Old Fashioned, Traditional Saskatoon Pie

saskatoon pie

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.

Berry Bloodhounds.

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.

saskatoon pie

 

saskatoon pie

 

saskatoon pie

 

saskatoon pie

 

saskatoon pie

 

saskatoon pie

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.

saskatoon pie

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.

Old Fashioned, Traditional Saskatoon Pie
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A scrumptious, easy and traditional Saskatoon pie recipe that my family has been baking for 4 generations.
Author:
Recipe type: pie
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Gently toss together your Saskatoons, sugar and cornstarch/crushed Tapioca, until the berries are coated.
  2. Place your bottom crust into the pie plate.
  3. Pour your berries into the pie plate. Add butter on top if desired.
  4. Cover with your crust.
  5. Brush your pie crust with the egg then sprinkle the sugar on top.
  6. Pinch the seams together and mark your pie vents as you like.
  7. 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.
  8. 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!
  9. Continue baking until you see the pie filling bubbling and your pie is beautifully browned all over the top.
  10. 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.

saskatoon pie

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!

Love,

I’m In Wild Food Heaven Magpie

36 comments
Laura Bentley
Laura Bentley

I've been out picking & will try this recipe :) Thank you.

Linda Coccimiglio
Linda Coccimiglio

I want to go back also we should all get together. Lol and road trip

Josh Siemens
Josh Siemens

i would agree. Cherry is a close 2nd for myself.

The Kitchen Magpie
The Kitchen Magpie

It's my favorite pie ever. Including anything chocolate. I'd pick Saskatoon pie every time!

Linda Coccimiglio
Linda Coccimiglio

I love dauphin I was there for there festival. Twice. I ate saskatoons growing up. Because my neighbour Helen was Ukrainian and her relatives used to bring them to her

JoanRegan
JoanRegan

No Lemon in my Saskatoon Pie either. I have never heard of anyone doing that.  True, no lemons available when my family immigrated from the Ukraine in 1897. Just happened to come across you blog ( while baking 2 Saskatoon pies for the harvest crew here in Gilbert Plains).  I had to comment when I saw you family is from Dauphin.  All the best.  Watch out for the bears.  Their population has increased in this area.

Just me
Just me

Trying to find the comments section to see if there were replies about using rice starch instead of cornstarch.

Karlynn Johnston
Karlynn Johnston

Instant or minute tapioca should dissolve in a snap, I would think. Don't use the normal large bead Tapioca. I haven't subbed rice starch and I'm not sure on how that would taste...

Just me
Just me

Looking forward to trying this, but I have a question or two.

The crushed tapioca, that doesn't need dissolved in liquid first? I had trouble with it in a brown betty; it didn't "melt" until the betty was over-baked.  

Also, have you tried rice starch instead of cornstarch? I have that on hand too and wondered about measurements on that.

Thanks so much! ~M

Karlynn Johnston
Karlynn Johnston

You are so welcome! I hope it turns out perfectly for you!

KleeBang
KleeBang

Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your traditional family recipe :)  I come from the East Coast, and we dont have Saskatoons!!  Im making my first Saskatoon Pie ever using your recipe!  Cheers!

ACanadianFoodie
ACanadianFoodie

Not to horn in on Karlynn's suggestions - as she is my hero and dear friend and will have MANY - but I have a Saskatoon Berry French Tart that is a celebration of the berries and uses them fresh that I look SOSO forward to every year!!

KariEvasiuk
KariEvasiuk

Hi Karlynn,

I live southwest of Stony Plain (work in Edmonton) and I have tons of domestic (purchased bushes) and wild Saskatoon bushes on my property.  In fact if you're in need of some email me as I can't possibly use them all.  I still have a pie in the freezer not to mention multiple ziplocs of berries, jars of jam, etc .  Having said that, can  you think of a different recipe?  I would like to do something different.  I enjoyed the Saskatoon / Raspberry buckles for a few years but really would like some variety.  What do you think?  I'm looking for ideas ....

Kari

The Kitchen Magpie
The Kitchen Magpie

Send it my way! It's on my list, to go and pick Saskatoons, I have to make some time and soon!

Karlynn Johnston
Karlynn Johnston

You are so welcome! I hope you give the pie a whirl if you get your hands on berries!

