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.
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Old Fashioned, Traditional Saskatoon Pie
- Prep Time
- 15 minutes
- Cook Time
- 1 hour 5 minutes
- Total Time
- 1 hour 20 minutes
- Karlynn Johnston
- 4 cups Saskatoon berries
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon extra white sugar
- 2 1/2 tablespoons corn starch
- 14 1/2 ounces pastry (pie crust for one 9 inch pie)
- 1 egg for brushing the top
- 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.
All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.
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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
Comments & Recipe Tips Share a tip or comment!
Hi from Carman, Manitoba! I have just found this when searching for a recipe for Saskatoon pie. I have had and made it for many years, but wanted to see if I could improve it! I have truly enjoyed reading your page so far, and will bookmark it so I can come back again! Many thanks!
Barbara Parisien says
I was born and still live along the Manitoba /North Dakota USA border. Plentiful Saskatoons/Juneberries. They are the prized food here! Today I’m making several Saskatoon berry pies for a funeral of an elder which is a tradition among the Métis ppl to serve pie at funerals. It isn’t done as much as it once was but today we will honor our elder and our traditions .
Rosella Peterman says
I grew up in north eastern Saskatchewan (but my family immigrated to Manitoba from the Ukraine or South Russia as it was then called). We had Saskatoons as well as many other wild berries. A good friend of my mom’s arranged for a couple of ladies to go Saskatoon picking but, as none of them drove, she had her husband drop them off some distance from town. He left them there, complete with their packed lunches, to spend the day picking while he returned to town to his job. Everything went great for a while, the berries were plentiful and this friend spotted some choice berries just out of reach so she gamely climbed on a fallen log and, as she grasped the handful of prized berries, the log moved. The bear must have been as surprised as she was as it ambled off into the woods while the ladies scattered. Thoroughly shocked but no way to reach the husband till he finished work, the ladies spent the rest of the day at the side of the road with almost empty pails.
Oh, I did enjoy your family story! Blessings!
Pam H. says
I love to cook but baking isn’t my thing. We picked saskatoons yesterday and I made your recipe today. My husband says it was delicious and could be served in a restaurant!
Sheila May Martin says
Your berry picking pictures (really like the vintage look) remind me of roadside blackberry picking with my aunt – no rifle – but carried sticks to beat the snakes – LOL
Sheila May Martin says
This pie sounds scrumptious, but I guess I’m out of luck living in the States – no Saskatoon berries!!
Rita Churchill says
You may know these berries as service berries!
I’m from Alberta close to Lloydminster and I grew up eating Saskatoon pie also. Delicious. I remember going to look for Saskatoon with my family. We had a big garden and my Dad would dig up young plants and plant in our garden. As you know can grow quite tall. So after that we always had Saskatoons handy. My Mom would also can them as fruit dessert. Yummy to have in the winter. This recipe seems like the one my Mom made and she didn’t use lemon either. Thanks for the recipe!!
Dianne Taylor says
I live in the southwest corner of Manitoba- and have done for the best part of eighty years .My husband has been picking wild fruit since the late forties – in fact he and his pal had a wild berry picking business when they were kids .The ladies ordered the number of pails they wanted and the kids would deliver them.They charged $1.50 for a gallon pail! As you can imagine he knows every berry patch in the area He picked a bunch this year – the berries are wonderful .Being a bit lazy I decided to look on line for a recipe and there I found yours – exactly like my moms with NO lemon My pie turned out perfectly Thanks so much – believe the other reason for no lemon was the lack of cash on the prairies in the 30s- heard them saying that when the men took a cream can full of water to the field when haying or while doing all of those harvest jobs that were far from mechanized they would add a bit of vinegar instead of lemon.Cheaper of course .Even when times improved they still didn’t add the lemon to Saskatoon pie
I’m so glad I was lazy – so enjoy your comments as well as the recipe .I will be looking for your books .
Keep up the good work
I find a little almond extract goes nicely with Saskatoons – a small amount 1/4 tsp. accentuates the berry without being overpowering. Much nicer than lemon 🙂
Elaine Jordan says
Karolyn is your new cookbook, The Prairie Table going to be available at Costco for Christmas 2019? Purchased your book Flapper Pie and a Blue Prairie Sky at Costco a few Christmas ago, and love it.
Linda Meier says
If using frozen saskatoons, would anything have to be changed in the recipe?
Dale Karen Young says
I just made my usual saskatoon pie (Atco kitchen recipe) – which calls for basically stewing the berries with sugar and instant tapioca (and yes – lemon!) for about 10 minutes before putting them in the crust. This basically gives a somewhat jellied filling that doesn’t run when cut. I have never made it with just putting the uncooked berries on the crust – but I plan to try your recipe next time. Do you have any comments about the two variations? (PS my family hails from Kamsack SK which is just about 15 miles away from Manitoba – so we grew up picking plentiful saskatoons too!)
Madeleine Mitchell says
I am interested also. I have made it with just placing berries into bottom crust Before and found it runny and berries were slightly only crunchy. ?
