A Regional Canadian Food: Saskatoon Roll or Saskatoon Cobbler, and How to Freeze Saskatoon Berries

The Canadian Food Experience Project (July)

saskatooon roll and gluten free saskatoon cobbler

The Canadian Food Experience Project began June 7, 2013. As we, the participants, share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. Please join us. This month’s topic is:

A Regional Canadian Food: Alberta Saskatoon Berries

saskatoon berries on the tree

If you live on the Canadian Prairies you have probably eaten a saskatoon berry at some point in your life – nibbled one off a neighbour’s bush, popped one in your mouth from a bush growing near a fenceline, or maybe had some luscious saskatoon syrup or saskatoon jam or jelly gifted to you. You can even buy these products in some grocery stores here.

If you grew up with a berry-picking obsessed mother – or have that gene yourself – you probably spent many hours of your childhood, swatting mosquitoes under a lazy, hot summer sun with a plastic pail attached to your belt, berry-stained fingers and lips, and the muffled conversation of your siblings coming from deep within the bushes punctuating the buzzing drone of a tractor in the distance. Saskatoon bushes always seem to grow along fencelines or at the sunny edges of poplar groves. And the berries always seem to be ripe for picking on the hottest, most sweltering days of summer.

But they are oh-so-worth it.

If you have not tasted one of these sweetest of prairie fruits – I do not really know how to describe them to you. They are nothing like blueberries, though they do look like a more purple version of them, with a big blossom end. They have larger, more prominent seeds than blueberries, but there any comparison stops. Saskatoon berries are sweet, and richly flavoured, and slightly floral-tasting, and with (to me) almond overtones – heck, I might as well say they have oak undertones and leather notes and you’d think I was describing a fine red wine. But the taste of saskatoons is really very complex and hard to describe. Let’s just say they are delicious, and if you’ve never tasted them you’re going to have to go ‘git ya some’.

Saskatoons grow on leafy bushes that can range in height from waist-high to 8 to 10 feet high. Pulling down the top branches to reach the thick grape-like clusters of berries is half the fun. I’m lucky because I don’t have to drive down country roads to spot patches of the bushes and climb through deep grass in wet ditches to reach them. I have a row of saskatoon bushes in my yard that produce the wonderful sweet berries in abundance most years. I make juice from them, and jelly and syrup, and preserve them to eat as fruit, and freeze them for smoothies and pies and crisps. My mom makes excellent saskatoon wine from them.

saskatoon berries are just starting to ripen

It’s the one berry Raymond actually doesn’t mind helping pick, since I think he spent a few (hundred) childhood hours picking saskatoons, too. My mother-in-law, Mabel, in her late 80’s, has many delicious ways of preparing saskatoons – recipes that she’s been making since she was a young farm woman feeding her growing family. The recipe for her Saskatoon Roll is an old family favourite that she has made countless times over the years.

Her recipe is the original wheat flour one, but I include my own gluten-free version here for you, too. The properties of gluten free flour are so different that I ended up turning Mabel’s rolls into a cobbler. Gluten free flours did not lend themselves to rolling and stretching around the lumpy berries, no matter what I tried, so I gave up adapted and called it a saskatoon cobbler – same great taste as Mabel’s original, just a different form.

Whichever version you choose to make (Saskatoon Roll or gluten free Saskatoon Cobbler), the wonderful saskatoon berry flavour will shine through and perfume the lovely syrupy sauce at the bottom of the pan. A touch of ice cream or whipping cream finishes it off to make this old-fashioned prairie dessert sublime.

Simple summer fare at its finest.

golden saskatoon rolls

Kitchen Frau Notes:My family has less of a sweet tooth than some, so I’ve lowered the amount of sugar from Mabel’s original recipe. (I’ve included the original amount in brackets, if you wish to try it that way.) Even with the reduced amount of sugar, we found this dessert definitely sweet enough. Saskatoon berries are quite sweet themselves. My saskatoons aren’t quite ripe enough to pick yet, but frozen berries work beautifully here.

How to Freeze Saskatoon Berries

Pick over the berries to remove any bits of debris, leaves, branches, underripe and overripe berries. This is easier to do if you dump them on a big cookie sheet. See a more detailed description and photos for how to clean your saskatoon berries here. Alternately you can put the berries in a clean kitchen sink with the stopper in it and fill the sink with cold water. Skim off any debris and berries that float to the top. Rinse the berries in a colander and drain well. Lay them in single layers on  parchment paper covered cookie sheets in the freezer, then freeze them until solid. When frozen, put them into heavy duty zip-top freezer bags and you can remove the amount you need when you cook with them. Or if you let the berries drain until they are almost dry, you can put them directly into zip-top bags and they won’t freeze together.

Check out also, how to can and preserve saskatoons here.

Or how to make saskatoon berry juice here.

See how to make saskatoon jelly and saskatoon ice cream here.

Or how about a Saskatoon Slump or Saskatoon Eton Mess? Both are delicious desserts.

And if you’re into something savoury, why not try Pork Chops with Saskatoon and Green Apple Chutney?

