The academic year has begun, my parents have flown back to Virginia, and the huckleberries are in season. I have spent a good bit of my waking hours preparing my quads for telemark skiing. Squatting on steep slopes for hours at a time, pivoting and balancing to reach that one perfect ripe, dark snurple huckleberry. How convenient that huck season should precede ski season, right? The sad part is that the huckleberry season isn’t very good this year on the Front Range. Even worse than last year. Checking trail after trail with few berries in sight, you get both exercise and depressed.
took erin hiking and SUPing and looking for huckleberries on her visit
the rains came too little too late for the hucks
Jeremy and I spent Labor Day holiday weekend in Crested Butte where stormy weather reluctantly gave way to sunshine and blue skies. We met up with friends from out of town so Neva and their pup could play together at the lake and what do you know? My friend, Teresa, showed up with her two pups – one of which is actually a puppy! I am convinced that the best puppies are your friends’ puppies. They are so cute and cuddly and fun, but without the sleep-deprivation, the potty training, or the sharp little toofies! Poncho is 14 weeks old and he is so so so sweet and mellow and good. He was particularly fond of chewing on Neva’s collar or leash or face or toys. It was the first time Neva played with a puppy since she’s become an adult (I use the term loosely) and she did quite well, mostly ignoring or tolerating Poncho’s antics.
a passing storm over crested butte (that we got caught in)
poncho liked carrying neva’s leash and harness around
poncho chewing on neva’s chuckit
poncho chewing on neva’s leash with neva attached
The next day, Jeremy and I took Neva for a short hike. Having scouted out the trail that delivered so many beautiful chanterelles last year and finding almost nothing, we resigned ourselves to simply enjoying hiking, running, and biking – stuff you do in the mountains. We went to a different trail and found… huckleberries and chanterelles and porcini. Neva’s short hike turned into an all day forage. We don’t usually forage with Neva because she has two gears: Go and Go Faster. The whole “stopping to look or forage” doesn’t suit her, but I found she would sit nicely for a huckleberry or wild strawberry. By the end of the day, when we stopped at a huckleberry patch, Neva would lie down and eat the berries off the plants. When I open my tupperware of berries in the kitchen, Neva comes running and sits like a good girl at my feet with that “I’m here for my huckleberries!” look. Hard to say who the huckleberry hound is – Neva or me?
a pretty pretty porcini (king)
and lots of chanterelles (with a huckleberry!)
some of the huckleberry plants were already turning red
our haul from the day
I don’t think I’ll ever run out of huckleberry recipes to try. The limiting factor is the fruit. Even though I have frozen hucks throughout the year, the fresh hucks are only around for a couple of weeks if I’m lucky. This buckle can be made with fresh or frozen berries and you can use huckleberries or other juicy berries (like blueberries) if you don’t have hucks. The only drawback to the substitution is that you can’t call it huckle buckle.
water, flour, sugar (twice), huckleberries, butter (twice), salt, vanilla, milk, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg
cream the butter and sugar together
combine the dry ingredients
All manner of opinion exists on what a buckle is versus a slump versus a grunt versus a cobbler or a crumble or a crisp. I’ll point you to this guide, but there are variations from region to region and kitchen to kitchen. This version is simply a cake batter on the bottom and a fruit layer on top – when baked, the cake layer rises to the top.
stir the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar
add milk and vanilla
pour the batter into a greased pan
If using frozen berries (like I am in these photos), don’t thaw the berries. Keep them frozen so they don’t leak their juices every which way. Combine the berries with sugar and then add boiling water. All of this is spread over the cake batter and then dotted with some pats of butter.
stir the sugar and berries together
add the boiling water
pour the berries over the batter
arrange little pieces of butter on top
My buckle baked up just fine. I think I was expecting more “buckle” than I got. But the real test is how the buckle tastes. To me, it has the quality of a crisp topped with cake instead of a streusel topping. I know some buckles are more like cakes heavily inundated with fruit. Either way, it’s a perfect vehicle for enjoying the fruits of summer without much effort and most certainly with a little vanilla ice cream.
let cool a little to make slicing easier
serve with vanilla ice cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened (plus extra to grease the pan)
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups huckleberries (or blueberries), fresh or frozen (do not thaw frozen berries)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease the bottom of a 9-inch square pan with melted butter. Cream 1/4 cup of butter and 1/2 cup of sugar together in a large bowl. In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg together. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter and sugar until just combined. Stir the milk and vanilla extract into the batter until just mixed – it will be thick and lumpy. Spread the batter into the prepared pan. Mix the berries with 3/4 cup of sugar. Pour the boiling water over the berries and sugar, then fold until mixed. Pour the berries over the batter. Dot the top with the pieces of butter. Bake 45-50 minutes. Serve warm. Serves 6-8.
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