Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Mulberries and jam-making
Can you spot the girl in this picture?
The mulberries are getting ripe, and Haley went to check on their progress.
There she is!
Okay, Approach #1 didn't work--climbing into the tree from the tractor tire.
Time to consider another way to get to the mulberries.
A more traditional method, perhaps?
Haley is athletic and not easily deterred from a goal she has set.
While there were mulberries lower on the tree, she wanted to get to those in the tree's top.
Which required a lot of climbing.
Which she really likes to do.
The reward: a handful of almost-ripe berries. Actually, I like them best at this stage, while there is still a good amount of tartness in them. Once mulberries are ripe, they are very sweet, but a little bland in my opinion.
What to do with mulberries? I like to mix them with other berries to make jam--strawberries or raspberries are a good match, as are gooseberries or currants.
Or mix them all for a really unique product. I no longer have gooseberries or currants, but I remember making that mixed-berry jam and it was delicious.
Rhubarb also makes a good partner for mulberries, adding a tart tang and a different taste. To make any of these variations, follow instructions for a berry jam; adding lemon juice might be a good idea if you use only raspberries and mulberries because the pectin content might be low. I use commercial pectin to make my preserves because I remember my mother's cooked jams made without pectin--very strong and kind of gummy, and often they got sugar crystals in them after a few months in storage. You can find a basic recipe for making jam here.
The mulberry tree was planted by Haley's father when he was seven years old. He ordered it from the Arbor Day foundation, I think. He planted two but one fell victim to the brush hog just after he planted it. The tree didn't bear until Derek had left for the Army when he was 18. Sometimes I mailed mulberry jam to him when he was in Germany, other times I stored it away until he returned home.
In 2003 Derek left for Iraq at the start of the current war. Soon after he left we had a terrible ice storm that destroyed many trees. The mulberry was heavily damaged and we did not think it would recover. It budded out very late that year and bore no berries at all. The following year it looked a little better, and now, five years later, it is full of berries and as vigorous as ever. I'll have some jam made and waiting when Derek comes home in June.