Have you ever been to Hungry Horse, Montana for fabulous pies from the Huckleberry Patch? My friend Mike said it is a must stop here in Montana. Trout Creek actually calls itself the Huckleberry Capital of Montana, and has been proclaimed so by the state legislature. I am certain how they got the votes! The annual Huckleberry Festival has been held in August for the past thirty years. The huck is closely related to the ubiquitous blueberry, but rarely successfully domesticated. The locals say that in a good year, the hucks are as big as marbles, making huck pancakes a most delicious breakfast. But to me, the highlight would be the Huckleberry Hound Dog Agility demonstration, horseshoe tossing competition, and a Miss Huckleberry contest. In twenty of the last thirty years, she has moved on to become Miss Fruitcake, as in nuttier than a fruitcake.
Emma Fortin is the huck genius behind the pies, with her appearance on Martha Stewart, and USA Today. Her pies were ranked Number 3 overall by Gourmet magazine. However, she shares her fame and glory with Lisa Bartlett, the filling maestro. Bartlett is said to have invented her own concoction of hucks, sugar, and tapioca that fills Fortin’s pie crusts. Mike said that during one season when he was there, the pie duo made over a twenty five hundred pies! Good news for you huck junkies since they sell the filling in jars both over the counter and via the Internet.
As the pastry turns, Emma Fortin developed her own secret recipe for the crust. She was not happy with the pie crust recipe at the Huckleberry Patch. So, like most creative geniuses, she researched, adapted, and developed her own. Rule one of course, is to make every pie by hand. She maintains that a machine makes the dough too tough. She does only seven pies at one time. Then one of her deep secrets is revealed, as she adds a mixture of egg, water and vinegar, which makes the dough flakier. At the right consistency, she rolls out the dough, and places it in the bottom of the the pan. She adds the premade filling from Maestro Lisa, and always adds a vent hole in the top. Two more steps follow: turn up the edges, and fluting, then a strong finish with a sugar and egg wash to help it brown better.
She bakes them ten at a time, at 350 degrees until golden brown, usually taking 45 to 60 minutes. The filling is pre cooked. After her rise to fame on Martha and Gourmet mag, pies are now available by mail order or internet in only two days. One employee works full time shipping out the huckleberry items. Madame Fortin works from 6am to 2pm year around, not only baking pies, but also baking biscuits, muffins, and 21 different flavors of fudge, such as butter pecan, rocky road, and cappuccino. Madame says huckleberry cheesecake is the number one seller. The pies are $44.95, including shipping.
I got to meet Emma and Lisa, two very nice ladies. The pie with ice cream is $5.50, and large enough to share. The huck ice cream, in my opinion, is even better than the pie. This place out to be named a World Heritage Site, for its lore, charm, and delicious food. This season, she made a whopping 2800+ pies.
Emma and Lisa, you are the pie champions of the world!