I will try yours fir sure…
but Any comments. ? Thanks
Tanya Turner says
Can you just make the pie filling and freeze that to use at a later time eith fresh crusts?
Kathryn B says
I stumbled upon your website a few weeks ago, and as soon as I saw the desserts book I knew I had to have it! As a Saskatchewan girl these recipes bring back so many memories. I started with the flapper pie, which my husband declared his new favorite. Today I made 4 Saskatoon pies using this recipe as well as the pastry recipe from your book. What can I say – humble, unpretentious, nostalgic. It takes me back to my grandpa teaching me to make pie crust, to summer suppers at the in-laws before my husband’s stepmother passed away, when she would have retrieved a Saskatoon pie from the freezer in anticipation of company. The quintessential prairie pie for hot summer days! Thanks so much for sharing, I can’t wait to try more of your recipes!
Karlynn Johnston says
I am so glad that you liked it! Welcome to the website, have fun cooking and baking!!
Do you make any adjustments if you use frozen berries ?
Just tried this pie recipe and both my husband and I agree, this was the best pie ever. I just finished saskatoon berry picking for the first time yesterday and was searching for a good recipe to try. I love the simplicity of the recipe in that there is no cooking of berries required before baking the pie, and also that it does not ask for lemon juice. Thanks for sharing your story, history, and recipe! The recipe is now printed and will go on my recipe book with 5 stars!
So happy to read this! I too grew up eating Saskatoon and Saskatoon rhubarb pies st grandmas house, only here in Alberta. My dad and I still go berry picking along the river in Calgary. I’ve been trying to find the easiest way to make a good pie filling that captures the taste I remember and I’m sceptical of the ones that involve cooking the berries down, I’m excited to try this one ASAP!
I’m in British Columbia and picked wild saskatoon berries yesterday for the first time. I’ve got one batch in the fruit dryer and planning on making a few pies using your traditional family recipe today. Thanks so much for the story in your blog and the recipe.
I just tried making the pie. It looked and smelled fabulous, but it’s tastless. I cooked it according to directions, but now thinking not long enough? Not sure, but I was disappointed in the taste.
No such berries here in the USA. Any suggestions for a good substitute?
Karlynn Johnston says
I live in Illinois and we definitely have several of these trees in our yard! They’re called serviceberries in the US. I’m about to make this pie and can’t wait!
I believe they are called serviceberries in the US.
Please tell me how much tapioca ?
The same amount as cornstarch!
Brenda Nordin says
I would like to make your Saskatoon pie but do not see the amount for the tapioca?
J. Earl Hubley says
Can’t wait to try. My father worked S Man. in ’20s, hailing from NS on the Hobo work trains.m yo work the fields Spoke about the fine home cooking put up by the locals. Who knows, maybe even tried your grandma’s pie.
Elaine Hill says
I love this recipe, but now I would like to make some ahead and freeze them. Can I make up the pie and put it directly into the freezer instead of the oven? When taken out of the freezer, do I thaw it first before baking it, or put it directly into the oven and at what temperature (as it will be frozen)
Karlynn Johnston says
Yes! My Grandma pre-made them all the time. Let them cool, wrap with Saran Wrap, then with tinfoil, then freeze. Re-heat them slow and low, around 300!
Leslie Ann S says
I have your lovely cookbook, and I made this pie yesterday. I don’t know how to find saskatoon berries so I used wild blueberries. I don’t know how the taste compares, but the pie was very popular with my family. This is an easy-to-follow recipe that is delicious. Thank you for sharing this treasure.
Karlynn Johnston says
So glad that you loved it!
Love your recipe! Wondering if you’ve frozen the pie before….cooked or uncooked? This year is a plentiful Saskatoon crop in Manitoba…first in a long time! Would love to freeze pies to carry into fall/winter.
danacorr1 Bake, then freeze, that’s what my grandma did. Then she warmed up in a low oven to thaw, crisp up and serve.
do you take the little ends off of the berries?
NormaE Nope, leave them as they are!
This is an amazing recipe, if I had more berries i would have made more pies as everyone put in orders!
Hi I am from Dauphin still living in Dauphin. I chuckled when I read about the rifle, lol. A way of life. We love picking Saskatoons. And do so every year. There are bushes everywhere if you know where to look. Pies, crisps, scones — everything Saskatoon. That’s just how it is when the berries are ready. Love your site & all the great recipes.
I loved discovering this pie, which was new to me!
What is “extra white sugar”?
@Romay She means you will need MORE sugar (1 tsp), in addition to the sugar called for in the line above.
Made this pie with about 1/3 wild strawberries and the rest saskatoons. AMAZING!
Laura Bentley says
I’ve been out picking & will try this recipe 🙂 Thank you.
Michelle V James says
Linda Coccimiglio says
I want to go back also we should all get together. Lol and road trip
Josh Siemens says
i would agree. Cherry is a close 2nd for myself.
The Kitchen Magpie says
I want to head back for the Ukrainian Festival one year…