J's birthday is in March. Every year we do the same thing. And it is something I have to start preparing for in August of the previous year.
All J ever wants for his birthday is one of my special home-made pesto/mushroom pizzas for dinner and a huckleberry pie for dessert. No problem on the pizza. But the huckleberries? They don't exactly sell them in the freezer section! So each August, I go out and pick at least enough for one huckleberry pie (if it is a bumper crop, I can get enough for multiple pies, a batch of jam, and a random bag for doing syrups or scones or pancakes). Last year with my field season, I was only able to get out to pick just enough for a pie (an average crop year takes about 2-4 hours to pick enough for a pie). Which I then froze in anticipation of this past weekend.
For years I struggled to find the perfect recipe. I started with blueberry pie recipes but huckleberries are a slightly different beast. Don't get me wrong...the pies were good. But they just weren't 'right'. Finally I found this recipe and haven't looked back since. My only modifications are to not add the cinnamon, I do 4 heaping tablespoons of tapioca, and for the top, I brush with milk and sprinkle on raw sugar. Also, huckleberries burst upon cooking and the first few attempts made an excellent, but very runny/soggy pie. The solution I finally figured out? Let it cool completely before cutting (I'm finding this applies to most pies!). We like warm pie so popping it in the microwave for a few seconds before serving is the way to go.
I use a pie crust recipe passed on from my mom (crisco based...I've tried the butter ones and went back to the crisco one for fruit pies...too rich and buttery for my taste...it washes out the flavor of the fruit...now for savory pies, the butter ones are the way to go!). You'll notice I don't do fancy crusts. I'm all about taste...not presentation!
Sadly, this may be the last one of these for a few years. There is a chance I'll be back in NE Oregon this year during harvest time, but I'm not sure. After that, I won't be here for a number of years. Not to say I won't be places that have huckleberries but 1) no offense to you west-side folks but most of your huckleberry varieties are not the same and when the area supports the one we have over here on the east side, in my opinion the berries just aren't as good (they are watery or something...not near the flavor) and 2) even if I could pick them while in the field, I have no place to store them!
The verdict? J may have uttered some profanities regarding his love of huckleberry pie after the first bite. So yes...it was as good as it looks!
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Now playing: soundtrack from 'Cowboys and Aliens'...trust me on this one and take a listen to the link. the music is excellent.