Huckleberries are wrapped in secrecy and hidden in the wilderness, and only come out every other year. Or, huckleberries are everywhere in abundance always, and anyone can find them whenever they please.
Huckleberries are sweet. Huckleberries are sour. Huckleberries are woman’s work, or a job for a man. Huckleberries are bigger in the shade, or sometimes bigger in the sun; huckleberries are easier to pick with rakes, but should only be picked by hand.
Huckleberries are really blueberries … no! nothing like blueberries. Huckleberries are worth risking your life for — or one good reason for living …
We had the privileged of meeting ‘Asta a few summers ago when she came through north central Idaho to continue her new research for an updated version of The Huckleberry Book. Interesting lady — a school teacher from Montana who has written books on the wolves as well as huckleberries.
The Huckleberry Book is not just your typical book about huckleberries! ‘Asta entertains us with wonderful stories about huckleberries, huckleberry hunting and picking, huckleberries and bears, and a listing of home style recipes.
I’d like to share one of her unique huckleberry cake recipes from the book (page 84):
Sounds yummy!! If you are using frozen huckleberries, you might want to either add thickener to the berries to make sure it is not too runny!
A huckleberry lemonade product, manufactured by Gem Berry Products of Sandpoint, Idaho is featured in the “Entertaining Special’ holiday issue of “People” Magazine, on newsstands now through Christmas (2013).
Harry Menser, 82, and co-owner of Gem Berry, announces that their eight-year-old “Huckleberry Lemonade Concentrate” was selected as the sole Idaho representative for ‘People magazine’s — Food Gifts from Every State” feature article, on page 70.
According to Menser, a retired University of Idaho horticulturist, “People” magazine contacted the company via their GemBerry.com website in September, asked for samples, and approved the Gem Berry entry in October.
He added, that “the concentrate is made of pure wild huckleberry juice squeezed from Idaho huckleberries in small batches; then combined with 100% pure lemon juice, and sweeteners”.
The product comes in a 12-ounce “wine-shaped” bottle, with a colorful label, featuring a graphic of a bush with rich purple berries and a lemon. Combined with a gold shrink band, and decorative hang tag, the presentation is “striking”, Menser said, and is “very popular for holiday parties or gift giving”.
However, “most people tell us that 3 to 1 – water to concentrate – works even better”, Menser said.
Common uses for the huckleberry lemonade include just using it as a drink – per label instructions – or as part of a holiday punch with ice cream and sparkling cider. A large number of people also use it as a unique and delicious mixer for spirits, he added.
The huckleberry lemonade was the last recipe – in a long line – designed by Elizabeth O’Brien before her passing in 2004. Elizabeth and her husband Jack, were also founding owners of Gem Berry, in partnership with Menser and his late wife, Betty. Harry is the sole remaining member of the original foursome.
Gem Berry is still owned half by Menser, and half by the O’Brien estate.
Jack and Elizabeth O’Brien’s daughter, Mary, now runs the processing operation for Gem Berry.
Gem Berry, founded in 1993 (20 years ago) sells wild huckleberry, red raspberry, and wild blueberry products both at retail, and wholesale to retail stores and food service.
Huckleberry products, including jam, syrup, sugar free spread, honey, barbecue sauce, cordials, and taffy, are their biggest sellers.
Gem Berry is located at the Bonner Business Center (BBC) and was a charter client of the BBC Kitchen in 1993.
Products may be purchased online at http://www.GemBerry.com or by calling Sandy in customer service at (888) 231-1699.
In early November, we were in southern Idaho visiting with family when we found a free magazine called Edible Idaho South — Celebrating the food culture in Southern Idaho .
It is an interesting magazine with lots of recipes and food stories. One one of the last pages, I found an wonderful recipe that I would like to share today!
- For Cake
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups sour cream
- 8 oz. butter
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sugar
- 3 cups flour
- For Cream Cheese Filling
- 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
- 3 eggs
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- For Crumb Topping
- 1 1/4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 4 oz. butter, chilled
- 1/2 cup raspberries
- 1/2 cup huckleberries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour two 8 inch cake pans and line with paper
- To Make Cakes: In a small bowl, whisk eggs and cream together -- set aside. In a separate bowl, ream butter, baking powder and salt on low speed for about 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add sugar and increase speed to medium for 3-4 minutes until batter is light and fluffy -- scrapping down the sides of he bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low and in three additions alternate adding the remaining dry and wet ingredients -- mixing until just combined. Transfer batter to baking pans and spread the mixture evenly in both pans.
- For Cream Cheese Filling: Beat cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy -- about 5 minutes -- scraping down the sides of the bowl frequently. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each egg is fully incorporated after each addition. Add the sugar and cornstarch and mix until ingredients are combined -- about 1 minute. Divide the cream cheese filling between the two cake pans spreading filling with the back of a spoon evenly over the cake batter. Sprinkle the raspberries and huckleberries over the cream cheese filling.