Mabel's saskatoon roll with ice cream

Mabel’s Old Time Saskatoon Roll

Mabel’s biscuits:

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • ¼ cup (60ml) butter or margarine
  • 1 cup (240ml) milk

* * * * *

  • 3 cups (750ml) saskatoons, fresh or frozen
  • ¼ cup (60ml) sugar {original recipe – ½ cup}
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups (480ml) boiling water
  • ¾ cup (180ml) sugar {original recipe – 1 cup}
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon sugar for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make Mabel’s biscuits:

Stir flour and baking powder together in a mixing bowl. Add butter and cut in with 2 knives or a pastry blender until in about pea-sized lumps.

Stir in milk and mix until the flour is all moistened.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, knead several times, and roll out the dough (flour your rolling pin) into a rectangle about ½ inch (1cm) thick.

Make Saskatoon Rolls:

Press the saskatoons into the dough a little.

ready to roll the dough with the frozen saskatoons on it

frozen saskatoons work well if the fresh aren’t in season

Mix the first amount of sugar (¼ cup) with the cinnamon. Sprinkle the berries with the sugar and spice. Roll up the dough, tucking in any stray berries and stretching the dough over the end berries to stick to itself and close-off the roll to prevent berries from escaping.

dough all rolled up and ready to be cut for the saskatoon rolls

Slice the dough into 12 slices. I score the dough lightly into quarters with a sharp knife, then slice the roll, making 3 slices from each quarter. Carefully lift the rolls – you may need to slide a metal spatula under them to help – and transfer them into a 9 x 13″ pan. Tuck any escaped berries into the spaces between the rolls.

Mix together the boiling water and the ¾ cup sugar and vanilla. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Pour this syrup over the dough rolls. (They look like they’re drowning, but the liquid will be absorbed and make a delectable syrupy pudding layer at the bottom.)

saskatoon rolls doused with syrup saskatoon rolls golden out of the oven

Sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar over the rolls, if you are using it.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you see some of the rolls just starting to get lightly golden in some areas. Serve warm, scooping out a complete saskatoon roll with some of the syrup underneath for each serving. Delicious with ice cream or whipping cream, either whipped or just poured over top.

Serves 12 (sounds like a lot, but it’s pretty nice warmed up in the microwave for breakfast or snacks the next day).

 

 * * * * * 

  gluten-freesaskatoon cobbler with ice cream

Gluten Free Saskatoon Cobbler

  • 2 cups (280gms) gluten-free all purpose flour mix
  • 2 tablespoons whole psyllium husks (or 1 tablespoon powdered psyllium husk)
  • 4 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
  • ¼ cup ((60gms) cold butter or coconut oil
  • 1 cup milk, any kind (I use almond milk)
  • 3 cups (750ml) saskatoon berries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup (200gms) natural cane sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups (480ml) boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Stir together the gluten free all-purpose flour mix, psyllium husk, and baking powder.in a medium bowl. Cut in the cold butter with two knives or a pastry blender until in about pea-sized lumps. Stir in milk and mix until the flour is all moistened. Sprinkle your work surface with some gluten free flour and pat the dough into a ½ inch thick rectangle.

gluten free saskatoon cobbler dough

Lift up pieces of the dough and crumble them into large chunks in a 9 x 13″ pan. Sprinkle with the saskatoons.

In a small bowl, mix ¼ cup (60ml) of the sugar with the cinnamon and sprinkle this over the berries. (Mixing the cinnamon with a bit of sugar makes it distribute more evenly through the berries.)

With your hands, gently toss the berries and dough chunks to mix them up, and distribute them evenly around the pan.

dough and berries for the saskatoon cobbler

In a large measuring cup or small bowl, mix the remaining ¾ cup (180ml) sugar with the boiling water and vanilla. Pour this syrup evenly over the dough and berries in the pan.

pouring the syrup over the saskatoon cobbler

It looks like the berries will need life jackets, but don’t worry – the liquid will soak in and make a delectable pudding sauce.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you see areas of dough starting to turn light golden in colour. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt or whipped cream.

Serves 10 to 12

gluten free saskatoon cobbler

Guten Appetit!

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You might also like:

Canning Saskatoons, and Saskatoon-Peach Preserves

Saskatoon Juice – and How to Clean Your Saskatoon Berries

Saskatoon Slump

Saskatoon Ice Cream Made With Homemade Saskatoon Jelly

Pork Chops with Saskatoon and Green Apple Chutney

* * * * *

View last month’s Canadian Food Experience Project entry here:

June, 2013: My First Authentic Canadian Food Memory: Buttery Sauteed Mushrooms with Spruce Tips and Chives

This entry was posted in Canadian Food, Desserts, Puddings & Such, Fruit, Saskatoons and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A Regional Canadian Food: Saskatoon Roll or Saskatoon Cobbler, and How to Freeze Saskatoon Berries

  1. Heidi says:

    The biscuits look delicious, I will have to try them. We had saskatoons in 100 Mile, but I’ll have to look for some down here. I used to get the girls to pick them and then I’d put them in pancakes, a treat the girls still love.
    Thanks for sharing

    • Margaret says:

      Hi Heidi – I hope you can find some saskatoons down there (we love ’em in pancakes, too). But you guys have those wonderful wild blackberries – which we don’t get up here. I LOVE them whenever I’m lucky enough to be there when they are ripe! They’re so juicy and sweet!

