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practice makes better

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Recipe: peach pie

For the past couple of years I’ve sent an email in August to a local organic farm in Boulder asking them to alert me when they have tomato seconds ready for sale. The email comes some time in September depending on the weather and the tomato crop. Each year, I pick up more poundage because I am so in love with home-canned tomatoes, I want to be sure we don’t run out. I use them to make pizza sauce, pasta sauce, stews, soups, chili. Last week, I received the email to come and get the tomatoes. I got 100 pounds and spent three days coring, scoring, blanching, peeling, dicing, simmering, and canning tomatoes. When I closed my eyes for my 5 hours of sleep at night, all I saw were tomatoes. 48 pints later and I have 20 pounds remaining for a different method because I ran out of Weck jars.


48 pints of the best tomatoes



Meanwhile, Neva is finding out that the start of the school year means no more daily excursions onto the trails or lakes. She still gets out every day, but we’re getting her used to being at home because when winter comes (and by winter, I mean the winds), there will be days when home is better than going outside. Plus, we’re finally able to leave her alone for up to 8 hours. Now that she’s nearly 18 months old, we’re noticing just how different she is from Kaweah. Kaweah was not a bright girl, but Neva is an even dimmer bulb. Based on our only other data point, Neva is slower to pick up just about everything. But that’s okay, we work with her a lot and she remains a happy, ridiculous, sweet little pup.

just as happy on a local hike as she is on a big mountain hike

caught lounging on the people bed



The fall colors are moving in around here. Our aspen trees are still more green than gold, but I think some areas will flip that balance in a week or less. I didn’t shoot much of the fall colors last year because of the puppy, but I wasn’t sure I was feeling it this year. These days I’m more likely to snap a photo on my phone (most pictures here are coming off the iPhone) or if I’m lugging it around, maybe my smaller dSLR. Of course, as soon as I stood under the canopy of a small stand of golden aspens this morning, I felt that mojo return. The worry was that I was rusty, but the ideas and creative thought process came back as soon as I looked up.

getting low to shoot this brilliant shrub from below

classic sunburst + aspens + colorado bluebird sky

golden canopy



I’m a firm believer in practicing to get better at something and that applies to pies! My friend recently commented that I don’t make pies very often. I laughed because she actually keeps track of the sweets and treats that come out of my kitchen… and because she’s correct. I don’t make many pies. Pie crusts drive me crazy and removing a slice of fruit pie practically ruins the whole pie. But I like pie. I like pie a lot. I decided that I needed to tackle some recipes until I found one or a couple of reliable and excellent pie crusts. With peach season drawing to a close in Colorado, I felt I needed to get some practice on a basic peach pie.

flour, ice water, cider vinegar, more flour, sugar, salt, more sugar, nutmeg, egg, lemon, butter, peaches



It’s really all about the pie crust. Pie crust should be flaky and tender and baked golden brown. I find that my pie crust dough is almost always too dry and crumbly. But when I add enough water to make it comfortably workable (i.e. not crumbling apart) it’s too wet or it’s overworked and the crust becomes more of a cardboard texture. So I was extra mindful of not adding more liquid than the recipe requires.

place the butter, flour, and salt in a food processor

pulse until the butter resembles little pebbles

beat the egg yolk, vinegar, and ice water together

drizzle the liquid into the dry ingredients



**Jump for more butter**

the huckleberry hound

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry buckle

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)

jeremy’s find

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



**Jump for more butter**

i look to august

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Recipe: huckleberry vodka infusion & huckleberry moscow mule

I’m writing on the last day of July, a month that has been drier than normal. We’ve received 1.3 inches of rainfall in my neighborhood this month compared to the average July rainfall of 2.25 inches. That may not seem like a lot, but I assure you the difference is noticeable in the mountains. The good news is that we just had a few hours of steady rain this afternoon (it delivered .16 inches to our July total). My hope is that August will usher in more precipitation from the sky.

August has always been a special month for me because it is the birthday month of my mom and my sister. Tomorrow, August 1, Kris would have turned 50. That hits me deep in my gut for so many reasons. But I’ll keep those reasons to myself and celebrate that I was fortunate enough to have had a sister and best friend for over three decades. She remains an important part of who I am today, kept safe behind my breastbone where she tugs at my emotions just like she did when we fought or when she left for college or when she called crying because her cat had died of old age or every time we laughed so hard at our stupid inside jokes that we had trouble breathing.


always in my heart



This past week we got out on a new(ish) trail as well as some familiar trails and I took careful note of what was and wasn’t happening on the ground. Wildflowers are good, but not exceptional. The mushroom flush is late. Parts of the mountain forests are so dry that it sounds (and feels) like I’m stepping on a bed of potato chips when I hike through.

hiking neva while jeremy runs ahead

jeremy had run up to the pass, the saddle between the two peaks in the distance

hiking under an early morning sun

hello, leccinum!

pink wintergreen in bloom



Over the weekend we hosted a dinner party that felt just right. It’s taken me forever to accept that inviting a lot of people for one dinner is far less enjoyable for me than working in small batches and pacing myself throughout the year. It was the perfect size with a group that clicked well together. Everyone was super nice and funny and fun and relaxed – and that makes all of the effort of hosting worth it to us. Amazingly enough, instead of acting like a complete maniac the entire evening, Neva calmed down within a half hour of everyone arriving and she was actually a pretty good pup most of the night. Then the following night, my parents treated us to a delicious homemade Chinese feast at their place in Boulder. I think this means I’m due for a big trail run!

our dinner party

mom and dad made some of my favorite homestyle chinese dishes



I know I’m going to sound like a nut when I say this, but I’m glad July is over because it means we are headed for good things in August. Regardless of the state of the mushrooms, I have my eyes set on trail running longer routes, exploring new trails, backpacking, and huckleberry season. Oh yes, I have been monitoring the huckleberries since the snow melted. After last year’s dismal season, Erin and I are hoping that this year will be fruitful, so to speak. I’m seeing lots of green peas, a few ghosts (dried and white dead ones), and some turning rose or a handful of early guys going snurple.

early morning dew on an unripe huckleberry

green peas, ghosts, purples, and snurples!



In honor of huckleberry season and huckleberries in general – which are always on my mind throughout the year – I’m sharing yet another huckleberry recipe. I made a test batch of huckleberry infused vodka two years ago and have been making more ever since. We serve it at parties or sometimes I find Jeremy adding it to a cocktail. It requires two ingredients and some patience.

huckleberries and vodka



The huckleberries can be fresh or frozen. Since fresh berries are hard to come by, I have always used my frozen huckleberries for this vodka. And I opt for large bottles of cheap vodka because I really enjoy walking up to the cashier at the liquor store looking like a lush, even though I don’t really drink alcohol. It’s great! Chop or crush the berries to break the skins. I use my food processor and give it a quick whir. You don’t need to purée the berries, you merely need to perform a coarse chop. Combine the huckleberries and vodka in a glass jar, give it a shake, then store it in a cool, dark, dry place for 2 to 3 weeks. Shake it every few days or so. Simple!

place the berries in a food processor

coarse chop

pour the vodka over the berries



**Jump for more butter**