- For Crumb Topping: Combine he flour and sugar in a bowl. Cut the butter into 1/4 inch pieces and drop them into the bowl of dry ingredients. Using your fingers, work the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarse and crumbly. Sprinkle the crumb evenly over berries between the two pans.
- Bake cakes until set, about 45 minutes to an hour. Let cakes cool completely before unmolding.
Photo courtesy of Stacey Cakes
Looking for that easy to make Huckleberry Cream Pie — the one to die for?
Well, we have it here!! And I, personally, have made it several times and it has always been a hit.
- 1 large package Instant Vanilla Pudding
- 1 cup milk
- 1 cup sour cream
- 1 small container of cool whip
- 1 16 oz. jar of huckleberry pie filling
- Combine the first four ingredients above (not the pie filling).
- Once they are mixed well, fold in the pie filling.
- Spoon into a crust of your choice.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve.
- Refrigerate any leftovers - if there are any!!
To help you out, here is where you can purchase the Huckleberry Pie Filling:
Huckleberry picking season is over (the snow is already flying in north Idaho! *sigh*). But I know there are lots of you who wanted huckleberries, but didn’t get any this year! Don’t despair as I have an alternative for you!
Tastes of Idaho has received a large inventory of huckleberry products — and will continue to add more products to the website over the next weeks. If you have never tried ‘commercial’ huckleberry products (most products on the site are handmade, in small batches, the ole’ fashion way), you will be pleasantly surprised at how good they really are!! And as the website name implies, all the products listed (including a few non-huckleberry items) are made in Idaho!
Tastes of Idaho carries some very unique huckleberry products such as:
- Huckleberry Snack Mix (nuts, seeds, fruit and sugar infused huckleberries)
- Idaho Redneck Huckleberry Toe Jam (humor product — and yes, it is edible!)
- Huckleberry Pie Filling (and yes, you can still have that pie you have been craving!)
- Huckleberry Cream Tea (loose leaf style)
- Huckleberry Cordials – dark or milk chocolate!
- Huckleberry BBQ Sauce (best on the market, in my opinion!)
- Huckleberry Poppyseed Vinaigrette (wonderful on salads!)
- Huckleberry Gems Candy Bars (real huckleberry flavor)
- Huckleberry Bath and Body Oil (so nice for back rubs)
- Huckleberry Spud Soap (yup! they are shaped like potatoes!)
Of course, we also carry a variety of huckleberry jams and syrups. And more products, like huckleberry pancake and dessert mixes, will be arriving soon.
If you love huckleberries and would like to give some products as gifts, you can order a “Build Your Own Huckleberry Basket”! Pick you favorite items, add a basket and shred, and your gift can be shipped to anyone in the US! What more can you ask for?
NOTE: I will be sending out another post when the rest of the products arrive in the warehouse!
“There is no shortage of huckleberry products out there …” writes Linda Stansberry in the North Coast Journal from California.
Linda talks about the many different huckleberry products she has tasted:
I have encountered huckleberry candy and huckleberry barbecue sauce, and last week I drank some huckleberry tea. They’re all disappointing. Nothing matches the taste of an actual, freshly picked huckleberry. These tiny blue-black orbs take forever to ripen, but they have a unique tangy-sweet flavor that makes them perfect for pies and other pastries.
NOTE: If you are looking for huckleberry products, check out these two websites:
She also talks about her picking experience with a Huckleberry Rake:
To my great surprise, the harvester was a success! The claw slid neatly along the branches of the bush and popped the berries off one by one, leaving most of the leaves. Within in an hour I had come close to filling my little plastic container. Granted, the harvester didn’t distinguish from the ripe, the almost ripe and the green, and there were still plenty of leaves and pine needles in my bounty, but I was impressed!
Her story is enjoyable …. and if you can’t find anything else of interest, make sure to check out her Huckleberry-Apple Pie Recipe!!
Enjoy the full article!…. And save me a piece of her pie!!
Huckleberry season is definitely winning down — it appears to have been a good year for huckleberries and those picking them in the wilds!
But it is always time to learn more about huckleberries.
I found this excellent article the other day and wanted to share it with you:
Vaccininum membranceum/ Globare (complex)’ V. ovatum; Gaylussacia species
The delightful word huckleberry, means one kind of berry in Massachusetts, another kind in Missouri, another in Montana, and yet another at America’s edge along the Mendocino coast. This same charming name is used for at least six species of purple berries. Like the orthodox devotion to one’s regional BBQ, every region knows that their type of huckleberry is superior. I personally adore our Pacific coastal evergreen huckleberries, V. ovatum, while my friends in Montana think I’m crazy to like those tiny tart berry ball compared to their big fat sweet berries.
