It’s finally saskatoon season here in Alberta! I usually don’t expect it to be saskatoon season until around the August long weekend but it seemed to be slightly early this year – I have no explanation for this since everything else seems to be two weeks behind this year. I curse Facebook all the time, but had it not been for an update from The Saskatoon Farm, I wouldn’t have known the berries were ready for picking. So I woke up early on Tuesday morning and made my way to the farm for picking.
Picking berries is something that I love. I remember going out with my Mom and siblings when we were younger and picking wild berries – none of this u-pick business. I liked it as a youngster but soon became a cynical teenager who hated everything, including picking berries. Once I got over that horrible phase, I was an adult who loved picking berries. My husband on the other hand hates picking berries, so I don’t drag him out with me anymore – of course this puts a little damper on my dream of owning my own u-pick, but I’ve suggested that he can just ride his bike around the farm selling water and ice cream.
The Saskatoon Farm. I love this place. It is a u-pick farm, but they also have a restaurant, a gift shop, a garden centre, a animals running around, and sell vegetables grown right on their property (I always buy a few bunches of beets and a ton of fresh picked garlic). This place can get insanely busy, which is good for them, but not so good for someone like me who loathes crowds. So I try to go as early as I can to avoid people but to also get my picking in before the day gets too hot. The later of the two was a little harder to avoid – I arrived at 9AM when they opened and by 10AM I was dying of heat. I soldiered on and just dealt with it.
About three years ago I discovered that they also have u-pick sour cherries. So that first year, I picked a bucket and brought them home and made the best cheesecake in the world. I make this cheesecake once a year because A) I am not a huge baker. B) It has like a million calories. C) It has a truck load worth of cream cheese and therefore costs a pretty penny to make. Last year I was really excited to go back and pick two buckets of cherries. Unfortunately they had a crappy season or something because the cherries were dreadful looking – I came home with no cherries. So this year I asked before I went out if the cherries were ready yet. The lady I spoke to said not quite yet but she’d seen other people out there picking them. So I went out and got my bucket of saskatoon berries and was about to leave but decided to stop to check the cherries first. To my excitement they were ready – I ate like 5 of them to make sure. I quickly powered through and picked a bucket, all while dripping with sweat (yes, I’m sure you wanted to hear about my bodily functions – it was like 30 degrees outside already!). I actually wanted to pick another bucket, but I was dehydrated and dying, so I decided to just leave. Plus, by this point it was 11:30AM and the place was insanely busy. I will probably go back next week and pick some more cherries. Sour cherries are definitely for baking or preserving – they are extremely tart. I wouldn’t say they are unpalatable without being covered in sugar – I actually really like eating them raw, but they are nothing like the sweet BC cherries were eat throughout July.
So what do I do with the saskatoon berries? Well, I eat a bunch of them raw – they have a really delicious nutty flavor. Then I preserve or freeze the bulk of them, which is what I did this morning. Freezing is easy – I don’t bother freezing them on cookie sheets before I put them into freezer bags because I’m lazy, but you can do this if you want. I pull them out during the winter to add to yogurt or baking. And sometimes I make little hand pies using the best pie crust in the entire world (I’ll have this for another post!). But my favorite way to eat saskatoons is just plain old canned. You’ll need to have basic knowledge of the hot water bath canning method, but it is so easy that you can just look it up online or consult a canning book. And my favorite part about canning? Hearing the popping of the lids sealing. Yeah, I’m weird.
Quick Canned Saskatoon Berries
– 2 litres fresh saskatoon berries
– 1 tbsp lemon juice (bottled or fresh)
– 1 cup white sugar
– 3 cups water
– Prepare berries by removing stems and washing in cold water
– Prepare hot water bath and sterilize jars and lids (I used 250ml jars and was able to get 7 jars in total)
– Prepare syrup by stirring together water, sugar and lemon juice until it boils
– Cold pack berries into jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space
– Ladle in syrup, leaving 1/2 inch head space
– Wipe rims, add lids and process in hot water bath for 10 minutes
– Remove from bath and sit on dishtowel on counter – listen for popping! Check to ensure all lids have sealed after a couple of hours (if they have not, you can put them in the fridge and eat them in the next couple of weeks). Do not disturb the jars for 24 hours.
The Saskatoon Farm is located an extremely short drive south of Calgary off of Highway 2. This year they introduced a “grazing fee”, which means you can pay $2 to get into the u-pick and just eat to your heart’s content without feeling obligated to pick an entire bucket. They also sell pre-picked buckets if you hate picking berries but want an entire bucket to take home. Or if you’d like to buy your own saskatoon bush to plant at home, they also sell those! And people say Disney is the happiest place on earth – I call BS.