Today’s pie post is brought to you with a vintage photo finish and an old-fashioned pie recipe, straight from my family – and many others on the prairies- archives. Saskatoon pie is something I grew up eating more than any other pie and I do mean any. We ate wild blueberry, occasionally apple, but about 95% of my grandmother’s meals included a Saskatoon berry pie for dessert.
Saskatoon berries grow abundantly on our prairies but never have I come across a province more lush with them than Manitoba. My family hails from southern Manitoba, indeed, we can trace my Dad’s family right back to the date they settled in the Red River region thanks to a book that was published outlining the settlers of that area. This recipe didn’t travel with them from the Ukraine but was created out of the sheer abundance of local Saskatoon berries that they discovered in Manitoba when they immigrated, making me the fourth known generation to use this recipe for making amazing saskatoon pie. It almost boggles the mind thinking that some days.
The Saskatoon berry is so ingrained into the local food culture in southern Manitoba that it would be conspicuous if it were actually missing. Local stores such as Co-Op (a large grocery store chain for those who aren’t familiar) will actually carry Saskatoon baked goods. I have bought Saskatoon scones and muffins from the Co-Op in Dauphin, Manitoba right alongside the usual raisin and blueberry. This is something I’ve only come across in Manitoba, I have yet to find Saskatoon products on mainstream shelves in Alberta yet.
Picking Saskatoon berries is also something my sister and I grew up doing and we can smell a tree loaded with berries a mile away.
Truly though, growing up picking them and taking them back to my grandma to be made into a pie means that my sister and I are always on the same wavelength when we see trees and bushes loaded with Saskatoons.
It’s the pie wavelength.
Nothing in this world tastes as good as a fresh Saskatoon pie with a bit of vanilla ice cream melting on top.
Nothing tastes like my childhood like a fresh Saskatoon pie with a bit of vanilla ice cream melting on top, the flavor made all that more delightful because you were eating the literal fruit of your labors earlier that day.
While vacationing here in lovely Christina Lake BC, we found Saskatoons. We always find Saskatoons – Berry Bloodhounds, remember? So it was second nature that my sister and I would take containers and pick Saskatoons until we had enough for pies.
I’ll post the recipe at the end and let the next set of photos do the talking.
I used a vintage finish on my photos because other than our attire dating us, this could have been one of 4 generations of my family out picking berries for pie……..any generation of my family preparing the pies in their kitchen….. and most definitely any generation of my family teaching the next generation how to bake.
Another difference I would like to point out is that when we pick berries in Manitoba, some one is usually carrying a rifle. This was my son picking Morel mushrooms on my aunt’s land just outside of Dauphin a few years back.
My aunt Janice was in charge of the rifle that day. Where there are mushrooms or berries, there are guaranteed bears, because in bush country Manitoba you are never the only one foraging for food. I actually still have momentary panic attacks when we are out picking berries or mushrooms without a rifle, because it is so completely ingrained in me that someone needs to have a rifle on them. Berry pails? Check. Bug Spray? Check. Hats and sunscreen? Check. Rifle? Check.
I managed to not have a panic attack seeing how we picked these at the side of a road here.
Now for the recipe and a few modern pictures! I absolutely love the one of my sister and nephew, it tugs my heartstrings. What a joy it was to actually be able to photograph someone ELSE baking for a change! I so rarely get the opportunity.
Saskatoon berries – if picked dry- will stay for a couple of days no problem on your counter. The most important thing is that you do not wash them until you are going to use them. Now we did pick in the rain and our berries lasted just fine, but I wouldn’t risk your luck like that.
If you are going to bake within a day or two, don’t freeze them. Just clean out the debris and caterpillars that almost inevitably end up in there.
When you are ready to bake, wash them in a colander.
- 4 cups of Saskatoon berries
- ½ cup of white sugar
- 1 tsp extra white sugar
- 2½ tbsp cornstarch
- pie crust for one 9 inch pie
- 1 egg for brushing the top
- Option #1 - add 2 tbsp chilled, diced butter on top of the Saskatoons before placing the top crust. If you want to make it vegan, omit butter and egg & use all vegetable based crust, very easy.
- Option #2 - use crushed Tapioca/Minute Tapioca instead of cornstarch! This was my Grandma's trick sometimes to change it up. Delish!
- Option #3 - add in tbsp of lemon zest
- Gently toss together your Saskatoons, sugar and cornstarch/crushed Tapioca, until the berries are coated.
- Place your bottom crust into the pie plate.
- Pour your berries into the pie plate. Add butter on top if desired.
- Cover with your crust.
- Brush your pie crust with the egg then sprinkle the sugar on top.
- Pinch the seams together and mark your pie vents as you like.
- Using the lowest rack of your oven, bake for 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for about 50-55 minutes more.
- When your pie edges start to become too brown - and they always will- cover the edges with tinfoil or use a pie crust cover. I have one and they are amazing!
- Continue baking until you see the pie filling bubbling and your pie is beautifully browned all over the top.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a baking rack.
And there you have it.
If you are a sharp baking cookie, you might have noticed that I don’t use lemon in my recipe. No rind, no juice, completely Saskatoon berries flavor. My family has never used lemon in their Saskatoon pies ; this would have been impossible in rural Manitoba when my family immigrated, then financially unfeasible in the Depression years and according to my Mom, my grandfather liked his food plain and as Nature made it.
I didn’t believe her. Surely my Grandma used lemon, it’s in every other recipe out there.
So we did a family taste test. We baked up three Saskatoon pies with the Saskatoons we picked. Two with lemon and one without.
My Mom was right.
No lemon. I guess I shouldn’t have questioned the generation that passed it on to me, nor the generations that passed it on to her.
Leaving the lemon out lets the berries flavor shine. Earthy, smoky, pure.
Now I fully realize I am biased because this is the taste I grew up with, but the whole family concurred that the lemon-less pie was the best of the batch.
It was, without a shadow of a doubt, my Grandma’s Saskatoon pie.
It’s amazing how the taste of a certain food can bring back such memories. We spent a long time reminiscing about summers spent in Manitoba, of picking berries, of bears and bass fishing and most of all, my Grandma.
This was the best thing I have eaten all week here in BC.
That may change, as I haven’t fried up my bass yet.
Oh, did I say bass? Yes, we caught bass and I’m going to use my aunt’s simple yet fabulous way of cooking it.
Recipe coming soon!
I’m In Wild Food Heaven Magpie