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.


Anonymous said...

Was he seven? Seems like it wasn't that long ago, but I suppose it was... Remember going down on Trace Fork and spreading sheets out on the ground and shaking the tree? I think that was were the idea of a mulberry tree of his own came from. I think... We planted the American Chestnuts in the yard. getting crowded here. Gonna hafta upgrade soon.

Any shoots come off the mulberry tree? Be neat to plant one over at Dereks. We would just have to be sure it was protected from the lawn mower/finish mower/brush hog/skateboards/poison ivy spray!


Granny Sue said...

I'm pretty sure he was seven, but maybe he was ten--the years blur together! And yes, I remember the trees on Little Trace; that's why Derek wanted to plant one. he loved mulberries!

Funny you should mention planting one at Derek's; Haey said the same thing this weekend. There are no shoots, but there might be some seedlings around. I need to look and see if I can find any.

Tipper said...

I don't think I have ever seen a Mulberry. Seems there is real meaning behind that tree. I love that she wasn't afraid to climb up in the tree. Go Haley!!

Granny Sue said...

Hi Tipper,

i remember as a child we would sneak down the back street behind Grandma Compton's house (she wasn't our grandmother, but everyone called her that) and eat mulberries by the handful from her tree that hung over the road. We always acted really sneaky about it, thinking we'd get in trouble for it! But of course no one cared, except our mother who had to deal with the purple stains on our clothes.

My dogs always ate the berries too, and their mouths would be purple with the juice for the weeks that the berries were ripe. Such a funny sight!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...