Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Snacking State-by-State: Oregon IV - No, this isn't a post about a dessert named after a former DC mayor

As noted before, James A Beard, one of the foremost food authorities in US history, was born in Portland.  He spent many a summer in the town of Gearhart where he became familiar with the local foods of Oregon and the Northwest: salmon, Dungeness crabs, hazelnuts, local fruits - and had it existed when he was younger, certainly the marionberry.  Marionberries, hmmm.

Official Name: State of Oregon
State Nicknames: The Beaver State
Admission to the US: February 14, 1859 (#33)
Capital: Salem (3rd largest)
Other Important Cities: Portland (largest), Eugene (2nd largest), Gresham (4th largest)
Region: Northwest, Pacific; Pacific (US Census)
RAFT NationsSalmonPinyon Nut
Bordered by: Washington and the Columbia River (north), Idaho (east), the Snake River (northeast), California & Nevada (south), the Pacific Ocean (west)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: beaver (animal, though they are generally no longer eaten), milk (beverage), Dungeness crab (crustacean), Chinook salmon (fish), Oregon grape (flower, bearing an indigenous fruit that was once gathered and eaten), pear (fruit), Pacific golden chanterelle (mushroom), hazelnut / filbert (nut - they're the same thing)
Some Famous and Typical Foods: Northwestern and Pacific foods, including: Pacific seafood (salmon, Dungeness crab, etc), hazelnuts, pears, marionberries (first grown in Oregon), huckleberries, blueberries; Portland is an epicenter of the American food truck industry

I have never eaten marionberries - or Marion blackberries - before.  I've seen marionberry jam and preserves in the stores and marionberry syrup at Trader Joe's (or was it Whole Foods?) but never picked any up.  But the marionberry (no not the former Washington, DC, mayor and current city councilmember) is quintessentially Oregonian, not just Northwestern.  How so?  It was created in part by Oregon State University, as Monica Mersinger prosaically puts it for the Salem (Oregon) Public Library:
Summer's fresh flavor is locked in this hybrid blackberry developed by Oregon State University's Agricultural Research and Development Program in Corvallis, Oregon. It is a blackberry cross between two previous Oregon hybrids, the smaller, but tasty Chehalem and the larger, higher-producing Ollalie. George F. Waldo of the U.S. Department of Agriculture began its development in 1945, and it was tested at Willamette Valley farms. The new variety was released under its name of Marionberry in 1956. [Mersinger 2006]
Most of the few places that marionberries grow are in Oregon.  In fact, Mersinger says that about 90% of all marionberries are grown not just in Oregon, but specifically around the Salem area.

In honor of James A Beard and his love for Northwestern foods, Oregon Public Broadcasting produced an episode of its show The Oregon Experience about Beard.  The episode, "A Cuisine of Our Own", included recipes from the master himself.  It also includes a recipe Beard certainly would have enjoyed making and eating: a simple marionberry cobbler, courtesy of Nancy Lewis from her family farm, and featured in the book Eating It Up in Eden: the Oregon Century Farm & Ranch Cookbook by Richard Engeman [2009].

There is just one wee problem: I have looked all over the place and I simply cannot find marionberries anywhere.  I thought I had seen them frozen in a bag at Whole Foods, but I must have imagined this.  On the other hand, everyone has blackberries.  But I didn't want to make a simple blackberry cobbler, though that would have been a more than acceptable facsimile.  If I was stuck with blackberries for this Oregonian recipe, at least I was going to use ones from Oregon.

The Recipe: Marionberry, er, Blackberry Cobbler

For this easy cobbler you will need:

* blackberries (or marionberries if you can find them.  I used the Oregon Fruit brand, canned out of - yes - Salem. One can of blackberries equals roughly two cups.  I needed twice that amount, but didn't feel like shelling out another $4 for one can. So I reached into my freezer and pulled out...
* strawberries (I bought these and froze them last year from a farm in Harford County where they let me pick them myself.  Bonus: I had the foresight to freeze them in two cup increments)
* flour (had it)
* sugar (same, though I am now dangerously low)
* milk (had it)
* butter (yep, had it too)
* baking powder (same)

Drain the blackberries and dump them into a bowl (or if frozen, just dump them out of the bag).

Meanwhile, melt the butter.

Mix together the milk and the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Yup, mixed.

Now to put it all together: pour the butter into a 9 x 13 inch pan.

Then pour in the batter.  Spread it but don't stir it.

And drop the blackberries on top.  I should have sprinkled them over top instead of lumping them into one place, because again, I couldn't stir it but how else was I supposed to distribute the fruit?  It also left me with some parts of the cobbler that were surprisingly fruit free.

I had to add those strawberries too.

Sprinkle sugar over it all.  The recipe recommends up to two additional cups (!) I know this ain't health food but still.  I eyeballed about a cup at the most.

Bake at 350°F for about an hour, or until it looks like this.

Cobblers are so damn easy to make, and so good afterwards to boot.  Again, it was a little light on the fruit around the edges, but that's really my fault more than anything.  Eat this hot and think about adding some ice cream.  I think I may have to get some today.

- - - - -

We are heading back to the East Coast now, to the Keystone State, part Northeast and part Midwest, a little bit Philly and a little bit Pitt, next we stop to see all that Pennsylvania has to offer.


Brooks, Karen.  "Portland's top 10 food carts".  Posted October 8, 2009 (The Oregonian), reposted August 6, 2011 (

Cuisine Bonne Femme & Dieselboi (blog authors).  "About" (About Page for Food Carts Portland".  Copyright 2012 Food Carts Portland, all rights reserved.

Lewis, Nancy (recipe author).  "Marionberry Cobbler".  Information page for the episode "A Cuisine of Our Own" from the television program Oregon Experience, 2010.  Copyright Oregon Public Radio 2010-2012, all rights reserved.

Mersinger, Monica.  "Marionberries: A Delicious Part of Salem's Past".  Salem Online History, 2006.  Copyright Salem Public Library, 2005-2006, all rights reserved.

Oregon Public Radio. "A Cuisine of Our Own".  Information page for the episode "A Cuisine of Our Own" from the television program Oregon Experience, 2010.  Copyright Oregon Public Radio 2010-2012, all rights reserved.

Porges, Brad.  "Hazelnut Salmon with Apple and Pear Compote".  Posted on the Oregon Food website, date unknown. Copyright Travel Oregon 2009-2012, all rights reserved.

Shouse, Heather.  Food Trucks: Dispatches and Recipes from the Best Kitchens on Wheels.  Random House: New York, 2011.

World Culinary Institute. "James Beard".  World Culinary Institute, date unknown. Copyright World Culinary Institute, all rights reserved.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Oregon" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Oregon".