Recipe: Saskatoon berry drink mix, two ways.

It’s saskatoon (serviceberry) season and it shows by the amount of clicks I’m currently getting on this post, which I put up waaaaaaay back in 2012.  I realized the original post was in need of a bit of an update, as the u-pick farm I mention in it has undergone a name change…as well, I have a new saskatoon berry drink mix recipe to add!

The saskatoon berries are here!  The saskatoon berries are here!

Last Saturday my hubby and I spent a VERY long time in the sweltering morning sun gathering saskatoons at a wonderful nearby U-Pick farm, Little Purple Apple (now called Prairie Berry). We may be the slowest berry pickers in the world…BUT I didn’t have to do much sorting when we got home.  We snagged only (mostly?) the ripe ones, with barely any leaf litter or roving bugs.  Saskatoon berries are easy to pick, and they don’t have the soft skins of blueberries or haskap, so they don’t bruise easily.  We still came off of the field with stains on our hands, though!

I have big plans for our bounty!   Some of the berries are already scrubbed, bagged whole, and set in the freezer for use in pies at a later date.  Others were crushed and sent into the dye pot – saskatoon berries make a great dye in the red-purple range.  A sizeable batch of jam is on my list of things to do this afternoon, and a quick assembly of a saskatoon and rhubarb cobbler is in the works for tonight’s dessert.

One of the workers at Little Purple Apple (Prairie Berry) was telling me about some saskatoon syrup they had preserved for sale to the customers; she said if you weren’t inclined to put it on your pancakes, you could add a small amount to ice water for a refreshing summery drink.  Of course, that got the ol’ gears grinding, and I thought perhaps I could create my own version of the recipe at home.   Here is my take:

Saskatoon Berry Drink Mix Version #1

3 cups washed saskatoon berries, crushed with a mortar and pestle or a potato masher

1 1/2 cups water

Place in a large saucepan and heat to boiling.  Boil hard for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

While you’re waiting, make the simple syrup.  Mix 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 3/4 cups of water together in a small saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove.  Stir constantly to dissolve the sugar.  Once the mixture is boiling, remove it from the heat and set aside to cool.  (If you want to make your syrup thicker, you can step up the ratio of sugar:water).

Once your ingredients have cooled, run the berries and water through a metal sieve, reserving the liquid.  Press the berries into the sieve with the back of a spoon to get all of the juice out.  You will end up with some berry pulp in the sieve – don’t discard it!  I put mine in the freezer for use in muffins or cake later on.

Run the saskatoon berry liquid through an even finer sieve if you have one (tightly-woven cheesecloth if you don’t).  The idea is to make the syrup as clear as possible.

Combine the sugar and the berry juice together and process (if you’re canning it) and store in your usual way.  This recipe makes about 3 cups of syrup.  I’m just keeping my syrup in the fridge, as I know I’ll use it up fairly quickly.  When you want to drink it, just place a few tablespoonsful in a tall glass and add chilled water, diluting the syrup to your taste.  (I think a carbonated water would work very nicely, as well).  You could probably add a couple of fresh mint leaves or a squeeze of lemon to your drink, but for me, the sweet nutty flavour of the berries is wonderful on its own!

If you don’t have saskatoons, I think this would work nicely using blueberries…or maybe, with the correct ratio of sugar, red currants.

Saskatoon Berry Drink Mix Version #2 (no simple syrup)

Here’s another version that doesn’t use a simple syrup.  It’s quicker to prepare than the previous recipe, as well.  Store leftover mix in the fridge and use up within three days.

3 cups washed saskatoon berries, crushed with a mortar and pestle or a potato masher

1 1/2 cups water

Place in a large saucepan and heat to boiling.  Boil hard for 5 minutes, then remove from heat and cool to room temperature.

Once your ingredients have cooled, run the berries and water through a metal sieve, reserving the liquid.  Press the berries into the sieve with the back of a spoon to get all of the juice out.  You will end up with some berry pulp in the sieve – don’t discard it!  I put mine in the freezer for use in muffins or cake later on.

Run the saskatoon berry liquid through an even finer sieve if you have one (tightly-woven cheesecloth if you don’t).  The idea is to make the syrup as clear as possible.

When you’re ready to drink, pour some of the mix over crushed ice in a tall glass, add water or sparkling water, and a drizzle of honey or other sweetener.  Adjust to your taste and enjoy!

Do you grow or harvest saskatoons (serviceberries)? What are your favourite saskatoon berry recipes?

