Old-Fashioned Blackberry & Peach Crisp

 

When summer blackberries and blueberries arrive in the mountains, well, it’s a signal that summer is really here. If you didn’t know from the heat and the lines in front of the Creamery, you surely know summer is here when berries come into season.

Berries used to grow wild in vacant lots and along fences, and you had to brave the chiggers to wander into those weeds to pluck wild blackberries. You can still find them, but most of the berries we are eating here in the Smokies are grown by local farmers.

A great way to use them is this easy pie called a crisp. No crust is needed. You just pile the fruit and sugar into a baking dish or iron skillet, and then top with a crumbly mixture of oats, flour, sugar, and butter. It bakes up into a heavenly rite of summer passage – something to enjoy with vanilla ice cream.


Old-Fashioned Blackberry & Peach Crisp
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Appalachian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8
 
An old-fashioned favorite, using fresh berries and fruits of the season.
Ingredients
  • 1 teaspoon soft butter for greasing the skillet
  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • 3 cups sliced fresh peaches
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • 1½ cups light brown sugar
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
  • 1 cup Old Mill Thick Table Rolled Oats
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Rub a 12-inch cast iron skillet with the butter. Toss the fruit with the sugar to combine, and turn the fruit into the skillet. Set aside.
  3. Make the topping: Place the brown sugar, flour, salt, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and stir. Scatter the butter over the top and cut into the dry ingredients with two dinner knifes until it forms coarse crumbs. Fold in the oats. With your hands, crumble this mixture over the top of the fruit. Place the pan in the oven.
  4. Bake until the topping is golden brown, and the fruit mixture is bubbly, about 40 to 45 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

 

Old Mill Jams, Jellies, & Preserves – Meet the man who makes them

Here at The Old Mill, we take canning seriously. It’s a craft well known in the mountains, for it was the way we preserved one season to the next. In our kitchens, John Wethington keeps the craft alive by creating small batches of berry jams and preserves for us. He cans about 40 jars at a time.
Made with strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries grown by local farmers, these jams are made the old-fashioned way. Which is how John learned to make them. He learned how to skim off the impurities that turn to foam when the jam is cooking, and how long to boil down the jam so it sets. “It’s time-consuming, but I enjoy it,” says John.
For the Old Mill Heritage Line of jams, jellies, and preserves sold at the Old Mill, the fruit comes from local growers. Blackberries, elderberries, and muscadine are just a few of the ingredients that go into John’s jams. It’s a way for us to share a taste of the mountains with you, and it’s a way for The Old Mill to support local farming. Farmers in nearby Madisonville, Maryville, and Greenville, TN, are contracted by the Old Mill to grow fruits and berries.
John works his craft out of the Farmhouse Kitchen and the Candy Kitchen depending on which jelly or jam he is making, and for which line. Come see him! During summertime, when peak berry season has arrived, John makes plenty of Triple Berry Jam, The Old Mill’s best-seller. He makes about four batches a day, or about 750 jars a week to keep up with the summer demand. He also makes gallons of the Triple Berry Jam for the Old Mill Restaurant to serve to every table at breakfast, seven days a week. Strawberry is typically the first berry we get in each season, and for a limited time, it is being sampled at breakfast too.

Summer Panzanella Salad

One of our chef’s, Danielle Speelman, recently developed a new summer salad that everyone loves. It combines the best summer flavors and is a fresh Old Mill twist on a panzanella, with the cornbread croutons. She featured it on a recent visit to one of our local afternoon tv shows.

