Huckleberries are similar to blueberries, and they can be a delicious treat if properly prepared. Wild varieties of huckleberries are edible right off the plant. However, there is a type of berry called the garden huckleberry, which requires boiling to remove its toxins. The garden huckleberry is related to the true huckleberry, but is technically a different species. However, both types look similar and both are referred to as huckleberries. Both can be canned and used in recipes that call for blueberries. Many people consider regular huckleberries to be sweeter than blueberries, but extra sweetener may be required when using garden huckleberries in a recipe.
Look for ripe berries in late summer or early fall, before the first frost. Ripe garden huckleberries (a common type) will be a dark purple and relatively squishy. If the berries are hard and black, they are not ripe. Regular huckleberry varieties will turn from green to black when ripe.
Harvest only clusters that are fully ripe. Once all the berries on a cluster are ripe, cut the stem and place the cluster into your collection container.
Pull the berries off the stem either underwater or under cold water from a faucet. Wash and drain the berries to remove anything undesirable from their surfaces.
Fill a pot of sufficient size with water. Bring the water to a boil.
Pour the berries gently into the water. Be careful not to splash any of the boiling water.
Let the berries cook until they begin to soften. This will take about 10 minutes if they are garden huckleberries. Do not overcook.
Drain and run cold water over the berries so that they do not get too soft. The berries can now be frozen, canned, or used for any recipe that calls for blueberries.
Prepare and boil a syrup to cover the huckleberries. To make the syrup, boil one to four cups of sugar for five cups of water (depending on desired heaviness of syrup) until desired thickness is achieved. Hot water or fruit juice can also be used instead of syrup. You will need enough to fill each jar halfway.
Sterilize the jars and lids by letting them sit in a large pot containing boiling water for at least two minutes. Remove them from the pot with tongs.
Fill each jar halfway with hot water, juice, or syrup. The huckleberries can be boiled for 30 seconds and added to the liquid in the jars, or they can be placed in the jar raw (assuming they are not garden huckleberries). Leave half an inch of space on top. Cap the jars with lids.
Place the jars in a canner and follow the manufacturer's recommended processing times for your altitude. A boiling-water canner is all that is necessary for huckleberries, but a pressure canner (such as a dial-gauge or weighted-gauge type) will serve the purpose just as well. The canner will heat the jars' contents so that any dangerous bacteria present will be killed. It will also cause the jars to seal.
Remove the jars from the canner once they have been processed for the recommended amount of time. Check the jars' lids to make sure they have sealed. If the center of the top of the lid is depressed, then the jar has sealed adequately. If you can push it down and it makes an audible clicking noise, the jar has not been sealed and needs to go through the canner again.
About this Author
Gertrude Elizabeth Greene has been a freelance writer and editor for 10 years.Greene writes about a variety of topics including cooking, culture, nutrition, pets and home maintenance for websites such as eHow, GardenGuides and the Daily Puppy. She holds degrees in both philosophy and psychology.