Today began my first day of canning for the summer. On the corner of the church's property we have a Mulberry Tree. Over the past couple of years I have had minor uses for the mulberries - put them in pancakes, and mash them up and cook them with sugar to make a jammy syrup. However, I've never put up any of the mulberries for use during the rest of the year (OK, maybe I did freeze a small sour cream container of the jam type syrup).
This year is going to be different. One of the things I am trying to do this year is figure out how I can take some of the things around us and use them for food and maybe even some of our staples or gifts for the rest of the year.
On to the discussion of the mulberries:
Picking mulberries is no fun. Most of the branches are too high for us to reach, and the ground is littered with mulberries, so we have to either go barefoot and have purple feet, or have our shoes stained purple. Most of us choose to go barefoot. It also takes a really long time to handpick the berries. We could be out at the tree for an hour and only have the bottom of the bucket filled. So, we developed a new approach.
Armed with a tarp, three children, and two pails JA and I took on the mulberry tree today. We spread the tarp out under the tree and two of us held the corners of the tarp close to the road (the ground slopes and we didn't want to get the mulberries off the tree just to feed them to the road). Then we took turns shaking the tree. One person would shake the tree and the rest of us would get pelted by flying mulberries -- Take note where purple clothes or clothes you don't care about getting stained.
After we finished shaking the tree, we ended up with about two ice cream pails full of mulberries. The kids headed out to the backyard to play while I went inside to get to work. I started by soaking the mulberries (to get the bugs and spiders to float to the top (we really don't need the extra protein). Then I rinsed off the berries and put them in a pot filled with water (just to the top of the berries) and brought to a rolling boil.
After they began to boil I pulled them off the heat. Now came the fun part. Turning this mulberry mush to syrup. I tried mashing the mulberries -- no luck. I tried straining them -- This was working but taking a really long time. you see, mulberries have a lot of seeds and they are edible, but they tend to get stuck in my teeth so I didn't want a lot of seeds in my syrup. Finally I remembered the juicer we bought back in our Northland days (we were trying to be healthier by juicing raw fruits and veggies -- then we decided the expense was more than the little bit of juice we got was worth).
After digging the juicer out of the basement, I poured the mulberry/water mixture in, and within minutes I had 19 cups of mulberry juice (a lot more than I had expected to get). I poured the juice into a stock pot, added 25 cups of sugar (The recipe I was using called for a 1:2 ratio of mulberry juice to sugar). I'm glad I ran out of sugar because this syrup is sweet enough.
I brought the syrup to a rolling boil and pulled it from the heat. Poured into jars and processed in a boiling water bath for 10 - 15 minutes (the second batch a bit longer because of an episode I'll share with you later). The final result was 17 1/2 pints of mulberry syrup.
Cost break down - $7.68 - sugar and $4.50 (probably less) lids = $12.18 for 17.5 pints of organic fruit syrup :)