Old fashioned saskatoon pie is a taste of the Canadian prairies. This flavourful berry makes for a most delicious pie; deep glorious purple, lightly sweet with a bit of tang, and that indescribable, complex flavour that comes from this unique berry. Use fresh saskatoons, frozen ones, or can the filling for winter time.
Saskatoons, saskatoons, saskatoons! We've been picking them for the last couple weeks and I think we're finally (almost) done. This year the saskatoon harvest was lighter than other years because of all the rain and cool weather, and we still picked over 75 pounds of them!
We picked the bulk of them a couple weeks ago, and Raymond's been out every day since, picking 'just one more pailful'. I think we'll leave the last few on the topmost branches for the birds to feast on.
If you've never tasted this delicious prairie berry, you need to find yourself a source or plant yourself a bush! Saskatoons are easy to grow and have an incomparable flavour; they look a bit like a blueberry but taste so very different. They have a unique flavour - slightly floral with hints of almond. Some describe them as a cross between cherries, almonds, and grapes. The saskatoon berry is botanically related to apples, almonds, and roses (they all come from the same order 'Rosales' and family 'Rosaceae'), so it goes well with any of these flavours. I love to add just a few drops of almond essence or rosewater to enhance the saskatoon's natural tendencies.
I grew up picking this berry in the wild and enjoying it with purple-stained lips and fingers every summer of my childhood. Across North America in the areas where saskatoon berries grow (mostly the northwest), the saskatoon goes by many different names: serviceberry, juneberry, shadberry, pigeon berry, chuckley pear. Its most common name, saskatoon berry, comes from the native American Cree word misâskwatômina (Mis-sack-qua-too-mina), which means “the fruit of the tree of many branches”.
As more research is being done, the saskatoon is becoming known for its superior health qualities. It's loaded with many different antioxidants and higher in some vitamins and minerals (protein, iron, potassium, copper) than other berries. When you bite into a plump, ripe, juicy saskatoon berry, still warm from the sun, you can just taste all that delicious health-giving goodness. The indigenous peoples knew about the goodness of this delicious and hardy berry. They pounded it together with buffalo meat and tallow to make pemmican, the food that sustained and nourished them throughout the long, cold prairie winters. Nowadays, it's easier to just pop the berries into the freezer to pull out and brighten a cold winter day.
I've made numerous batches of saskatoon jam and jelly, frozen bags of berries, canned batches of saskatoon pickle (a kind of berry chutney/relish), made muffins and cakes, canned jars of saskatoon pie filling, and made several of these fantastic saskatoon pies.
We have been in saskatoon heaven; purple mouths and fingers and full saskatoon berry bellies.
Old Fashioned Saskatoon Pie is a classic prairie treat. If you grew up with it, that first forkful of luscious, glistening purple berry filling encased in a flaky crust brings you back to family gatherings, Sunday dinners, church potlucks, or lunch at the local small-town diner. It brings back the taste of stuffing yourself at grandma's on her ham and scalloped potatoes, being too full for one more bite, but always able to fit a small slab of saskatoon pie into your belly somehow. I've used my mother-in-law, Mabel's, basic method, just cutting the sugar down and adding another squirt of lemon juice to add more tang. I also like to add just a touch of almond extract or rose essence to enhance the natural flavour in saskatoon berries, but you can be a purist and just taste those delicious berries if you wish.
To get the best Saskatoon Pie
Cook up the berry filling first so it's juicier and has a silky texture. If you just use the berries raw in the filling, they have a tendency to get a little harder when baked. If you take the time to give the saskatoons a quick bubble in a pot with the other ingredients, it brings out their natural juices. I like to use sweet rice flour in my pies for an extra silky filling.
Then you put on the top crust (if you are making the crust gluten free, see this post for how to roll out the pastry between two sheets of parchment paper).
And finish up the pie.
Once it cools, cut yourself a big slab of that beautiful pie with the tender juicy filling. It's a taste of the Canadian prairie sunshine.
A streusel topping (shtroy'-zel) is a delicious option. See the recipe below.
