[For three weeks, Josh & Katy blogsit]
Good morning class! Having tossed out the remainders of last week’s early American dessert experiment, I have decided it’s time to plunge ahead with our next lesson.
This week we will be making a BLACKBERRY GRUNT. How do you make a blackberry grunt, you ask? Give it something heavy to lift, of course.
Ho ho ho. But seriously, folks. Grunts are subcategory of a family of fruit desserts that date all the way back to colonial days in this country. That’s a LONG time. They’re OLDER than vinegar pie. People looked like this back then:
Grunts are cousins of all kinds of other fruit desserts with CRAZY names: cobblers, crisps, betties, clafoutis, pandowdies, buckles. While these all have distinct characteristics, they are all homey, messy dishes — not meant to be fancy or elegant, but warm and satisfying on a winter day after carrying firewood in the snow with your sisters Beth, Meg and Amy:
Louisa May Alcott, the author of Little Women, lived in a house she named Apple Slump, after her favorite dessert. A slump is a fruit dessert topped with biscuit dough and then baked. Grunts are VERY similar — some would say indistinguishably so — except that grunts are steamed, cooked on the stove top.
I bet Louisa May ate grunts, too. Just look at her. What a grunt eater:
Since it snowed just this morning here in Atlanta, I decided to warm us up by attempting a blackberry grunt. This is a good and simple recipe, and I think you should try it, too. Let’s go into the kitchen, shall we?
First things first: equipment. You will a good cast iron skillet. In fact, that’s one theory as to why the dish is called a grunt — because of the sound those colonial women made when they hoisted those cast iron skillets over their fires, I guess. Fortunately, Josh’s grandmother gave us her old one so I could grunt myself:
You’re going to need six cups of blackberries, folks. If you live in northern California, this shouldn’t be a problem — go pick yourself some fresh ones on the side of the road somewhere. But if this doesn’t sound plausible to you, you can cheat and buy some frozen blackberries like me. (Look, I’m SORRY. I know it’s not foodie cool, or authentically colonial, but jeez louise-a may alcott, it would be SO expensive to buy them all fresh here. What am I, made of money?)
I mixed my thawed and drained blackberries together with 3/4 cup of sugar (maybe more, if you deem it necessary), 1/3 cup water, a tablespoon of lemon zest and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Already it looks pretty tasty, to tell you the truth:
I then put the berry mixture in my skillet on low heat. You want to work up it to a simmer, baby. Just like a good exotic dancer:
Meanwhile, I mixed up some biscuit dough. That’s right. Get out your KitchenAid, throw together one cup flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/4 teasp salt, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add 1/2 cup buttermilk slowly until it is STICKY GOOEY biscuit dough. Mmmm, gruntworthy:
Those berries were bubbling by then! I lowered the heat a bit, and dropped spoonfuls of biscuit dough into the berries. I was making these adorable little dumplings, see?
At this stage, I covered up that skillet tight with its lid, and let it simmer slowly for ten minutes.
A word here about the smells involved with making a blackberry grunt. Vinegar pie caused the kitchen to smell a bit like pickle juice. Blackberry grunt made it smell like HEAVEN ON EARTH. A sweet, wine-y, cinnamony odor began wafting all over the house, like the most delicious Christmas potpourri you have ever smelled. I walked around sniffing like a dog at the airport.
After ten lovely fragrant minutes, I tested to make sure the dumplings were done. Again, not the prettiest dessert known to humankind, but yep, the dumplings’ tops were dry:
Grunting a little, I plopped some warm grunt into a bowl. I don’t think the colonists ate ice cream, but I KNOW they had it by Louisa May’s day, so I think it’s sufficiently authentic. Right? Oh, who cares. It’s delicious either way.
So now you are wondering how it tasted, right?
Warm lightly spicy blackberries, dotted with moist chewy biscuit dumplings, christened with trickles of melting ice cream?
How do you THINK it tasted? It was name-your-house-after-this-dessert, eat-it-with-loud-eager-grunts good, if I do say so myself.
Just look at Josh! This is NOT how he looked trying vinegar pie:
Moreover, worth noting about the blackberry grunt was that it was a relatively simple dish to throw together, too. Plenty of time to go get firewood afterwards. Which I better do, if we’re going to keep our cottage warm for that big blizzard tonight.