Mulberries: a reward for having weathered winter

2010-10-11 00:00

A GOOD friend has a most obliging mulberry tree that at this time of the year is city-renowned for its thumb-sized fruit. He has a generous spirit too. If the tree were mine, I’d guard its treasure jealously.

We have been raiding it for some years at his invitation, and over the past two weekends our eager purple-stained fingers plucked happily at the fruit, most of it ending up in plastic supermarket bags, whose handles are perfect for simultaneous holding and storing.

The most platonic mulberries though, don’t get past our lips.

The whole picking process is therapeutic and the joys of feeling your bag fill up while spotting that perfect specimen and stretching up for it, always takes me back to when I was six years old.

We always wash the fruit carefully and use scissors to cut the stalks off each one. This also ensures you get any nasties out of your crop. De-stalking is painstaking and not essential, but it is nice not to feel the stalks in your mouth. Your nails will look dirty for about a week after, no matter how hard you scrub them. If this bothers you at all, you had better wear gloves.

This is how we used our mulberries.

Mulberry toast or scone topping

It makes no pretence at being jam or jelly. I don’t do the pectin thing.

It’s just roughly equal parts of fruit and sugar with the juice of a couple of lemons­ to taste. Boil together and remove the scum that forms on top as it appears.

Cook until you get the desired consistency — not too runny but don’t let it turn to toffee. Pour into sterilised jam jars standing in a basin of boiling hot water, seal and pour a kettle-full of boiling water over the lids, making sure the vacuum seals pop down. Spread on toast or whatever you have and be sweetly seduced by the sublime mulberry flavour and colour.

JEWELLED MULBERRY CUPCAKES

Ingredients

125 grams butter

125 grams castor sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla essence

250 grams self-raising flour

1 cup fresh mulberries

Method

Beat butter and castor sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Fold the self-raising flour into the mixture in batches. alternating with milk to form a soft dropping consistency. Add mulberries and spoon into cupcake cases. Bake at 180°C until they’re done. Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve .

MULBERRY PIE

(or squares)

Ingredients

4 cups fresh mulberries

1 cup of sugar

Method

Put about four cups of fresh mulberries into a pot with a cup of sugar and boil until they are soft. Then drain well.

Shortcrust pasty

Ingredients

125 grams butter

2 cups sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

pinch of salt

2 cups flour

2 tsps baking powder

Method

• Cream butter and sugar. Beat egg, add vanilla essence, salt, flour and baking powder. Mix until a ball forms. Press just over half into a pie dish.

 • Fill with cooked mulberries and grate the rest of the dough over the top. Bake at 180°C until golden. Dust with icing sugar.

• Serve warm with ice-cream or cream, or cold on their own.

• If you don’t eat the slices or squares the same day, the pastry loses its pleasing crunchiness,

but they are still good. If you want them crunchy, pop them back into a preheated oven to warm up.

• The juice that is left over after you have drained the stewed fruit, can be thickened by boiling with more sugar until it reduces a bit.

Bottle and keep in the fridge to pour over ice cream, or use as juice with water or lemonade.

The colour is absolutely

gorgeous.

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