You don’t know, until you’re stemming several hundred huckleberries as the good mid-afternoon light starts to fade, exactly what you’re recommending to your readers.
I’m in Portland visiting family this week and what was supposed to be a simple way to use this late-season miracle has turned into a time-consuming project. About every fourth berry has a sliver-in-the-thumb-stubborn little stem.
On top of that, my new camera, which I had hoped to spend a lot of time with this week, doesn’t communicate with my computer via empty space, right? So the fact that I forgot the cord to attach camera to computer and, more importantly, the software, means today’s post was almost in the gutter.
But even though I’m resorting to a short assault of cell phone photos and it took me the better part of an hour to stem the berries doesn’t mean this sauce isn’t worth the trouble. In fact, my mom walked into the room as I was typing this and burst out laughing when she saw my face. Yep. I’m licking my blue-stained lips.
These wild, deep purple berries look to be mountain huckleberries, a species that’s native to the Northwest. It’s humbling to know that before we ever tried these berries, Native Americans gathered and dried them for the winter. I read that native peoples were master “burn ecologists,” systematically burning parts of the forest so huckleberries would take hold. Brilliant, and a much better idea than trying to transplant them to a garden, a method these wild plants resist.
There’s something pleasing about a tiny, tart berry at the beginning of winter. This fragrant, antioxidant-packed huckleberry sauce complements anything chocolaty or creamy (my pick was coconut ice cream). My carnivorous husband’s eyes opened a little wider when he heard the list of ingredients and he started spouting monosyllabic animal names, “Lamb! Duck!” So you could follow that train of thought, too.
If you’re in Olympia, you can buy fresh huckleberries here to ring in the New Year. Many sweet wishes for 2012!
Maple Huckleberry Sauce
Huckleberries. We live in such abundance here in the Northwest. We can harvest berries
galore from trailing blackberry, blackberry, wild strawberry, red raspberry,
black-capped raspberry, salal, wild blueberries, hawthorn berries,
red huckleberries and evergreen huckleberries starting in early summer.
How lucky to find some this late in the season.
2-3 c fresh huckleberries
zest of one lemon, in strips
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise (if available)
pinch of black pepper
2-3 T maple syrup
Place all ingredients in a small pot.
Bring to a simmer and stir until berries burst and
the sauce thickens slightly, about 12-15 minutes.
Serve with yogurt, ice cream or chocolate cake.