Last August, I spent a morning with Eva Kosmas Flores, picking huckleberries and capturing the process as she prepared huckleberry-pluot jam. The photos from the day were part of a story on huckleberries that I wrote and photographed for the May issue of 1859 Magazine. When I filed the images in late autumn, the season of huckleberries felt very far away. The warm days are now returning and the huckleberry issue is now on newsstands. So honored to have my photograph on the cover of the magazine!
Some of my favorite food memories revolve around Oregon huckleberries. I remember picking the fragile red berries, common on the southern coast, at my grandparent’s house in Coos Bay. Tender, blush-pink orbs that I would pop in my mouth, the tart-yet-sweet juice exploding across my palate. Handfuls hard earned as my sister and I picked the tiny berries one-by-one, our pails never seeming quite full enough.
The deep blue-purple berries found in the Mt. Hood National Forest are another one of the 12 huckleberry species that grow in Oregon. In contrast to the timid pink berries of the coast, the ones found in the high alpine areas of the Cascade Mountain Range are larger with a deep blue-purple hue, like the one's that grow in Eva's garden. They are perfect for baking, mixed into a milkshake, or used in a jam.
Below is Eva's recipe for huckleberry-pluot jam. Pluots are a bright, seasonal stone fruit, a plum and apricot hybrid with a variety of colors and flavors depending on the apricot-to-plum ratio. The sweet flavor of the pluots complements the tartness of the huckleberries, resulting in jam that can be savored year round.
Eva's Huckleberry-Pluot Jam
(3) 8-Ounce Canning Jars, sterilized
1 lb Pluots, peeled, cut in half, and pitted
1 Pint huckleberries
1 Packet Powdered Pectin
Juice from 1 Lemon
2 and 1/4 Cups Granulated Sugar
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 Teaspoon Grated Lemon Rind
1/2 Teaspoon Cinnamon
1/4 Teaspoon Cloves
1/4 Teaspoon Nutmeg
Mix together the pectin and 1 cup of the granulated sugar in a small bowl. Combine it with the huckleberries and pluots in a medium-sized pot and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil once again, stirring every minute or so and crushing the fruits with the end of a wooden spoon.
Continue to cook the jam for 8 more minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. Pour the jam into the canning jars, secure the lids as tightly as you can, and fully submerge the jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove them from the water bath with a pair of canning tongs and allow the jars to cool to room temperature before handling. Processed correctly, jam kept in a canning jar with an unbroken seal should be good up to a year.