One of the highlights of the long trip I took last week is that it put me in in huckleberry heaven, an area of Montana where they are so plentiful if you are willing to get out your checkbook you can buy them.Local folks collect them by the gallons and sell them for crazy folks like me. I did just that, took out my hard-earned cash, and came home with a gallon of the rare delight, huckleberries
I had never heard of huckleberries before moving to Montana other than Huckleberry Hound and Huckleberry Finn. Once here, like all the natives I became enamored with the fruit. For those of you who have not experienced them here is a little primer. They are sort of like a blueberry, but they have a much more distinct fruity aroma that any blueberry. They will create stains on any and everything, and huckleberries make the stains from blueberries, beets and black walnut skins look like amateur hour. If you intend to pick them you need to go in twos one to pick and one to carry the bear spray. Don’t expect anyone to take you to their spot to pick. Spots are more sacred than a gold find and are never shared with anyone.
Having said all that I now have five pints of huckleberry sauce that can be used on everything you can think up. Last night it was served on ice cream. For breakfast we had it on french toast. Tonight we plan to have it on cheese cake. Tomorrow a little will go on my yogurt with my granola. There is nothing that isn’t a little better with a little huckleberry sauce.
We have way too many oranges in our refrigerator. A couple weeks ago we bought a citrus mix box from Bountiful Baskets. I am not sure why I did it other than I was fascinated with all the different kinds of citrus that were possible. They were offering three different kinds of mandarin types, several types of standard oranges including blood oranges, lemons and pomelos. How could a girl refuse?? The foodie in me wanted to see and taste all the differences.
Now I have a refrigerator full of citrus and only two of us to eat it all. What’s a girl to do? Yesterday I made orange curd. Good lemon curd is a mouth orgy Orange curd seemed like a first step to using up all this citrus. Besides my girls were now laying eggs again, I did not have to any longer be stingy with my pricey locally grown eggs.
Once I finished it my husband tasted and said interesting…what are we going to do with it. Now I had moved a problem from one place to another, from the produce drawer to a shelf in the refrigerator. It took a little thinking, but I did come up with a solution. I pulled frozen lady fingers and strawberries from the deep freeze in the basement. I frosted the lady fingers with orange curd, and layered them up. Then topped with with a smashed strawberry sauce. Then my husband found a little left over huckleberry compote and tried that for his second serving. Either way you served it yummy!
Here is the recipe I used from Southern Living Magazine December 2002:
Fresh Orange Curd
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 2 cups fresh orange juice ( I used juice from 3 kinds of mandarins & two kinds of regular oranges)
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1 tablespoon grated orange rind
- Combine sugar and cornstarch in a 3-quart saucepan; gradually whisk in fresh orange juice. Whisk in lightly beaten eggs. Bring to a boil (5 to 6 minutes) over medium heat, whisking constantly.
- Cook, whisking constantly, 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture reaches a pudding-like thickness. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and grated orange rind. Cover, placing plastic wrap directly on curd, and chill 8 hours.
Huckleberries are a seasonal favorite here. I love a piece of pie once a year about this time. I think the reason I enjoy them so is they have this intense flavor, that so many fruits don’t. Some liken them to the flavor of blueberries, but I think that is only true if you pick the wild ones. Something is lost in domestication.
I think about going out every year and picking enough for a pie, and then the bear attack stories start on the news and it never happens. This year is no exception. Bears are out in droves stocking up fat supplies for the winter. We are hearing almost daily on television news about bear/human interfaces. I know I would be too intent picking berries to remember to keep a proper eye out for a bear. The only way I think I could actually pick huckleberries is if my husband stood guard wearing a double pack of bear spray. One for the left hand and one for the right.
This year I had to make a trip up north, where the huckleberries are plentiful. I succumbed and paid an outrageous sum of money for some that were already picked. It wasn’t enough to make pie, but I did find a recipe for Huckleberry Buckle that I could make with 2 1/2 cups. It is now baking in the oven, and the anticipation is high. Fresh hot huckleberry buckle. Yummmmm!