We have arrived at the time of year when the days are suddenly getting shorter, and the promise of fall is in the air. Before we say farewell to the summer of 2022 (short as it has been), let’s celebrate huckleberry season. According to legend, when early American colonists first encountered huckleberries, they misidentified them as a European blueberry known as “hurtleberry.” Over time, hurtleberry morphed into what we now call huckleberry.
The peak season for huckleberries is July through September. We in the Pacific Northwest are fortunate to be able to harvest our own, or buy them at local farmers markets. Be sure the berries you use are fully ripened when making jams, jellies, pancakes, scones — and hand pies.
Who can resist a fresh slice of pie? Not anyone I know, especially if it’s transformed into a hand pie. Easy to make, easy to eat and easy to transport, it’s a delicious ending to a late summer meal. Huckleberries are the perfect fruit filling for these tasty treats.
Old Fashioned Huckleberry Hand Pies - Makes 8
1 recipe of your favorite pie crust (mine is below), or use a store-bought mix
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup cake flour
1 teaspoon salt
6 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into very small pieces
4 tablespoons vegetable shortening or lard
½ cup ice water
2½ cups fresh, ripe huckleberries
2 tablespoons cornstarch
½ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Pinch of kosher salt
If using a food processor to make the pie crust, add both flours and salt to the bowl. Cover and pulse once or twice to mix. Add the butter, pulsing five or six times to break it up. Add shortening (or lard) and pulse until crumbly. Slowly add ice water through the tube, pulsing until you have a cohesive dough that holds together when you press it with your hand. Dump dough onto a floured work surface and form into two disks, kneading lightly to pick up any remaining bits of flour. Wrap each disk in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes. Refrigerating the dough allows the gluten to relax, making the dough easier to work with. This dough also freezes very well.
This recipe can also be made by hand, using a pastry cutter. Follow directions above, mixing in the butter and then lard with the cutter. Add ice water and mix just until well blended. Form into disks and refrigerate as above.
Once the dough has been refrigerated for 30 minutes, it’s ready to use. Lightly flour work surface. (Using a pastry cloth makes for easier rolling. Lightly flour the cloth before rolling the dough.) Shape the dough into a rectangle, then flatten with your hands, keeping the rectangle shape. Roll the dough to ⅛ inch thickness, rotating the dough to prevent sticking. Re-flour the top of the dough as needed. The dough rectangle should be approximately 14-by-16 inches, but it doesn’t need to be exact. Cut the dough into a large rectangle, trimming away the ragged edges, then divide the dough rectangle in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.
In a medium pot, add the huckleberries, cornstarch, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice, lemon zest and salt. Bring just to a boil and then simmer, uncovered, about five minutes or until thickened. Stir often to prevent scorching. Let cool to room temperature before proceeding.
Preheat the oven to 425. Lightly grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Remove the two sheets of chilled pie dough and cut into even numbers of the same-sized rectangles, circles (a 3-inch biscuit cutter works well), or squares. You should have 16 pieces of dough for a total of eight hand pies.
Make an egg wash by whisking one egg with a few drops of water.
Lay the bottom pie dough pieces on the lined baking sheet. Brush the edges of each dough piece with the egg wash. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of the cooled huckleberry pie filling onto the center of each bottom dough piece. Gently top with the same size dough piece and press the edges with a fork to seal.
Lightly brush the top of each hand pie with remaining egg wash. Use a paring knife to cut slits into the top of each pie. Dust with a little sugar and bake for 25 minutes, until golden brown.
Let cool to just warm or room temperature before serving.
Huckleberry filling recipe adapted from Unpeeled Journal.com. Pie crust recipe adapted from Food52 and the incomparable Julia Child.
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