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the month i love

Recipe: huckleberry crisp

Helloooooo September! There’s something wonderful about a month that means you get to add one to your age, a month which ushers in the fall colors, a month where the likelihood of an early season snowstorm is quite high. It is a particularly busy time for us, making it all the more astounding that we managed to have friends up for dinner over the weekend. It feels like all of the unfinished business of summer (or the year, for that matter) is being crammed into the few remaining weeks leading to autumn, before we begin hunkering down for winter (which I welcome with fully open arms). You never have enough time to get everything done no matter how little sleep you get.

dinner party with awesome friends, new and old

chocolate espresso cheesecake, chocolate cookie crust, whipped cream, helliemae’s chili palmer salt caramel sauce

in two days we had four queen of the night blossoms open!

starting to close by early morning

This is a magical period in our Rocky Mountains. Waking up before sunrise isn’t as puke-inducing as it was two months ago, and yet I can still find lovely huckleberries in the backcountry. Yes, the obsession is ongoing and all-consuming. Last week Jeremy and I went for a hike and stopped to pick hucks on our way back to the trailhead. After 90 minutes, I had collected three times as many berries as he had. I fired him (nicely) and he was happy for it, so everyone wins. It’s most fun to pick hucks with someone who loves picking them as much as I do, which is why my friend, Erin, is the perfect hiking and huck-picking companion. First of all, her dog is awesome. Secondly, Erin is my pragmatic, even-keeled, no nonsense, independent mountain gal pal. There is a lot to be said for a friendship that is free of drama and full of huckleberries.

lots of hucks!!!

I’m realizing that the huckleberries I foraged last year were at the very very tail end of the season. They were small and more red than purple. This year’s haul is full of choice purple-blue FAT berries that are as big as small blueberries, but taste way the hell better! So my rate of huck gathering has doubled thanks to the abundance and general hugeness of the the berries. This means I’m a little more willing to make something that requires a lot of berries as I have already got a good stash in my chest freezer to carry us through to next summer. Pies and crisps are the sort of recipes that demand high volumes of huckleberries. Twelve cups of hucks is a lot of hours of labor, but I really wanted to make a crisp – so I made a couple of individual crisps.

sugar, rolled oats, huckleberries, butter, melted butter, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar, more sugar, almond slices, flour, port

As always, I understand that huckleberries are not everywhere accessible. It’s hard (impossible?) to run to the store and pick up a few pounds of fresh huckleberries because they are wild plants. No one has successfully cultivated them on a commercial scale, but some companies in the west do sell them frozen online. If you cannot source huckleberries, blueberries are a perfectly acceptable replacement… but I shall weep for you.

mix the brown sugar, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, almonds, and flour together

mash the butter into the dry ingredients

it should resemble coarse crumbs

The original recipe uses a stand mixer to make the crisp topping. You can do that, especially if you dislike getting butter and sugar and flour under your fingernails. I used my hands so I could get a feel (literally) for the consistency of the mixture. This step takes mere minutes. The filling is even easier – toss the berries with the remaining sugar, port, and melted butter. That takes less than a minute.

pouring the port into the bowl with the huckleberries and the sugar

add the melted butter

toss it all together

fill your baking vessels with the huckleberry filling

I piled the berries into the ramekins because I figured they would shrink and deflate when cooked, which they did! They just released a ton of juices in the process. You should expect these juices to bubble over during the baking process. In anticipation of the bubble-over, it is highly recommended that you set your ramekins on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet to catch the inevitable fruity drips. This is much easier to deal with than cleaning burnt sugary fruit juice off of the bottom of your oven. Even if you put everything in a single large baking pan, I’d at least have a layer of foil under the pan to catch potential overflow.

add on the crisp topping

ready for the oven

baked and messy

These crisps were super juicy compared to other crisps I’ve eaten. When I dropped the scoop of vanilla ice cream on top of the baked crisp topping, I watched sea level rise about a quarter inch on the huckleberry juices. If your crisp(s) overflows during baking, I recommend removing it from the foil-lined baking sheet while it is still hot. Set it on a cooling rack, and don’t let it cool on the baking sheet because that sugary fruit juice drip will solidify and make for difficult separation later. But how did it taste? AMAZING. Huckleberries already seem to have an intense and concentrated flavor for each berry, so baking a heap of them in a crisp was like forging The One Ring. So much power… The port was more prevalent in the flavor than I expected, in a good way that complements the berries. But if you want to omit the port, I would just add a squeeze of lemon juice for some acid. If you ever come to my house and I offer you huckleberry crisp, don’t ever say that I don’t love you.

perfect berry-stained fabulosity

hard work rewarded

Huckleberry Crisp
[print recipe]
from Leite’s Culinaria

crisp topping
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted and cooled (I didn’t toast them)
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsps nutmeg, freshly grated
8 oz. (16 tbsps) unsalted butter, room temperature

huckleberry filling
12 cups fresh huckleberries or blueberries
2 oz. (4 tbsps) unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup port

Make the crisp topping: Mix the almonds, oats, flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg together in a regular bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Work the butter into the mixture with your fingers or using the paddle attachment on a stand mixer until it resembles coarse crumbs.