Watch her make it here: Summer Panzanella Salad

Summer Panzanella Salad

For salad:

4 cups of cubed day-old cornbread (Prepared from Old Mill Self Rising Yellow Cornmeal)

¼ cup salted butter

1 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 red onion, sliced

1.5 cups of fresh corn (sliced from 2-3 ears)

½ TSP Cumin

½ TSP Farmhouse Kitchen Bourbon Smoked Paprika

½ TSP Salt

1 pint cherry tomatoes, cut into halves

1 medium avocado, pitted and cubed

2 cups of arugulaFresh basil, chopped

½ cup feta cheese

 

For dressing:

3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 TBSP Farmhouse Kitchen Honey Balsamic Vinegar

1 ½ TSP Farmhouse Kitchen Bourbon Maple Syrup

1 ½ TSP chipotle pepper in adobo sauce (to make spicier, include minced chipotle pepper)

Salt to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cornbread cubes on baking sheet, pouring melted butter over to coat. Toast in oven until golden brown and crispy 16-18 minutes, gently stirring pan halfway through (be careful not to toss the cornbread or it will crumble). Remove from oven and set aside.

Preheat olive oil in large sauté pan. Add red onion and cook 2 minutes until it starts to soften. Add corn kernels, cumin, paprika, and salt. Cook approximately 5 minutes until tender and fragrant. Set aside to cool slightly.

To prepare vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in mason jar or lid with a container. Shake until emulsified, or liquids have become one. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, toss together cooled corn mixture, sliced tomatoes, avocado, arugula, and cornbread croutons. Pour vinaigrette over to coat and toss gently. Garnish with fresh basil and feta cheese. Serve immediately.

Perfect light summer side dish or paired with grilled protein for a heartier entrée.

We Love Southern Fried Chicken

 

Here in the Great Smoky Mountains, we appreciate the legacy of the simplest and most powerful southern recipe – fried chicken. In our Old Mill Restaurant we fry up more than 100 pounds of chicken each day, and it, by far, is the most requested menu item.

Why? Our chicken is crisp on the outside, and it’s moist inside. Which for the home cooks can be a bit of a struggle. One of the earliest recipes for fried chicken was in the 1828 cookbook called the Virginia House-Wife, written by Mary Randolph. Her instructions were clear – find fresh chicken, cut it up, soak in salted water, toss with flour and seasonings, and pan-fry.

For the past seven years, Randy Tucker has been in the kitchen at the Old Mill Restaurant, in charge of frying the 100 pounds or more of chicken that is served during lunch and dinner.
What makes the chicken so special is how it is cooked, says Randy. The Old Mill has two large pressure cookers, in which the chicken is both fried and pressure cooked to doneness. This keeps the crust crisp and the inside moist – two hallmarks of great fried chicken.
“Chicken has to be crispy, but it can’t be overcooked,” according to Randy, who has been cooking all his life in the East Tennessee area. “I like chicken that’s really moist and tender. So we just use fresh chicken, bread it with the Mill breader, add some garlic and seasoning of our own, and fry it.”

But without a pressure cooker/fryer at home, Randy realizes the home cook cannot duplicate exactly the famous Old Mill chicken. You just have to come here to enjoy it, he says. The closest you can get to it is to pan-fry it to golden and then finish cooking it in the oven. When he is at home in his kitchen, Randy fries boneless chicken pieces, and after browning them in hot oil, he covers them lightly with foil and places in a 300-degree oven for about 30 minutes to cook through.

“Cooking is a lot of fun,” he says. “I learn something new every day.”

Sounds simple enough. Fried chicken has simple ingredients – just chicken, seasoning, flour, and oil for frying. But therein lies the dilemma – how to do it best. Because the simplest recipes are often the most difficult.

First, the chicken. The best is whole and you cut it up yourself. Buy as small a chicken as possible, under three pounds if you can find it at your supermarket. And to cut up the chicken, it goes something like this: With a sharp boning knife and a pair of poultry or kitchen shears, remove the legs, thighs, and wings. To separate the breasts, press down on the chicken, and cut through the cartilage that connects the two chicken breasts. You will have eight pieces of chicken for frying. Or, you can purchase chicken pieces – thighs, legs, wings, breasts – separately and fry what you like.

Some people soak chicken first in buttermilk, but purists like Mary Randolph recommended just salted cold water. Then toss in seasoned flour. The easiest way to do this is to place 2 cups of flour in a brown paper sack, add 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then shake and fry. Or, use the Old Mill’s Chicken Breading, which makes frying even easier!