I promised a recipe for those huckleberries we picked last week. I wrote the story and recipe below a few years ago for a family cookbook (does your family do this? It's a lot of fun). I changed it to make sense to non-family members. The picture is of the tart Eric made on Friday. His recipe this time was a little different, but the recipe below is a good one.
Huckleberry Sweet and Sorrow Tart
Eric and I love picking wild huckleberries that grow on some property we own outside of a town called Index, WA. It’s away from phone lines, cell towers, running water and electricity. Some might call it the sticks, but we love the lush forest and the break from the city’s relentless noise.
One rainy June day we spent hours picking the red tart berries in a kind of zen silence. We each picked our own huckleberry bush, then moved on, filling our berry buckets. The rain rhythms playing on our hooded slickers added calm and renewal to the day. As a result we drove home with quite a huckleberry haul. When we got back, however, there was a message that my Aunt Bev had been in an accident, a bad one, and was in the hospital.
As family came in, there were a lot of meals to plan for and make. Eric made these amazing huckleberry tarts. He of course did not work from a recipe, but the recipe below is something like the tart he made to share with family coming in to be with Bev. Bev hung on for a week, but the injuries she suffered from being hit by a large truck were insurmountable. All of my dad’s siblings came to Seattle, except for big sister Aunt Sandra. She was too sick to travel. But she was there, on the phone, with all of us as we sang to Bev in the ICU. In her final hours, we sang in a circle around her hospital bed until she passed away. I know none of us there will ever forget that.
The following year and one day later our Aunt Sandra died. Hers had been a 20-year battle with cancer. The huckleberries weren’t that plentiful that year, or we got the timing wrong. At any rate, Xander and I were in Alabama at the funeral, and Eric was holding down the restaurant so we didn’t get up to Index.
The next year, we hit it spot on. We picked huckleberries with my brother David and his two girls, Bella and Sophia, visiting from Prague. Mom and Dad came too and we had a picnic in the woods. Sophie, Bella and Xander didn’t put many berries in the bucket, but they got plenty in their mouths. Xander looked as if he were wearing red war paint on his face and fingers.
As I pick huckleberries each year, I think of my two beautiful aunts that passed away right around berry time. I will always think of them when I eat huckleberry tarts.
I think of family, too, and how we gather around food in the sweet times and in the times of sorrow.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ stick butter
2 ½ cups sugar
4 egg yolks
1 pint milk
1 pint half & half
8 oz cream cheese
2 pints huckleberries + 1 cup fresh reserved for garnish
1 Tbls. cornstarch
½ cup red wine
1 cup Sorrow
1 pound of Sweet Memories. Add more to taste.
Make a graham cracker crust. There are many recipes out there you can use.
½ stick butter, softened
Mix with 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
& ½ cup sugar
Press into pie tin
Heat and whisk 4 egg yolks and 1 cup sugar in double boiler.
Stir constantly with whisk until sugar is dissolved.
Slowly add 1 pint milk & 1 pint half & half.
Heat and stir for 5 minutes.
Spoon in 1 package (8oz) cream cheese. Stir until dissolved.
Pour mixture into pie shell.
Bake in preheated oven (325˚F) until firm in center (approx. 45 minutes).
Pull from oven, let cool, then chill in refrigerator.
While this is chilling, make the huckleberry topping.
The Berry Topping
In a heavy gauge saucepan, heat on high 1 cup of sugar and 2 pints huckleberries
(if you want more berries in your tart, add the corresponding amount of sugar).
Bring to a boil, let reduce for 3 minutes.
Dissolve 1 tablespoon cornstarch into ½ cup red wine. Pour this mixture into boiling berries.
Turn down to simmer, let the alcohol cook off and the berries thicken (approx. 5 minutes). Stir as you go.
Let cool slightly. Pour over chilled tart. Chill the tart again (at least 2 hours).
Sprinkle fresh berries on top for garnish.
* Any tart berries may be used such as currants, cranberries or your local favorite. I haven’t tried this with softer berries like raspberries, blackberries etc. If you want to use these, either include plenty of not-quite-ripe berries, or cut back the sugar.