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Sunday, June 28, 2015

In the Kitchen - Here We Go 'Round The Mulberry Bush

Except for the trees I just planted at the Station, there are none, save for the rouge, trashy Cedar trees and the Odd giant deciduous trees on the old homestead fence line.  The cattle rancher next door spent weeks this Spring knocking down hundreds of cedar saplings that have started to overtake his pasture.  Being allergic to cedar, I will not miss any of them.  I told him that he was welcome to take out the giant trash cedars on the fence line when he brought back the chainsaw this summer.  I told him just to make sure not to take the mystery tree near the garden or the deciduous  trees down in the lower meadow, as I didn't know what they were yet.

Sure, I've made many a pass with the lawn tractor this spring.  I even enjoyed the blooms, short lived as they were, and thought nothing more of it.  Fast forward to this past Monday.  The chickens were out and about as I was working on the overwhelming weed issue in the corn rows, when I noticed that they were congregating behind the compost pile.  I sighed, grudgingly put my tools down, and wandered over to the pile.  (The chickens for some disgusting reason love digging in the poo pile side of the compost pile.) Anyway, steeling myself to go in and chase Meriwether's Chicks out of what I consider a truly nasty place, I notice they WEREN'T in the pile, but rather massing far behind it, under the mystery tree.  BERRIES!  We'll they had been there for at least half an hour and no one was dead yet, or walking around drunk, and their faces looked like the cat that ate the canary, or a better description, like chickens who found a way into the corn crib.  My white pullets were covered in purple.  Beaks were purple.  The lawn was purple.  It was like a bank dye pack exploded.

I looked up and saw the culprit.

A giant mulberry tree.  It never dawned on me that it would be a mulberry.  I've never seen one this large, at almost 20 feet.  I'm used to a multiple trunk, more bushy mulberry.  Curiosity got the better of me and I wandered down to the lower meadow.  One of the giant trees down there is also a black mulberry. 
This one has a trunk of almost 2 feet in diameter.  She's old and slowly dying.  She must be ancient, dating back to the original homestead fence break.  A homesteader never would have taken it down.  Free food is free food.

Back up the hill I went and set upon planning for canning.  The Boy and I laid out clean garden sheets on the ground and started shaking the trees to free the loose ripe berries. (They stain ANYTHING they touch, so don't wear anything nice.)
   We then loosely folded the sheets in half and tipped them towards a 5 gallon bucket. I left the bucket outside for a bit to allow the spiders and other creepy crawlies a chance to climb out.  After, I brought the bucket in I sorted out any unripe berries and sticks, and twigs, and rinsed the berries off and placed them into a container into the refrigerator for the night.


For jelly and jam I really prefer the tiny 4 ounce jars.  Yes, they are more work, but we just don't go through that much jam very quickly.  I'd rather do a little more work at the beginning than to toss out perfectly good food later.

For each 8 cups of clean dry berries, I washed and boiled 12-4 oz jars and rings.

Into my heavy cast iron, enameled pot I tossed the berries, stems and all,  and 1.5 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar, and turned on the heat to medium as the berries started to break down, I hit the whole mess with my immersion blender.  (Make sure you do this on LOW speed, or you, the wall, the ceiling, and the counters will be purple forever!)
The immersion blender doesn't grind up the seeds, but it does take care of the stems, which are edible, just not a pleasant texture to hit while eating jam.  The seeds are no different than strawberry or raspberry seeds.

When the mixture reaches a constant boil I add the 5 1/3 Tablespoons of Low Sugar pectin, and mix it in.  I then allowed the mixture to come back up to a boil, one which cannot be controlled by stirring and boil for one minute.

I then ladle the jam into the jars to within 1/4" from the top.  Clean the rims well with a clean paper towel, and a little white vinegar.
  I warm the lids in near boiling water and apply to the tops of the jars, and screw on the lids to finger tight.  Process in a boiling water bath for 10-15-20 minutes depending on your altitude. 

If you haven't seen one yet, I really enjoy my giant Victorio water bath canner with the dial on the lid.  It's a heavy duty stainless Steele pot.  It's wonderfully large. And the dial lets you know when the water is really up to heat. 

We have really enjoyed the jam the past couple of days, and so few people get to enjoy them, as they aren't something you see at the market, or even the farmer's markets, as they are so short lived and fragile.  IF you can find a mulberry tree, I hope you can take advantage of this early summer treat.

1 comment:

  1. Staining they are and delicious Caryl. Good catch.