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the huckleberry hound

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

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

huckle(berry) buckle

Huckleberry Buckle
[print recipe]
from Just a Pinch

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

fruit topping
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.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

huckleberry brown butter tarts huckleberry crisp huckleberry vodka infusion & huckleberry moscow mule seared duck breast with huckleberry gastrique

11 nibbles at “the huckleberry hound”

  1. heather (delicious not gorgeous) says:

    ooh, the way the batter rises above the fruit seems so magical, like those flan cakes where the flan and cake swap places. i’d love to try this, but with the lack of hucks near me, the pain of not being able to call it a huckle buckle is just too much to bear.

  2. farmerpam says:

    A “huckle buckle”, I love it!

  3. Janice says:

    My family and friends have had endless conversations about buckles versus crisps, etc. A question for you — my buckle (blueberry) recipe has you mix the berries into the batter. Is the benefit of doing it your way so the berries don’t bleed their juice into the batter? I’m wondering if I could apply your method to my recipe, without otherwise changing it . . . . Thanks, Jen!

  4. jenyu says:

    heather – now you’ve got me wondering about flan cakes… what?!?! sounds so good! this will work with blueberries instead of hucks, fyi! :)

    farmerpam – right?! :)

    Janice – ha ha! I STILL don’t know what a true buckle is. I mean, I’ve seen this version and I’ve seen others like you describe. So I honestly couldn’t tell you which one is a true buckle and which way is better? But I’m sure both are delicious.

  5. Tonya Parsons says:

    Is the benefit of doing it your way so the berries don’t bleed their juice into the batter?

  6. jenyu says:

    Tonya – I’m not sure. It seems this recipe keeps it more like a gooey fruity layer and a cake layer whereas other buckle recipes I’ve seen mix the fruit into the batter. Not sure which is an actual buckle (maybe both ways are?) but I’m certain both are delicious :)

  7. angelitacarmelita says:

    Except for the whole ‘snow thing’ that photo of your ‘haul for the day’ has me convinced that I need to live in Colorado… holy shrooms and huckleberry’s! your photos as always, make me smile so big my face hurts. I’m extremely jealous for me and happy for you. And happy that someone like you exists to forage for these beauties and love them, because you clearly do not take them for granted. So mostly happy for you and not so jealous for me. Mostly happy. For you.

  8. Donna Gladden says:

    OMG, my cake didn’t rise…..why? Followed the directions step by step??? Totally bummed to say the least.

  9. jenyu says:

    Donna – You mean it didn’t rise to the top of the berries or it didn’t rise (as in fluff) at all? Did it cook under the berries at least?

  10. Richard Blue says:

    Just bought fresh huckleberries in Yakima, Washington. I want to make a “buckle” but have question. Do you add hot water to fresh berries, or just to frozen berries? Other than that, seems pretty straight forward.

  11. jenyu says:

    Richard – Ooooh, lucky you!! You add hot water to both fresh and frozen, so go for it!

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