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Let Them Eat…Dessert

Saskatoon Berry Pie, Homage au Canada

Saskatoon Berry Pie

Pie oh my!  How do I compare thee to a warm summer day?  or a cool fall night?  Any time of year, it seems pie is the perfect end to the meal … or maybe eaten a little after the meal, when we have the chance to savor the flavors on a belly less stressed by turkey dinner or a summer BBQ.  Either way, it is the crème de la crème, the pièce de résistance!  …and served à la mode, ooh la la!

Saskatoon Berry Pie

While I can eat pie all year long, there is something about a fresh summertime pie bursting with berries from the farmer’s market and a pie crust made with fresh flour and butter straight from the farm.  OR you can just get a pre made pie crust and canned pie filling!  I love spending all day in the kitchen creating a home made from scratch pie as much as the next guy.  But when I’m pressed for time or looking for a quick dessert to bring to a potluck, I admit, I seek out that little Pillsbury dough boy to help me create it.  Pie crust in the freezer, filling in the pantry, badabing… in an hour you have a delicious dessert.  Add a few touches to make it your own and you’ll be just like Sandra Lee!

Saskatoon Berry Pie

This particular pie is made from Saskatoon berries, those sweet little berries you can only get in Canada, dare I say, near Saskatoon!  I remember as a kid driving out through the prairie to the Great Sand Dunes area and picking as many fresh berries as we could while running and falling and playing in those dunes.  These days I can only have Saskatoon berries in Saskatchewan or in pie filling I can bring home to the U.S.  The recipe below includes instructions for fresh or canned.

Saskatoon Berry Pie

“Why go to all the trouble for these berries?”, you may ask, “Why not just use blueberries?”  Maybe it’s the memory of childhood in Canada, or maybe it’s because I like the smaller berry with its unique flavor maybe a little more wild and tart than blueberries.  But when I make it, I’m reminded of home and those carefree summers on the prairie.

My father-in-law told me several years ago that Saskatoon berries are scientifically known as “amelanchier berries” and can grow in more parts of North America.  The word, Saskatoon, is of Cree Indian etymology and was used to describe the berries of the province, so is the only way I’ve known them.  The city of Saskatoon itself derives its name from the Cree extension then: “misâskwatôminiskâhk” meaning, “place of many Saskatoon berries”.  How cool is that?!

Saskatoon Berry Pie

The only similar berries I have tasted in the U.S. are Maine blueberries, which I have learned are a variation sometimes called Juneberries.  They tasted delicious but slightly more like a blueberry than the Saskatoons from Canada.  It could be the strain or the location.  I hope to try some out west some day, too!

These berries can be prepared many ways (think jams, syrup), but with a pie filling created by the Berry Barn (a restaurant with one of the most beautiful settings in Saskatchewn), I can create my “homage au Canada” whenever I crave that taste.  And of course, it needs home made vanilla ice cream à la mode!


Berry Pie Filling

my Mom’s handwritten recipe 🙂

Refrigerated pie crust
1-2 cans pie filling (1 jar Saskatoon berry pie filling)


Homemade filling:
3 1/2 cups berries
1/2 cup water (or less if frozen berries)
3/4 cup sugar
3 TB cornstarch
2 tsp lemon juice
1 TB butter
1/2 tsp almond extract


Preheat oven to 425F.  Bring crusts to room temperature, roll to size and place one crust in pie pan.  For homemade filling, cook ingredients on stove until thickened.  Pour filling into prepared pan.  Cover with remaining pie crust.

Bake at 425F for 20 minutes, and then cover rim with foil or metal pie rim protector, turn heat down to 400F and bake another 20-30 minutes.
Let cool.  Serve!

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

As a kid I was never a fan of homemade ice cream, I know, sacrilege!  But for some reason, the ice cream got this icy texture that overpowered the creaminess.  And that was even when using fresh from the cow cream and an honest-to-goodness good ‘ol wooden and metal ice cream maker with the salt and whole shebang!  What was the salt for again?  I digress… having since visited countless ice cream parlors with both homemade hard ice cream, frozen custard, and soft serve, I wanted to give it another chance.  I fell in love with cooking because I like being in charge of the ingredients.  Why shouldn’t I do the same for my ice cream ingredients!

So, I bought a Cuisinart.

ice cream makerYep, I didn’t see myself using the old wooden, salt? ice cream maker and didn’t like the results anyways.  Could it be any better with a bonafide electric version that promised pure fresh ice cream in 20 minutes?  I decided to give it a try.

The Cuisinart comes with a recipe book, of course, so I tried their standard vanilla ice cream.  I skeptically mixed the ingredients (heavy cream, required) with the Kitchenaid (one can not have too many appliances, by the way), and chilled the bowl in the fridge.  I poured the mixture into the Cuisinart’s freezer bowl and began to watch.  With each spin, turn, tumble the liquid began to solidify more and more until I couldn’t stand it anymore, I had to get my spoon in there and taste!  Before the 20 minute bell even rang, I had a delicious homemade vanilla soft serve ice cream on my hands.  I was hooked and re-converted back to a homemade ice cream lovin’ junkie in that moment.

ice creamStrawberry Basil Ice Cream

From there I went on to experiment with different flavors – the standard chocolate, strawberry (any berry!), mint chip, peanut butter, etc.  All of them use a similar technique with the Cuisinart and provide great results.  And now I have to jump on the fun flavors craze that I’ve seen with some of my favorite ice cream shops like Mitchell’s or Jeni’s.  Et voilà – Strawberry Basil Ice Cream!

You may think “basil is meant to be eaten with tomatoes, mozzarella or just Italian food”.  But somehow it works in sweet foods and drinks, too.  And for ice cream, it’s just a matter of mixing/matching any little ingredient that the machine can handle and in 20 minutes, you can eat it!  If you want it a little harder, just chill in the freezer.  The strawberries were fresh from the farmer’s market and the basil from my garden.  And it turned out… delish!


Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream

Note:  This ice cream is a very light pink in color, not like the over-dyed versions you see at the store.  But if you want to pump up the pink, just add a drop or two of red food coloring.


1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 TB lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar, divided
1 cup whole milk, very cold
2 cups heavy whipping cream, very cold
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tsp fresh basil, chopped


Combine the strawberries with the lemon juice and 1/4 cup sugar.  Let sit for 2 hours or so.  Strain the juice and mash the strawberries with a fork or puree with a blender.

With a mixer, combine the milk and the remaining sugar and mix on low until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir in the heavy cram, strawberry juice, mashed strawberries, and vanilla.

Turn the Cuisinart on and pour the mixture into the freezer bowl.  Let churn for about 20 minutes, and then add the lemon zest and basil.  Churn 5 minutes more to combine.  Eat now as a soft texture or transfer to an airtight container and freeze until desired consistency.  Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving.

Have you experimented with electric ice cream machines?  or the old kind, for that matter?  I’d love to hear about your results.