The Little Known Mulberry and Mulberry Jam
A berry you should get to know better, if for nothing else but mulberry jam
When I was growing up a neighbor had a large mulberry tree in back of their home. When you’re ten years old the best thing to do with mulberries is to squish them on your friends’ shirt so they get yelled at by their mom. But eat them? At that age not with these lips!
Years later Joanne and I had another neighbor who had a mulberry tree. More wizened and open to suggestion we both tried them. My first thought was of mulberry jam.
That tree was eventually cut down and we had to find another source for our mulberry jam ingredients. Thankfully we found two with little problem and had a secure berry source until we moved. Since moving our supply is now from a friend who has a tree and plenty of berries.
Picking mulberries is the biggest problem but one that is easily solved. All you need is a plastic tarp or two and a long, stout stick. Whack the tree limbs a few times with the stick and the ripest berries fall onto the tarp.
Then it’s just a matter of bringing the corners of the tarp together and dumping the mulberries into a bucket. In my experience it’s a good deal faster than picking most other berries. The worst part of harvesting black mulberries is the stains on your shoes after walking through fallen mulberries. I’s suggest you wear cruddy shoes and take them off before entering your house or there’ll be stains everywhere. Once I even put plastic shopping bags on my feet. I looked pretty goofy at the strip mall parking lot but it worked!
While in our area I’m only familiar with the black mulberry there are at least two other common varieties, the white mulberry and the American, or red mulberry. Stark Brothers Nursery offers four varieties for sale and their Illinois Ever-bearing more closely resembles what we are familiar with in our neck of the woods.
Some people consider the mulberry tree a weed. It’s tolerant of poor soil, little rain, and pollution. It can grow 10 feet in one year so I guess if one didn’t fancy fast growing trees it could be considered a weed, but one can make mulberry jam and that’s not all bad. Plus mulberries are a taste great and have 9% of your daily vitamin C needs.
The lack recipes for mulberry jam years ago gave me the distinct impression not many people were fond of this wonderful fruit. In fact, the mulberry jam were did make never set quite right. I could never get it to jell to a jam like consistency so we often had the results on pancakes or crepes.
Only this year did I hit on two solutions to the jelling problem. First is Pomona’s Pectin where I get two benefits: taste and set. Since I can use less sugar to make the mulberry jam we can actually taste the mulberries. With only one half cup of sugar the flavor of the berry is enhanced not buried.
Second it the how long you full boil the fruit. The trick, which for some reason never worked with other pectins, is to bring the mulberries to a rapid boil and let ‘em rip for at least 2 minutes. When you add the sugar/pectin the boil will slow considerably for a moment. Just bring it back to a roiling boil and for at least two minutes more. Set at timer so your sure your boil time is long enough.
Do you have any experience with mulberry jam or mulberries? Please let me know as I know of few people who are. Two terrific websites I’m aware of have some more great information on mulberries you should have a look at. Visit Little*Big*Harvest and The Small Town Homestead for some more reading about mulberries.
- 4 cups mulberries
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 tsp. Pomona’s Pectin powder
- 2 tsp. calcium water
- Put the whole mulberries with the calcium water in a stainless steel pot and bring to a rapid boil for two minutes or slightly longer. I don’t bother picking the stems off.
- Add the Pomona’s Pectin to the sugar and mix well. Be sure to incorporate it well into the sugar.
- When the fruit is at a roiling boil for two minutes add the sugar/pectin mix and stir vigorously at a roiling boil for at least two more minutes.
- Ladle into 8 ounce canning jars and hot water bath process for 10 minutes plus one minute more for each additional 1,000 feet of altitude. Move pot off the burner and let sit five more minutes. Remove jars to a folded towel to set. When you hear the lids popping you know the jam is set.