In eastern Washington, wild Saskatoons (Amelanchier alnifolia)—aka western serviceberry, shadbush, and juneberry—grow near the extensive orchards of cherries, apples, and pears that follow the river valleys. The Wenatchee River corridor near Leavenworth is loaded with Saskatoons, and it’s interesting to see how this free food is all but ignored while the domesticated fruit trees are bombed with pesticides, tended to by an underclass of migrant workers out of Mexico, and fawned over by tourists.
The other day I picked a good quantity of Saskatoons in view of the orchards while passing motorists wondered what the heck this crazy guy was up to. The paradoxes of modern food culture pile up on our plates…
A Saskatoon sauce is just the thing this time of year to dress up a scoop of good vanilla ice cream. Or you can add some vinegar and herbs to make a savory sauce. Most of the recipes you’ll find online are too sweet and use corn starch as a thickener. Don’t follow the herd! The berries are plenty sweet on their own, and they’ll thicken into a nice sauce with a little extra simmer time and whisking. For a dessert sauce I also like to add a little lemon zest in addition to the juice. Remember that these berries have noticeable seeds. The seeds add a nutty dimension to the flavor, but if you’re picky about your texture, you can cook this sauce down (with more time and water) and run it through a food mill or strainer.
Bring the berries and water to boil in a sauce pan. Reduce heat and simmer for several minutes. Whisk in sugar, lemon juice, and zest. Continue to simmer and whisk until sauce is thickened to taste. Add more water if necessary.