick a ripe one

                           Mulberry. I used to spend hours climbing around the tree like a squirrel eating these things.