Once again we’ve blown through our winter reserves of huckleberries—and it’s not even officially winter yet. My daughter is the main culprit, though we’re all guilty of huckleberry hounding.
Each year I say we’ll spend a weekend camping in the patch in order to pick enough to last us through the year, and each summer we end up chasing some other wild hare. This leaves me as the only picker. Three hounds plus one picker under the same roof? The math doesn’t hold up. The last time we picked enough was the year we camped near Mt. Adams and the Indian Heaven Wilderness, possibly the greatest huckleberry patch of them all. I’ve been meaning to get back there ever since.
This Thanksgiving we had the traditional Pilgrim’s Paella, capped off with a Huckleberry Cobbler, one of my all-time favorite ways to enjoy hucks (besides simply wolfing down handfuls fresh off the bush). That was the huckleberry high-water mark. Now, with diminishing stores, we turn to recipes that use the berries in a mix with other fruits, such as this ride in the Way-Back Machine riffing on the first dessert I truly loved as a kid, Apple Crisp. The recipe below is a variation on that old standby, using pears instead of apples and goosing it with a cup of hucks. A shot of brandy or bourbon wouldn’t be a bad idea, either, although mine was sober.
The pears came from an ancient supply of canned goods from the year we spent off the grid in Oregon’s Rogue River Canyon. We put up more than two dozen quarts of pie cherries that year, and nearly as many jars of pears—Bartlett, Comice, and Bosc. I have no idea which variety was in this quart. I strained out the sweet canning syrup for another use, and added a couple fresh Anjou pears. The cooked huckleberries turned the filling an attractive shade of pink and the lemon zest perfectly accented the berries’ tartness. A definite keeper.
1 cup flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp white sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts
6 pears, peeled and diced
1 cup huckleberries
1/4 cup white sugar
zest from 1 lemon
2 tbsp flour
1. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. If raw, toast pecans a few minutes in oven or skillet.
2. Stir together filling in a medium-sized bowl, adjusting sugar to taste.
3. Mix together dry topping ingredients in a medium-sized bowl: flour, oats, sugar, cinnamon, salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Stir in nuts.
4. Pour filling into lightly greased 9-inch ramekin or pie dish. Cover with topping. Place dish on baking sheet in oven and bake 40 or more minutes until golden brown on top, with juices bubbling. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.