Blue Vanilla Milkshake
We can’t all have huckleberries. These notoriously fickle plants only grow in the mountains of the Northwest, and refuse to submit to domestication. The deep purple berries have a unique aroma that’s unlike any other fruit, but its cousin, the blueberry, offers the closest comparison, and is a worthy substitute in most cases. So when I relate to you the events of the huckleberry milkshake challenge, you can follow along wherever you reside, with whatever blueberries you have available. And you should, right now, to help you cope in a glorious way with the blast furnace of summer.
Like many of my challenges, the huckleberry milkshake challenge began with my kids engaging in one of their preferred pastimes: spending my money. On that day, they had somehow got it into their heads that they deserved huckleberry milkshakes from a certain espresso shack that advertises shamelessly.
I assured the boys I could do better at home at a fraction of the price. They had no interest in believing me, and weren’t swayed by any potential cost savings.
The stalemate was quickly broken by the fact, as they pointed out, that my boast moved me into checkmate, because the only way to prove my superiority was a side-by-side comparison. Which meant, alas, a trip to the milkshake shack after all.
We pulled to the window and ordered two large huckleberry milkshakes. The barista was kind enough to identify each ingredient she added to the blender. ice, milk, sugar, huckleberries, and homemade vanilla syrup. But seeds of doubt began to sprout in my heart when she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, divulge what was in the vanilla syrup. When I tasted this magnificent milkshake, I knew I was in trouble. I found myself floating on a sweet purple cloud, and the only way to stay on it was to keep sipping. But I knew what I had to do. Challenge accepted.
I let the boys split one of the milkshakes as we jetted home, and I put the other one in the freezer for later. Then I went vanilla shopping.
I was hoping to find the kind of Italian vanilla syrup like they have at any espresso bar. It wouldn’t be homemade, but it would be vanilla syrup. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be in small town Montana. I did have vanilla extract at home, but that alone was not going to cut it. I had a plan that involved multiple sources of vanilla. I found some vanilla powder in the bulk section, and grabbed a box of Jello instant vanilla pudding. I’ve used this product before in off-label ways, and it always delivers.
Armed with my vanilla extract, powder and pudding, I felt ready to take on the espresso shack. I may not have had the secret syrup recipe, but I had the power of redundancy, which can do wonders for flavor. And with vanilla in particular I have another rule: you can’t have too much of it. The sweet aroma of the vanilla pod dances with the berry fragrance, and there isn’t anything not to love.
As for that huckleberry milkshake challenge, let’s just say they haven’t asked to go back to the shack since. And they’ve slurped down many of those purple refreshing drinks at home.
The Blue Berry Milkshake of Victory
Find as many sources of vanilla as you can. I used extract and pudding mix, but you could also include vanilla ice cream.
½ cup berries
2 cups milk (oat milk is just as good as cow’s milk here)
Six ice cubes
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Jello instant vanilla pudding
Add everything to the blender, and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust the sugar, vanilla, milk and/or berries as necessary.