Valancy Stirling is one of my all-time favorite book heroines. She’s shy but secretly sassy, sweet and vulnerable, and has the guts to break out of her old life in order to make her own happy ending come true. She’s the protagonist of The Blue Castle, L. M. Montgomery’s lovely and lesser-known tale about a twenty-nine-year-old woman living in a small Canadian town, at a time when unmarried woman are relegated to “old maid” status and brushed aside. Valancy is resigned to her lonely fate until life deals her a blow. Some unexpected and unwelcome news causes her to let loose and let fly her once-secret opinions, turning her stagnant life upside down as her stodgy and opinionated relatives learn they can no longer cow her into submission. Oh, won’t somebody please turn this into a movie?
(Note: A quick Google search revealed that there are people out there who appreciate this book enough to turn it into a stage play. Check out this brief article about a stage adaptation in South Dakota. Fun!!
The Blue Castle is a love story, and Valancy finds her soul mate in Barney, who is himself a rather lonely and misunderstood soul. The two find real happiness together, but the destination (or happy ending) isn’t why I love this book so much; its the journey! The scenes where Valancy finally begins to stand up to her domineering mother and her other relatives are just so delicious. The dinner party scene is one of the funniest I’ve ever read, and I would dearly love to see this play out on the big screen. Someone in Hollywood? Pleeease????
Anyway, on to my recipe! As this is my “cooking by the books” section of the blog, I decided to celebrate L.M. Montgomery’s wonderful book (and encourage you to read it) by giving you the recipe for a treat to enjoy while you turn the pages. I think this dessert is something Valancy would have shared with Barney in their Blue Castle. I can imagine the two picking wild berries in their beloved woods and returning home to their cabin to enjoy a dessert like this. It’s simple but delicious, and can be made with any variety of berries. I’ve renamed this sweet dessert in honor of L.M. Montgomery’s lovely book:
Blue Castle Berry Crumble
12-16 oz. fresh berries of your choice (about 3 cups)
1/2 to 3/4 cups oatmeal
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, (wheat or gluten-free)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Pinch of salt
5-6 Tbs (1/3 cup) of butter, softened
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a small baking pan or add a spritz or two of cooking spray. (Either an 8×8 inch square or 9-inch round pan works great). Place blackberries into pan. In a separate bowl, mix all the remaining ingredients with a fork until well-blended and you get a nice, crumbly mixture. Put this crumb mixture over the top of your blackberries. Bake for at least 30 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Serve warm, topped with ice cream if desired.
Please note: I used fresh blackberries for my own version of this recipe, since they’re in season where I live. I couldn’t find out if blackberries are available in the Muskoka region of Canada, the setting for The Blue Castle, but I learned that you can find blueberries, gooseberries, raspberries and strawberries during the summers there. I think any fruit you can bake would work well in this recipe. Here’s how my dessert turned out:
I do recommend reading The Blue Castle, and this wonderfully sweet and easy dessert would be a great book companion. Enjoy!
For a printable recipe, click here: Blue Castle Berry Crumble