Make the crisp: Preheat the oven to 375°F. Toss the berries, melted butter, granulated sugar, and port together in a large bowl. Divide the berries among eight 6-ounce ramekins or place them all in a 9×13-inch baking dish or use whatever size baking vessel you want. Set the ramekins or baking dish on a foil-lined baking sheet. Crumble the crisp topping over the berries to cover them as much as possible. Bake for 25-40 minutes until the huckleberry filling bubbles over the golden crisp topping. Remove from oven and serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Note: Using oven mitts, remove the ramekins or baking dish from the foil while the bubbled over juices are still hot and set on a cooling rack. Otherwise the juices will harden and the ramekins or baking dish will be stuck to the foil – like really stuck. Serves 8-10.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

apple cranberry crisp blueberry peach crisp huckleberry sorbet huckleberry jam

16 nibbles at “the month i love”

  1. sue/the view from great island says:

    I want to taste this so bad I can’t stand it — I’ve never had a huckleberry!

  2. LizzieBee says:

    You know what these remind me of? Bubbly pies, from Anne McCaffery’s “Pern” series :)

    Also, your posts ALWAYS want me to move to the Rockies. I only had 3 months there one winter years ago (end of ’99-2000) and I just want to come back :)

  3. Kristin says:

    I LOVE crisps. Good for dessert, good for breakfast. Wish we had some huckleberries, or that I could come & help you eat yours.

  4. Debbie says:

    Every berry bush that I see on every hike from here on out will be thoroughly inspected to see if it is a huckleberry bush. Um…I live in Northern CA…do they even grow here? Will my search be ever “fruitless?” I’m off to google it!

    OMGosh those crisps look crazy delicious!

  5. Zypresse says:

    That looks delicious!
    btw: whats the difference between a “crisp” and a “crumble”?

  6. marissa says:

    I love you. That is all. This blog made my friggin week. SO amazing as always.

  7. Paula @ Paula's Plate says:

    This sounds incredible! YUM!! I’ve never had huckleberries before, but they look delicious. I love your incorporation of slivered almonds in the crisp.

  8. Cindi says:

    Oh yum!! And September is my favorite month, too. I wish it could last all year…

  9. Susanne says:

    Hucks are the best! Hiking with me is a total pain in the ass during huckleberry season. They are truly obsession-worthy.

  10. Twila says:

    Just WOW!

  11. Christine says:

    I was just thinking about making a crisp but with plums. I live on the Northeast and have never even seen a huckleberry let alone seen one for sale. (I don’t want to know what I’m missing in this case.) At least the topping will be delicious! :)

  12. Catherine from Portland says:

    You might want to keep an eye out for grouse whortleberries (also known as littleleaf huckleberries). It’s more of a ground cover plant, but it grows in huckleberry zones as well. The berries are very small but the flavor is, if possible, even more intense than a huckleberry. I have fantasized about making a dessert from them as well, but have never been able to pick more than a few tablespoons at a time, and they get eaten right away.

  13. Eileen says:

    Look at all that beautiful juice! I have never eaten a huckleberry, but I am definitely going to have to keep an eye out for them at the farmer’s market. We’ll see if I have any luck!

  14. Barb says:

    Your dinner table looks so pretty – would you mind telling what you served your very lucky dinner guest!

  15. swan says:

    jen–i’ve been in nyc all summer and just got back. i’m so sorry about your girl. i’m sorry i didn’t keep track of her last days–but you are in my thoughts. i hope someday you get another dog, as you and J are some of the greatest parents ever.

    hugs from CA


  16. jenyu says:

    sue – you could sub blueberries, but hucks really are different (more tart, more complex, more wine-like). or try ordering some frozen online?

    LizzieBee – the Rockies are pretty special. You can always visit Colorado!

    Kristin – :)

    Debbie – They DO grow in Nor Cal! Hank Shaw is a well-known forager in Sacramento and he says they grow north of Mt. Tam along the coast up to… ?? So try the coast and do your homework on what hucks look like in your area. Good luck!! I hope you find some!

    Zypresse – well, thanks to your question, I just learned something. Apparently a crumble has oats in the topping and a crisp does not. But I call them crisps even with oats in the topping. As long as its delicious, I don’t really care what it’s called ;)

    marissa – xxoo

    Paula – it was really lovely to bite them too – nice crisp crunch from the almonds!

    Cindi – or at least another month. Our autumns are short in Colorado!

    Susanne – yeah, we don’t even bother hiking, we just hike straight to the hucks and get down to business ;)

    Twila – :)

    Christine – I believe they do grow on the East Coast (at least a cousin of vaccinium), but you will have a hard time finding them in stores because they aren’t commercially grown. But plums are lovely too!

    Catherine – I’ve eaten those before! :) Actually, before I really learned my way around the hucks here, I thought grouse whortleberries were little hucks, but they are apparently a different species. And yes, they are so LITTLE!!!

    Eileen – good luck!

    Barb – well, we had a couple of folks who don’t eat red meat, so I made sure to have options for everyone. We started with appetizers: chicken chorizo sausage, hot spicy italian sausage, two kinds of mustard, chicken liver pâté, hot smoked salmon, prosciutto, croccantini crackers, sliced baguettes, dried fruit and nut crisps, brie, fig jam, manchego cheese, membrillo (quince paste), semi-soft asiago, cornichons, castelvetrano olives, fresh figs. Beverages included arnold palmers, a rosé of malbec, water, and my friends brought some local beers. Dinner was pan-seared scalloped with white wine reduction sauce on a bed of dressed baby arugula and olive-oil sautéed corn, grilled rib-eye steaks with chimichurri, grilled salmon with lemon and dill on a bed of grilled asparagus, bread, and heirloom tomato salad with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, black pepper, olive-oil sautéed corn, basil chiffonade. Dessert was baked chocolate espresso cheesecakes with sea salt chocolate cookie crust in jars topped with almond and vanilla whipped cream and chili palmer salt caramel sauce, blueberry peach crisp and homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and some random little chocolate cakes.

    swan – aww, thank you! that means a lot to us xoxo

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