Recipe: Saskatoon berry drink mix.

NOTE: I’ve updated this post (as of July 2017) – click here for TWO versions of my saskatoon berry drink mix!  


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.  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 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

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.

What are your favourite saskatoon berry recipes?

Sunday spotlight: Saskatoon.

The Elbow River at Weaselhead Natural Area, Calgary

My hubby and I went for a really, really, REALLY long walk in the Weaselhead Natural Environment Area in southwest Calgary last Monday.  While I admit, I was the one who suggested that we take a right turn when we ought to have taken a left, it was such a splendidly warm day and the Weaselhead is so wonderful to explore, that our lengthy detour didn’t matter.  The Elbow River lazily runs through the park en route to the Glenmore Reservoir, and apparently forms large mud flats which canoeists ply in the heat of summer.  At this time of year, the river is comparatively high, pooling in the backwaters, unburdened with heavy silt.

Drifts of golden buffalo beans (Thermopsis rhombifolia) and wild violets (Viola adunca) marked our route, but I was most delighted to come across so many saskatoon shrubs (Amelanchier alnifolia) in bloom – it means there should be plenty of berries in a couple of months!  Saskatoon berries are such a huge treat – other than eating them by the handful straight off the bush, there is absolutely nothing, I repeat nothing, better than a gigantic slice of homemade saskatoon pie.   If you’ve never eaten saskatoons, they look and taste a little like blueberries, except they contain crunchy tiny seeds that give them a delicious wild texture and slightly nutty flavour.  They’re sweet and juicy and full of vitamins and antioxidants.

Saskatoon in flower

An extremely hardy North American native with over twenty species, this member of the rose family goes by a myriad of common and regional names:  Pacific serviceberry, western serviceberry, sarvisberry, alder-leaf shadbush, dwarf shadbush, shadblow, Indian pear, and sugar pear.   I’m not sure where the “pear” references come in, as the fruit doesn’t resemble pears even with a huge application of imagination, but the term “shadbush” apparently came about because the flowering time of the shrub coincides with the migration of shad fish in certain waters.¹  Here in Alberta, we use the English form of the original Cree name mis-sask-qua-too-mina, saskatoons.

Do you grow saskatoons in your garden?  What is your favourite way to eat saskatoon berries? 


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