A very short list of a few of the things in my neighbourhood I’m going to miss…

…now that moving day is nearly here and we will be heading to a new community all the way across the city.

The grocery store just up the street. I know where absolutely everything is, aside from the egg replacer (turns out no one there knows where it is, either…might have something to do with the fact that there is some question as to what, exactly, it is). The friendly faces of the staff members will be missed, as well – including one gentleman my hubby and I both worked with years ago at a different job, and a courtesy clerk who treats my hubby like a rock star and makes us smile about it every time.

Our landlady, who has a magical green thumb and grows the most incredible nicotiana and tomato plants I’ve ever seen, and who has always been so kind and generous and thoughtful.

The perennial flower beds that I’ve tended for nearly twenty years…which, well, *sob.* I can’t even begin to tell you how much I will miss them. The balcony in our new place is small and I will be restricted to just a few plants in containers. It will be very difficult for me.

The community garden that I’ve been a member of for five years and served on the organizing committee for.  I met some fascinating people through the garden – everyone with diverse backgrounds, education, and opinions – and learned several lessons about plants and life (!) during my experience there.  I am delighted that there is a community garden near our new place, and I’m already growing some veggies there. I’m starting off small this year (both due to a serious lack of time and a cutworm problem that is unfortunately keeping the plants in check), but hopefully next year’s growing season will be more promising.

The plants in the community that mark the seasons in their own ways: the neighbour’s yellow forsythia in early spring, the soft-needled larch trees in the park next door, the ginormous lilac hedge along the drive.  The mayday tree out front with its sickly sweet-scented but gorgeous white flowers, the snowball viburnums in front of the building across from us.  The plums and crabapples down the street, and the splendid mountain ash with their persistent berries.  Even the green ash tree that has threatened to drop branches on our truck in stormy weather several times over the years.

Nose Hill.  If you’ve followed Flowery Prose for a while, you’ll know this is my favourite place to walk and I have posted many, many photographs of the flowers and the landscape there.  Of course, I will still be living in the same city and I will still be able to travel to Nose Hill to walk there but because of the distance, I know I will not be able to go there as often as I do now.  On the plus side, in the new community, there will be several new parks to explore.

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The northern flickers that nest in the trees outside the back door of our apartment building. They are a joy to watch.

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Photo credit: R. Normandeau

The jackrabbits and the squirrels.  Yes, they ate or dug up great chunks of my garden most years, but you can’t help but smile when you see these little furry bundles of energy.  Even while you’re clapping your hands and chasing after them, screaming, “Get out of there, you little ********!” and your neighbours are all going to their windows and lifting the curtains and wondering what the crazy lady is doing this time.

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The library branch I used to work at, a twenty minute walk from my home. I dearly miss the friends I made there – but I know I will keep in touch with many of them in years to come.

That dude who takes his acoustic guitar out on sunny days in the summer and sits on the bench in front of our building and treats us all to some great music.

Cross country skiing in the park next to our apartment.  Especially fun after a fresh snowfall, at night, when it’s quiet and you’re the first to make tracks and the snow is all powdery and perfect and sparkling in the street lamps.

The courtyard of the school where, in the summer, I used to go to read and enjoy the weather on my lunch breaks from work.  One late afternoon, I hid out under the roof for nearly an hour while the most insane thunderstorm I’ve ever seen raged around me.  There was so much lightning and thunder and rain that I had to wait it all out before safely walking home.  Lightning hit a generating station a few kilometres away and the resulting sonic boom was terrifying and awesome.  And…then there was that time I was reading and I heard a noise nearby.  I looked up to see that something…someone…had opened the window of the classroom next to me and stuck a hand out the window.  To say I was freaked out is an understatement, as the school was closed for the summer.  Sure, it could have been a janitor (that’s what I tell myself, anyway), but in truth, there were no cars in the parking lot and the hand sort of just “felt” the air and went back inside, leaving the window ajar. Not really the behaviour of a janitor, but how else to explain it?  And no, I wasn’t reading Stephen King at the time.

The neighbourhood Korean barbeque place that doesn’t have an English name, where my co-workers and I delighted in some really delicious, cheap meals for birthday and other celebratory lunches.  It has the plainest decor and you can seat perhaps a maximum of twenty people in the place, but the food is really stellar.  Sometimes those tiny hole-in-the-wall places are the best.

