Late June is always one of my favourite times in Toronto. The days are long and hot and humid, but the nights are still comfortably cool. In my garden, the honeysuckle and the elderflower are in full bloom, filling the evening air with their perfume.
It's also the time of year when the saskatoon berries come into season.
These versatile berries can be used pretty much anywhere you'd use any other berry. They make delicious muffins, pies and jams.
And while I do have a notorious sweet tooth, my favourite thing I've made so far is this homemade barbecue sauce.
It's equal parts sweet and tangy, with just enough heat to keep things interesting. (Though you can most definitely make it spicier by throwing in an extra chili or two, if that's your preference!)
The fruity flavour makes it perfect for pairing with chicken and pork in particular, though it does work quite nicely with beef if you're looking to change things up.
a Berry by Any Other Name
Here in Canada they're usually known as saskatoon berries or serviceberries, but they also go by juneberries, prairie berries and shadbush. These small trees and bushes can be grown from coast to coast in Canada, as well as the northern United States.
As you might have guessed from one of their names, they usually come into season in June. Dainty white blossoms give way to clusters of dark purple berries, filling the trees with flocks of local birds looking for a sweet treat.
While they may look like a blueberry, as members of the rose family they're actually more closely related to plums and apples. The flavour is best described as a sweet and a little starchy, with very little of the acidity that you usually expect in a berry.
Picking and Storing Saskatoon Berries
Saskatoon berries can be tricky to find at the supermarket, so your best bet if you're looking to buy is to check out your local farmers market.
The other option is to go out foraging. Here in Toronto, saskatoons have become a popular tree among homeowners and have also been planted on many city properties, which means you might just be lucky enough to have a tree nearby that you can pick.
Either way, look for plump dark purple or blueish berries with smooth skins. Discard any berries that are bright pink (they're underripe), or wrinkled and/or mushy (they're overripe). And whatever you do, do not wash your berries until you're ready to use them!
Fresh berries will keep in the fridge for a few days. For longer storage, these berries freeze beautifully. Simply arrange the berries in a single layer on a baking sheet, and pop into the freezer for a few hours. Once the berries are frozen solid, transfer to a freezer-safe bag for up to one year.
What To Make with Saskatoon Berry Barbecue Sauce
If you're looking to keep it simple, just brush some onto your favourite cut of meat in the last 5-10 minutes of cooking time, and then serve a little more sauce on the side for dipping. This particular technique works especially well with pork tenderloin, baby back ribs, or chicken thighs.
- Burgers: Grill up your favourite homeburger (or cheeseburger) recipe, and serve them with a generous dollop of barbecue sauce, thinly sliced onions,
- Meatloaf: Brush a generous layer of barbecue sauce onto your favourite meatloaf halfway through the baking time.
- Pulled Pork: This one's kind of a no brainer, but who cares... it's still delicious! Just toss a generous amount of sauce with pulled pork just before serving. (PS: you can also go with pulled chicken, if that's more your thing.)
- Chicken Fingers: Saskatoon barbecue sauce is perfect for dipping crispy chicken fingers. It's a great way to elevate the frozen ones from the box... because sometimes that's what you've gotta do.
More Delicious Saskatoon Berry Recipes
These versatile berries work wonderfully in both sweet and savoury recipes. Here are a few wonderful ways to enjoy them while they're still in season!
- Saskatoon Berry Scones from Crumb
- Saskatoon Berry Galette with Lemon and Thyme from Sugarlovespices
- Eton Mess with Saskatoons and Rhubarb from Kitchen Frau
- Saskatoon Berry Clafoutis from Diversivore
- Saskatoon Ice Cream from Jo and Sue
Saskatoon Berry Barbecue Sauce
- Total Time: 50 minutes
- Yield: 3 cups 1x
This sweet-and-tangy barbecue sauce gets its fruity flavour from saskatoon berries, a native Canadian berry that's in season in late June and early July. It's delicious with grilled chicken or pork, or add it to any recipe you'd normally make with a bottled barbecue sauce.
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 1 red hot chili, minced
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 2 cups fresh or frozen saskatoon berries
- ¾ cup cider vinegar
- ½ cup ketchup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 2 tbsp molasses
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp worcestershire sauce
- In a saucepan set over medium-high heat, saute the onion and chili in olive oil until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes or until the sauce is slightly thickened and berries are very soft.
- Using an immersion blender or food processor, blend the mixture until very smooth. (If the sauce is too thick to easily blend, add some water, a tablespoon or two at a time, until it smooths out.) Let cool, then transfer to a container.
Make It Extra-Spicy: For a spicier sauce, add an extra chili or two, or swap out the red chili with a spicier variety like scotch bonnet.
Storing Saskatoon Berry Barbecue Sauce: The finished sauce will keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks, or in the freezer for up to a year.
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 45 mins
- Category: Condiments
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Canadian
Erica Sparshu says
I do a lot of canning and a was wondering if this could be canned instead of frozen
Isabelle Boucher says
I can't say for sure if this recipe is safe for canning because I haven't tested the PH level, and it is definitely on the sweeter side than most BBQ sauces. This is a great question, though, so I will follow up when Saksatoon berry season rolls around this summer and update based on my findings!
Erica Sparshu says
My husband has been picking berries galore. Was excited to see the recipe
for saskatoon barbecue sauce. Will definitly try this.
Shailaja Desai says
This looks like a great recipe for the Saskatoon berry sauce and the recipe ideas with it. I've never cooked with these berries and would love to love for them here in Toronto. Lovely blog post Isabelle.
Cynthia Priest says
Ooh, lovely addition of ketchup in the barbecue sauce. I like that you added molasses to the barbecue sauce. I will have to try that! (I added maple syrup to mine)
Kelly Neil says
The timing of this recipe is perfect! I've never had Saskatoon berries but my father-in-law says there's a huge patch near their house in Cape Breton! Thanks for sharing!
[email protected] says
Fantastic recipe! Always delighted to see more recipes with Saskatoon berries. For that matter, I'm also delighted to see more recipes for fruity barbecue sauces. They're awesome. Love the pulled pork idea too - it seems like a perfect fit. Cheers!
Love this Canadian spin on barbecue sauce! Will be the perfect condiment for all those summer BBQs.
[email protected] Frau says
That is a really great looking barbecue sauce recipe! I LOVE the idea of using saskatoons in it - brilliant! Our berries are just past the blossom stage here in the prairies - probably another month away, but I am excited to try your version as soon as we're picking; thanks for the recipe. And thank you for including my post in your round-up - I am honoured.. Happy summer and happy berrying!
Loreto and Nicoletta Nardelli says
Every summer we cannot wait to go Saskatoon berry harvesting at our friends' acreage! We usually come home with pales of Saskatoons that we freeze. Thank you, now we have another amazing option to use them up! Also thanks for including our recipe!