Hackberry spoonbread, a sort of fallen souffle, is one of my favorite things to make with hackberries. The finished dish is a rich, custard-like brunch or dessert that tastes a bit like crust-less pumpkin pie.
As I was working with the hackberries and trying to figure out what I could make with them, I ended up with plenty of hackberry milk, a sort of rustic nutmilk you can make from the berries by grinding them up and cooking with water. The finished “milk” tastes eerily of squash, and it made me think of one of my favorite recipes for squash: spoonbread.
Spoonbread is a sort of old-timey dish often made with cornmeal. Think of it like cornbread crossed with pudding. Served warm right from the baking dish, you can spoon it out as it’s still delicate and fresh, but after cooling for a bit you can cut it into slices as I’ve done here.
Savory or sweet
Traditionally, cultures around the world have used hackberries as a food stuff in a lot of different ways. From my research, it’s unlikely that sweet preparations like this were common throughout history, but once you taste the flavor (it eerily resembles squash) I think you’ll understand why I made this dish.
That being said, you could easily make this as a savory dish, serving it as a side to a piece of meat as you would cornbread, mashed potatoes, or another starch. A drizzle of savory pan juices or gravy will taste just as good as the chokecherry sauce in the dish pictured here.
Hackberry Souffle / Spoonbread
- 2 cups hackberry milk see recipe
- 2 large eggs separated
- 2-4 tablespoons brown sugar or to taste
- ½ cup fine cornmeal
- Pinch salt
- Pinch cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons melted butter plus more for greasing the pan
- Whipped cream
- Cracked nuts like hickory nuts butternuts or black walnuts
- Chokecherry syrup maple syrup, etc
- Heat the hackberry milk, pinch of salt, sugar and cinnamon with the cornmeal, whisking until steaming and visibly thickened, about 5-10 minutes, then cool, covered with clingfilm or a lid to prevent a skin from forming.
- Meanwhile, whisk the egg whites until doubled in volume.
- Beat the egg yolks into the hackberry-cornmeal mixture, then fold in the whites.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased 8 inch cast iron skillet and bake at 400 for 25 minutes or until just cooked.
- Cool for a few minutes before spooning out portions.
- Garnish with the chokecherry syrup if using, along with some toasted nuts and whipped cream and serve.
- 1 cup hackberries
- 3 cups water
- Maple syrup to taste, optional
- Pinch of ground cinnamon optional
- Combine the hackberries with the water and puree in a blender for 45 seconds to one minute, or until you have a smooth beige liquid.
- If you don't have a highspeed blender, grind the berries in a coffee grinder first before blending.
- Pour the hackberry milk into a pot, cover, and simmer on low for about 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, strain the hackberry milk through a strainer, resisting the urge to press the solids through. Swirl the strainer, or let it drain naturally, just don't press on it.
- Alternately, you can cook with the hackberry milk as-is, since, after diluting with other ingredients (if you're making soup, for example) you'll barely notice the texture. You can also let the seed fragments settle and pour off the top layer of liquid.
- To serve as a drink, season the hackberry milk with a pinch of cinnamon and a splash of maple syrup, heat, and serve in small glasses. If you taste it and want a stronger flavor, you can cook it down to concentrate it.