The community arena where my hubby and I occasionally watched junior lacrosse games.  It’s one of those places where the reek of sweat has completely saturated the entire building, from the floorboards to the ceiling, and you can probably get athlete’s foot from merely sitting on the spectator bleachers, but it’s so fun to watch Canada’s national summer sport grow with these kids.  Sometimes, if we were lucky, we caught a glimpse of one or two well-known professional (current and retired) lacrosse players coaching their students in the field outside the arena.

If you had to move today, what are a few of the things you’d miss about your current home and the community where you live?  

 

(Wild)flowery Friday.

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In around the packing for our move across the city, the brutally lengthy commute, and working at a new location (not to mention, utterly failing to reply to the thoughtful, wonderful blog comments people have left or find the time to read anyone else’s blog entries) , there have been few spare moments to do any hiking or wildflower hunting this spring…and I’m dearly missing getting out.  My hubby and I did manage a whirlwind couple of orchid-hunting trips a couple of weeks ago, first to a spot we know southwest of the city, near the mountains, to look for calypso (or fairy slipper) orchids.  We found a scarce few, and I hope it was just a timing thing, because their numbers were sorely depleted from our last visit in spring 2015 (when I took the above photo).

Later in the same week, we went out to a place in the foothills of the Rockies, and scoped out the brilliant yellow lady’s slippers I mention here.  In this place, this year, the orchids had spread abundantly – a fantastic sign!

Speaking of lady’s slipper orchids, I recently came across a great article about the pollination and seed development of these gorgeous plants.  Enjoy the interesting read here.

Hopefully things will settle down in the next month or so and I can catch up with all of you very soon!  Have a wonderful weekend!

The Door is Ajar: Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith.

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Public Library and Other Stories – Ali Smith (2015 Penguin Canada)

Smith’s collection of short stories was gathered together to celebrate the role of public libraries in personal and public life, of the value they bring to community, and the wealth of knowledge and the opportunity for engagement, thought, and creativity that they invoke.  Public Library is also a protest against the closure of libraries in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world, the quashing of budgets, collections, and services in libraries that remain, and the overall decline of government and popular support for these previously-revered institutions.  Smith’s stories are framed by quotes from writers, thinkers, and other figures as they explore their personal emotions and connections to libraries, books, reading, and writing.

The stories themselves were a delight for me and I devoured them in a couple of very short sittings. I am not familiar with Smith’s other work and I loved her style and juicy depth of language as she wound her way around several accounts of relationships gone sour, reimaginings of history, and family life.  It’s difficult to pick a favourite out of this collection, but “The Ex-Wife” and “The Poet” are special standouts for me.  Highly recommended.

The Door is Ajar: Invasive by Chuck Wendig.

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Chuck Wendig – Invasive (2016, Harper Voyager)

A strange murder and the discovery of genetically engineered ants lead survivalist and FBI consultant Hannah Stander on a trip to Hawai’i – where things quickly escalate from paradise to apocalypse in Chuck Wendig’s blisteringly good novel Invasive.  Wendig reigns in his signature over-the-top style a smidgeon and produces a tight, brilliantly-characterized, and perfectly-paced thriller. The dustjacket comparisons to Michael Crichton’s work are definitely warranted – I’d say this is Wendig’s finest book to date.  More, please.

Octagons.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recall that I work in a library (although, as of very recently, I switched branches in the city, transferring from the one that I worked at for nearly eight years).  I’m not a librarian or a library assistant so front line customer service isn’t part of my duties, but I still get a chance to talk to some of our patrons…and sometimes I just can’t help smiling at what they have to say.  Take this morning, for example:  a young mum asked me for books about shapes for her three-year-old girl.  We browsed the board book spinners and came up with some great titles, including a really sweet one featuring Snoopy (I’m a total softy for Snoopy and naturally assume everyone else is as well).  I thought I had the search wrapped up tidily as the mother flipped quickly through the books, but she turned to me with a sheepish grin on her face.  “These are great,” she said, “but my daughter is really interested in octagons right now.  She just loves octagons.”

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Well, I don’t blame her, really – octagons are very attractive shapes and quite satisfying from a mathematical perspective.  And the word is seriously fun to say aloud.  But I have yet to see a board book featuring octagons.  Actually, if anyone out there is writing board books for a living, please throw some octagons into the next “shape” book you pump out, would you? (I found this rather interesting title at work a few weeks ago, and if it exists, octagons shouldn’t be a complete stretch).  I know a certain three-year-old who would be really impressed….

