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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Mulberry Season 2017

Mulberry season seemed to never want to start this year. Our Spring was wonderfully, and perfectly, wet and warm, but not too warm.  When it came time for the Mulberry tree to bloom, it just exploded in a solid mass of delicate pink-white blossoms.  It was stunning.  The bees and flies had the good sense to hang out and feast on the bounty.

The blooms faded and the leaves began to creep from their hiding places in the branches.  It was only a matter of time before little green globules, resembling mini brains, would start to appear, swell and turn from green to red, to electric red, and finally a deep, juicy purple.

In years past, the berries were almost 2 inches long and half an inch wide.  I was looking forward to minimal picking for maximum volume yet again.  Oddly enough, the berries remained small.  The weather was perfect, but with the increased rainfall I expected plump fruit.  I guess perfect weather in our world results in small, but tasty, fruits.

Regardless, the berries DID ripen and it was time to harvest for some goodness to happen in the Station kitchen.  Two years ago I spread out clean yard sheets and shook the branches.  The fruit fell on the sheets and was then dumped in a 5 gallon bucket.  Unfortunately, sticks, twigs, spiders, leaves, spiders, unripe berries, spiders, aphids, spiders, and spiders ALSO fell up on the sheet.  I left the bucket in the garage overnight to allow the bugs to crawl out, mostly.  Sigh.  I washed and rinsed and repeated and picked until the only thing left in the bucket was berries.  From that I made mulberry jam, seeds and all.

I really wasn't in the mood for all that again.  I figured I would rather PICK berries into a berry bucket and spend that time, rather than hunched over a pail of creepy crawlies.  Donning my most holey, paint stained, sun bleached yard attire and a black and white polka dot bandana, I hosed myself with DEET from the knees down.  Hey, I'm picking berries not feeding deer flies or ticks.  I slung my old berry bucket over my forearm and started picking.

The purple lasts for days.  

It's amazing how the white berry bucket screams food to the hens.  (Their treat bucket happens to be of the same Orange Sherbet heritage as my berry bucket.)  So as I am picking, I am being serenaded by the humming, whining of 20 large birds that want what I have, and three loudly peeping chicks who don't know what I have, but if everyone else wants it, it must be good.  All this despite the fact that I am standing on a carpet of fallen berries from a windstorm the night before.  HEAVEN FORBID they eat dropped fruit.  They want picked fresh.

Don't worry, they didn't starve to death. But I wasn't going to stand there and hand feed the little darlings my berries either!

8 cups of fruit later, I had had enough of the bugs, spiders, and chickens who while keeping my legs fly and tick free, sure did a number on my pedicure.  (They LOVE to peck at bright toe polish.)

THIS YEAR -- MULBERRY SYRUP - we rarely use jams and jellies, but we DO use syrup as we have breakfast for dinner often.

The berries were brought inside and washed several times over with cold clean water and dumped into my largest enameled iron pot.  I added water until the berries were under 3 inches of water and set the gas high enough for the berries to make it to a slow boil.  I let them boil for 30 minutes gently, and then plunged my immersion blender into the fray and pureed the whole thing, seeds, stems and all.  I let this slowly simmer for another two hours, stirring when I thought about it.  I also kept a spatter screen on the top to catch any bubbles and to keep in some of the moisture.

I then lined my largest colander with a clean flour sack (remember, my flour comes in real live flour sacks).  I put the colander above another large pot.  I very carefully poured the mulberry puree into the flour sack and then tied it closed and hung it over the juice pot. DO NOT SQUEEZE the juice from the bag.  You'll end up with cloudy juice.

Measure the liquid volume of the juice and add that much sugar to the juice.  9 cups of juice=9 cups of sugar

Stir the sugar in and place the whole thing over a low heat and simmer until the sugar dissolves, and the syrup get thick.

Cool slightly, bottle and refrigerate.  You COULD place it in canning jars and boiling water bath preserve it.  But I just made enough syrup this year for the refrigerator.  I simply tuck it into those useless back corners.

In mid July, I repeated the process with CHERRIES, LOTS of cherries and made cherry syrup for ice cream, soda, and pancakes/waffles! Make sure you remove the pits BEFORE you add the water.

You could do this with any fruit.  The difference between fake store bought flavored syrups and the real deal is night and day!

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