Dig through & dig in

Our annual food-shopping moratorium is officially on. Does this happen at your house? You preserve and preserve and preserve, then worry so much about making it last that you face a freezer/pantry overflow crisis come March? Oy. It happens every year here, although I have a hunch it arrives at just the right time.

That is, in the sense that there isn't much local food shopping to be done these days. The carrots are all gone from the greenhouse, and the spinach is dwindling, fast. I am embarrassed to admit that because of a very late Fedco order, our spring seeds haven't even arrived yet! So perhaps the crisis is really a blessing in disguise.

At any rate, it yielded a blackberry-apple crisp, so it can't be all bad.

It was probably one of the easiest crisps I've ever made: a frozen homemade pie shell leftover from the day this winter that Alex and I tested clam pie recipes (21, to be exact!); wrinkled, shriveling apples that my mom brought down back in late January, soft but still good once we cut in; and blackberries from the freezer, picked in August at my brother and sister-in-law's, down the road.

I tossed the fruit with sugar, flour, lemon juice, and a pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg—then loaded it into the shell. The topping is one from my mother's recipe box—from a Pepperidge Farm piecrust sticker way back when. It has oats and brown sugar and walnuts, and of course plenty of butter to melt and ooze and hold it all in.

Blackberry-apple has always been a favorite of mine—ever since my mother started making this jam—but what do you have in your freezer? I have a feeling all sorts of combos would be good—apple-rhubarb? blueberry-cranberry? strawberry-pear? Dig through, and dig in!


Whenever I make blackberry jam, I always add bits of apple for pectin—a trick I learned as a kid from my mom (the extra pectin in the apples helps the jam set). I've always loved the flavor combination of tart apples and sweet berries, so when I found a bag of August-picked berries in the freezer the other day and a sad, too-soft-for-eating pound of apples in the fridge, I knew I had a crisp on my hands. This recipe is adapted from one my mom makes with apples and raisins. With vanilla ice cream, it's perfect.

for the filling:
4 cups sliced baking apples
1 cup blackberries, frozen or fresh
1/4 cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
a pinch of salt

one 9-inch pie crust, bottom only

for the topping:
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup cold butter, cut into cranberry-size pieces
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl, toss the apples and blackberries with the remaining filling ingredients. Spoon the filling into the pie crust.

In the same bowl, toss together all of the ingredients for the topping. Use your hands to sprinkle the topping over the filling, taking care to distribute the butter evenly (otherwise, certain areas of the topping will be dry while others are super wet).

Bake for roughly 35-45 minutes, or until the fruit is soft and juicy and the topping is golden brown. Pay special attention to the nuts, as if you overcook the crisp they will be the first thing to burn.

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