Growing up in the Cumberland Highlands of Eastern Kentucky means when July rolls around it’s time to hit the strip mines with a big plastic jug and go blackberry picking.

When we say strip mines, we are speaking of what’s left of a mountain top after the coal company has ripped the side of the mountain free, stripped all the coal out, planted a few trees, installed a silt pond and called it a day. Riding through rural Knox county as kids we marveled at the pillage of some of the most beautiful scenery on the green earth. Giant machines are brought in to accomplish the plunder that lines folk’s pockets who’ve never set foot in the great state of Kentucky.

Years later we marvel again at how successful mother nature is at reclamation. You have to look carefully to find the former mines.

Along the enormous benches of earth at the foot of the mountains grow some of the densest blackberry forests you could ever imagine.

The blackberry picking is outstanding and largely risk free save for the occasional copperhead snake which is quickly dispatched with a good limber hickory switch.

I wish I had my grandmother Nellie Sullivan’s recipe for blackberry dumplings as grown men came from far and wide to sup upon them at her legendary groaning boards. Sometimes they wept at the profundity of this professional cook’s table.

That recipe is lost to the sands of time but when I scored a quart of blackberries earlier this week in Austin, I set about making a baked sweet berry dish that could perhaps summon the memory of this blessed woman.

Here’s my recipe for Sweet Batter Pudding With Fresh Blackberries


1 c. flour, all purpose

¼ c. + 2 T. Sugar, cane, fine

1 ¼ c. Milk, whole

1.T. Amaretto

3 each Eggs, lightly beaten with 1 T. whipping cream

1 qt. Blackberries or other ripe, fresh fruit

Butter, enough for greasing pan


* Preheat oven to 325 degrees

* Butter medium glass baking dish

* In large bowl toss berries with 2 T. sugar and Amaretto

* In separate bowl sift flour together with remaining sugar

* Make well in middle of flour

* Add beaten eggs, gradually incorporate flour into eggs til thoroughly blended

* Slowly add milk til very wet batter forms

* Pour berries into buttered baking dish

* Pour batter over berries

Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes

Let cool on stove top for 15 minutes

We ask that you honor the traditions of Nellie Sullivan and serve this dessert with a big scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream

Of course if you can make the ice cream by churning it on a front porch in rural Kentucky you’re definitely ahead of the game

Bon Appetit y’all

all Kentucky recipes here

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