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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Mulberries this time

Summer travel, a crashed hard drive, and suddenly it's the end of July with only one post since May--not the way to run a blog!!

I am in the middle of the first crop of my everbearing raspberries and enjoying the luxury of going out to pick a handful just for snacking. Sometimes I bring the berries in first and weigh them (yes, part of my secret weirdness I guess, this love of measuring and counting) and think of how much that little pile would cost at the store. Once again, I can't stress enough that, if you live in raspberry country and have even a little space, start some plants this year.

Today's recipe, however, has nothing to do with raspberries but instead features two other "crops" that are often close to free if you have them in your yard or know others who grow them: rhubarb and mulberries.

Mulberries are an often forgotten fruit that many see as only a mess maker in the yard. Their flavor is very mild but they can be substituted for blackberries or other berries in a lot of recipes. Adding quite a bit of lemon juice will help perk up whatever you put them in, and I noticed a lot of the recipes online include good dashes of almond flavoring.

Rhubarb of course is that great Midwestern backyard staple that needs a lot of help to make it palatable. Still, it is so common here in MN that it isn't too hard to find someone with plenty to spare.

I was the recipient this weekend of a few cups of shiny purple mulberries, and I wasn't up to making pie, the usual use for these berries around here, so I went looking for ideas and found a recipe for a quick jam that I adapted slightly. "The boys" (grandsons ages 3 and almost 5) sampled it with peanut butter on whole wheat bread and were ready for more, more. With something this easy and inexpensive, it seems like a good thing to keep on hand in the summer.


Mulberry Rhubarb Jam

2 c sugar
1 c finely chopped rhubarb, packed
1 c mulberries, packed
1 3 ounce package lemon gelatin

Combine the sugar, rhubarb, and mulberries in a saucepan and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the gelatin, return to a rolling boil, and remove from heat. Store in the refrigerator.

Makes about one pint.

I still have some mulberries left so I plan to use them in place of blueberries in this tried and true coffee cake recipe based on one from the 1962 Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book, Revised Edition.


Berry Buckle

1/2 c butter (may substitute 1/3 c canola oil)
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1/3 c nonfat dry milk powder
1/2 c water (use milk if you aren't going to add dry milk powder)
2 c flour--up to 1 cup may be whole wheat
2 1/2 t baking powder
1/2 t vanilla OR almond extract
1 t lemon juice (optional)
2 c berries, fresh or frozen (see NOTE)

Crumbs:
1/4 c butter
1/2 c sugar (may use white or brown sugar)
1/2 c flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t nutmeg (optional)
1/2 c chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter and sugar and stir in egg, vanilla, and dry milk powder. Beat well. Sift flour, baking powder, and spices and add alternately with water. Fold in berries.

Combine all ingredients for the crumbs.

Pour half of batter into a well oiled 7 X 11 OR 9 inch square pan. Spread about a third of the crumbs over this layer and then drop the rest of the batter evenly over the top. Finish by spreading the rest of the crumbs evenly over the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes.

NOTE: This works well with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and mulberries. Chopped apples or even finely chopped peaches or plums can also be used. For these latter fruits, you may want to spread the fruit over the first layer of batter rather than stirring the fruit in.

If you are using frozen berries, do not thaw them before adding; add about 5 minutes or so to the baking time.

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