Huckleberry Jelly Roll, Candied Hickory Nuts, Honeysuckle Ice Cream, Chicory

This past weekend I had the priviledge to cook a collaborative dinner at Stella’s Southern Bistro with Chef/Owner Jason Scholtz and Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville. It was an inspiring pair to work with, so for dessert I wanted to create something uniquely Southern but that also played with my childhood experiences in the woods during the late summer/fall time frame, a season which is still my fovorite time of year because of the very special memories I have of gathering and eating honeysuckles straight from the vine, and foraging nuts on the forest floor. I also loved jelly cakes – we had our own techniques for them back then but for this dinner I wanted to play with dramatic presentation of a jelly roll cake, which, since my favorite roll cake recipe comes from an Edna Lewis book, it would allow me to give her the tip of my hat she deserves almost any time I put my nose to the grindstone.

I selected huckleberries for the jelly because they represent rural mountain culture and they are also flat-out my favorite berry. While they grow wild throughout much of the Appalachian chain, they are especially elusive there because they like high elevations, and much of the Appalachian forest has, at one time or another, been clear-cut. The berries we are using here have been foraged in the Northwest.

The chicory plays two roles – and I created this dessert first and foremost to pair with the Truchard late harvest Roussane that was the paired wine for dinner – number one, the rich and sweet components of the dessert needed a bitter counterpoint to prevent the whole plate from becoming cloying, and chicory itself has a storied history in the Southern kitchen, for years standing in for coffee in the remote mountain cultures where coffee simply wasn’t available, or too expensive. In pairing with the Roussane, the roasted root provides roasty-toasty smoky brown flavors to catch the smoke and petrol in the Roussane. It worked beautifully, and at least a couple of requests came back through social media for us to offer the dessert in Chicago, so it is debuting this weekend for what we expect will be a long fall tour. At some point, we may run out of our homemade huckleberry jelly and switch to homemade elderberry jelly, but that’s OK because the elderberry jelly is pretty awesome too.