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?

Mock orange.

The mock orange (Philadelphus lewisii cvs.) won’t bloom here for a while yet but I was going through some old photo files and I came across a series I took when my hubby and I visited the Patterson Garden Arboretum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in summer 2014.  I am more than a little enamoured with mock orange so I spent considerable time gawking at them and inhaling their magnificent fragrance while in the garden, despite the fact that the mosquitoes were eating us alive.  (Insect repellent apparently doesn’t work in Saskatchewan – their mosquitoes are even more ridiculously nasty than ours in Alberta. Then again, they had just come off of weeks of rain and flooding in some areas of the province and the hatches were massive).

These are all hardy mock orange, rated for zone 3.  Do you grow mock orange in your garden?

‘Jackii’

'Jackii' Mockorange 2

‘Marjorie’

'Marjorie' Mockorange 4

‘Snow Goose’

'Snow Goose' Mockorange 2

‘Waterton’

'Waterton' Mockorange 5

Flowery Friday: ‘Hazeldean’ rose.

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Ah…spring in Calgary!  I have no idea what coat I should wear when I go outside – in a five minute walk, it might pour rain or pelt icy snow or be so pleasantly warm you wonder why you put the coat on in the first place.  I love this crazy season!

The garden was partly buried in snow earlier this week and is now gloriously muddy, so I’m admiring from afar the progress of my slowly emerging perennials (all that fresh green!) and the blooms of tiny crocuses, squill, chionodoxa, snowdrops, and muscari.  Isn’t it amazing that the soil is still so cold and yet all this fantastic STUFF is going on?  Even if you’ve been gardening in northern climes for many years, sometimes you just have to pause a moment to take in the absolute wonder of it.  And how here, in the face of such marvels, I can’t even choose suitable outerwear.  😉

In lieu of photos of spring-flowering bulbs, I want to show off another rose I found while touring Patterson Garden Arboretum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan last July.  I love this photo because it’s a teaser…I still have yet to see the open flowers of Rosa ‘Hazeldean’.  (If you’re curious, here’s a link to some images and a write-up of the breeding history of this hardy yellow beauty).

Have a wonderful weekend…and may you always have the right coat for the weather!  🙂

Flowery Friday: ‘Louis Riel’ rose.

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Rosa ‘Louis Riel’ – a real gem found at the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park and Zoo (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan) in July of last year. Love the blue-green foliage and the pure white single flowers!  I’m not quite sure what the tag-along insect is on the uppermost bloom.

Sculpture Garden – University of Saskatchewan.

A garden of a less “flowery” sort today…these photos were taken at the sculpture garden on the grounds of the University of Saskatchewan, which my hubby and I visited in July of last year.  Bill Epp, a visual arts professor at the University, started the garden back in 1993, and more works were added in 1997 and 2006.  These photos represent a smidgen of what is available to see.

I just had to include a photo of the “hand” – I actually found it a bit unnerving.  How do you feel about it (and the other works)?

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Hesitation.

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For a pelican, he sure looks a little hesitant about getting into the pool….

Photos taken 10 July 2014, on the South Saskatchewan River near the CPR Bridge, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – something I was more than a bit hesitant to cross over on. It would be an understatement to say I’m not good with either heights or bridges and this old pedestrian bridge adjacent to the rail bridge completely unnerved me. Built in 1909, it felt decidedly creaky to me, although everyone else seemed blissfully unaware that we were all going to fall off into the river below if, for a split second, I took my white-knuckled fingers off of the oh-too-short railing or stepped on the wrong wooden board.  😉

 

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Do you have any phobias or fears that make you hesitate?

From Patterson Garden, University of Saskatchewan.

My hubby and I spent a few days earlier this month in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, so I could attend some workshops during the University of Saskatchewan’s annual Hort Week.  I had such an amazing time and met so many nice people, plus I learned a lot about plant diseases, insect pests and controls, and Prairie-hardy trees and shrubs.   Over the next few posts, I’ll share some pics from the trip – this was our first time to Saskatoon and I was impressed with the beauty of this city on the South Saskatchewan River.

One of the stops we made was to tour the University’s Patterson Garden, a public arboretum.  We actually went there over two evenings because (a) it has so many trees and shrubs to explore and (b) the mosquitoes chased us out the first night!  The mozzies were INSANE while we were there – I’m not one of those people who are typically bothered by them, but I was practically eaten alive this trip.   One of the participants in the insect pests workshop worked for the City of Saskatoon and he said that according to tests they had done, the mosquito population hadn’t yet reached a record peak, but it was close.

Here is more information about Patterson Garden, from the U of S’s website:

The University’s Arboretum was established in 1966 and contains one of the most diverse collections of trees, shrubs, and vines in the Prairie Provinces. Species from northern regions of the world as well as historic cultivars developed by pioneer plant breeders are on display. All specimens are labeled with common and scientific names. An invaluable reference for horticulture and botany, the picturesque site is also used for photography, field trips, and strolls.

The Arboretum is located in zone 2b of the hardiness zones of Canada, experiencing a sunny continental climate with cold snowy winters and hot summers. Despite climatic extremes many woody plants thrive here, responding to well-defined seasons and long hours of summer sunshine.

