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september september

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

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



**Jump for more butter**

first fourteener

Monday, August 24th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry lemonade

Neva will be five months old in a couple of days. I have this mental disconnect that she is still a puppy and yet she has changed and grown so much since her first days with us. My sleeping pattern has shifted earlier because of the puppy, so I tend to go to bed a half hour to an hour sooner than Jeremy. During that time before Jeremy turns in for the night, Neva hops up on the bed and snuggles with me. Usually Jeremy will hear a series of exclamations like, “Don’t sit on the pillow!” or “Stop licking my hair!” before things settle down (and by things, I mean Neva). When both puppy and I are nodding off into Dreamland, Jeremy will gently lift Neva off the bed and carry her to her crate, which is next to my bedside. And then we sleep as much as we can before she wakes up in the morning.

But one morning last week, we were the ones waking Neva at 4 am to go for her biggest hike yet – Mount Bierstadt, a 14,060 foot mountain. Fourteeners (mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation) are a thing here in Colorado, because there are over 50 of them and because some have class 1 or class 2 trails to summit. Jeremy and I have mixed feelings about these mountains as they tend to attract a lot of people, something we prefer to avoid. This is especially true of mountains like Bierstadt which are fairly close to the Denver Metropolitan area and are relatively “easy” as fourteeners go. We chose it for these reasons – close to our house and not too challenging for Neva, who has been “in training” since the day we got her.

On the way to the trailhead, we stopped at the Georgetown Visitor Center to use the facilities and then Neva hurled in the car. Neva gets car sick quite often, so we usually have towels, plastic bags, and napkins at the ready. We are hoping she’ll grow out of it, but I’d love to hear if any of you have suggestions or recommendations on how to make her car rides less pukey. While Neva ate her breakfast (aka dinner) at the trailhead, she spat something out in the middle of her chowfest. Jeremy picked it up and placed it in my outstretched palm, “A baby tooth!” he said gleefully. At last, her adult teeth are coming in and those razor sharp baby teeth shall maim us no longer.


the sun clears the ridge with bierstadt in silhouette (upper right)

the view from summit

jeremy holds neva up for the token summit photo



Neva was a champ getting up the mountain, only whimpering on the last pitch when the boulders were too big for her to climb. Jeremy – the real champ of the day – carried her up and down those sections with the care and surefootedness that I’ve come to trust with my life. There were a lot of people on the summit, so we didn’t linger for very long. Plus, we discovered that Neva was scared of the thousand foot drops on either side of the peak (we consider this a healthy fear). She stayed very close to us and leaned her body against ours, trembling and making short quiet moans. On the descent, Jeremy carried her down the boulder field until they were safely on the saddle and she could resume being the crazy puppy that all of the hikers wanted to meet and pet. Not bad for a puppy’s first fourteener.

stopping for treats

taking a break and refueling

a nice cool stream crossing in the afternoon sun



The next few days were spent checking on huckleberry patches. It’s an odd season with lots of what Erin and I call “ghost” hucks – dead, dried up, white hucks that didn’t make it to their glorious purple potential. Was it due to late freezes or perhaps long stretches of hot weather with no nurturing afternoon rainstorms? We were concerned because this seemed to be happening to most of the patches that had been loaded with purple berries the previous season. Thankfully, the motherlode had lots of snurples (the really dark, sweet, purple berries – another term we coined), although a good fraction had gone ghost. Erin and I went foraging over the weekend to another spot that Jeremy and I had scoped out on a trail run last year. It had looked okay when Jeremy and I took Neva up there to check it out in the failing light of dusk, but when Erin and I arrived Sunday morning, there were so many snurples we couldn’t even make our way through the patch without stepping on some berries. Hot damn! We named this patch ML2 (motherlode 2) and by the time we headed back to Erin’s truck, our fingers, pants knees, and pants seats were stained purple.

jeremy captured me picking huckleberries at sunset

what a couple of hours will get you



It’s been hot and dry here such that the mushrooms have all but packed up and left, and our air quality has been abysmal due to smoke from wildfires in California and Washington. It makes me sad because this is typically a lovely time of year in Colorado and because California and Washington are both states that are dear to my heart. After several hours of picking huckleberries under the sun, I couldn’t wait to get home and pour myself a glass of huckleberry lemonade. That’s where it’s at for me. Lemons and hucks make a great team – why not drink them?

