Wednesday, July 29, 2009

two drifters and stuff like that there

Check it out, right. If the blog seems busy lately, it's because people have been suggesting I do this for a while, and at the same time I've been meaning to organize some thoughts in a place other than the whiteboard or the kitchen notebook. There's a lot of backlog. I estimate I have about two years worth of blog in my head before I'd need to think of new things to say. A little ink more or less, depending on the organization -- like yuanyang and coffee/Coca-Cola could have been two separate entries, or the various rosehip or huckleberry entries that will come up could have been condensed into solos. 

Anyway. This one. This is the first of some huckleberry talk.


Look, I grew up in blueberry country, standing up in a canoe to fill Burger King Star Wars cups with blueberries from the bushes that'd hang out over the water on Squam Lake. I know full well just how much better wild blueberries -- small, intense, dark -- are than those mealy khaki-fleshed cultivated blueberries you can buy in the store.  I grew up with port-dark blueberry pie, blueberry pancakes, blueberry jam, Boo Berry cereal.  I am well aware of the greatness of blueberries.

And I tell you what, the huckleberry is better.

There are no cultivated huckleberries, and hell, a lot of people don't know there are ANY huckleberries, tout court.  But it's not a regionalism for the blueberry, the blackberry, or any other blackberry, it's its own damn thing and it commands your respect.  The taste is like ... a more intense blueberry -- a more intense wild blueberry -- mixed with plums (the way plums are supposed to taste, not the way they so often do) and blood-red wine and something else that isn't anything but huckleberry.  I can't really tell you what a huckleberry tastes like. It's like, what's a strawberry taste like?  I can spray words around its edges to show you the silhouette, but they won't touch the heart.

The smell is deep and powerful and intoxicating, musky even. This is the paragraph where we'd say something about it being like "blah blah blah on crack" or "blah blah blah to the nth power" or "mainlining blah blah blah" or "the 90s are gonna make the 60s look like a blueberry," or whatever, if we still said stuff like that there.

Damn, these are good. I don't know, maybe it's like movies, like books, like records -- maybe you have to come back to it when the novelty's worn off and everything's familiar, to really know what your favorites are. But right now this is one of my favorite fresh fruits.  Montmorency cherries, calamansis/calamondins, black raspberries, tangelos, apples, and of course my darlin' clementines.  And now huckleberries.

I froze a bunch.  It's that time of year.  I half-filled a Mason jar and topped it off with vodka.  I froze half an ice cube tray's worth of huckleberry juice.

But how are they once they're cooked? Think of how much a blueberry changes.  Think of how much a strawberry changes.  The first becomes deeper and more flavorful; the second does take on some new qualities, but fresh strawberries have all kinds of fragrance and flavor that you lose to heat.

My first time, I wanted something basic. Missionary huckleberries, you know. Some huckleberries and a little sugar, a pinch of salt, a pinch of flour, baked with puff pastry on top. Barely a thing. A spin around the block.

Man oh man. The flavor all still seems to be there. There's a definite wine character that becomes more pronounced, like with cooked blueberries.

Damn, man.

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