Patterson Garden Arboretum is a garden attraction of Canada’s Garden Route. It is nearby to the campus area and is open to the public throughout the year, free of charge, from sunrise to sunset.

We came across this beautiful rose with fading flowers near the end of the second evening – it is not a named cultivar, at least not according to the plate, which read:  Rosa 73846001 (J5 Rose).   Most of the plants had their planting dates marked on the plates, but not this one, so I’m not sure how old it is.

Gorgeous!

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I hope you have a wonderful weekend!  What plans do you have (gardening or otherwise)?

Adventures in canning.

Well, I finally made myself return the boiling water canner and racks to their winter home high up on the top shelf of the pantry.

I did a LOT of canning this summer, and I’m not done yet:  once I can get my hands on a few bags of Meyer lemons, I’ll haul the canner back down for another round or two.  (There are a few canning projects that I simply must undertake every year, and making Meyer lemon jelly is tops on the list.  You would not believe how good it tastes).

I had a few canning firsts this year, including the batch of lilac flower jelly that I made in early summer (as you’ll recall in this post).  I also tried lemon balm jelly, because for some strange reason I put three lemon balm plants in one of my community garden beds, and of course – cue the laughter from everyone reading this – they grew to insane proportions and tried to suck the marrow out of the universe.  (I thought maybe our wonky weather would keep them down to a dull roar, but apparently they thrive on wonky.  Ah, the delights of the mint family…).  Fortunately, I REALLY like lemon balm tea.  You also need a good pile of leaves to make jelly, so that’s one of the things I did.  I used my standard recipe for making floral jellies and then when I wasn’t watching (first rule of canning:  you ALWAYS have to watch!), I cooked the mixture beyond the gel point and now I have jars of jelly that you can’t spread on toast without a heavy machine operator’s license and the use of a road paver.  Uh, oops.  It tastes mighty fine, though…you just have to wrestle it out of the jars.

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The lemon balm that ate the world.  I know we’ll meet again.  Next spring, probably. 

Another new venture was far more successful.  In July, my hubby and I went out to a u-pick farm in Lacombe, nearly 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary.  You have to go out early to pick what we were after:  haskaps (also known as honeyberries, the edible fruit of certain species of honeysuckle) get a bit mushy at high temperatures and become nearly impossible to remove from the branches.  The farm’s owners were scrambling to remove debris from a huge hailstorm the night before and setting up several carloads of people in an adjacent field, where they were picking buckets of huge red strawberries.  We were the only ones out with the haskaps, and after we helped one of the owners pull the bird netting off of a row of the shrubs, I got to work.  This was my first time picking haskaps, but I was prepared for their soft texture:  you don’t yank them off and throw them in buckets as you would with most berries.  They have to be finessed in such a way with gloved fingers (it’s very important to wear the gloves) so that you don’t squish them and then you lay them gently in flat boxes, being careful not to pile too many on top of each other.  While there are haskap cultivars with berries that are less soft than others, I found that in the building heat, they pretty much juiced themselves even with my careful preparation.  I picked almost six pounds of the beauties and most of them were turned into the most incredible jam I’ve ever tasted.  They have a flavour reminiscent of the best blueberries you’ve ever eaten, but tangier.  And waaaaaaaay better.

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I guess I was so busy “finessing” the berries off the shrubs that I forgot to take any decent photos.  Sorry! 

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 I did manage to capture a view of how easy these shrubs are to access for harvesting.  You can sit down to pick the berries and there’s no need for a long reach.

We also picked sour cherries at a farm outside of DeWinton, south of Calgary.  Sour cherry jam is another annual must-do project of mine, but this year I used a low methoxyl pectin and let’s just say, it is necessary to add more sugar than I did.  You may be able to cut it in other recipes but sour cherries are…well…sour.

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I’m reminded that I have a few containers of sour cherry pie filling in the freezer.  Mmmmmmm….

The pectin fared awesomely in the Saskatoon (serviceberry) jam I made – without all that sugar, you really get walloped with the gorgeous sweet-almondy flavour.  I usually make Saskatoon jam (I’d argue about being too lazy to strain the seeds out but I’m too lazy to argue) but maybe next year I’ll change it up and go with jelly.

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Ho boy, now I’m thinking about the saskatoon tarts they make and sell at the u-pick farm.  Now I won’t be able to sleep tonight…I’ll keep getting up to check the fridge to see if a tart has magically appeared. 

Then, there were our foraging trips…one of which lasted a lot longer than intended because we got turned around and then there was some scrambling down hillsides and some swathing through heavy brush and mistakenly ending up on private property (shhhhh)….ahem.   We came out of that with a big bag of chokecherries and rose hips.  The chokecherries ended up in a combo with peach juice and the rosehips in a vitamin C knockout with raspberry juice, and let’s just say we don’t have any jars of those left.  They were worth every spiderweb in my hair and all the scratches on my arms!

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Rosehips

Chokecherries

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Did you do any canning this year (or are you still planning any canning projects)?  Whether or not you make them yourself, what are your favourite jams and jellies to eat?  What about pickles and chutneys?