Our jaunt through Idaho, Montana, and southern Alberta brought us in touch with huckleberries. Huckleberries are wonderful, little balls of blue sweetness which look similar to their blueberry cousins. These parts of the country celebrate huckleberries the way Georgians celebrate peaches. I was amazed just how many products huckleberries were incorporated into…everything from the typical tasty treats like jam and chocolate bars to the far reaches of cosmetics and candles. Who knew burning antioxidants was good for your health as well? But by far our favorite way of enjoying these little gems was in a creamy milkshake or using flaky pie dough as a conduit to get them in our mouths.
Once we discovered huckleberry ice cream and milkshakes (in Elk River, Idaho) we were possessed and eagerly made the 45 minute drive down a dusty gravel road to indulge in this sweet delight. We risked our lives for these treats as we dodged lumber-laden logging trucks dashing to the mill on a narrow, windy road. But it was well worth it and I did not complain once during the hour-long car washing episode that was required to get all of the dust off the car.
I wanted to try my hand at concocting a huckleberry recipe – would I put them in a pie, a savory sauce to accompany meat, how about a cocktail with rum or in a salad? Hmm? I was ready to go, scheming and dreaming about huckleberry something…but there was just one problem, I could not find huckleberries. A fellow work camper (from our time in Idaho) told me that they were not in season at the time I was looking. He also proceeded to tell us that picking fresh huckleberries in July and August can be hazardous. Why hazardous? Are there thorns, crazy people lurking in the Idaho fields, steep terrain with a deep gulch for me to fall into? Nope, guess who else likes fresh huckleberries…bears. Uh duh!
I was not dismayed but set my sites on finding frozen huckleberries. Grocery stores have frozen everything…except…huckleberries. The huckleberry something would have to wait until finally, I laid my hands on a bag of frozen huckleberries and the recipes were on. And wow, were the frozen ones expensive when I did find them out of season.
The huckleberry parfait was good, as was the huckleberry mojito, but my favorite was the huckleberry hand pie. A sweet little desert perfectly, neatly folded into a nice little package you can pick up and eat without needing a plate of utensils - perfect desert for sitting around a campfire. Hope you enjoy. Just remember, you could easily substitute blueberries or any other fruit. Or, you can fight the bears for fresh huckleberries.
HUCKLEBERRY HAND PIE
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon sugar
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
¼ cup ice water
Place flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and pulse until combined. Add butter and pulse until the mixture resembles very coarse meal. (If you don't have a food processor, you could mix using your fingers or a pastry cutter.) Add ¼ cup ice water and pulse just until dough comes together. Add more or less water, as needed. Form dough into a square, wrap in plastic, and chill until firm, about 2 hours.
NOTE: Crust can be made 3 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.
2 cups huckleberries
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
⅓ cup sugar (may need to adjust sugar depending on the sweetness of the berries)
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 large egg, whisked with 1 teaspoon water
¼ cup raw sugar
Preheat oven to 375° F.
Roll out dough on a floured surface to a 15x12-inch rectangle. Cut into 6 rectangles.
Place blueberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla extract, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl and combine. Mound an equal portion of the huckleberry mixture in the center of the pastry dough rectangles. Brush edges of rectangles with the egg wash. Fold dough over and press edges tightly to seal. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (or else you will be sorry). Brush tops with egg wash, and sprinkle with raw sugar. Cut a few slits in the tops to allow steam to vent.
Bake hand pies for approximately 35-40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.
NOTE: Fully assembled pies can be frozen for a week. Place frozen pies directly in the oven and bake as directed.