Recipe: huckleberry semifreddo
September’s arrival means it is time for me to resume posting twice a week now that my parents have flown home to Virginia, our sweet little Neva appears to be happy with her daily routine, I have heaps of recipes to share, and it looks as if the huckleberries are nearing the end of their season. My huckleberry partner in crime, Erin, is on a 12-day subsistence canoe trip in Alaska. She expressed great concern over missing the height of huck season here, so I assured her if the berries looked to be ending before her return, I’d pick some for her.
when this happens, we know she is done chasing tennis balls
sushi lunch with mom and dad the day before they flew home
finally the rains came – some nice relief
Last year was the first year Erin and I really foraged huckleberries, and it happened to be a long and fruitful season starting in early August and lasting deep into September. It was almost 2 straight months of precious, beautiful huckleberries. They were growing everywhere, so we were able to canvas miles and miles of trails in our mountain range to determine where there were a few hucks, where there were decent hucks, and of course – the motherlode. If you think foragers are jerks about not sharing their mushroom spots, don’t even *think* of asking where my huckleberry patches are.
snurple as snurple can be
Before you can pick a huckleberry, several events have to take place. First, there have to be huckleberry plants. Luckily, huckleberry plants carpet the mountains where I live. Next, they have to produce flowers – tiny bell-shaped, light pink lanterns that hang from underneath the leaves. Then the flowers have to be pollinated. Once pollinated, the flowers eventually shrivel up and a green berry will grow in its place. Erin and I call these green peas. And if all goes well – the right amount of sunlight, rain, and proper temperatures – those green peas turn red, then purple, then SNURPLE. But lots of things can derail the process. We monitored the huckleberries along several trails this summer, reporting to one another on flowers and green peas. It was looking promising until we began to notice some ghosts (dried up white berries that are essentially dead green peas), and then more ghosts, and then a lot of ghosts.
But the motherlode had purple hucks dangling like cute little earrings that you could only see if you really looked, albeit there were about a quarter as many as there were the previous year. And then we discovered motherlode 2 (ML2), which has supplied the bulk of my huck harvest this season. I went back to check on the original motherlode (ML1) this morning and discovered the berries were done – or had gone ghost. My heart broke a little as I walked the perimeter patches and then headed back down the trail. Hopefully next summer will be a better berry season and I’ll have trained Neva to be a good dog while we forage. Right now, she eats the huckleberries. It’s very cute for the first minute. Maybe Banjo can teach her to be a good forage dog and curl up under a tree for a nap.
I believe this is the beginning of the end of huck season. There is a tray full of clean hucks in the freezer that I shall bag up to give to Erin when she comes home. That’s not something I would hand over to just anyone. The huckleberry sisterhood is a strong bond. I’m also going to point her to this recipe for huckleberry semifreddo, which is huckle-licious and gluten-free. Substitute any berry for the hucks (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries), but the huck is a truly special berry.
huckleberries, egg whites, egg yolks, mascarpone cheese, salt, cream of tartar, lemon juice, sugar, cream, milk
place the berries, sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor
purée until smooth
What I love about this recipe is that it works perfectly using frozen berries since the dessert is frozen. Frozen hucks are what I have most of the year. Fresh hucks only last about a week in the refrigerator after picking them. I have spent the past week shooting fresh huck recipes before they go south (or into the freezer). But hucks are precious, so I only made a half recipe (the full recipe is given below).
whisk the yolks, sugar, and salt together
temper the egg yolk mixture with hot milk then cook into a custard
stir the huckleberry purée into the custard
it will turn a deep red-purple
Semifreddos are especially welcome right now while it is still summer and it is still hot. There is no oven time involved and it all comes together very quickly. That said, I would not turn down a semifreddo in winter! If you have issues with the use of raw egg whites, you could omit that component and just have a richer semifreddo to serve/eat.
add cream of tartar to frothy egg whites
add sugar to soft peak egg whites
whip to medium peaks
pour the cream into the bowl with the mascarpone cheese
whip to soft peaks
The full recipe below will fill a 9-inch springform pan or 9-inch ring mold nicely. Or you could make two 6-inch rounds or eight 3-inch rounds. It’s all math. Why is a removable bottom necessary? It helps tremendously when you unmold the semifreddo. For the ring molds, I wrapped the bottoms in plastic wrap and secured them with a tight rubber band. Be sure to place the ring molds on a flat plate and make space in your freezer for that plate. Once the filling has been poured into the ring molds, you don’t want to pick them up (the plastic will sag and your semifreddo could leak) until they are frozen – about 2-3 hours. Unmolding shouldn’t pose too much of a problem, but if your semifreddo is stuck in the ring mold, just warm the sides up with your hands and it should release.
fold egg whites into huckleberry custard
fold in the mascarpone-cream mixture
fill prepared ring molds
place in freezer
I served these semifreddos to my parents after dinner one evening and everyone enjoyed them. Even Neva followed me out of the kitchen to the table because they smelled so strongly of huckleberries! I drizzled a little huckleberry syrup on top for visual contrast and a fruity boost. And if you don’t have huckleberries of your own, there are lots of places online that sell frozen hucks or you can sub with blueberries.
simple and fruity
i’m all about the huck
4 cups huckleberries, fresh or frozen
2 tbsps sugar
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 cup whole milk
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
2 tbsps sugar
4 oz. mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
Make the purée: Place the huckleberries, sugar, and lemon juice in a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Set aside.
Make the custard: Heat the milk in a medium saucepan until steaming, but not boiling. Remove from heat. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and salt together. Whisk a little bit of the hot milk into egg yolk mixture. Whisk in a little more at a time to gradually bring the temperature of the eggs up without cooking them. When half of the milk has been mixed into the egg yolks, pour it all back into the saucepan. Set the saucepan over medium heat and stir constantly (scraping the bottom and sides) until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat. Stir in the huckleberry purée. Cover and chill.
Make the fluffy stuff: Whip the egg whites on high speed until foamy (about 30 seconds). Add the cream of tartar and whip on high speed until soft peaks stage. Add the sugar and whip on high speed until medium peaks. Set aside. Place the mascarpone cheese and cream in another bowl. Whip to soft peaks (no more than 30 seconds). Fold a quarter of the egg whites into the huckleberry custard. Fold the remaining whites into the custard until partially mixed. Fold the whipped cream mixture into the custard until blended.
Set the semifreddo: Pour the semifreddo batter into a 9-inch springform pan or 8 3-inch ring molds (cover the bottoms tightly with plastic wrap and a good rubber band) or 2 6-inch ring molds. By the way, don’t move the ring molds after pouring – so be sure to set them on a flat tray or plate that will fit in your freezer before you pour the filling. Freeze the semifreddo until solid (a couple of hours). Carefully unmold the semifreddo while frozen. If it doesn’t unmold easily, use the warmth of your hands around the sides to help it release. Serves 8.
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