Huckleberries are ripe and ready for picking, so if you are in the high country prospecting, take time to sample a few, they are delicious. This year, here in Northwest Montana we are blessed with an abundant crop, one of the best seasons in years. Try them in pancakes, muffins and of course, our favorite, huckleberry pie.
This recipe for huckleberry pie is one that I now use all the time, friends and family love it!
In honor of Labor Day, I wanted to include my recipe for huckleberry pie. If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, you'll have to find a replacement for the Cascade Mountain version of all-natural, organically grown bear food, but otherwise you're probably good to go.
Our family cabin is located on the Miller River. Though there are plenty of bushes around the cabin, the best huckleberry picking is at a slightly higher elevation, up on Tonga Ridge. However, this site has become so popular over the last few years that it is hard to wedge yourself in between the commercial pickers, hungry bears and plain folk like myself. So we've had to range farther to get this sweet-tart tasty berries, because a standard blueberry just won't do.
Please note: huckleberries can be either red (highbush) and *very* tart, or purple (lowbush) and slightly sweeter, though less sweet than a traditional blueberry. Whatever your red/purple berry mix - it's all good. Just adjust the sugar!
THE CRUST (for a double crust 8-10" pie):
I believe in a 2-crust pie, as long as the crust is light, flaky and complements the innards appropriately. Huckleberries are a wonderful contrast to this particular crust, which of course was gleaned from my mother during my more formative years.
1 1/2 c. flour (I generally use unbleached white flour)
8 T. regular Crisco (not butter, not butter-flavored Crisco...just Crisco)
4-5 T. ICE COLD water
In a food processor, swirl the flour and salt to mix. Then add all 8 T. Crisco, one tablespoon at a time so you've got 8 glops of the stuff sitting on top of the flour. Burst the mixture until you get to the pea-stage, but do not over mix.
BIG HINT: Chill the water in a separate cup. Measure out 5 T. into a small pitcher for the next step.
Turn on the processor, add the ice water until a ball starts to form. It may or may not take all of the water, depending on the heat of the day, humidity, etc. Now burst the machine until the remaining dough is removed from the sides of the processor and it's one nice, round ball of dough. Remove from the processor, wrap in wax paper or a Ziploc and put into the fridge to chill for 20-30 minutes. This gives you ample time to create the filling.
THE AMAZINGLY TASTY YET SIMPLE HUCKLEBERRY FILLING:
For a 9" pie, I use 4 c. berries. You can adjust the amount of berries based on the size of your pie pan (3 c. for an 8" pan; 5 c. for a 10"). Here is the rest of the recipe:
4 c. huckleberries
1 - 1 1/2 c. sugar, depending on how tart you like it
1/2 c. flour
1 T. tapioca
1/2 c. cold butter
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Mix the first five ingredients in a large bowl and let stand to meld for about 15 minutes. If you feel the need, especially if using frozen berries, you can strain out some of the liquid ahead of time, before you create the mixture. Your goal is a pie that is moist, but not runny.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER:
Rolling out pie crust can be trying under any circumstances, but here are some hints to help you get it right:
- Be sure the chilled crust is firm but not hard before you start. If it's too soft, it won't roll back on your pin for placement in the pie pan.
- Depending on your rolling surface, you may need to use more or less flour. If it's kind of sticky - use more. Not sticky, use less. Less is better than more. Remember to roll your rolling pin sock in the flour you've spread on your rolling surface. This is a tender crust and needs to be treated gently.
- Add flour if you need to as you go.
- Use slightly more of your total dough for the bottom crust as it covers a larger surface area.
So, with all of those hints in mind, roll out the bottom crust. Roll it onto your pin, and place it gently in the pie pan with about a 1" lip all the way around. Now, pour in the huckleberry filling. Sprinkle with lemon juice and DON'T FORGET TO DOT WITH BUTTER. I tend to forget this last step and regret it every single time.
Roll out your top crust, then roll back onto the pin and place gently over the entire mixture. Crimp the edges, then use a sharp knife to make a design on the top crust. These steam vents are important, but you might as well make them pretty as well as functional. If you're a glutton for additional work, you can brush the top with milk and/or sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar for an extra taste treat.
BIG HINT: One of the best tools in my kitchen is a "pie ring", which fits over the freshly crimped crust and protects it during the early phase of the baking process. You can get them to fit the size of your pie pan, and it means you can completely skip putting the foil edging over the crimped portion of the crust.
So, either put the pie ring in place, or place 1" strips of foil over the crimped edges, and place the pie in the center of a 350 degree oven. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the ring or foil and bake for another 25 minutes or until done. The crust will be golden brown, and the filling will have bubbled merrily through the steam vents in several places.
Anyone in their right mind knows that huckleberry pie is divine regardless of how you serve it. Some people like it plain; others with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. It can be served hot or cold, but this is a dessert that has *never* failed me. Enjoy!!