Mulberries are an under-appreciated fruit, often cursed by homeowners because when ripe they can fall to the ground and make a mess on patios and walkways. Instead of allowing the berries to litter your outdoor space, why not harvest this delicious fruit and make jam?
The tricky thing is that mulberries don't all ripen at the same time. That's one of the reasons you'll rarely see them as a commercial crop. An easy way to harvest them is to lay down a ground cloth underneath the tree and shake the lower branches—the ripe berries will fall off onto the cloth. If you don't own any mulberry trees and don't have access to fresh mulberries, you can use frozen mulberries for this recipe.
- 2 pounds (900 grams) mulberries, fresh or frozen
- 6 cups (1.35 kilograms) sugar
- 1/2 cup (120 milliliters) fresh lemon juice
- Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
- 1 pouch liquid pectin
Sterilize the canning jars in boiling water.
While the jars are sterilizing, put the mulberries, sugar, and lemon juice into a large, non-reactive pot. (Do not use aluminum or non-enameled cast iron as these can create off colors and flavors in your jam; stainless steel or enameled cast iron are fine.)
Bring the mixture to a full boil over high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching and to help the sugar dissolve. Once the mixture has come to a full boil and the sugar is completely dissolved, add the pinch (a couple of scrapes on a grater) of freshly ground nutmeg.
Add the liquid pectin. Boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Remove from the heat. Skim off any foam that may have formed on the surface of the jam.
Ladle the jam into the sterilized canning jars, leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean damp cloth or paper towel. Secure the canning lids, and process in a boiling water bath for 5 minutes.
Preparing Harvested Mulberries
If you have harvested your own berries, follow these steps to prepare them for making the jam. First, you need to remove any leaves, sticks, and unripe (pink) berries from the bunch. (Don't eat any of the pink berries as they can make you sick.)
Even very ripe mulberries usually come off of the tree with a little bit of stem attached. It is a bit of work to remove the little stems, so it's up to you whether to take the time, but if you do, your jam will have a better texture. Next, you need to wash the mulberries; either place in a colander and rinse well with water, or put the berries in a sink or bowl of water and then drain well in a strainer. Treat them gently so you don't squish them and release their juices. Now you are ready to cook them down into jam.
Mulberries are a low pectin fruit, which is why commercial liquid pectin is used in this recipe. The downside of this is that the commercial pectin requires a lot of sugar to produce a gel. If you'd like to avoid using liquid pectin, you can combine the mulberries with a high pectin fruit such as apples, pears, oranges, and gooseberries. For a lower-sugar option, try using a low-methoxyl pectin. You may also want to try mulberry jam made with homemade pectin.
Canning or Other Storage
Canning makes sense when you have a large amount of jam—too much to eat in the near future and over a short period of time. Since mulberries aren't sold in large quantities and ripen at different rates, you may not have enough berries—and thus jam—to warrant going through the canning process. If this is the case, you can simply spoon the cooked and cooled jam into small containers and freeze; then just thaw as needed.