Friday, June 07, 2013

Canadian Food Project - First Memory

Every year, without fail, my mom baked a saskatoon berry pie for Thanksgiving dinner. And Christmas and Easter and my dad’s birthday. She also made apple, lemon meringue and strawberry-rhubarb in season. But for special occasions, a saskatoon berry pie was nonpareil.

Saskatoon berry season is short – mid to end July. That has been extended with the arrival of u-pick saskatoon berry orchards, but my mom never baked with anything but wild. That meant, come mid-July, we headed out with berry buckets, mosquito spray and sandwiches to pick a year’s worth of saskatoons. Or more.

When my future husband came to visit for the first time, I wanted him to experience all things quintessentially Saskatchewan. So, I took him to the family farm for a harvest dinner and, of course, my mom made saskatoon pie. “What did you think of the pie?” I asked him.

“Your mom’s lemon meringue pie is mighty larapin,” he said. Larapin is the word his Illinois grandpa used to describe his grandma’s pies. “But,” I pressed, “how did you like the saskatoon berry pie?” “It was okay,” he said not quite convincing enough. Okay? Just okay?? Can you even live in Saskatoon if you don’t like saskatoon berry pie? Well, he said, maybe you had to grow up with it. Maybe there’s more to it than fits in a pie.

That got me thinking about my lifelong relationship with the saskatoon berry. That I might even have a relationship with a berry is, I suppose, proof that what he said might be true. The saskatoon berry is part of my earliest memories, part of the fabric of my family, perhaps even part of my DNA. Come mid-July, I love nothing more than to loop the handle of a bucket into my belt, slather on the mosquito spray and honour my ancestors by picking a year’s worth of saskatoons. Or more. 

Prairie Berry Clafoutis
My husband still isn’t crazy about saskatoon berry pie, but he loves saskatoons in this French classic.

2 tbsp butter
3 eggs
3 tbsp sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup flour
2 cups mixed Saskatchewan berries: saskatoons, raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, cherries (fresh and/or frozen)
1 tbsp flour

Heat oven to 350F. Put the butter in a 10-inch cast iron skillet or pie plate. Place in the oven to melt the butter, ensuring it doesn’t brown. Meanwhile, in a blender mix the eggs, sugar, milk, vanilla and salt. With the blades running, gradually add one cup of flour and blend well. In a bowl, toss the berries with the remaining tbsp of flour. Remove skillet from the oven. Pour in the batter. Scatter berries over top. Bake about 20 minutes, until the centre is set. Serve warm or room temperature with a sprinkling of icing sugar.

Picking saskatoon berries with my husband at a very secret spot known only to family members. :)
This is my first post in the Canadian Food Experience Project in which participants across the country share stories of our unique Canadian food experiences. Join us!


1 comment:

Lyndsay Wells said...

I am LOVING this! As a fellow participant in this project, every new blog I read brings forth a memory. I remember DREADING Saskatoon berry picking in the hot prairie sun, but it was something my grandmother insisted we do. And now I understand why because the experience is interwoven into the fabric of my life. I live on Vancouver Island now and the two things I miss the most are pickerel and Saskatoon berries. Thank you for a wonderful post!