Saturday, May 12, 2012
Silly Sally Walked to Town, Picking Berries Updside Down
Sally is my neighbor and I remember her name only because I made my kids memorize a little mnemonic device based on this oldie but goodie. Sally lives in my neighborhood and her trees are in the alley (note the abandoned car bumper) on the edge of her property. Her trees are old and heavy with fruit. Sally didn't even know the fruits were edible and happily agreed to let me harvest them this year. For that, I love her.
Every other day, I swing by her house and pick berries - as many ripe ones as I can reach. Within two days, the tree will be full of ripe fruit all over again. Mulberries aren't easy or fun to pick. They stain my fingers. They stain my shoes. Mulberries are a much higher reach than a bush berry like blueberries or raspberries, so I often have to use a ladder to pick them. And they aren't as large as strawberries, which only take a dozen or so fruits to yield a pound - it takes forever to pick a pound of mulberries. But you can't get them at stores. Or even at the farmer's market. And their season is short. So when they come into season, I pounce on them.
Have you ever had a mulberry? They are insanely good. So juicy. And sweet - almost cloyingly so. I have fond memories of picking them as a kid - not caring how messy they are and trying to stuff as many of them as I could into my mouth.
I'm desperate to preserve as many of these delicious berries as I can. I started to make jam with them, only to realize that their sweetness is nearly overwhelming when combined with the sugar required to properly set the jam. But the addition of rhubarb is spectacular with them - it cuts the sweetness of the berry without overpowering it's taste.
For the life of me, I couldn't find a mulberry-rhubarb jam recipe online. There were a bunch of strawberry-rhubarb recipes that looked promising, but called for more sugar than I was willing to add to those already-almost-too-sweet mulberries, so I cobbled together a recipe myself. I am so not an experienced enough jam maker to commit my recipe (and I use that word in it's most loose interpretation) to the internet, but I reduced the amount of sugar that most recipes call for, tossed in some lemon juice and zest, and added half a package of liquid pectin as an insurance policy that it would set. It came out perfectly.
I also put up some Mulberry Lemongrass Syrup using the recipe for Blueberry Lemongrass Syrup in my copy of Tart and Sweet and subbing out a bit over 2lbs of mulberries for the blueberries. It's very sweet, but delicious on some unsweetened yogurt, as the author suggests.
Conventional wisdom tells me to remind you not to eat any wild berry that you can't identify with 100% certainty. But if you can verify that the berries you have are mulberries, enjoy them while the season lasts or put them up to enjoy later. You won't be sorry.