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How to make mulberry syrup

The mulberry, though actually a collective fruit rather than a proper berry, is a nutritious little thing that grows wild in many places. They grow on relatively small trees and remind me somewhat of blackberries though not quite so delicious. They’re fragile, don’t store well, are sort of a pain to collect when they’re growing at the top of a spindly tree but so worth the effort if only you know what to do with them.

how to make mulberry syrup

 

What you do with them is make jelly or syrup. This is how we do it.

1. You need a source of fresh mulberries. About a month ago, a rumor began circulating that we had a mulberry tree on the property. When I finally got around to walking down with the children, we discovered not one, but two mulberry trees.

2. You need children. Preferably your own since you’re going to send them to the top of a tree and get them back slightly discolored.

eating mulberries

The goofy grin has nothing to do with mulberries, however, and everything to do with pointing a camera at a five year old.

3. You need patience and lots of time. For three days, I sent the children out to collect mulberries. For three days, I received purple children and three or four berries in return. I finally joined them and the bucket was filled surprisingly quickly. I even still got purple children out of the deal.

4. You need a recipe of some sort. This part proved about as difficult as getting children to put berries in a bucket rather than their mouths. Maybe it was a good thing I had an extra three days to search.  See, everything I found included corn syrup and seriously the main reason I am willing to go through the trouble of making my own syrup is to get away from the corn syrup in everything.

But then I finally found this, a recipe for Sharab El Toot. And for the homeschooler in me, it was a wonderfully educational adventure to incorporate into the mulberry picking. The children didn’t like the end product so much. Well, except for L.E.Fant who drank everyone else’s, but the pictures on the site were lovely and we all enjoyed sampling some Lebanese refreshment.

This is a slightly modified recipe, intended for canning. And let me tell you, this stuff is fabulous on ice cream. Wow. After enjoying some at my parents’ house, I went out and bought ice cream just to put the syrup on.

Mulberry syrup

4 cups mulberry juice
8 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice

To get the juice from the mulberries, you can use a food mill. But we don’t have one. So I threw them in a pot with a bit of lemon juice and a bit of water and heated them up while squishing with a potato masher. Once it was heated and mushy, I poured the mess into a muslin bag and tied it over a pot to drip overnight. In the morning, I mushed the bag until I couldn’t get any more dribbles out.

You can add some syrup to the mush to make jam, or fold it into muffins. I, however, was a bit lazy about separating all the little green stems from the berries so I fed the mush to the chickens who were already filling the hen house with purple poo since discovering we had mulberry trees. They were pleased.

Add the lemon juice and syrup and heat slowly. Bring to a boil, stirring continuously. Cook down to desired consistency. Or add 1/2 cup of pectin, but we just cooked it down. Skim the foam regularly for a nice clean syrup. Process in a boiling water bath.

Try some Sharab El Toot. If you like flavored waters, you’ll love it. If not, well, at least you’ve tasted a bit of Lebanon. Then get some ice cream and try not to overeat.

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Capture the fragrance of spring with lilac jelly!

Nothing says spring quite like lilacs in bloom. For seven years, I enjoyed the lilac perfumed air that our single bush provided and now we have an entire hedge. I enjoy them so much in the yard, I have always been hesitant to cut them so it is perhaps a little odd that we have spent two days harvesting the delightful little flowers.

Except that I’m dying to plant something. . . anything. . . in my garden. We have so many plans for our little acreage but only so much money and time. Patience is proving my great test as I look at my untilled garden and wait.

And that’s when I discovered lilacs are not only beautiful and aromatic, they are edible. We went out for a sample. “Blech,” was the unanimous opinion. I think the children were expecting the sweetness of honeysuckle nectar. Instead, it was bitter. Reminding them of the sweetness of lemonade after the sugar was added, however, sent them scrambling for paper bags for the harvest.

After my initial hesitation to pick them passed, I found harvesting the tiny lilac flowers quite enjoyable. No matter how tall or short you are, there are flowers at eye level. No stretching or bending required. Pulling off all the green parts to discard proved a little tedious, but standing in the midst of that aroma made it more than worthwhile. Even the baby enjoyed pulling off handfuls and his little spot in the grass soon turned light purple with the shower of buds. Working alongside the fluttering of the butterflies and the buzzing of the bumblebees while the chickens occasionally peeked out of the hedge to see what we were up to proved rather enjoyable.

I began thinking what a lovely spring tradition this could become as I went inside with the first batch to start some lilac muffins. Heavenly, from start to finish. I always enjoy cooking with new ingredients, but the beauty of the blossoms when my four year old dumped them into the batter surprised me. We took a small taste and were pleasantly surprised. I don’t know how to describe the flavor, exactly, except that it is one of those subtle flavors. You know something is there but you can’t quite identify it, making the muffin interesting as well as flavorful.

I was surprised that the flowers turned brown while cooking, and that they turned the muffins a deep yellow, almost like saffron. Again, the flavor was subtle but intriguing. The children scarfed them down and decided this was definitely worth the work. They grabbed the MP3 player and spent the rest of the afternoon gathering lilac buds.

L.E.Fant and I made lilac sugar. I started making plans for a lilac tea when the sugar finishes in a couple weeks. Then I started the piece de resistance, the lilac jelly.

Lilac Jelly

4 cups lilac blossoms, green parts removed
4 cups boiling water
8 tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

Rinse lilacs and place in a large glass or stainless steal container. Cover with boiling water, cover with a lid and let sit for 24 hours. This will make a nice lilac infusion which smells nice but doesn’t look anything like you would expect. It is murky and either greenish or brownish.

Strain the lilacs, squeezing out the excess water, and discard. Add lemon juice to the infusion, stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

Add the sugar all at once and bring to a rolling boil. Boil for one minute, skim and pour into jelly jars.

Process like you would any other jelly. Here’s a great tutorial from Owlhaven.

Mom’s homemade lilac jelly scored rave reviews with the children. They all wanted seconds, Bear said it was 300 times better than any store bought jelly and Mouse said it was definitely worth the work of picking all those tiny flowers.

It isn’t quite the color you’d expect. I’ve read that some people actually add blueberry juice to their lilac jelly to make it more that light purple color normally associated with lilacs, but that seems so. . . I don’t know. . . artificial.

Did I mention how wonderful my kitchen smells? All fresh and springy and lilac-y?

I’ll definitely be making this again next year. Actually, I may be making it again as soon as I refresh my sugar supply!