Tuesday, November 9, 2010
At work we have a purveyor that is a forage queen. Mushrooms of all sorts and sizes, fiddle head ferns, sea beans, and wild blackberries- all that she has gathered alone up and down the Northern Oregon and Southern Washington coasts. She is also a tad on the crazy side and her personality is pretty abrasive to most, she never calls and we don't exactly order from her. She just shows up at random times with a few boxes of things for us. The thing we anticipate most from her is the huckleberry. I will buy every huckleberry she has through the fall to freeze to get through the winter. I can buy them elsewhere but their harvest is so tedious they tend to be pretty expensive. She will sell them to me in 1 gallon Ziploc bags and they are clean and ready to freeze or use, for about 1/2 of what I would find them for elsewhere. She will also bring me the even more elusive red huckleberries, that are a bit more tart and look more like a salmon berry.
I love them for their bright colors, amazing shape, texture, and of course taste. They will vary in color quite a bit as to your location from red to purple into almost black. They can be on the tart side for most people, but I really like them plain. A bit of sugar will off-set the tartness. While the sweet application is the go to usage and my favorite all time dessert is to have them sugared on a piece of pound cake with a touch of soft whipped cream, at work I try to work them into the savory side of the kitchen. With a bit of shallot, green onions, some champagne or white wine vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and maybe a touch of brown sugar will give you a fantastic huckleberry relish that will stand up to halibut, scallops, or even a pork chop. These were destined to macerate overnight with brown sugar, vanilla, and some salt and then I added some cream to pull out a perfectly purple color. This morning they are being sold over a malted waffle.
The huckleberry plays a part in my family especially on my fathers side. They are the state fruit of Idaho, and I find enthusiasm with them from customers and family in a certain age bracket that were raised in the NW states and into the Southern parts of Canada. I haven't ever seen them at the store but that doesn't mean they don't exist. A simple Internet search will give you a few leads, but there is always the option of foraging for yourself. They are worth getting a hold of by almost any means possible. This time of year I haven't had a peach for so long I always put huckleberries at the top of my mental list for my favorite food, at least until I can get my hands on really ripe Oregon peach again.