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Crazy cobbler is a winner at harvest time

Recipe: Summer peaches, nectarines featured in this version of Blue Ribbon Cobbler

Blue Ribbon Cobbler is put together differently than most.
(Photos: Debbie Arrington)

One of the great pleasures of midsummer is a rich and satisfying fruit dessert that makes the most of a sweet-tart bounty.

My favorite is this cobbler: easier than pie and flexible to what’s ripe.

I discovered this recipe 35 years ago when I first started writing about food. “Blue Ribbon Peach Cobbler,” which according to accompanying recipe notes won top prize at an unnamed state fair, was part of Ronald Johnson’s wonderful “The American Table: A Festive Sampler of Regional Cooking at its Savory Best.” Johnson encouraged readers to substitute other fruit or combinations for the peaches, which I have done often.

In honor of closing day of our State Fair, this Blue Ribbon Cobbler will win smiles at summer gatherings. (Just use the correct size pan.)

The example here uses yellow peaches and nectarines, peeled and sliced. Strawberry-rhubarb, peach-blueberry, apple-rhubarb, mixed berries; all these combos work well, as do straight peaches or other fruit.

The recipe itself looks out of whack with way more sugar than flour, plus lots of butter. That’s what makes it delicious. The batter bubbles when it’s spooned over the melted butter, and the fruit is dropped on top, not layered underneath. As the cobbler cooks, the fruit sinks down into the batter. The top and sides develop a rich, brown crunchy crust, wrapped around sweet-tart syrupy filling.

All that sinking and rising needs some room. Use a DEEP baking dish (3 inches preferred), not a shallow pie pan. Place a cookie sheet under the baking dish to catch overflow, just in case.

Blue Ribbon Cobbler
Adapted from “The American Table,” by Ronald Johnson (Pocket Cookbook, 1984)

Serves 6 to 8

The prepared fruit is spooned over the batter before baking.

½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
¾ cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 cups sugar (divided)
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¾ cup milk
2 cups fresh fruit (such as peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries, apples, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, boysenberries, rhubarb or mixed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Put the stick of butter in a deep, square baking pan (8- or 9-inch). Place pan in the oven and let butter melt as oven heats. (Remember to take it out.)

Meanwhile, mix flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and 1 cup sugar. Stir in milk to make a batter. Set aside.

Prepare fruit. If using peaches, nectarines or apples, peel and slice; halve and pit apricots or cherries; string and chop rhubarb; or hull berries.

Mix prepared fruit with remaining 1 cup sugar.

Pour batter over melted butter in pan. Spoon fruit evenly over the batter. Bake for 1 hour.

Serve warm with cream, whipped or plain.


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 3:

Make the most of gaps between raindrops. This is a busy month!

* Windy conditions brought down a lot of leaves. Make sure to rake them away from storm drains.

* Use those leaves as mulch around frost-tender shrubs and new transplants.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they're dormant.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Plant one last round of spring bulbs including daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths, anemones and scillas. Get those tulips out of the refrigerator and into the ground.

* This is also a good time to seed wildflowers such as California poppies.

* Plant such spring bloomers as sweet pea, sweet alyssum and bachelor buttons.

* Late fall is the best time to plant most trees and shrubs. This gives them plenty of time for root development before spring growth. They also benefit from fall and winter rains.

* Lettuce, cabbage and broccoli also can be planted now.

* Plant garlic and onions.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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