If you have children, what words or concepts most captivated them when they were toddlers?  Do you remember any ideas you were fixated with as a child?  I can’t recall if I had any obsessions with certain words when I was that age (my Mum might remember!) but I know that even as I got older, I was constantly trying to reinvent the English language – it wasn’t that I mispronounced words (although I occasionally did that, and still do), it was that I was always deliberately making up new words, and renaming things around me.  The various cats we had over the years had so many inventive-yet-utterly-ridiculous monikers, it’s no wonder they never came when they were called.

Oh, wait….   😉

Clipart credit.

Interesting facts about dandelions.

I’m revisiting an old post that usually sees a bit of traffic at this time of year…but it’s NEW AND IMPROVED! I’ve added a new photo and some new facts, and updated some links.  I hope you enjoy the extras! 

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Dandelions, dandelions everywhere! The City has reduced its herbicide use over the past few years, which is a very good thing – dandelions are, after all, one of the best early pollinator plants around!

Just for fun, I dug up some Interesting Facts about Dandelions:

The name dandelion comes from the French “dent de lion” – lion’s tooth, which refers to the serrated leaves.

Another folk name for dandelion is “swine snort,” which makes me want to sneeze or giggle or both.

Taraxacum officinale is a perennial, but there are some dandelion species that are biennial.

If you mow dandelions, they’ll grow shorter stalks to spite you.

Dandelion pollen cannot cause allergies – the grains are far too large to be bothersome, but you can get contact dermatitis from the milky sap (latex) that the plant contains.

Dandelions open in the daytime and close at night.

Dandelion seed can travel up to 8 kilometres (5 miles).

Dandelion flower heads can be used to make dye in the yellow-green range.  The leaves will make a purple dye.

Dandelions will produce more seed than usual if their habitat is disturbed, giving them a competitive edge over other plants in the area.

Dandelions have a taproot which can extend up to a whopping 4.5 metres (15 feet) underground, although you’ll typically find them top out at 45 cm (18″), which is still pretty long.

The taproot of dandelions is very useful to reduce compaction in garden soil.

Dandelions are dynamic accumulators – that means they can draw nutrients such as nitrogen from the soil and concentrate them in their leaves and roots.

The parts of the dandelion apparently represent the celestial bodies: the yellow flower head is the sun, the white seed head is the moon, and the seeds are the stars as they spread all over the galaxy (read: your lawn).

What we think of as the petals of a dandelion flower are actually individual flowers themselves. They will produce fruit called achenes, followed by the tiny, barbed brown seed and it’s accompanying “parachute” (called a pappus) that helps it disperse in the wind.

Dandelion flowers do not need to be pollinated to form seed.

Dandelions likely originated in Eurasia 30 million years ago.

Dandelions are known as ruderals or pioneer plants, the first to colonize disturbed land (such as after a wildfire).

Dandelion blossoms have been historically used to treat warts, clear skin complexion, and heal blisters.

 I read that there is some sort of idea to use the latex in the future to make rubber tires for automobiles – we’ll see how that turns out.  UPDATE: There is an article about the concept here.

Dandelion roots can be used as a coffee substitute, much like chicory.

I had no idea, but dandelion roots can also be used to make beer – here is one recipe I found, which also uses burdock roots.

Dandelion leaves are rich in vitamins A, C, and K, and the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese.

Some children’s books (fiction and non-fiction) about dandelions include: Joseph P. Anthony’s The Dandelion Seed, L. Kite’s Dandelion Adventures, and two sets of  books with the same title, From Seed to Dandelion, by Jan Kottke and Ellen Weiss, and Dandelions, by Kathleen Kudlinski and Eve Bunting.  I reviewed Kevin Sheehan’s The Dandelion’s Tale a few years ago on my now-defunct blog The Door is Ajar – you can find my thoughts here.

Did you know there is a dandelion tree?  Well, not really…it’s another case of the utter inaccuracy of most common names. Despite this, Dendroseris pruinata is fascinating and rare, and you can take a look at some photos of it here.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the world’s tallest dandelion was grown here in Canada (in Ontario), and was found in September of 2011.  It topped out at a whopping 177.8 cm (70 inches).  Apparently, there have been at least two (maybe three?) record-breaking dandelions grown since then, but there is some dispute over whether any of them – even the record-holder – are actually dandelions at all.  Read all about the controversy here!  (This one in Norfolk certainly seems a little suspicious…).

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I found this strange dandelion specimen on Nose Hill, in Calgary – it looks like it might be a type of fasciation.  The fifth flower head actually drove through the centre stem, which was massively enlarged and already sported four joined flower heads. 

Thank you again for following Flowery Prose!  I truly appreciate your readership!