Great Grandma Emelia’s Black Raspberry Crumble

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The Perfect family desert for 17 or more hungry Native American kids!

The View from Rattlesnake Ridge


If you have been wandering at the woodland’s edge lately, you have likely been tempted by a berry plant growing along a somewhat thorny whitish green stalk and bearing fruit ranging from purple to black to bright red and, of course, green in its youngest stage. You may have mistaken it for what we commonly call Blackberry, though in the wild Blackberry is generally a late summer treat with much larger berries.

woodland edge (also sometimes called a forest edge) is the transition zone from an area of woodland or forest to fields or other open spaces. Scientifically, we have come to call these regions “ecotones” a term coined in 1859 by Alfred Russel Wallace, a naturalist often credited with positing the theory of natural selection at the same general time as Darwin, though his name is not the household name that Darwin has attained.

Long before Wallace, however, both the Abenaki and the Iroquois had names for these ecological zones. The Abenaki called the zones “wazwasiwiwi,” and in the Iroquois language, the term for the transition zones is “ganye’sgwa.” both refer to the areas where different ecosystems meet and blend together, creating a diverse range of habitats and species. Other nations had their own specific terms, all of which highlighted a deep understanding and appreciation for the interconnectedness of nature, including the importance of these ecotones in supporting biodiversity.

Certain species of plants and animals are especially adapted to the forest edge, and these species are often more familiar to humans than species only found deeper within forests. The black raspberry is a classic example of a plant species adapted especially to the forest edge.

Since Simeon Gideon Roy and his wife Emelia were of Iroquois (aka Haudenosaunee) and Abenaki heritage respectively, and since my grandmother Charlotte George was an extraordinary woman of colonial stock who silently bore the secret of her beloved husband’s native heritage, I cannot be sure of whether this recipe for Black Raspberry crumble came out of the colonial tradition or the much more ancient ways of the Iroquois and Abenaki. Nevertheless, I like to think about how this desert would have been the perfect choice for a native couple, trailing 17 children as they moved back and forth between Whitefield, New Hampshire and St. Francis Quebec. After all, since gathering enough of the sweet fruit was a task best suited to many hands, and especially many small hands, it makes sense that the Roy family, someday to be the King family, would all have contributed to the creation of this dish in the grand tradition of all sharing societies.

My grandfather and grandmother were long dead when my father revealed the family secret that led me to this sacred place.

Just what is this sacred place? It is a place where all of us are indigenous people, where we are one.

No matter what your heritage is, enjoy the taste of this delightful dessert and remember that we are all part of the great mystery; divided we remain threatened, but together we cannot fail.

Great Grandma’s Black Raspberry Crumble

Please note I have tried to respect both traditions by describing the recipe in a traditional stove and over a fire. 

Black Raspberries
Brown Sugar or Maple Syrup

Oven made or wood fired

Heat oven to 350 degrees and grease a pan (preferably a “castie”!) with butter. Fill the pan with fresh Black Raspberries.

On a wood fire you can use a special fire oven or create your own by using aluminum foil to line a three-sided “oven” with an open side facing into the flames that captures and redirects the heat of the fire

In a small pan over the stove or on the fire combine sugar, water, cornstarch and some butter, cook on a medium heat until you have a syrup. 

Pour the syrup onto the berries and gently stir them together, taking care not to mash the berries.

Make the crumble, combining oats, brown sugar/syrup.  which you will sprinkle on top of the dish and bake until top layer is golden brown.

Cool the dish long enough to assure that young eager mouths don’t get burned. Including those over 60!

If you are an old hand at cooking – especially over an open flame – you will probably be able to “eyeball” your ingredients but for those who need more precise measurements, here’s what Grandma Charlotte suggests:

For the mix

  • 8 cups Black Raspberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, dissolved in cold water
  • 3/4 cup boiling water
  • 2 tablespoon butter, divided

For the Crumble 

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar or ¼ cup syrup
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted

Wayne D. King

64 Monroe Rd., Bath, NH 03740

603-530-4460 Cell : Productions & Studios : Fine Art



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