In the acidic mountain soil of the northwestern United States and Canada, the tiny, bluish-purple huckleberry fruit begins to ripen mid-August. The picking season might stretch for four weeks unless the bears beat you to them. Unlike its blueberry cousin, huckleberries must be hand-picked, and attempts to cultivate them have been unsuccessful. A pound of fresh huckleberries sells for about $20, the same price as filet mignon--huckleberries are a treat and, unless you plan to visit the alpine meadows of the Rocky Mountains in late August, finding them fresh is next to impossible. Flash frozen berries, however, are available year-round and perfect for making jam. Beware! The intense sweet tart flavor of the huckleberry may spoil the senses. It just may become more than a once a year obsession.
If using frozen berries, let them cook for 5 minutes before adding the sugar mixture. This will reduce the cooking time as some of the liquid will evaporate from the berries as they thaw. Homemade jam keeps 3 weeks in the refrigerator. Frozen jars of jam will last 6 months in the freezer before forming ice crystals. Wild Maine blueberries (the small ones) work well as a substitute in this recipe.
1 1/2 pounds fresh or frozen huckleberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored & grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1. Put the berries in a small preserve pan or a wide, shallow but small, Dutch oven.
2. Pour the sugar, apple, and lemon juice over the berries and set the pot to medium high heat. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 220 degrees F.
3. If the jam begins to foam and boil over, stand and whisk the mixture, but do not turn down the temperature. The less time the berries cook, the more they retain their flavor. When the jam reaches the correct temperature, remove from heat, skim off the foam and let cool. The jam will thicken as it cools.
4. Place the jam in jars leaving 1/4" air space and when completely cool, place the jars in the freezer.