Why, you ask (as if you don’t love them too, be honest, now)? First off, huckleberries, while small, are not plagued with the standard onslaught of unpleasantries that often come with wild foraging: no brambles, thorns/spines, no awkward crawls under bushes or 3 mile hikes through the rain, no damaged clothes, no special foraging equipment, no whole day’s work for a mere cup or two of result.
Huckles are consistent, plentiful, and fairly easy to harvest. Our huckleberry patch is within an hour’s drive of our house, and in about an hour and a half we can pick about a gallon of them! In street clothes, with nothing but our trusty huckle-buckets and something big to carry them home in.
Second reason I love huckleberries above all other foraged foods? They are incredibly good. Think blueberries, but then multiply that by like, 100. Then add a little bit of lemon, maybe some cinnamon…that’s kinda what fresh huckles taste like. They are small, but intensely flavored and a little goes a LONG way.
I like to add a handful of them into an apple or pear tart: makes the whole thing a lovely deep berry color and adds a little zing and unexpected depth to what would otherwise be just another dessert. They’re KILLER in sourdough pancakes. They freeze well for up to a year, and are awesome dried (I put them in my granola, and in any dried fruit/nut trail snacks I take hiking).
Last week Rick and I went a-huckling with our friends Jay and Chava, and came back with quite a haul. Once we picked through them to remove any stowaway leaves, green berries, stems, and pine needles, we had well over 10 cups of perfect berries. Not bad for a stroll through the woods!
Unfortunately, as these things have a way of doing, life got in the way of cooking and I didn’t do anything with these berries for 5 days (other than gaze at them longingly). So, they got a little squishy.
Oh well – time to make (and can) some huckleberry sauce!
Huckleberry Lemon Sauce
6 c fresh huckleberries, de-stemmed and rinsed under cold water
2 c water
2 c (or so) sugar/evaporated cane juice, to taste
zest of 2 lemons
juice of at least 3 lemons (approx 1/4 to 1/2 c) no pre-juiced store bought stuff, please!
Bring berries, water, lemon zest, and sugar up to a boil and allow it to simmer for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the lemon juice, and stir to incorporate. Meanwhile, follow basic canning procedure and get all your jars and tools sanitized. You DO know proper canning procedure, right? If not, you can find nearly everything you need to know to preserve food safely HERE.
Fill your jars with piping hot preserves, seal, and process in a water bath for 10 minutes. The mixture will be very thin, but not to worry – you’ll thicken it when it comes back OUT of the jar. Trust me on this.
to use the sauce fresh:
Put 1 c fresh huckles in a small saucepan with a splash of water and a pinch of lemon zest. Add about 1/3 c sugar, and bring to a simmer. Stir in the juice of 1/2 a lemon, and remove from the heat. Make a slurry of 1 tsp corn starch and 1 tsp water, and incorporate it into the huckleberry mix. Stir until thickened, and serve.
Place 1 c of the prepared mixture in a small saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Meanwhile, whisk together 1 tsp of corn starch with 1 tsp of water into a slurry. Mix this into the simmering huckleberry mixture, and stir until the sauce thickens. Remove from heat, and serve.
This sauce is great over ice cream, pancakes, tapioca, custard, or (my favorite) a crusty square of croissant bread pudding (recipe forthcoming)!
(I also have a theory that with the addition of some salt, cracked black pepper, some sautéed shallots, and a bit of vinegar, we’d have a pretty fabulous serving sauce for a pork tenderloin, venison, or duck, but I haven’t tried it yet. Soon!)