I’m at the tail end of our saskatoon picking – with purple fingers and purple lips most days. The crop has been wonderful, but now we’re getting down to the sweet, very ripe, sometimes shriveled berries that are still full of flavour but not so juicy anymore.
It’s time to make juice.
The weather is hot and after a few hours of picking, it’s so refreshing to guzzle a glass of cool saskatoon juice.
If I’m lucky, I rope the men in the family into doing a spot of picking for me. . .
We’ve picked a few . . .
so it’s time to stop for a cool drink.
Here’s the handy dandy way my mom taught me to clean saskatoon berries (or any other berries you’ve picked.)
How to Clean Saskatoon Berries
Saskatoons can be full of leafy bits, twigs, shriveled berries and unwanted little critters that hitched a ride into the pail.
To clean my berries I do a two-step process: first I pick them over, then I wash them.
To pick them over, I set up a picking station like this.
At the table, I take a large cookie sheet or tray, and lay it with the short end facing me. I then prop the far end up on a book so it’s elevated one or two inches. The slant should be just enough that the berries don’t tumble down the pan by themselves, but roll easily when nudged with your fingers. I have a small bowl on my right side for the duds, and a large bowl ready to hold the cleaned berries.
I carefully pour two or three large handfuls of saskatoons onto the high end of the cookie sheet, then with both hands gently roll some of the berries down toward me.
As they roll down the cookie sheet, I pick out all the duds, gimpy berries, crud, and critters and put them into the dud-bowl (I get little stinkbugs that like to come along for the ride, and sometimes ants, etc.). It’s easy to see what I’m doing, and I don’t miss any berries with this system. (My mom is so smart.)
I then dump the cleaned berries into the big bowl and pour another load of berries onto the pan. This process actually goes quickly, and I can get through a pail of berries in quite a short time.
When I’ve cleaned a large bowlful, I fill the kitchen sink with cold water, and pour the cleaned berries into it. I swirl them around with my hand a few times to clean them, then wait a few seconds for the water to stop moving. Then, either with my hands or a strainer, I fish out all the berries floating on the top of the water and place them into a colander to drain.
The berries that float at the top are usually the lighter, drier berries that aren’t so great for freezing. The heavier, juicy ones sink to the bottom of the water. I fish out the heavy ones and place those into another colander to drain.
Once they’ve drained for an hour or so, I place them into heavy zip-top bags and label them, then freeze them to use in desserts and smoothies.
The lighter berries that I’ve fished from the top of the water are great for making juice, since they are full of concentrated flavour, even if they are a little drier or more shriveled. (Think of them as saskatoon raisins.)
Below is the recipe for making juice, but feel free to use it just as a guideline - I often don’t even measure the berries, just fill a pot about ¾ full of berries, then add water to barely cover them, cook, drain, add lemon juice and sweetener to taste, and dilute with water to serve. This method works with all berries.
How to Make Saskatoon Berry Juice
- 4 cups (1 litre, about 600grams) cleaned saskatoon berries
- 2 cups (500ml) water
- juice of half a lemon
- honey to taste (about 3 tablespoons) or other sweetener of choice
If I’m making big batches of juice to can, or make saskatoon jelly, I use my three part steam juicer (on the left) but if I just want to make a small batch of juice for drinking, I cook the berries in water in a saucepan (on the right).
Place the saskatoons and water into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cover the saucepan. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Pour into a colander set over a bowl to catch the juice, and let drain until cooled to lukewarm and no more juice drips out – an hour or more.
Add the lemon juice and honey or other sweetener, and whisk until the honey is dissolved. Remember that the juice will be diluted to serve, so it will taste sweeter as a concentrate.
You should have about 3 cups of saskatoon juice concentrate (it depends on how juicy your berries are).
To serve, mix 1 part saskatoon juice with 2 to 3 parts water or club soda, to taste. You can mix it up in a pitcher or refrigerate the concentrate and mix up individual glasses as you need them. Will keep for one week in the fridge.
*Use club soda and add a shot of vodka for a fun summer cocktail.
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