It is the middle of August and my berry picking muscles are twitching. Last month I was laid up and missed out on the gathering of what I hear was a super-abundant crop of larger-than-usual wild strawberries. Luckily for me the huckleberries which should be well past their prime, are just beginning to ripen. This year Mother Nature has been slightly off-season with her blessings. About three weeks behind–perhaps because of the late spring?
Right now I am yearning to be out there with other fervently addicted huckleberry hunters: climbing steep, unstable rocky inclines and trudging through swamps, criss-crossed with spiky spruce blow-downs and littered with devils club, to reach the clear cuts where it has been rumoured the biggest and best berries abound.
If only it would stop raining!
During yesterday’s wet weather I extricated a batch of last year’s wild blueberries from where I had stashed them in the deep freeze. They were still firmly attached to their vines amidst a wealth of healthy-looking green leaves. When I had picked them, I entertained the notion that the freezing process might make it easier to separate the itzy bits of fruit from their abundant foliage. Not so. My husband compared my tedious efforts to that of picking fly specks out of pepper. But it was raining and I had nothing better to do.
After that I made some blue-huck-toon jam, which turned out to be delicious. The one berry in the trilogy that was this year’s variety was a few cups of saskatoons from the only productive bush in the neighborhood.
We had slavered in anticipation upon noticing all the saskatoon blossoms earlier. The theory has now been voiced that our chilly spring made it difficult for pollinating bugs to survive and carry out their duties.
I would like to share my lazy woman’s recipe for saskatoon or huckleberry pie. After years of mopping my oven because of overflowing juices (unless I beefed the filling up with too much thickener which rendered it inedible) I now cook the berry mixture on top of the stove. The bottom crust has to be baked first before being filled. (Otherwise the pie may still muck up your oven during the longer baking process.) Following that, you need only to secure a top crust in place and brown. (If you are really lazy as I am, you use the frozen crusts from the store.)
SASKATOON PIE FILLER (Makes 3 or 4 pies and is freezable. The recipe is from my friend Mary in Fort Fraser.)
4 cups saskatoons
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 dessertspoon lemon juice
Cook until thick. (For huckleberries omit the water, almond extract and lemon juice. You will probably need more corn starch and sugar.)