Check out these other tasty saskatoon berry recipes:
- Saskatoon Juice (And How to Easily Clean Your Saskatoon Berries)
- Saskatoon Roll or Saskatoon Cobbler (And How to Freeze Your Saskatoon Berries)
- Canned Saskatoons and Saskatoon-Peach Preserve
- Saskatoon Jelly
- Prairie Mess (Eton Mess with Saskatoons and Rhubarb)
- Gluten Free Saskatoon Scones
- Saskatoon Pickle/Chutney/Relish
- Saskatoon Muffins
- Saskatoon Slump
- Saskatoon Ice Cream Made with Homemade Saskatoon Jelly
- Pork Chops with Saskatoon and Green Apple Chutney
* * * * *
Old Fashioned Saskatoon Pie
- a 9-inch pie dish
- This recipe makes one 9-inch regular pie. For a 10-inch pie or a deep-dish 9-inch pie, make 1½ times the recipe of the filling.
- 1 quantity of pie dough for a double crust pie, or pastry for a bottom crust and the streusel topping below use your favourite pastry recipe (or see the regular and gluten-free recipes in this post)
- 5 cups (1½lbs/680gms) saskatoon berries, fresh or frozen (if using frozen berries, add ¼ cup/60ml water)
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup (100gms) sugar preferably natural evaporated cane sugar
- 3 tablespoons sweet rice flour or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- ¼ teaspoon pure almond extract or 1 teaspoon rosewater optional
- optional, for pastry crust top: 2 teaspoons cream + 2 teaspoons sugar
For the Optional Streusel Topping:
- ¼ cup (60gms) salted butter
- ¼ cup (70gms) sugar, preferably natural evaporated cane sugar
- ½ cup (70 gms) gluten free flour mix (or all purpose flour for non gluten free)
- ½ cup (45gms) small-flaked rolled oats (quick oats), gluten free if necessary
- 1 teaspoon finely grated organic lemon zest or ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
For the Filling:
- In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the saskatoon berries and the lemon juice (and water, if using frozen berries), stirring often, until the berries release some of their juices and shrink a bit, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar and the sweet rice flour or cornstarch until they are well combined. Dump these into the berries and bring them to a boil, stirring often. Once they boil, cook the pie filling until it is thickened, about 30 seconds. Stir in the almond extract or rosewater, if you are using it. (If you used frozen berries, the filling may look quite thick at this point, but the berries will release more juice as the pie bakes.)
- Remove the saskatoon pie filling from the heat and allow it to cool completely. At this point, the filling can be refrigerated for up to 5 days before being used in a pie. It can also be used as a cooked fruit pudding, to eat with yogurt, to top a cheesecake, or on pancakes.
To Make the Pie:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Roll out the pie pastry into two circles a little larger than your pie dish (one a little larger for the bottom crust).
- Line your choice of pie plate with the bottom crust. Pour in the cooled saskatoon pie filling and smooth the top. Add a top crust or layer of streusel topping (recipe above, instructions below). If using the top crust; roll it out, lay it on top of the pie, press the edges together, then trim off the excess pastry. Crimp the edges and cut vent slits into the top of the pie. Brush the top of the pie with the cream and sprinkle it with the 2 teaspoons of sugar if desired.
- Bake for 15 minutes, then lower the heat to 350°F (180°C) and bake for another 40 to 45 minutes, until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbling up a bit through the vent holes. If the edges of the crust get too brown, cover them with strips of foil halfway through the baking time.
- Eat warm or at room temperature. Saskatoon Pie is great with vanilla ice cream.
- Cuts into 6 or 8 wedges.
To Make the Optional Streusel Topping:
- Place all the streusel ingredients in a bowl and cut them together with a pastry blender until they are well mixed and form pea-sized crumbs. You can also work them together with your hands or mix them with an electric mixer (do not overmix or the ingredients will bind to form a dough – which you’ll have to crumble apart to make a streusel). Spread the streusel crumbs across the filling in a pie and bake as directed.
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