  2. Stephanie says:

    Hi Margaret,

    This is Stephanie from Dollop of Cream. Your Saskatoon roll and cobbler look lovely! I am still learning how to work with Saskatoons . . .

    You mentioned last summer that you might have some sour cherries that need picking . . . Am I too late? Do you still? It would be great to meet you and relieve you of any extra cherries. (:

    Cheers,
    Stephanie

    • Margaret says:

      Hi Stephanie – I love following your blog. I actually made your latest salad dressing tonight!Absolutely delicious! Thank you. (I love nutritional yeast!)
      The cherries are still a long way away – they’re only little green nubs right now. I usually pick around the middle of September – it’s a very late growing season around here, and they actually survive light frosts – getting sweeter the longer I can leave them on the trees. Yes – will definitely share and would be great to meet you, too.

      • Stephanie says:

        Hi Margaret,

        Great — I didn’t know when cherry season was here in Edmonton, so I thought I’d check in early. (: I’ll get in touch with you again in September . . . and so glad you liked that salad dressing!

        Cheers,
        Stephanie

  3. Rosalinda says:

    Again you have such a way of bringing back cherished memories my dear sister. As I read I was anxiously waiting for reference to using dear old Brownie (you know, the head strong old mare who would plod along as slow as molasses heading ‘out on the trail’ and the minute you turned around heading home she’d run like lightening with us gripping on for dear life!!) to help get at the ripest ones at the top….only drawback was with her long neck she’d always get the best ones that were just out of reach to us. I actually saw someone picking some on my way home from work so I’ll have ‘to get me some’ soon. Luv u sis.

    • Margaret says:

      That makes me smile so much. I forgot how much old Brownie loved saskatoons, too! I just remember how we used to pile at least 3 or 4 of us on her back at once. . . and how she bit me on the bum once when I was pulling out her tether stake to move her to higher grass. Such great memories – wish our kids could have had an old faithful horse like that to grow up with. xoxoxo

  4. Rosalinda says:

    By the way, we just picked up some Quinoa flour at the farmers market which is gluten free. Do you have any experience with it? Do you think it would work in your recipe?

    • Margaret says:

      Quinoa flour has a pretty unique taste – kind of nutty and grassy – so I would start with using a bit of it in recipes til you (your boys) get used to the taste. I like to use it for breading things for frying (like fish or chicken) mixed with seasoning spices. In baking I mix it with other flours and starches (about 2/3 flours to 1/3 starches) – using some quinoa flour and at least one other flour in that mix. Tapioca starch is a good starch to use, or sweet rice flour. Maybe start by replacing 1/4 cup or so of your regular flour when making pancakes and see what you think. You could increase it each time you make them til you find the right amount for you. Let me know what you do with it, and how you like it!

  5. Both recipes look divine. I also love the link to the Saskatoon recipes – so many ways and combinations you put together, Margaret! Incredible. Clearly, you have an abundance of berries. Where do you pick them? Are there still wild roadside patches where you can spend the good portion of a day and get a year’s supply? I grow them, but only get enough for a few pies, and they are so expensive to buy….
    Great information and two really unique recipes. YUMMMMMMM!!! Thrilled you are participating in the project.
    :)
    Valerie

    • Margaret says:

      Thank you, Valerie! Yes, I have a 7 large bushes in my yard which produce heavily some years, but this year seem to be suffering from some kind of disease and don’t look too promising. I usually juice and can and freeze a lot. When we go up north of Grande Priairie to visit my in-laws on their farm, there are still lots of wild saskatoon bushes along field fencelines, and also at my family’s lake cabin in northern B. C., but I haven’t really looked around here. I LOVE your Canadian Food Project – it really gets me thinking. Thanks so much – and also for the nice comments!

  6. Irene Bailer says:

    Thanks so much for all your recipes. As a fairly new diagnosed Celiac I am interested in gathering some recipes I can depend on for my new eating style. Since I have been diagnosed so have my two daughters – my kitchen is now gluten free. Since you are familiar with Saskatoons, I am wondering if you could share a recipe for Saskatoon Jam with me you have found worked. Thank you.

    • Margaret says:

      It’s so nice to hear from you, Irene. Good luck with the gluten-free diet. Once you get on to it, there’s a whole new world of wonderful food to eat! Unfortunately I don’t have a special saskatoon jam recipe. I’ve only made it a couple times and use the one on the recipe pamphlet in the pectin box for blueberry jam, substituting in saskatoons. It has turned out fine for me. I get most of my jams made for us by my mother-in-law, who’s a master jam maker and that’s the one she uses. My saskatoons are still green – they should be ripe in July, I hope! Happy jamming!

  7. Halle says:

    Yummy rolls. Pectin in jam has a great effect on its thickness. There are numerous health benefits to it as well.

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