Actually, that makes it sound like they died or something, which - thank God - as far as I know is not the case. However, I wanted to do something to thank them for the delicious gift they gave us last year of a jar of their precious Huckleberry Jam. I have taken to eating a piece of toast for breakfast in the morning lately, and this jam turned boring whole-wheat toast into a daily delight. Well, it's gone now and I am going to miss that jam. (Hint, hint, in case brother Kurt is watching...)
So what are huckleberries anyway you may ask? Luckily, we have that useful tool the INTERNET for such mystifying questions, so read on...
Firstly, and from my own experience, the taste: the taste of the jam is like a slightly more intensely flavoured blueberry. This is not surprising, as huckleberries are sometimes referred to as wild blueberries and are in the same family. In fact, the jam reminds me a bit of the Myrtilles Sauvages (wild blueberry, but don't you love the name??) available through the Bonne Maman line of jams. Of course Bonne Maman, good as she is, can't make jam like my big brother. It was a little soupy, but this meant you could spread a nice thin layer on your toast and not waste a drop. I also assume this probably means that Kurt didn't put in too much sugar, which is fine by me too.
I have never seen a huckleberry in the wild (coincidentally about the only place you CAN find them) but according to my research they can be found throughout most of the US. They look very much like blueberries and vary in colour from medium blue to a blackish purple. You can distinguish them from their cousins the blueberries by the fact that they have larger, crunchy seeds in them.
Blackberries are most common in the Pacific Northwest, where my brother lives and most national parks allow you to pick them for personal consumption. According to this site, the Glacier National Park allows you to pick and take away berries for personal consumption, but the Waterton Lakes National Park only allows you to take away what you can fit in your belly. Unfortunately, the only times I have visited my brother have been in the fall, too late for the huckleberry season. We shall have to remedy that one of these days.
In the Midwest, huckleberries are frequently found along river banks, which explains the connection with their illustrious namesake, Huckleberry Finn. In the Chicago area, the Black Huckleberry is the only variety you'll find. I never saw any when I was growing up, but then we did not live near a river. I'll bet my brother did, though, as he is a veritable berry freak. (He used to store fruit at our grandmother's house, a few miles away, so that my sister and I couldn't eat it. But that's another story...)
If you are interested in huckleberry recipes, you can either use them in any blueberry recipe or consult the list here. I will post my brother's recipe if he sends it to me, though I'm afraid it won't do me any personal good unless and until we move to the US. Still, at least I have a supply for the jam!