Noshin' Recipe: I Heart Huckleberries

Huckleberry GinnIt’s officially berry season. Strawberries and raspberries have been ready to pick for almost a month, and blueberries have started showing up at the farmers markets. It really might be the best time of the year — so juicy, so sweet, so flavorful and ripe, I just can’t get enough. All I know is that I need to eat enough to burn the memory of them into my mind so it’ll last through the unending, bitter Minnesota winter. Right now, huckleberries are prime for picking, and I’m l-o-v-i-n-g it.
My prediction: huckleberries will be next trendy superfood. There’ve been blueberries, cranberries, pomegranate, and acai in recent years, but although huckleberries are similar enough in look and taste to be mistaken for blueberries, they have enough mystique to become the next favored child of the berry family.
And then those of you who grew up with a bajillion huckleberry bushes in your yard can just laugh at us going gaga for something your mom couldn’t use fast enough. Or maybe you’ll wonder why you didn’t think to take advantage of them sooner.
And to start the movement, I’ve got three huckleberry recipes for you — a patio-worthy cocktail, transit-proof breakfast, and multipurpose sauce.

Huckleberry Ginn

Makes: Two cocktails
The earthy pine-iness of the gin blends effortlessly with the sweet and tart berries, invoking images of days so humid you can’t move. I can’t help but reference Twain in the drink’s name — kind of makes me want to find a river raft to float away on. Reduce the amount of simple syrup and use club soda instead of Sprite if you don’t like your drinks too sweet — it’ll be lighter with more nuanced flavors.
1 Cup huckleberries (fresh or frozen)
3 oz/2 jiggers gin (I like Tanqueray)
1/2 oz simple syrup
12 oz Sprite or club soda

  1. Add huckleberries and gin to a blender; blend until mostly smooth.
  2. Add simple syrup. Blend briefly.
  3. Place a mesh strainer (small, preferably — and I don’t mean the kind in a bartending toolkit) over a low-ball glass and pour half the gin mixture through it, removing the large chunks. Do the same for the second glass.
  4. Top with soda and add ice. Embrace the humidity.

Huckleberry MuffinsHuckleberry Muffins

Makes: 24 medium muffins
Make these babies and freeze all but a few (I mean, you have to taste test for quality first, right?); take one out and microwave it in the morning — or set it out the night before to defrost at room temperature — for a delicious, huckleberry-y breakfast. Goes great with hot coffee. Or iced coffee — whatever’ll wake you up.
1/2 C butter (1 stick)
1 C sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
dash nutmeg (optional)
2 1/2 C fresh or 12 oz frozen huckleberries
2 C flour
1/2 C milk

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Line muffin pans with paper muffin cups.
  3. In a medium-large bowl, beat butter until creamy.
  4. Add sugar; beat until pale and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each until incorporated.
  6. Beat in vanilla, baking powder, and salt.
  7. If using fresh berries, mash 1/2 C and stir into batter.
  8. With a rubber scraper/spatula, fold in half the flour, then half the milk into the batter. Repeat with remaining flour and milk.
  9. Fold in remaining fresh berries OR all the frozen.
  10. Spoon 1/4 C of batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle with topping (2 Tbsp sugar mixed with 1/4 tsp nutmeg and 1/4 tsp cinnamon).
  11. Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown and top feels springy to the touch when pressed gently.
    (For larger, restaurant-style muffins, grease ramekins and add ~1/2 C – 3/4 C batter; extend baking time to 35-45 minutes.)

Huckleberry Syrup

This is a completely basic recipe, which makes it equally as good on pancakes as over cheesecake.
2 C huckleberries (if frozen, thaw in the saucepan before adding remaining ingredients)
1 C water
1/2 C sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch (or 2-3 Tbsp flour)
1 Tbsp cold water
juice of one lemon
zest of one lemon (optional)

  1. Combine huckleberries, water, and sugar in a small saucepan over medium heat.
  2. While berries are warming, in a small bowl, mix cornstarch and cold water. Add to saucepan.
  3. Add lemon juice (and zest) to saucepan.
  4. Bring sauce to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cook another 5 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and allow to thicken for 10+ minutes.