It’s mulberry season! There’s a mulberry tree in the yard behind the block of flats where I live, and half the tree hangs over into our driveway; and every spring I go and help myself to whatever I can reach from my side of the fence. The skater boys never seem to mind; not that they’ve ever been on the ramp when I’m berry picking!

So last weekend I picked a small crop, stained my fingers purple, and had mulberries on my breakfast cereal, all the while contemplating how I would attempt to preserve the mulberries this year. Because, of course, whilst I have several recipe books for jams, jellies, chutneys, marmalades, relishes and curds, not many of them are heavily into mulberries. I tend to make it up as I go along. I’ve had more than one hilarious result. I’ll admit, I love making preserves, but I don’t seem to be terribly good at it. My lemon butter never fails, but as far as jam goes…. well, there was the ‘mulberry jelly’, which turned into dark purple toffee (very pretty, but not particularly edible); there was the sugar-free blueberry jam, which was just nasty; and of course the last lot of tomato relish, where I was rather heavy-handed with the curry powder. That at least was edible. I don’t mind a spicy relish, and mixed with some cream cheese and sour cream it made a tasty dip.

But that’s another story. This story is about mulberries. This weekend I picked them in the rain, so I’m glad I took photos last weekend when it was sunny.

And, for once I managed to take decent pictures! My photography is definitely better outdoors.

My downfall with preserves is that I always decide to vary the recipe somehow, with disastrous results. I decided to make Mulberry Marmalade. How’s that going to work, I hear you ask? I was about to find out. I’d read in one of my preserving books that sprinkling soft fruits with sugar overnight would help them keep their shape, so I gave that a go.

I made the marmalade in the usual way, using valencia oranges and one lemon for extra pectin. Once I’d taken the mulberries out of their little sugar bath, I used that sugar as part of the sugar for the marmalade, which I warmed in the oven before adding in. One thing with mulberries is that they are notoriously annoying to de-stalk. In the past I have taken to slicing them lengthways, just to one side of the stalk, and carefully peeling the stalk out that way; but I discovered an alternative this time. Hold the mulberry gently in your hand, and pull the stalk down the side – like you are peeling a banana. The stalk will come out, with a couple of mulberry globules attached, but leaving the majority of the berry intact. Voila! Much easier than slicing. Oh, and do wear latex gloves – it’s going to take a couple of weeks for the purple stains on my benchtops to fade away!

Of course, the marmalade seemed destined for failure, but thanks to a stash of trusty old Jamsetta, I managed to redeem it. It’s a gorgeous reddish-purple colour that doesn’t really show in the pictures. But it tastes damn nice on sour-cream scones.

Now I’m off to clean my stove, where the marmalade boiled over and made purple toffee all over the place.

Boiled over to the tune of: The Killers, ‘Sam’s Town’.

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