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?

November blog fun.

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Somehow we’ve already reached the eleventh month of the year…I must have had either a wicked caffeine buzz or slept through the rest of the months because I have no idea how we arrived here so quickly.  Time doesn’t just fly, it moves at warp speed.  (“Warped” speed may be more apt in my case).

If you’re in need of a five-minute breather (yup!), I’ve rounded up a few links you should/will definitely! enjoy:

“The Hidden Dangers of Botany” will have all the avid gardeners giggling and nodding in complete understanding.  We totally do this, don’t we?

They aren’t flowery, but these absolutely incredible photographs of wild horses made my jaw drop.  The word “breathtaking” doesn’t do them proper justice.

And here are some equally outstanding photographs of birds eating, fighting, looking after their young, and generally just looking spectacular doing their thing.

Finally, the photos from the finalists for the 2016 Comedy Wildlife Photo Awards are hilarious and charming.

Some stuff I’ve posted elsewhere:

A super-yummy Pumpkin Pancakes recipe on Grit.com.

A bunch of book reviews (should really be book “mentions”) on The Door is Ajar:

Annnnnndd….my flash fiction story “The Architect” was just published online by 365 Tomorrows.  Plus, Herb Quarterly‘s Winter 2016 issue (on newsstands now) includes my article “A Garden Bounty: Propagating Herbs By Cuttings and Layering.”

Hope your week is amazing!

Clipart credit.

Recipe: Roasted pumpkin and lentils.

In lieu of photos of skeletal trees, interesting living sculptures, and a harrowing (!) trip to a ghost town, this year I’m offering up a Hallowe’en post with a recipe.  It’s a frighteningly good one, though, and it uses pumpkin, so it will hopefully meet with unanimous approval and gifts of tiny individually-wrapped chocolates.

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Roasted Pumpkin and Lentils

SPOILER ALERT:  Gratuitous pumpkin gore ahead*

1 small pumpkin

2 tbsp olive oil

1 cup red lentils, washed and drained

4 cups water

½ tsp ground turmeric

½ tsp salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground curry

1 tbsp minced garlic

1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 large tomato, diced

1 tsp red pepper flakes

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Metric conversion table here.

*First, prepare the pumpkin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Carefully cut the pumpkin in half, and scoop out the seeds. (Save the seeds to roast later on).  Place the pumpkin, cut sides up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Brush olive oil into the cavity of the pumpkin halves.  Roast the pumpkin in the hot oven for 45 minutes.  Cool, then scoop out the flesh into bite-sized pieces.

Using a colander, rinse the lentils under cool water. Into a large saucepan, place the 4 1/2 cups of water and lentils.  Bring to a boil.  Add the turmeric and salt.  Cover the pot and cook at medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over medium heat.  Add the cumin seeds, curry, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes.  Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Add the roasted pumpkin and lentils (including the liquid) to the pan.  Mix well.  Cook about 5 minutes, then add fresh parsley.  Serve over hot cooked rice or noodles.

I think it would be highly appropriate to chow down on this festive comfort food with a side of miniature chocolate bars while enjoying a recording of Vincent Price and Basil Rathbone reading Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems (the link may be found here; you’ll need a Spotify account to listen).  Freakishly fantastic!

Recipe: Lime and chili roasted pumpkin seeds.

I posted this recipe way back in 2012, but I recently made it again and updated the photography on the original entry (which also explains how to properly save pumpkin seeds, if you’re interested).  This is a really easy recipe, and it has just the right amount of spiciness (you can omit the cayenne pepper if you prefer a bit milder flavour).

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Lime and Chili Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds from one pumpkin

3 tbsp freshly-squeezed lime juice

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt (if you have coarse salt, use that)

1/2 tsp chili powder

pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius).  Combine all ingredients except seeds in a small bowl.  Carefully wash pumpkin seeds in cool water, removing all of the extra bits of pulp.  Dry the seeds thoroughly between several layers of paper towel and transfer to the bowl with the lime and chili.  Combine thoroughly and spread seeds in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Roast seeds in preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove pan and stir the seeds, spreading them out once again in a single layer. Place in oven for another 10 minutes, then remove and allow to cool.  Enjoy!

