At the moment here in Tasmania, the berry fruits are in their prime – strawberries, raspberries, loganberries and, King or Queen of them all – mulberries. Mulberries grow on trees and in the nearby town of Murdunna, friends of ours own a magnificent specimen. It is rumoured to be over 100 years old and grows on a grassy knoll near a dam, spreading its shade for at least 20 metres square.
Now I’ve tasted mulberries before (my Dad spent about 15 years trying to grow a decent specimen) and have tasted many from other trees, but nowhere, not at any time ever, have I tasted mulberries so magnificent. My friend Amanda picked me an ice cream container full. Driving home to Eaglehawk Neck, I dipped my hand in to sample them, and was totally overawed by the taste sensation. Each berry is about the size of a thimble, but when it bursts in your mouth it releases what seems like a quarter of a cup of the most luscious mulberry juice. There are few pips, just a little residual flesh left to be enjoyed.
I had planned to make mulberry syrup from them, but this seemed to be only barely short of sacrilege, so have been savouring them, eating them fresh for several days. Yesterday I took some up to little Matilda, my 2 year old granddaughter – no child should ever go without experiencing the magnificent mulberry. She loved them of course and played lipstick with them, smearing the juice all over her lips.
Sadly today I know the time has come to use the up the last of them, and so am finally making them into syrup that will be used as cordial or as a topping for ice cream or panna cotta. I won’t make jam from them as I think their flavour is best captured in the syrup that is in any case more versatile.
Supposing you are able to get your hands on some mulberries, try making this syrup. It is a way of capturing in a bottle the delectable essence and rich purple colour of the fruit. You can substitute other berries for the mulberries of course, as I often do – raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, loganberries, boysenberries. If you don’t have access to fresh, you can use frozen berries. The advantage to making the syrup yourself is that there are no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives added, making it far superior to any commercial equivalent, supposing you can even buy such a thing. And as to flavour – there simply is no comparison, as you will know the minute you taste it.
As a final word, if you do get to pick mulberries, don’t worry if your hands and clothes get stained which is pretty much inevitable. Simply pick a slightly unripe (i.e. red) berry and rub the offending stain with it – it will miraculously disappear.
You can double or triple this recipe. The amount below will yield about 1½ to 2 litres.
When serving, use one part syrup to four parts water to make a delicious drink.
4 cups water
2 level teaspoons tartaric acid*
Place the berries and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Strain through a colander, and the resulting liquid through a kitchen sieved lined with a layer of muslin (even a Chux or similar will do).
For each cup of liquid add 1 cup of sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat immediately to a bare simmer and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in tartaric acid, pour into sterilised bottles and seal immediately.
The cordial will keep at room temperature, but once a bottle is opened it should be refrigerated.
* Tartaric acid is a white crystalline organic acid that occurs naturally in many plants. It can be purchased at supermarkets where it is generally found near the baking powder.