Homemade is Better—Saskatoon Pie

It’s almost Canada Day, and I was reflecting on Canadian desserts.  Some tasty Canadian treats include the Beavertail, Nanaimo Bars, Butter Tarts, Sugar Pie, Flapper Pie, Sweet Bannock, and, of course, Saskatoon Berry Pie!  Last year we went berry picking at a farm near Sherwood Park (a suburb of Edmonton for those who live elsewhere).  My kids had fun for about the first 20 minutes, and then I made it a competition to make it more fun for everyone.  I can’t recall who won then, but today we all do!

IF you are reading this and have no idea what a Saskatoon Berry is, you might instead know it as pigeon berry or serviceberry.  These little berries are similar to the blueberry but have a very distinct sweet and nutty flavour.  In Cree, these small flavour bombs are misâskwatômina (Mis-sask-quah-yoo-mina).  They contain fibre, protein, and antioxidants, according to the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America.  These small berries are mostly a Western Canadian crop, and the prairies are responsible for about 90% of the production for Canada.

I could not think of a dessert more deserving appreciation than Saskatoon berry pie!  For this pie, I adapted a celebrity chef’s recipe and made a few changes to work with the dough and flavours of the berry.  I use vodka for the pie crust instead of water because I like how alcohol makes working the crust much easier.   I chose vodka because it is relatively flavourless so won’t add unwanted flavours.  It is the same alcohol you’d use to make most extracts.

Another trick is to keep your work area floured enough that the dough will move around and not stick.  You can either use a silicon matt or your counter; I use my counter.  Roll it out starting from the middle, but rotate every couple of rolls to keep a circular shape.  The dough might crack at the edges, and that’s ok.  You want it to get about ¼” thick.  Being  cautious, make sure you flip it once to ensure you roll it out evenly.  Once the dough is about 2 inches wider than the pie plate, carefully transfer it from your work station to the pie plate.  I recommend you keep the pie plate close, so you don’t move the dough too far.  Another piece of hardware I use is a sheet pan.  I put the pie on the sheet pan to bake to catch the overflow, which would mess up your oven.

Happy Canada Day, Everyone, from my family to yours!

Saskatoon Pie


170g unsalted butter – grated
56g shortening – cubed
¼ cup vodka
340g (or 2 ¾cups) All-purpose flour
1 Tsp table salt
1 TBSP Sugar

    1. In a stand mixer, add flour, salt, and sugar.
    2. Grate the butter and place it in the mixing bowl.
    3. Cube the shortening add it to the bowl.
    4. Mix until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
    5. Slowly add the vodka to the dough until it comes together and sticks when held. You might not use all the vodka… so mix a drink with the rest.
    6. Weight it and split the dough into two pieces.
    7. Flatten each piece and wrap them in plastic wrap (or use a zipper-lock bag). Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
    8. After they have rested, remove from the fridge.
    9. Dust some flour on your worktop. You don’t want pie dough to stick.  There should be enough that the dough can move easily.  You will need to keep dusting as you roll it out to keep the dough moving.
    10. Roll them out, so they are just larger than a 9″ pie plate.

Saskatoon filling:

800g saskatoons
125ml water
185g sugar
¼ cup of water
31g cornstarch
1 tsp kosher salt
1 TBSP lemon juice

  1. Measure out half the Saskatoons and add then to a pot with the 125ml of water and 60 g of sugar. Reserve the other half for later.
  2. Mix the remaining water and cornstarch.
  3. Boil the berries and water. Add in the cornstarch to thicken the syrup.
  4. Stir in the rest of the sugar, kosher salt and lemon juice.
  5. Let it cool for 5 minutes and add in the reserved amount.
  6. Set your oven to 425F.
  7. Add the filling to the pie crust.
  8. Roll out your second pie crust and cover the pie. Make some small slights in it to allow steam to escape.  Mix one egg yolk and 1 tsp of water and brush the top of the pie.
  9. Bake for 25 – 35 minutes or until the crust is a nice shade of golden brown.
  10. Allow it rest for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. Overnight is ok too. If you don’t let it rest, you will lose all the juice, and it will be a big sloppy mess.
  11. Cut into wedges, add some ice cream, and cheers to Canada Day!
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