What is your favourite recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds?

Flowery Friday, April blog fun – and a Book review: Mother Earth News Almanac.

April is here!  That means we might just get a bit of rain in Calgary…and maybe some cherry blossoms (if they don’t freeze off).  And tulips (if the rabbits and deer don’t eat them first).  Clearly, a month of “if’s”….

Typical spring.  😉

PCNHFPNormandeau

My favourite furry flower, Pulsatilla patens – Nose Hill, Calgary, 28 March 2016

I spent the month of March doing more researching and querying than actual writing, and while I was busy with that, my e-mails collectively undertook a massive construction project that is now approaching monument status…we’re talking the Egyptian pyramids or something of that ilk. So I maybe need to do something about that this upcoming week. Ahem.

And I’ve been spring cleaning and organizing!  I mean, moving files and piles around.  No, seriously, I’m actually making a tiny dent, even though it might be NEXT spring when I see truly decent results.  But just the small amount I’ve done so far is refreshing.

Speaking of files, here are a few interesting things I came across this past month:

  • A snowy owl speculates on landing a coveted modelling gig – yep, you read that right.  Go here.  You’ll love the rest of Lyle Krahn’s blog, too – nothing better than fantastic wildlife photos combined with a wonderful sense of humour!
  • A profile of the life and work of Felicitas Svejda, the geneticist responsible for the breeding of the hardy Explorer roses.  Canadians who grow roses owe much to her dedication and passion for plants that could survive our crazy winters and short growing season.
  • Photographer Beth Moon’s portraits of the world’s most ancient trees are absolutely incredible.  Head over to the gallery and enjoy.
  • Take a look at  some samples from Saxon Holt’s fledgling Photo Florilegium project.

I’ve been posting some items elsewhere:

Finally, this was a really fun book to read for review – I started out randomly flipping through the pages but then had to chow down on it cover-to-cover.  Now, ask me something….

MENA

Mother Earth News Almanac:  A Guide Through the Seasons (2016, Voyageur Press, Minneapolis) 

Whether you’re a modern homesteader or an urban DIY-er, you’ll find a useful tip or hundreds in the Mother Earth News Almanac (2016).  Want to know something about natural pest control?  How to build a stove out of an aluminium can?  Need recipes for popcorn balls or cherry preserves or tips on how to sour cream or sprout seeds for eating?  What about sinking fence posts or cobbling together a working substitute for a broken cotter pin?  Whether it’s raising livestock (or cats), making crafts, foraging for wild foods, or constructing, you name the topic – you’ll probably find something new and interesting about it in this book.  The entries are concise and informative, divided into categories based upon the seasons of the year, and the book is illustrated throughout with black ink line drawings, diagrams, and tables.  Fascinating and practical lifestyle hacks for everyone!

(* Many thanks to Voyageur Press for providing a copy of this title for review. I did not receive any compensation for my opinion, which is my own).

 

What are you most looking forward to this month?

Recipe: Lemon curd.

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I can’t help it – like a zillion other people out there, I associate spring with the colour yellow and the flavours of fresh citrus.  Call it programming or just a craving for something refreshing and sunny and light after a grey winter spent mostly indoors…whatever it is, it’s had me in the kitchen making lemon curd.  Twice in the last few days, actually.  The first batch I made did not contain any egg whites and it had so much sugar in it my brain hurt after the first bite.

Lemon curd should taste like lemons…obviously.

So I changed a few things – the egg combo and the amount of sugar and the quantity of lemons.  Pretty much everything, really.  And I arrived at something that actually tasted like lemons, but not so zingy that you make weird faces while eating it. Unless you want to, that is.

So, here it is.  It’s really good enough to eat straight out of the pan, which I may have done shamelessly did.  You could also slather it on a cake or some cookies, or freeze it so you can eat it on some nebulous future midnight when you can’t sleep.  (It’s good for up to two months in the freezer).

