Friday, October 26, 2012

Jumis and huckleberry muffins

It’s harvest time here in South Carolina! The apple and harvest comes a little later here than in the northern US, just as the harvest season in Latvia is earlier yet (as the Baltics are much further north). The Latvian Apjumības or Miķeļi are celebrated for three days at the fall equinox, September 22nd – 24th, which coincided with the christening of Mikus (whose middle name is Jumis, pronounced you-miss). The pagan deity Jumis represents fertility and a good harvest, and there are a good many traditions and rituals that accompany the celebration (but I’ll save these for a later date).

The jumja zīme: imagine two crossed stalks of wheat (source here)
This time of year my thoughts wandering to the harvest celebrations is as predictable as the changing of the leaves. It’s been several years since we’ve been able to do any ‘harvesting’ of our own since we didn’t have a garden in Clermont-Ferrand (although last year I did help with an end of the summer harvest in Chatenet). Our trip to pick apples was long-anticipated and exactly what was needed to sooth my hands, itching to be digging in the dirt and harvesting a bounty of my own. But no sooner had the apples been put away in the refrigerator than the itch return, and I’ve been planning the installation of a couple of raised beds in earnest.

The berries are mostly gone from our local forest this time of year, it is only a few fruit that can still be found, such as persimmon and figs, which was why the package that I received from my godson in Seattle so delighted me. The small Tupperware with a few branches of evergreen huckleberry (vaccinium ovatum) stayed fresh in the refrigerator for a few weeks, until the day I was ready to carefully separate the berries from the leaves. Sitting out on the porch “picking” the berries I dreamt of the blueberry and raspberry bushes I’ll plant next to the house, and the reward once the plants have matured.

The resulting one cup of berries were just enough for a batch of mini-muffins. Mini, because huckleberries are pretty mini, and it'll take you a long time to pick two cups worth. Also, as we are still in temporary housing I don’t have a muffin tin; instead I have mini-cupcake papers that came with the cake forms I bought in a garage sale. So here’s the recipe for evergreen huckleberry mini-muffins, although I’m sure it’ll work just as well for regular muffins.


Evergreen huckleberry mini-muffins
(Adapted from a blueberry muffin recipe)

2 cups flour
½ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 egg
4 tbsp butter
¾ cup milk
1 cup evergreen huckleberries

1.       Preheat oven to 350˚F. Toss the blueberries with ¼ cup flour.
2.       Mix the remaining flour with the salt and baking powder.
3.       Cream the butter and sugar, then add the egg and beat well.
4.       Slowly add the flour mixture and the milk, alternating between the two, until a smooth batter results.
5.       Fold the berries into the batter.
6.       Spoon the batter into your greased muffin tin (or your liners neatly arranged on a pan) and bake until golden brown. Tops should spring back to touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean.

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