The mulberry, though actually a collective fruit rather than a proper berry, is a nutritious little thing that grows wild in many places. They grow on relatively small trees and remind me somewhat of blackberries though not quite so delicious. They’re fragile, don’t store well and are sort of a pain to collect when they’re growing at the top of a spindly tree. Still, they are so worth the effort if only you know what to do with them.
What you do with them is make jelly or syrup. This is how we do it.
1. You need a source of fresh mulberries. About a month ago, a rumor began circulating that we had a mulberry tree on the property. When I finally got around to walking down with the children, we discovered not one, but two mulberry trees.
2. You need children. Preferably your own since you’re going to send up a tree and get them back slightly discolored.
The goofy grin has nothing to do with mulberries, however, and everything to do with pointing a camera at a five year old.
3. You need patience and lots of time. For three days, I sent the children out to collect mulberries. For three days, I received purple children and three or four berries in return. I finally joined them and the bucket was filled surprisingly quickly. I even still got purple children out of the deal. And they weren’t the only ones enjoying the harvest. See this purple little bill? It led me to yet two more mulberry trees.
4. You need a recipe of some sort. This part proved about as difficult as getting children to put berries in a bucket rather than their mouths. Maybe it was a good thing I had an extra three days to search. See, everything I found included corn syrup and seriously the main reason I am willing to go through the trouble of making my own syrup is to get away from the corn syrup in everything.
But then I finally found this, a recipe for Sharab El Toot. And for the homeschooler in me, it was a wonderfully educational adventure to incorporate into the mulberry picking. The children didn’t like the end product so much. Well, except for L.E.Fant who drank everyone else’s, but the pictures on the site were lovely and we all enjoyed sampling some Lebanese refreshment.
This is a slightly modified recipe, intended for canning. And let me tell you, this stuff is fabulous on ice cream. Wow. After having some at my parents’ house, I went out and bought ice cream just to put the syrup on it.
4 cups mulberry juice
8 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
To get the juice from the mulberries, you can use a food mill, but we don’t have one. Instead, I threw them in a pot with a bit of lemon juice and a bit of water and heated them up while squishing with a potato masher. Once it was heated and mushy, I poured the mess into a muslin bag and tied it over a pot to drip overnight. In the morning, I mushed the bag until I couldn’t get any more dribbles out.
You can add some syrup to the mush to make jam, or fold it into muffins. I, however, was a bit lazy about separating all the little green stems from the berries so I fed the mush to the chickens who were already filling the hen house with purple poo since discovering we had mulberry trees. They were pleased.
Add the lemon juice and syrup and heat slowly. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Cook down to desired consistency. You could also add 1/2 cup of pectin to thicken. Skim the foam regularly for a nice clean syrup. Process in a boiling water bath.
Try some Sharab El Toot. If you like flavored waters, you’ll love it. If not, well, at least you’ve tasted a bit of Lebanon. Then get some ice cream and try not to overeat.
(Image courtesy oceandesetoiles’ Flickr photostream under a Creative Commons license.)
Enjoy! If I don’t post for another week, just know I’m feverishly collecting mulberries to replenish my dwindling stores before they’re gone for the season!