reasons to homeschool

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.

reasons to homeschool

Red clover jelly: recipes and reviews

We have a field of red clover, otherwise known as a pasture, on our property. I’m sure the bees will love it when they get here. The goats as well. Everyone seems to love clover and if you’ve ever sucked on those little purple flowers on the flower head, you know why. If not, well, I’m afraid you may not have had an adequate upbringing. Take a moment to find some nice red clover, pull it apart and share it with your children.

Anyway, it’s a flower and it’s edible so of course I had to make jelly out of it.

red clover jelly

I wasn’t as sure of this one since clover has such a delicate flavor to begin with. It has neither the fragrance, nor the strength of lilac or black locust. That, and I had difficulty finding a recipe. If the jelly were all that good, it seems like it would be easier to find instructions on how to make it.

So I started out with the same basic infusion I used for lilac jelly, black locust blossom jelly and dandelion jelly.

For the clover infusion:

4 cups boiling water
4 cups clover flower heads (This part was way easier with clover. All parts of the plant are edible, and none of them particularly offensive. While it is beneficial to use only the actual flower head, a little green isn’t going to have a noticeable effect on the jelly.)

Place clover in a glass or stainless steel container, cover with boiling water and leave it steep overnight. Strain out flowers and squeeze out excess water, reserving liquid for the jelly.

For the clover jelly:

4 cups infusion (add water to replace what was lost in straining)
8 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 packages powdered pectin
8 cups sugar

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.

I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor. It was light, but very pleasant. I loved the color, and lamented that I don’t seem to have the whole bubble free jelly thing down, yet. I tried pouring it into the jars quickly, but I think the real issue was that the jelly was already setting before I got it into the jars. You’re not really supposed to double recipes when using powdered pectin, or so I’ve heard. Maybe this is why? Or maybe I’ll just figure it out in time. No one around here really cares, anyway, so long as it tastes good on bread. And it does.

Then I found another recipe for an infusion. And of course I had to try it. Both with the juice and with the wine.

For the clover infusion:

5 cups apple juice or white wine
2 cups clover in a glass or stainless steel dish

Bring juice or wine to a boil and pour over clover. Cover and let sit until cool. Or, uh, overnight if you get busy and sort of forget about it. Strain and reserve liquid for the jelly.

For the clover jelly:

4 cups clover infusion
8 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon juice
6 oz liquid pectin

Combine infusion, sugar and lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as sugar has dissolved, stir in pectin. Return to a rolling boil for one minute. Remove from heat, skim foam and process like you would any other jelly in a hot water bath.

I was quite pleased with the results. The jelly was picture perfect. Clear, no bubbles and that perfect wiggle-on-your-spoon consistency. I don’t know if it was the liquid pectin (which is supposedly happier with the whole doubling thing), the juice/wine or just that I was more conscientious about skimming foam during the whole process rather than just at the end. Either way, the jelly was beautiful.

My daughter wants me to enter it in the fair.

The clover infusion made with apple juice ended up tasting like apple jelly. It was a good apple jelly, with a slight unidentifiable flavor that added more character than most apple jellies have, but it was still apple jelly. And all hints at character were mostly lost once you stopped licking the knife and tasted it on bread.

The infusion made with the wine, however, was quite interesting. Maybe it was just the wine, but it seemed to bring out the flavor of the clover and accent it well. And the interesting flavor carries over to the bread, as well, which is a nice bonus since I’m not in the habit of eating jelly by the spoon full.

A word of caution, however. That whole idea about alcohol burning off in cooking? It isn’t as true as you might like to believe. The jelly isn’t boiled long enough to be confident this is actually an alcohol free jelly. White cooking wine doesn’t have a particularly high alcohol content to begin with, but it is still good to keep in mind.

Note: If you go off in search of clover, remember to be sure it is clover that hasn’t been sprayed. Oh, and you can use any kind of clover. I just happen to have tons of red clover. If you don’t have tons, you can halve this recipe. It was doubled to begin with.

Happy jelly making!