“I’ll be your huckleberry ….”
That is one of my favorite lines in the classic movie “Tombstone” — said with swagger and confidence. Stated with a perfect demeanor, fit for the job at hand, just like the actual huckleberry.
Huckleberries are typically smaller than a blueberry, not too sweet, not too sour, just right. Your huckleberry.
Many types of wild berries have been deemed a “huckleberry,” a term derived from “hurtleberry” meaning any blue colored berry found in the forest. The varietals are now more specific ranging from deep eggplant purple to dark lavender and some are even.
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The northwest supplies most of the huckleberries. While foraging for them in the wild, one may have to negotiate with the native bears for harvest.
Here in Kansas City, we can grow garden huckleberries. The deep indigo colored berries cluster tightly together, making them a bit difficult to pick. Wait until the skins turn black and the berry softens and your patience will be rewarded with a soft yet complicated and layered flavor.
When you have found a crop, pick away once they reach a near onyx black. Boil the berries for 15 minutes then strain. This prepares them for stellar recipes.
Basic Huckleberry Jam
5 cups huckleberries, boiled
3/4 cups honey
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1-1/2 cup water
Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer on medium high heat for 20 minutes, or until syrupy. Remove from heat.
At this point you can cool and refrigerate. This jam condiment can be added to muffins, pancakes, sauces or just spread on a buttery piece of brioche.
2 9-inch pie crusts — or you can always make your own (about 1-1/2 pounds total)
4 cups huckleberry jam
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 tablespoons water
zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 each egg white
2 tablespoons raw sugar
Heat the huckleberry jam on low heat. If it needs to be thickened, this is your personal preference, whisk together the cornstarch and water. Add the cornstarch mixture to the heated jam. Cook, stirring often for 2-3 minutes, until thickened. Remove from heat and flavor with the lemon zest and thyme.
Grease a 9-inch pie pan. Roll out your dough about 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Place pie crust in the bottom of the pan with edges remaining about half inch from the diameter of the pie pan.
Fill with the huckleberry mixture. Cut the remaining pie dough in 1” strips and lattice the top of the pie. Seal the edges of the pie. Pinch the pie crust making a scalloped edge. Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with the raw sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.
Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.