Friskyredfox
Friskyredfox

Being from Georgia, USA I had never heard of Saskatoon berries. After reading your wonderful story with the precious memories, I really want to try a Saskatoon pie. I guess the internet can help me there for the berries and you have provided a good recipe. Thank you for the education with a heart.

Karlynn Johnston
Karlynn Johnston

Amy, try buttertarts! I have easy ones here on my site. Or Nanaimo bars (also on my site, just search) Both of those are VERY Canadian desserts!

amyhere
amyhere

I'm making a themed dinner for our book club and just finished reading "Canada" by Richard Ford. I live in California, so no saskatoons here. Would it be terribly gauche to use blueberries instead? Or would you recommend something else? I'm also making Poutine (and looking for cheese curd in Los Angeles)

Karlynn Johnston
Karlynn Johnston

This year was a horrible year in Edmonton for berries, dried out little tough berries all over. Usually the pies are TOO runny, so I would lay bets that the frozen berries weren't as juicy as they should be. Frozen berries can add even more moisture at times, so that really is perplexing! If you chose to add butter, the 2 tbsp should have definitely sauced it up a bit...

Glad someone agrees about the no lemon!

Befuddled
Befuddled

I tried this recipe this afternoon using frozen saskatoons purchased at my local Co-Op. My pie was very dry. Do you alter the technique or ingredient quantities when working with frozen berries? Perhaps the berries themselves were the issue. Some years they are plump and juicy, and other years ... not so much. PS I concur about leaving out the lemon. My grandma never used lemon in hers, and I definitely prefer the flavour without. PPS Thank you for sharing a family recipe. Some family recipes are closely-guarded treasures, and I feel honoured to have had the opportunity to try yours.

StaceyI
StaceyI

Okay the rifle part made me spit my coffee out! My fear of bears would outweigh my love for Saskatoons. Thankfully there are no bears on the u-pick in Okotoks where I get mine. I love this post so much I'm adding it to my post about these amazing berries. Thank you! Beautiful pictures!

Karlynn
Karlynn

No I wouldn't. The berries won't be that much more juicier and corn starch works much better than flour to thicken in cases like this anyway. So because I start with cornstarch, no extra is needed.

Lkitty
Lkitty

Would u add more corn starch if the saskatoons were frozen?

AudreyW
AudreyW

PS My mom says There are Saskatoon pies at the Co-Op in Olds Alberta!

AudreyW
AudreyW

So weird! I am from Christina Lake and was just looking for "different" Saskatoon Pie recipes when I stumbled across your post. Where was you favorite place to pick in Christina Lake?

I do use lemon and also simmer the berries before tossing in flour and sugar.

My next picking I'll have to try your recipe!

Thanks for your post, I enjoyed it!

Karlynn
Karlynn

The closest berry taste is blueberry, but I can't even really say that is close. It's such a unique flavor that it would be like saying an apple tastes almost like an orange,if you get what I am saying. Sweet, seedy and very tasty. They can be called serviceberries on occasion in the States or Eastern Canada.

MsGlaze
MsGlaze

What do these berries taste like? I've never heard of them before. Did I miss that in your post?

ACanadianFoodie
ACanadianFoodie

Love it - great to hear you are baking with family and fishing and picking  - what a wonderful holiday!

XOXOXO

Valerie

thekitchenmagpie
thekitchenmagpie moderator

@JoanRegan Thanks for stopping in Joan!!  Lemons are definitely a new addition to the pie, you're so right. Ah Gilbert Plains! I will be driving through there this fall on the way to Dauphin! Hope all is good there!

thekitchenmagpie
thekitchenmagpie moderator

 @AudreyW That's awesome!! I'm going to have to check it out soon if I travel to Calgary! I love how Co-Op uses local berries in their baking, I had never found it in Alberta yet!

thekitchenmagpie
thekitchenmagpie moderator

 @AudreyW Just on Kingsley road, on the way to the beach! There are tons in other places (the nature preserve) but we stayed at Camp Beverly Hills (the owners are old friends) and the berries were 10 seconds away!

Chinook Country
Chinook Country

@MsGlaze They are a Canadian berry & I would say the best!

I do use the same recipe for my pie no lemon , but  I mix about 3/4 tsp. of Almond flavoring. Yummy.

AudreyW
AudreyW

 @thekitchenmagpie in two nights, I picked 60 cups of berries on the other side of the lake. I'll have to scout out Kingsley!