Lemon Curd (the not-too-sweet-tastes-like-lemons version)

2 whole eggs

2 egg yolks

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 small Meyer lemons, juiced (you could use 3 regular lemons instead)

2 to 3 tbsp unsalted butter

Prepare a double boiler.  Place eggs, egg yolks, sugar and lemon juice in a small saucepan and whisk until smooth.  Place the smaller pan into the double boiler and simmer at medium-low heat.  Frequently whisk the contents.  Don’t leave the kitchen for about ten minutes – the curd sets up all of a sudden and you don’t want to miss it when it does.  When the curd is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove the saucepan from the double boiler and stir in the butter until it is completely melted.  Set the curd aside to cool to room temperature.  Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours, then it’s ready to eat.  This recipe makes about 1 to 1 1/2 cups.

Enjoy!

Do you have any recipes you particularly love to make in the spring?

Holiday Plants: Cranberries (and a recipe for Cranberry Fudge!)

Highbush cranberry

V. trilobum – nope, not this one!

Not to be confused with the pictured cranberry, Viburnum trilobum (high bush cranberry), which makes a fantastic jelly but grows on compact shrubs, or the ornamental V. opulus and other Viburnum species and cultivars which are gorgeous but not edible, the cranberry we associate with holiday feasting in Canada and the United States is the totally unrelated Vaccinium macrocarpon.  (The viburnums are actually kin to elderberries and are not true cranberries).  V. macrocarpon is native to North America.  The vines grow in marshy areas, and commercial cranberry fields are flooded during harvest times, to make it easier for growers to gather the fruit.  (I found a good video showing the process here).

Viburnum snowball - 16 June 2012

Nor this one…V. opulus

When British colonists first came to America, the First Nations peoples educated them about the value of “craneberries” (called Sassamanash by the Algonquin and Ibimi by the Wampnanoag), which had been used for centuries for dye and fibre, and for food and medicine.  The colonists quickly recognized that the berries were good for staving off scurvy, so they became a staple on board trading vessels of the time.  The berries also became massively popular as a culinary delight in England, and commanded top dollar as an export. Apparently, cranberries could appease grumpy kings, as well:  in 1677, they were sent to Charles II when he became overly fussy about the colonists minting their own currency.  If only international politics were so manageable nowadays!

In 2007, 79,163 metric tonnes of cranberries were harvested in Canada (primarily from operations in British Columbia and Quebec), which translated to $44.3 million in exports and $17.2 million in imports.  That’s a lot of cranberry sauce!

This recipe for cranberry fudge is a holiday staple at my workplace, as one of our former managers still pops by every Christmas with a huge plate for all of us to share.  Even if you’re totally cratered by sugar at this juncture in the holiday season, bookmark this one for next year’s cookie plates…you’ll love both the taste and how easy it is to make.

Cranberry Fudge

Metric conversion table

2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup icing (powdered) sugar

1/4 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 oz dried cranberries

Prepare an 8″ square pan by lining it with plastic wrap or baking parchment.

Combine chocolate chips and syrup in a microwave-safe bowl.  Microwave on high until melted and smooth.  (Keep checking it so you don’t overheat it.  The wattage varies depending on what model of microwave you have, so I haven’t listed a specific time here).  If you don’t wish to use the microwave, you can do this step in a small saucepan over low heat on the stovetop.

Remove the chocolate and syrup mixture from the heat. Add icing sugar, evaporated milk, and vanilla.  Stir until mixture is shiny.  Add dried cranberries and combine well.  Pour into prepared pan and tap the bottom of the pan gently on the countertop to level the mixture.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours.  Cut into small squares and serve.

What are your favourite cranberry recipes? 

Further Reading:  Decking the Halls: The Folklore and Traditions of Christmas Plants by Linda Allen (2000, Willow Creek Press, Wisconsin)

Source: Crop Profile for Cranberry in Canada, prepared by Pesticide Risk Reduction Program, Pest Management Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, September 2007