Resolving to make a bumper Spring of this year’s foraged mulberry (Morus nigra) crop, means a bumper Spring of ways to preserve them. They are thin-skinned, picked ripe and sticky and already incubating the wherewithal for mould and decay on the tree; so they will only last a day or two in the fridge. Freezing is obvious enough and the first solution; the next cab off the rank is mulberry jam. Mulberry cordial (sharab el toot) posted here, and mulberry wine here.
When it comes to using mulberries for jams, they seem to lack some of the acidic sharpness of things that you might otherwise use. For this recipe using 1.5 kg of fruit, I added lemon juice (Citrus x limon), some quince (Cydonia oblonga) pulp (cooked down to mush but not all the way to the ruby wonder of quince paste) that was hanging around in the freezer and (perhaps most importantly to the recipe) honey instead of sugar. The lemon acidity needs no explanation, the quince has good pectin and quite a sharp tang that I would guess to be malic acid, and honey is naturally more acidic than the pure sucrose of cane sugar (some even suggest adding bicarb to buffer acidity when substituting honey for sugar). With only half a kilo rather than the sickly sweet usual jam recommendation for equal weight as the fruit, the combined tang of all of this has ample opportunity to come through. Last year I used rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) to bump up the acid tang, another good Spring crop, and will probably use that for the mulberry winemaking.
The honey was my ‘brewing honey’ the stuff that came out lacking the golden clarity of my best stuff (see here), seemingly because I froze whole combs for a couple of weeks until I had time to process them. Until now it has been used for making alcohol. The quince was from a roadside forage somewhere out near Blayney (on the road from Bathurst to Cowra) and the lemon I would like to say was foraged over a fence, making the whole thing a foraged product. But I’ll admit that it was from the shops.
Mulberries are low in pectin, generally picked very ripe when that small amount has lost its gelling properties, which then combined with the low acidity means that you have to add pectin to get a jam to set well. I used the store-bought stuff, which came with some citric acid and a little caster sugar as a carrier for it all.
1.5 kg mulberries
0.5 kg honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1.5 cups of cooked quince pulp
2 packets of pectin (‘Jamsetta’) – use at least half again as much as the packet suggests
Combine all in a thick bottomed pot and bring to boil. Mash the berries as they soften. I keep a fan blowing on the pot to add to the evaporation (using honey instead of sugar makes things moister). Keep a bubbling boil without causing anything to stick on the bottom and keep stirring for 5-10 minutes. Test dollops on frozen saucers until it crinkles when you push a finger through it. Pour into sterilised jars. Promise yourself that next time you will forage some lemons and also use them to home-make the pectin, so that it is 100% foraged (I argue that honey is foraged, even though it is done by my bees and not me).