Posts Tagged With: wild food

Mulberry Jelly

Late one summer at my grandparents’ house, one of their neighbors dropped by with a giant brown grocery bag full of scuppernongs (those are wild, tough-skinned, sweet white grapes, for any Yankees reading this — haha).  My MaMa looked at the heavy bag on her kitchen table and said, “Well.  Let’s make some jelly!”  We gathered supplies, boiled grapes, squeezed the pulp through cheesecloth to strain out the skins and seeds, added pectin and sugar, and poured it off into little jars.  It was the best grape jelly ever.

My MaMa always seemed to have homemade jelly or preserves on the table.  Apple or plum were the usual jelly choices, and fig or peach were the fabulously chunky preserves.

Ever since I began foraging for wild food (several years ago), I’ve wanted to make jelly.  I keep telling myself “This is the year I’m gonna DO it!”  And then I don’t gather enough, or I’m missing a crucial ingredient or piece of equipment, or I totally miss gathering what’s in season until it’s over.

Well folks, (*trumpet flourish*) this is the year I finally did it.  Yay me!

Last weekend’s mulberry picking excursion didn’t yield enough berries for jelly.  So I froze those, and Saturday we went to shake the trees again.  We gathered all we could reach, and headed back home.

Little Boy shows off his treasure.

Yesterday I gathered all my equipment and ingredients.  I watched a buttload of YouTube videos to help get the process straight in my head.   This one most succinctly explained the water bath canning process and the equipment needed:

I found a few mulberry jelly videos, but this black raspberry one was the one I ended up lifting the most from:

The one piece of equipment I lack is a jar rack for the water bath.  I’d read that you don’t really need one, so I looked up a few ways to improvise.  This video was helpful, and I adore redberrychick’s DIY style, as well as that redneck accent.  Adorable!  I want to hang out on the porch and drink wine with her:

I tried the ring thing, but I don’t have twisty ties and the jars kept falling over.  I ended up going with the folded up towel, but that ended up being wobbly and weird.  I’m getting a jar rack for next time.

Some observations of note from my jelly making process:

1.  I didn’t have cheesecloth, so instead of sending my Herban Cowboy out for some, I used a clean white cloth diaper (that had never been used for doodie duty) to strain it.  It worked pretty well, but I think the cheesecloth would be better for straining fruit pulp.  Next time.

2.  Eleven cups of mulberries only yielded 2 cups of juice.  This totally bummed my jelly high.  I had to make a half batch.

3.  I boiled my jelly too long and ended up reducing it, resulting in a VERY sticky and thick syrup.  We’ll see how this affects the final product.

4.  Cleanup sucks.  The bad news is that mulberry pulp gets everywhere and stains everything.  The good news is that it’s a beautiful shade of purple.

All those years of planning and procrastinating, the money spent on equipment, all the time spent, the cleanup work and a learning curve that encompasses stains and burns  — and I made three jars of jelly.

Three.

I should be crying in frustration, but instead I am SO excited.  The money’s already spent, now I know what to do, the jars are reusable, foraged fruit is free, I’ll be faster next time, what can I make next, somebody stop me!

Maybe I should wait until I taste the jelly before I get TOO excited.  I gave one jar to D, who had driven us all around Chatham County searching for fruiting trees.  The other two sit, with their tightly sealed lids, on my counter.  I’m supposed to wait at least 24 hours before I open one.  We’ll see if I can wait that long………

Mmmmm.

 

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Categories: Fabulous Foraging, Kitchen Witchery, Possum Living, The Homestead, To DIY For | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Solar Power

Mavis and Hazel roll around and kick up the dirt. My dirty little yard birds.

I’m out in the garden, sitting on the glider bench, sweating and typing on the Herban Cowboy’s notebook.  It’s 85 degrees and sunny.  There are shiny red strawberries fattening in the strawberry patch.  The chickens just took an ecstatic dust bath in the dirt behind me.  And we’re finally finishing the solar energy experiment we started last week.

In this experiment, Little Boy thinks light colors will absorb more solar energy.  We painted one bottle white and one bottle black, put a corresponding color balloon on top of each, and have set them in the sun.  The idea is, the color bottle whose balloon expands first is the one that absorbs the most solar energy (the heated air having expanded into the balloon).

Mavis, Hazel, Daphne and Gloria, pictured here weeding the garden, removing insect pests, and fertilizing all at the same time.

So now, while we’re waiting for the sun’s sciency goodness to manifest itself, Little Boy is learning how to herd chickens out of the garden beds, and the Herban Cowboy is moving a bit of chicken wire fencing, expanding the yard our girls have to scratch around in.

As for the rest of the Green Goddess Gardens, the kitchen garden has been mulched, the nasty garden fence taken down, peas growing, sprouts (green beans, radishes, broccoli, lettuce).  There’s a lemon cucumber plant and some kind of tomato that the Husband brought home from work, seeds are planted (yellow squash, zucchini, cucumber, basil, parsley).

Wood sorrel. The Irish shamrock. Little Boy eats them right out of the ground. I prefer them in egg salad.

Spring is so busy.  It’s too much work for me.  I prefer the forced laziness that the heat of summer brings.  But at least the work is fun.  And it goes with beer or wine.

And gardening is not all hard work.  We forage for wild food and encourage it in our yard.  We’ve got yellow dock for soups, chickweed and wood sorrel for salads, and Little Boy and I are both watching the wild blackberry flowers with mouth watering impatience.  This year I am resolved to make wild fruit jam.  Either blackberry or mulberry.  I vow this every spring.  I hope this is the year I really do it.

UPDATE:  Our solar energy experiment was a dud.  Neither balloon expanded.  Not sure if bottles were not painted enough, or if we’re just crappy scientists.  Either way, I think we’ll just move on to the next one in the book.

Wild blackberry. We're gonna eat it.

Categories: Cowgirl's Livestock, Fabulous Foraging, Green Goddess Garden, Possum Living, The Homestead, Unschooling | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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