Yesterday, I shared about my herbal discoveries in my yard. Free gifts that God has provided. Another treasure in my yard is mulberries. I went through my entire childhood never being exposed to mulberries. Probably because they are from a tree that grows like a weed and my mom was a diligent keeper of her yard. It wasn't until we bought our first house that sat across the street from a creek with a common area that I was introduced to them by my good friend and neighbor. She pointed them out on one of our many walks together with the kids. We would pick these messy purple berries to snack on and come home with stained fingers.
Since then we have moved to our rural property and I was elated to discover that we have a couple of mulberry trees growing along our creek. I usually discover that the berries have started ripening after the birds do and then it is slim picking, but this year I walked out to find the branches weighed down with TONS of ripe berries.
The next morning I took Elizabeth outside with a sheet and we did some tree shaking and picking. Ripe mulberries drop very easily, so if you place a sheet on the ground under one and shake the branches, you can get lots of berries very quickly. Between two trees, we got just over 10 pounds of berries! So, then we had to decide what to do with them all. I was debating between jam, jelly and syrup. The kids wanted jam or jelly. I decided jelly would be better because mulberries have a stem that cannot be easily removed. The basic difference between jelly and jam is that jam contains the whole fruit in chunks while jelly is made from the juice of the fruit and there are no chunks. Usually, I prefer jam, but if I made jam, it would still have those stems which some people may not find appetizing.
Luckily, I am the proud owner of a food mill which I picked up at our church's rummage sale last year for a whopping 50 cents - quite a find! This made the process of getting rid of those pesky stems much easier.
Making Mulberry Jelly
First, I cleaned and sorted the mulberries. Since we harvested them with a lot of tree shaking, I also had several leaves, small twigs and unripe berries in the mix. I sorted these out by hand and gave the fruit a good washing in a colander.
Next, I slowly heated the berries in a big pot on the stove until they began releasing their juice and the juice began to boil. I kept stirring them to make sure they cook evenly. This created a berry mush that I processed through my food mill. This removed all the skins, pulp and stems, but I did discover that the mulberry seeds are small enough to pass through the holes in my food mill. Seeds don't personally bother me at all, though.
The next step is to take the juice and mix it with sugar and pectin (following the quantities listed in the instructions that came with the pectin). Cook this according to the pectin directions and place it into warm canning jars that have already been washed and sterilized (boiled). I placed all my jars rings and lids into my big canning pot and brought it all to a boil and then just left them there until I was ready to use them.
After you fill the jars, leaving just about 1/4" of space at the top, you need to make sure that you didn't spill any on the rims. I take a damp washcloth and wipe them all to make sure because I am a bit of a slob in the kitchen. This is important because if the rims are not clean, the lids may not seal properly. You don't want to go to all this trouble and then have your stuff spoil because of this little step.
Place a hot lid on each jar and screw on a ring as tight as you can by hand. The finished jars get placed in a big pot of water. It is important that the water level is at least an inch above the top of the jars.
Then bring it all to a boil, covered, for 10 minutes. This is the amount of time for jams and jellies. Other things you can (i.e. tomatoes, peaches) take much longer.
After 10 minutes remove the jars and let them sit on the counter. A jar lifter makes this job much easier. I lay out a towel on the counter to place the wet jars on to cool.
That's it! I checked the jars after they had cooled to see if all had sealed. You do this by pushing down on the top of the lid. If it is sealed the lid will be slightly depressed and will not move at all. If it is not sealed the lid will push down and make a popping sound. I had one that did not seal and I just placed it in my fridge to use first.
Now, I made a boo boo and didn't read my directions carefully enough on my liquid pectin and used half of what I should have. So, my jelly didn't completely set. This was no great loss, though, because I ended up making a DELIGHTFUL syrup. I was considering making syrup anyway. We have tried it on pancakes and waffles. Yum! I bet it would be really good on ice cream, too.
The other day, I went out to try and pick more mulberries and didn't get nearly as many. They are definitely past their prime and the birds have taken their share. I did get a small bucketful that I think will be enough to make one batch of jelly. So, this is on the agenda for today.
So, I have shared more about my mulberries than anyone probably really wants to know. Perhaps you can go out and find one of these trees. They spring up like weeds and grow fast and you can find them in the most unexpected places. Maybe you, too, can share in this little blessing from God, mulberries.