Today I have another guest post from my husband, who, as you will see, is slowly (but surely) being infected with the gardening/homesteading virus. Here's what he's been up to lately.
I was tracking down where heavy rain run-off goes when it leaves our property. What I found was a mini-river in my next door neighbor’s back yard. As I walked downstream I also discovered ripe mulberries in my neighbor’s tree. Here was mature fruit that if left un-harvested would merely become dinner for the local birds. Mulberries are often planted near other more desirable fruits as the birds go after the mulberries first.
So I began harvesting the unwanted berries thinking they would be tasty treats for our three chickens. After spending time harvesting around two pints of berries I began thinking far more selfishly. Why relinquish them to birds that go bonkers for flavorless wild strawberries when mulberries would make a nice treat for humans? So I gathered some wild strawberries, gave a strawberry thrill to our hens, and took the mulberries inside for cleaning.
I was interested in making some jam or even thick syrup. Confession time: On a recent business trip I met a friend at an IHOP just before flying out. It was a convenient location for the both of us; certainly not a culinary pinnacle. But in their defense they do serve tea in teapots. So they get props for that. But the point is that they offer a high-fructose, artificially flavored (courtesy of our flavor chemist industry), berry-ish syrup. I wanted home-made pancakes with real berry syrup. And now, presented with the opportunity, I pulled out the pectin and began something I have never done before…make jam from berries.
I love this type of cooking where there is ambiguity and winging-it is the order of the day. So I read the directions on the pectin packet then embarked on some exploratory cooking. Berries have no natural pectin unlike other fruits. So adding is necessary to get it to gel. I more or less used the recommended amount of sugar and, on the advice of my wife, added lemon juice. The lemon juice really brought out the fruit flavor and added the brightness of citrus.
The instructions for my quick method indicated that after adding the pectin a period of 24 hours was needed for proper setting. I was only prepared to wait about 8 hours until breakfast rolled around. The result was less jam than thick syrup on its way to jam. This was perfect for pancakes. Mulberries tend to have less flavor than other berries. But the jam syrup on pancakes was well received by all.
At the 24 hour mark the jam syrup had not set any more than at the 8 hour mark. But I had achieved something I’d never done. Delayed gratification of stuffing ripe berries straight into my mouth, turning it into jam syrup and scratching the pancake itch with someone else’s unwanted fruit. It was a satisfying feeling.
So now I keep an eye out for unappreciated fruit that could become my treasure. All this for nothing more than some enjoyable harvesting and cooking. I’ve already found another stand of mulberries on their way to ripeness. Perhaps this time I’ll get full-on jam with a bit more pectin. Other people’s fruit…hurrah!
Kate again: I really like the flavor profile of this gleaned treat. It's sort of spicy and dark, with hints of cinnamon and fig. A nice thing to have on hand when a sweet craving strikes. My husband's other guest post can be found here: Homemade Sled Report.
33 minutes ago