lemons, huckleberries (frozen), water, more water, and sugar

simple syrup: add water to the sugar



**Jump for more butter**

new dog new tricks

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015

Recipe: huckleberry scones

I can feel summer slowly slipping through my fingers. Summer is the slog that starts to wear on me starting around July 4th. By then, the allergies and heat and mosquitoes have whittled away at me and I find myself counting the days to those crisp cool autumn nights come September. But puppies don’t care if it is summer, winter, spring, or fall. Puppies need to get their beans out. So every morning at 5:30, we wake up and brush our teeth like zombies while Neva munches away at her breakfast (which we call dinner – all meals are called dinner for simplicity), and then we grab for the usual: bag of treats, water dish, plenty of water, leash, poop bags, poop bottle (to put the stinky bags in while we hike), hat, sunglasses, sunblock, something to shove in our mouths as we usher Neva out the door. When you don’t get enough sleep and you wake up before the rest of the world… it just feels shitty. And yet the moment we set foot on the trail, it is forgotten. Until Neva lunges toward a leaf that looked at her funny.


these aspen stands are a sanctuary echoing with bird calls

the sun drops behind mount emmons in the evening

double supping (stand up paddleboarding) while neva is home asleep

puppy loves her hikes

jumping into the lake to cool off



This summer hasn’t been so terrible heat-wise for us in Colorado. We’ve actually had a rainier summer than usual, which should be good for wildflowers – and it was! But the excessive amounts of rain also promote wild grasses which compete with and choke out the wildflowers. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. But it really is good. Maybe the wildflowers weren’t the best for shooting, but we have enjoyed them for miles upon miles of hiking. They line the trails and adorn the hillslopes, dancing in the wind, nodding good-morning, playing host to hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. There are a lot of amazing treasures to behold when you walk the mountains and pause to inspect the ground around you.

showy goldeneye and giant hyssop

wild alpine strawberries – tiny, but ten times the flavor of any domestic cousin

orange spindle coral mushroom

a beautiful specimen of a porcini



One morning, Jeremy and I were hiking a quiet trail with the pup when Jeremy had to stop and empty some rocks from his shoes. I continued on with Neva who reluctantly followed me, turning to look back for Jeremy every few feet. When he was about 20 yards away, Neva faced him and pulled the leash in his direction. It was a straight shot and I figured she would run right to him. So I told her to go find Jeremy and let go of the leash. He called to her as she dashed down the trail toward him. And then she darted 90 degrees to the right – straight into the forest. We chased after her, called her, waved treats in the air, but she was after a scent. Most likely it was squirrels, but we had to chase her a good bit off trail before we caught her. For a while there, I thought she was going to run straight to Wyoming. And this is why Neva is never to be let off leash… again. As we headed back toward the trail, we scolded her gently and gave her treats for not running any further until I came across something interesting. A patch of chanterelles.

beautiful little things



I had never foraged chanterelles before, but I knew just enough to realize that these might be those. And they were. We studied them and I emailed a photo to my friend to verify. Who knew? Actually, most of Crested Butte knows. I spoke with several people at various engagements throughout the week who confirmed that the flush was on – and it is a big one this year. Each subsequent day we hiked a different trail and I found chanterelles on every one of them. Jeremy was the one who spied the motherlode. People get excited and even the seasoned foragers can’t help but ask, “Where did you find them?” It’s the seasoned foragers who know the answer already – no one gives up their spots.

it’s a party!

neva lies down among the chanterelles while i harvest



My chanterelle radar is as good as if not better than my porcini radar. I can even smell them from the trail sometimes. So I’ll have plenty of chanterelle recipes for you in the coming weeks. For now though, it’s time to return to my one true love – huckleberries. They aren’t quite ready in the mountains around Crested Butte or back home on the Front Range, but they are getting there slowly. Just in case this year’s crop gets hammered by wacky weather, I’ve got several bags of frozen hucks from last year in reserve. I told Erin I wouldn’t dig into them until I knew for sure I’d be able to forage more this summer. I used frozen huckleberries for these huckleberry scones, but fresh is better if you don’t want super purple scones. As always, you can substitute blueberries for the huckleberries or maybe use raspberries or currants. But nothing beats a huckleberry.

cream, flour, huckleberries, sour cream, sugar, butter, salt, baking soda, baking powder, turbinado sugar, egg



I gave this recipe a try because it uses both sour cream and heavy cream. At my elevation, sour cream tends to give me more reliable results and I’ve had some scones spread too much during baking. But the basic steps are the same – cut the butter into the dry ingredients, add the liquid, fold in the fruit.

pulse the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together

add the frozen butter cubes

pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal

stir in the cream and sour cream



**Jump for more butter**