Picking, Cleaning, and Freezing Saskatoon Berries
Saskatoon berries are one of my all time favorite berries. People in the USA can call them juneberries. Other names are pigeon berries, service berries,shadbush, amelanchier but us western Canadians proudly refer to them as saskatoons. They are the same size and shape as a large blueberry, they’re sweet, juicy with a hard to describe flavour. If you like blueberries I am certain you will love saskatoons. You can swap blueberries for saskatoons in all my recipes, but I really hope your able to find saskatoons.
Saskatoons are an edible northern fruit that is very much appreciated in the prairie provinces of Canada, we are surrounded by u-pick farms, and lots of local restaurants feature them during the summer.
What do Saskatoons Taste Like?
They taste like saskatoons to me so its a bit hard to explain. They are sweet, full of flavour, look like a blueberry, have a strong skin, and seeds. Some people say the seeds taste like almond, I didn’t recognize the flavour until I cooked some for canning and they do have a hint of almond flavour. You can eat Saskatoons raw (don’t over do it), but the almond flavour stands out more once cooked.
Picking Saskatoon Berries
Once the ground finally thawed I couldn’t wait to go and buy two glorious Saskatoon bushes to sit beside the newly acquired raspberry patch in our new place. On our drive home from the greenhouse Hubs said we had lots of saskatoon bushes in the yard already. I skoffed, laughed, oh sure we do, thinking to myself I only wish. Then July came and guess what he was right!! We literally have dozens of large saskatoon bushes on the backside of our property behind the front line of trees. When raising the boys we went saskatoon picking with one of them taking turns at bear watch while the rest of us picked. A after the boys were grown I would go alone and pick these amazing berries at a U-pick farm and now we have lots of our very own.
Saskatoon bushes are tall, anywhere from two feet to maybe 12 feet tree height tall. Very easy to pick and no thorns. They start out green and darken into a deep purplish blue when fully ripe,.
I know its silly to be excited about a Saskatoon patch, but it is what it is, and I cannot wait to share with you a series of Saskatoon berry recipes. Hubs is happily picking saskatoons each day as they ripen looking forward to me making those Saskatoon berry recipes as well.
How to Clean Saskatoon Berries
If you buy your Saskatoons frozen they will have been washed first. If you purchase them from a u-pick farm already picked, or if you pick wild saskatoon berries you need to clean them first. The first step is to pick over your Saskatoons to remove any dried berries, unripened berries, leaves, sticks, damaged by birds or hail and unfortunately any little bugs you find.
Start by setting up a simple cleaning station like shown above. Take a handful of berries from the bucket of freshly picked saskatoons. Lay the berries at the top of a cookie sheet, flick the good berries towards the bottom of the cookie sheet. Remove the unwanted bits to a little bowl for culling. Once done place the ready to wash berries in a large bowl or sink with lots of clean water. Repeat with the next handful of berries. Doing it this way is really quick its takes maybe 5 -10 minutes to do a whole gallon of saskatoons.
Remove soaking saskatoons and place into a collander. Rinse under the tap, let drain.
Line a large cookie sheet with paper towels, and pour the berries over the paper towel spreading them out into a single layer. Cover with a tea towel and allow to dry for an hour or so.
Your saskatoon berries are now ready to eat, to freeze, to can, or to use in a recipe.
Note: One bit of caution, saskatoon berries are a dark blue and have a gorgeous purple juice. If you have granite counters like we do make VERY sure that your granite is still well sealed. As a second precaution when canning etc I always place everything onto a wood cutting or towel lined cookie sheet. The same caution applies to blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc. That dark berry juice can permanently stain light granite.
How to Freeze Berries
You can freeze all berries in plastic zip lock bags with or without adding sugar. To freeze Saskatoons without sugar lay them out on a paper towel lined cookie sheet, cover with a towel and let dry for an hour or two on the counter. Once dry remove the paper towel and freeze them on the cookie sheet.
By allowing the paper towel to remove the excess moisture from the Saskatoon berries, each berry will freeze individually. Let the berries sit on the counter for a couple of hours with a towel to protect them. Once dry place the cookie sheet into the freezer and let the berries freeze.
Once your Saskatoon berries are frozen take a measuring cup and place them in plastic bags. I like to freeze my berries in 2 cup portions, its a handy size for many saskatoon recipes.
Saskatoon are a Superfood Berry
When looking up information on saskatoons I came across this great article about their nutritional value. I eat them for the flavour and childhood memories, turns out they are fantastically good for you as well. They are healthier for you than blueberries, which I find shocking.
Fun Facts about Saskatoons
The name Saskatoon came from the Cree word “Mis-sask-qua-too-mina” and they used them in various way including meat soups, pudding or mixed it in with pemmican.
Their is a city in Canada, named Saskatoon, after the berry and its in the western province of Saskatchewan. Last year the prairie provinces produces 279 tonnes of these little bundles of flavour.
Saskatoon Berry Recipes
Saskatoons can be used fresh or frozen and thawed in any of the following recipes.
Will add as I post new recipes.
Other Recipes Featuring Saskatoons
Easy Saskatoon Sauce
You can cook up a simple syrup sauce using saskatoon berries. We use it for saskatoon syrup on pancakes etc. Its also very nice on ice cream.
My saskatoon sauce recipe also includes instructions for canning Saskatoons.