After seeing the plump, purple bag of saskatoon berries from Michigan Farm to Freezer at Oleson’s, I thought, “why not?” I figured I would be able to put it to some good use, even though I have never had –or really even heard of– saskatoon berries.
I thawed some of the berries to see what I was dealing with. I was expecting a big, juicy flavor that you would expect from a blueberry or cranberry, but was surprised at how mild they were. Despite their similar appearance, saskatoon berries have a sweeter, almost almond like flavor.
According to the Saskatoon Berry Institute of North America, saskatoon berries are high in fiber, protein and antioxidants. Saskatoon berries can be found in the wild in a variety of conditions and soil types, all the way from Alaska to now Michigan. (You can read this great 2014 NPR article about saskatoons here.)
I was uncertain of what to do with these berries, so after some online research, I found that saskatoons are most often found in tarts and jams. I settled upon a saskatoon berry tart recipe found at chocolateandzucchini.com.
Making this tart was incredibly easy, and certainly could be adapted to many different fruits and flavors. First, I blended together the sugar and butter for the crust until fluffy. Then, I added the flour until combined. Lastly, I added the wee bit of vinegar and milk (don’t worry the vinegar flavor completely bakes off). This type of crust should look crumbly as it is based on the French recipe for a pâte sablée, or sandy dough.
I dumped this dough into a greased tart pan and used a measuring cup to press the dough into the bottom and up the sides. Once it looked even enough, I pricked it with a fork and popped it into the preheated oven.
While the crust blind-baked for 15 minutes, I mixed the berries with a little sugar, lemon zest, and almond meal. This is where I think you could get creative with various berries and spice mixtures. Strawberry + Rhubarb + Ginger? Apple + Cinnamon + Clove? Apricot + Cardamom? When the crust was ready, I plopped the berry mixture into the pan, somewhat evenly and left room around the edge, and left to bake for another 15 minutes.
Lastly, I whisked together an egg and some cream (I ended up using half and half) together. I poured this over the hot berries and crust and placed back in for another 15 minutes. How easy!
This tart ends up looking pretty impressive, despite how easy it is. Go forth and give this a try with whatever ingredients you have on hand.
Saskatoon Blueberry Tart
Crust (call it pâte sablée, if you’re feeling fancy):
7 tbsp (a scant ½ cup) of white sugar
6 tbsp chilled butter, such as from Shetler Family Dairy
1 ⅓ cup flour, such as Grand Traverse Culinary Flours Hard Spring Red Wheat
1 tsp white wine vinegar ( I didn’t have any so I used Fustini’s Apricot Balsamic Vinegar)
1 tbsp cold milk, such as from Shetler Family Dairy
3 cups frozen Saskatoon and Blueberries, such as from Michigan Farm to Freezer (or whatever berries you can find in your freezer)
2 tbsp of white sugar
¼ cup almond meal (or finely ground almonds)
Zest of one lemon
1 egg, from a happy, free range chicken of your choice
⅓ cup half & half or whipping cream
Preheat oven to 360 degrees and grease your 11 inch fluted tart pan. In your food processor, add in butter and sugar. Cream until light and fluffy. You may have to scrape the sides a few times. Then, add flour and combine until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and vinegar. Pulse a few times to incorporate. The dough will not form a ball, but will hold shape when pinched together.
Dump dough into pan. Gently and evenly pat crust into the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Don’t worry too much about appearance. Put in preheated oven for 15 minutes, until crust is just lightly golden brown. (I put my tart pan on a sheet pan.)
Toss berry mixture with 2 tbsp of sugar and almond meal. Pour into blind-baked crust and cook for another 15 minutes.
Whisk together egg and cream. Pour onto berries and crust. I put on hot pads and carefully picked up the tart pan and tilted it to spread the egg mixture around. Bake for a final 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack and enjoy! Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream encouraged.
Emma Beauchamp is the Local Food Coordinator for NW Michigan. She has been baking since she was 8 years old. Contact her at email@example.com
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