The article talks further about the huckleberries in three distinct regions:
- “Mountain” Huckleberry
- Coastal Evergreen Huckleberry
- Eastern Huckleberry
Also, there is a section on the following:
The era of wedding cakes with two plastic figurines standing on top of them is a thing of the past. Wedding cake designs as of late, integrate the practice of infusing traditionally-tiered wedding cakes with fruits. For example, Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton had an 8-tiered fruit cake with a stunning white icing. On the other hand, American film producer Kyle Newman and White Chicks star Jaime King served a three-tier berry and coconut cake ornamented with roses. Fruits are in and since we advocate huckleberries for their health benefits, we suggest choosing them as an ingredient to give your wedding cake a nutritious and flavorful twist.
Before you begin thinking about your cake’s contents and design, you should first decide on how many layers it would have. A basic three-tiered wedding cake can accommodate around 100 people. In addition, you should take into consideration the diet of your wedding guests. For example, the M&S Wedding Cake section includes the complete ingredients of each cake and indicates whether a cake is gluten-free or safe for vegetarians to eat. Nuts are common allergens so you should consider serving nut-free cakes as well.
Healthier wedding cakes
Wedding cakes can push healthy limits for sugar content, if you’re not careful in choosing the ingredients. Fruits and berries add more natural sweetness, and are more easily metabolized and digested than their processed counterparts. Huckleberries are also loaded with levels of anti-oxidants that exceed even blueberries… and with a much richer flavor when used in concert with traditional wedding cake sweeteners. Available fresh in season, or frozen year round, huckleberries make a unique and healthy alternative to traditional wedding cake fare.
Putting huckleberry filling on top of your cake is also great idea. If you think putting fresh huckleberries on top of your wedding cake is too simple, you may replace them with huckleberry jam. To get an idea on how it tastes like on cake, you may check out the site’s free huckleberry recipes section for easy tips on how to make your own.
Working with your wedding florists
To elevate the visual appearance of cakes, they are decorated with floral arrangements. If you decide to decorate your wedding cake with flowers, make sure to use colors that match it. Huckleberries have a natural deep purple color but some can be a bit bluish. Purple flowers such as Orchids and Calla Lily compliment huckleberries’ natural colors. If they’re bluish, blue tinted roses or blue daisies are suggested.
Remember, a great wedding cake is all about details and decoration. By choosing the right tier, ingredients, and complimenting colors, you will have the perfect wedding cake on your special day.
As the seasons whines down in Montana and Idaho, the huckleberry season is going strong in parts Washington and Oregon.
Of all the plant species that produce edible berries in the Northwest – and there are quite a few – huckleberries have to be the most celebrated.
The abundant, delicious berries can be found in the Coast Range, Cascade Range, and Olympic Mountains in mid-summer through early autumn (in any given area, the timing of fruit production depends on the species, elevation, and other environmental factors).
As the article continues, the author talks about the history of huckleberries and the Native Americans; how to identify huckleberries; and huckleberry picking tips.
Very interesting and informative! Also, there is a link to the health benefits of huckleberries.
NOTE: Unfortunately, this particular article uses blueberry and huckleberry interchangeable. Both are different berries, but the characteristics are similar. We always tell folks that huckleberries are blueberries on steriods!!
For more info on the difference between Huckleberries and Blueberries, check this link: Huckleberries vs. Blueberries
For more information on the Health Benefits of Huckleberry, click here: Health Benefits
Most of us love huckleberries — but do you know the History of Huckleberries?
Always looking for some good huckleberry articles to feature here, I found the following article from the What’s Cooking America’s website.
Here are some interesting facts from the article:
Did You Know?
*Evidence has been found the the huckleberry actually got its name from a simple mistake. Early American colonist, upon encountering the native American berry, misidentified it as the European blueberry known as the “hurtleberry,” by which name it was called until around 1670 it was corrupted to become know as the “huckleberry.”
*Often confused with the blueberry due to its close resemblance, huckleberries are a wild blue-black berry. Although very similar in taste, the big difference is the seeds within the huckleberry that give it a crunchy texture when fresh and its thicker skin. The flavor is a little more tart than blueberries, with an intense blueberry flavor.
*Huckleberries have been a staple of life for Northwest and Rocky Mountain Native American tribes for thousands of years. In the Journals of Lewis and Clark, they wrote of the tribes west of the Rocky Mountains using dried berries extensively in 1806 and 1806.
*Northwest tribes made special combs of wood or salmon backbones to strip huckleberries off the bushes. They dried the berries in the sun or smoked them and then mashed them into cakes and wrapped these in leaves or bark for storage.
And while you are on the site, make sure to click on the link to access her huckleberry pie recipe!