This is my third year of huckleberry picking and even though I was dragging my feet the first time my husband suggested we go, I had a wonderful time once I was out there! It is so much fun, especially when you find a good plant with lots of huckleberries on it. It’s even better when the plant is tall enough so that you don’t have to crouch down on hands and knees to pick the berries.
I’ve read that Huckleberry plants grow anywhere from two feet up to about 10 feet or more if they’re situated in the shade, but in the patch we worked, the plants were about four feet tall and were in full afternoon sun. They tend to grow up a hillside, so we worked our way up the hill so as not to trample bushes we had yet to pick. When picking wild berries, always make sure you’re with someone who knows what they’re doing and who can identify edible versus poisonous berries.
Huckleberry picking requires some patience, because some of the bushes have merely one or two berries, while others have 100 or more! The berries are often hidden underneath the leaves, which requires lifting the branches and turning them over to see what you find. Some people use a string and bucket to pick the berries, which allows lots of leaves to fall into the mix. We pick each berry by hand, and that makes for easier cleaning once we get home. We used a plastic baggie to collect the berries, but I suggest having a second container with a lid to transfer them as you go. One time a horsefly came buzzing by and startled me. Nearly two cups of this precious booty spilled on the ground. Lesson learned!
Huckleberries are much smaller and less sweet than blueberries, but you can make a pie using almost the exact same recipe for both. You might add slightly more sugar to the huckleberry pie, or you might not because part of the glory of huckleberries is the sweet and tart flavors together. Huckleberries are rarely found in the stores, so you will have to either pick them yourself or find a good friend who likes to go huckleberry picking! Sometimes during prime huckleberry season, you can find people selling bags of them in parking lots or at farmers’ markets. The season varies from location to location and year to year, but peak season is generally from late July to mid-August. In Idaho, we’ve found huckleberries at higher elevations all the way into mid-September.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1½ sticks 12 tbsp. unsalted butter , chilled and cut into small cubes
- 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water
- 8-10 cups huckleberries can mix with other berries, too
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon cardamom
- 1 beaten egg white for on top of lattice crust
- 3-4 tablespoons raw sugar or granulated sugar for sprinkling over the lattice crust
- Preheat oven to 420 F.
For the crust
- Place flour and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry cutter, or your fingertips, cut butter into the flour until the butter is integrated and just tiny pea-sized pieces remain.
- Stir cider vinegar into the mixture with a fork. Slowly stir in water into the flour mixture, a little bit at a time, (no ice) until you are able to gather the mixture into a ball.
- With a rolling pin, roll dough out on a well-floured board or pastry cloth into a circle that is about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wider than the top outside edge of the pie dish. Lay pastry into the dish, fitting it into the bottom and sides of the dish, leaving about a 1 1/2 to 2-inch overhang. Set aside.
For the filling
- Place washed berries, flour, salt, brown sugar, white sugar and cardamom in a large bowl. Gently toss so that sugars and flour begin to blend in with the berries. You will still see plenty of white, but don't worry, it will all cook down together.
- Pour berry mixture into pie dish lined with the bottom crust.
- Now, using a lattice pattern, lay half of the pie dough strips going in one direction, and the remaining pieces crossing alternately over and under the pieces going in the original direction (See photo) Tuck the ends of the strips into the top edge of the pie dish and roll the excess dough from the bottom crust up and over, giving it a fluted edge.Brush tops of lattice crust with egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake at 420 F for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly and hot all the way through. If you find that you need more time for the filling, but the crust looks done, loosely cover the top of the pie with a piece of foil for the remainder of the bake time.
- Remove from oven. Pie may be served hot, warm, room temperature or chilled and garnished with ice cream or frozen yogurt. The cooler the pie is when serving, the less runny the filling will be. If you like to serve it warm, you can always cool completely and reheat, too. This will help the filling gel a bit before serving.