Because I’ve been playing sad songs on the air guitar? Nope. It’s because I’m becoming an obsessive/compulsive huckleberry picker. Actually, there’s no other way to be when picking huckleberries. They’re so small it takes forever to pick enough to do anything with. I would have to pick for about a month to have enough for a pie...it's just not worth it at a certain point. But it’s the perfect activity for killing oodles of time while increasing your antioxidant levels. The free radicals are running for their lives.
It must be noted, an amazing coincidence involving huckleberries has occurred in my life. My family’s dog when I was growing up was named Huckle, after "Huckle the cat" in Richard Scarry books, and here we are now, living in a place where we literally had to crawl through huckleberry bushes to get from one end of the property to the other before we made trails. I wonder about it a lot, especially when Mooka and I are alone on the hill, wiling away god-knows how much time. It’s hard not to believe that Huckle must have had a “paw” in this whole arrangement. I like to think so anyway.
Also strange is the fondness Mooka has for huckleberries—not that she's one to turn down food ever. Here she is snorkling them up on some low branches in this photo taken by my brother’s girlfriend on a recent visit (Thanks Kim!)
Huckleberries are one of the “it” foods these days for bay area chefs, according to an article in the SF Chronicle. They’re similar to blueberries, but smaller and more flavorful. Their growing popularity for cooking is due to their versatility—they can be used for sweet or savory dishes (like in a sauce for meat)—not to mention their health benefits.
But, although I wish it were true, it does not appear we’re going get rich hawking huckleberries to upscale restaurants or the gourmet food industry. Considering how long they take to pick, it seems not to be the most financially profitable enterprise. Don't let that stop you from investing though! Anyway, instead, over the last month, I’ve been slowly building up a stash in the freezer, which might amount to about 3 cups so far, and trying them out here and there in recipes.
Found out they taste great in muffins, but upon reflection, it could be more efficient to just buy a bag of frozen berries from the store for this purpose. The flavor of the muffins were achingly similar to a normal old blueberry muffin, only I spent about 2 hours amassing the amount of berries the recipe called for, and another 1-2 hours making the actual muffins—time that really should have been spent doing something more productive than toiling over fluffy food nuggets. They were good and everything, but I’ve realized that God created bakeries for a reason, and this might be one of them.
Then we had the grand idea to try them in a “savory” recipe, by adding them to Popsey’s infamous rib sauce. Granted, this sauce is already quite flavorful on it’s own, involving a myriad of unlikely ingredients resulting in what is known in the food world as “fusion cooking”. My understanding of fusion cooking is it means you combine the cooking traditions of different countries into all new creations, like chow mein burritos for example. Popsey is quite fond of this style of cooking because it makes him feel like he’s supporting racial diversity in a way, but also importantly, it inspires his long-suffering wife to take over the cooking and keep him out of the kitchen for the most part.
I’m hesitant to reveal the true ingredients of Popsey’s original rib sauce, not because it's embarrassing (well, maybe mildly) but mostly for fear people will start making this and steal his thunder at future potlucks. Ha ha. Okay, that's not going to happen. So it's probably okay to share that it’s primarily mango chutney, hoisin sauce, and Tabasco. True fusion cooking. Adding huckleberries did not result in an improvement to the recipe, in my opinion. Instead, it was kind of weird. I have yet to tell Popsey my true feelings about this, but when we made it again, I did ask for the “old” recipe, minus those delicious berries please. Thank you.
Finally we had better luck including the little suckers in a recipe. This time, we were plowing through an enormous pear harvest, from a picking frenzy we took part in on a friend’s organic pear farm the previous weekend. On Saturday they had a canning party, in which I learned the rudiments of the canning process. That is a whole different story though, which I’ll be reporting on in an upcoming post. For now I just want to say that adding huckleberries—a small handful per jar—in canned pears and pear sauce, was a huge hit. It turned the contents of the jars from boring pear-white, to a much more enticing pink. Success at last.