When I was little I went camping at Miquelon Lake Provincial Park with my aunt and uncle. It was just before they had their first baby. I guess they were trying out what it would be like to camp with kids. Obviously exhausting – have you met me and my brother? Imagine two Tasmanian devils spinning around like a Bugs Bunny cartoon for three days. My uncle took us on a hike to pick berries while my aunt ‘made lunch’ a euphemism for “OMG I am going to wring their necks if I don’t get some quiet time and NOW.” Or she just dropped to her knees and fell asleep. Either way, we are A LOT.
This moment in my life was the first time I ever picked berries and ate them off the tree without fear of being poisoned. I always thought I would die by quicksand or fruit poisoning. Obviously, I watched a lot of Gilligan’s Island and Disney movies. I found some raspberries that day, but mostly saskatoons (also known as June or serviceberries). We went back for lunch and had a bowl of berries with thick heavy cream. Damn – that is the best way to eat them. Or one of the best.
I came home on Friday to a one-gallon pail of saskatoons sitting on the kitchen counter! The hubs took a pail to the dog park and spent about an hour cleaning off only one bush. (The City of Edmonton has planted various fruit trees around the city. I have found crab apple, pear and saskatoons. I have heard of a secret grove of Apricots in the river valley that I am still looking for – although it may be a myth.) I immediately went to work cleaning the berries.
Back in the dark days, I had a friend who canned just about all her food. She would harvest berries and wild mushrooms, then work in her garden to supply food for most of the winter. She taught me about cleaning berries to minimize the amount of protein or bugs found in your desserts. Her method was simple, in the pail of berries add two tablespoons of vinegar and fill with water until the berries just begin to float. Let soak for one hour. The spiders will immediately climb to the top. I scooped them out and set them outside. FREE THE SPIDERS PEOPLE! Then any little flies or worms will also float to the top but they will be dead – drowned or pickled – whichever – I skimmed those off then rinsed the berries one handful at a time and placed them in a colander to drain. Once completed I placed on a clean towel to dry.
At this point, you can do one of two things, place in the fridge to chill and use up during the week or place on a parchment-lined cookie tin to freeze individually. Then place in an air-tight container. They will keep in your freezer for at least six months – may be longer but they don’t last that long in my house. If you just put berries in a bag and freeze before you individualize them, they will juice and you bet a big block of berries. You then have to use them all at once when they thaw. Individually, you can have one or ninety.
I decided to make a pie. But I didn’t feel like making a crust. So I made a crustless pie and called it crumble. After eating my crustless pie, I decided I will likely never make crusts again because they are never as delicious and straight-up filling. Here is my recipe for Saskatoon Crumble, or use your favourite pie crust and make a few pies.
Saskatoon Berry Crumble (or pie)
This recipe uses 1 gallon of berries. It divides well. Most berries can be substituted.
- one gallon of cleaned berries
- 2 cups of white sugar
- 8 tbsp all-purpose flour
- juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp of kosher salt
- 1 tbsp of butter – not margarine or oil or spray – butter.
Mix together the sugar, flour, salt and zest of lemon. I add a layer of berries and a layer of dry ingredients and give them a toss to evenly coat the berries. I do this in stages to coat everything.
Butter a 9 x 13 pan or larger if you have one. Get into all the corners and up the sides. If you skip this step or aren’t thorough, you will be frustrated with berry stickage.
Pour your berries into the pan in an even layer. I used two smaller pans so I could give some to my papa bear. But this will make four human-sized square pans for freezing, sharing or eating – the choice is yours.
I use this recipe for peach pie, apple pie, strawberry- rhubarb and all my cobblers. I think a double crust is too much crust. When I make a pie I use 1/4 of this recipe. I increased it by 4 for this crumble thing.
- 1 cup of butter – not margarine – use the good stuff. I like salted but unsalted is fine – just add a pinch of salt to the bowl.
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1 cup of white sugar
- 2 cups of flour.
Everything goes into the bowl and get your hands in there. You want this to be a crumble so don’t mix it with a spoon. Use your thumb and forefinger and mash/slide the two together. You want the butter-sugar mixture to look like small peas or coarse sand.
Pour over your berries and lightly pat it to the berries so it forms a crust. Alternatively, you could just use your hands to distribute evenly and call it a day. I prefer a crust-like texture and have deep regret that I didn’t do this. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet because you will get spillage and berry pops. If you can’t be bothered, that’s your deal and at Christmas, you will wonder why your oven is smoking. Your welcome.
Bake in a pre-heated 375 Degree oven for 35 – 45 minutes.
Serve warm with ice cream or heavy cream or plain. I also like it cold for breakfast.
Let me know what you think. The lemon zest is the secret ingredient.