I have a dirty secret.
I made jam with berries that I scavenged from neighbors’ yards. My husband calls them alley berries. Berries from trees growing in our alley that he feels must be watered with cat piss and malt liquor.
But I know the truth. What he calls alley berries are actually delicious and delicate mulberries. And, yes I did scavenge the berries, but it is just that the neighbors don’t know how lucky they are to have these trees in their yards. They think the dark colored berries are a nuisance that make the sidewalk sticky.
Too bad for them.
I learned about how sweet mulberries are in childhood. My grandparents had two large trees beside their house in North Texas – one dark purple and one white mulberry. They were both delicious, but I preferred the purple. It was sweeter and more flavorful. I would climb the branches to eat berries and by the time I climbed back down, my hands and mouth were stained purple. My dad says he did the same thing as a kid.
This berry is very popular in Asia, but not so much here in the US. I think here in the Eastern part of the country, we have mostly purple or red mulberries. They look a bit like blackberries or raspberries, but they are usually smaller, have fewer seeds, and a milder flavor.
Most folks I asked had never tasted a mulberry, which is a shame. Well, on second thought…maybe it is good that I don’t have much competition for my scavenged berries.
One thing that may contribute to mulberries unpopularity is that they are quite fragile. They start to deteriorate the minute they are picked. So, pick only what you are willing to eat or process right away. I mean it, right away.
Mulberry Strawberry Jam
Makes a little more than two 1/2 pint (8 oz) jars
2 cups freshly picked mulberries
2 cups strawberries, washed, cored, and chopped into bite-size pieces
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Rinse the mulberries gently so you don’t damage the fruit. When you pick mulberries, it is pretty hard to avoid bring the stems with you. And, they are a pain to remove when you are washing the berries. That’s okay, I think the stems add a bit more pectin to your fruit, so I leave about half of them attached. It thickens the jam in a way that I don’t think you notice the stems.
Combine the fruit and sugar in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. I use a 2 to 1 (fruit to sugar) ratio in my berry jam recipes so you can adjust according to how much fruit you picked. You could also combine mulberries with other tasty fruit, if you don’t like or don’t have strawberries, or just use the mulberries by themselves.
The sugar will melt and start to bubble. Stir frequently and let it cook until juices are no longer cloudy-looking. It took me about 5 minutes.
Turn down heat to medium and add lemon juice. Stir frequently and let it cook until thick. It took my batch about 20 minutes to get to the right consistency.
Spoon into sterilized jars and seal.
I use glass jars with a vacuum seal for my jams and preserves, and I provide directions on that process on the post on strawberry preserves.
For a small batch recipe like this, however, you may not want to go to that much of effort. You can put the cooked jam in a sealable container with a lid and keep in your refrigerator for a couple of months or in your freezer for close to 12 months. But, because it hasn’t been processed, you cannot store it on a shelf in your pantry or cabinets.