A few days ago, my husband and I picked some 6 pounds of mulberries from one of three trees in our yard. As I was picking, a group of children walked by, one commenting he thought those berries were poisonous. Wayne handed him one and told him to try it, and the kid said with some surprise that it was quite sweet. Well, yes. Yes it was.
It seems the Mulberry tree has gotten such a bad reputation that people in these parts routinely let the berries go to the birds. Weird, huh? Mulberry trees grow wild in so many parts of the country, and it’s pretty much free food. I like free food =)
Anyway, whether you’re getting immediate gratification from making a pie, making jam, starting the fermenting process on some wine, or even using the berries as a natural dye, the mulberry is an amazing fruit. This week, we’re talking pie, but as I get larger harvests, I’ll be covering making jam, wine, and even dyes.
I’d give you a straight recipe here, except that when using mulberries, there kind of isn’t one. The first step in making a good pie is eating a few of the berries. (oh darn! Except side-note here: Make sure your berries are ripe. Ripe means purple, like a blackberry. If you eat unripe berries, you’re going to wind up tripping, which might be why they have that reputation as being poisonous.)
Ok, once you’ve tasted your berry, think about how sweet it is, and how juicy. Pie is basically a small handful of ingredients: Fruit, sugar, spices if you want em, (cinnamon is always a good standard, but really this is personal preference. You could even try a savory herb like basil) water, lemon juice and cornstarch. There’s no hard recipe here. If your berries are tart, add about a cup of sugar. If they’re really sweet, you probably only need 1/4 of a cup. Don’t leave it out though, it helps make the syrupy parts. Same with the water, if they’re super-juicy, don’t add much water. The amount of cornstarch corresponds with the amount of added water. If you don’t add any, or only a little bit, add maybe a tablespoon of cornstarch. If you add a lot of water (up to a cup if you listen to some recipes) you should up the cornstarch to 3-4 tablespoons. Spice is up to your personal preference, but a starting point is about a tablespoon. Lemon juice is about the only constant. Use about a tablespoon.
Once you’ve thought about all that, get yourself a pie crust. Mine come from the grocery store because I am not gifted with the pie crust making gene. As you might have noticed, I’m not the sort of cook who uses hard measurements, and pie crust is one of those things that requires precision and attention to detail. Kudos to you if you have the attention span to make your own.
Anyway. Put your pie crust in the bottom of a greased pie pan. add your berries. sprinkle your other ingredients over the top and then mix it all around with your hands. (um. yes, your palms might turn purple. get your kid to do this part or use a wooden spoon if you have the sort of job where people look at you funny for having purple hands)
If you decide to add a little water, do it now. Just drizzle over the top.
Next, take some super thin pats of butter (maybe a tablespoon?) and spread them out over the top of the pie mixture. Then put your second crust over the top and seal up the edges. Slice a few slits in the top crust.
Now, bake at 375 for somewhere around 40 minutes. Your berry juices should be bubbling up through the slits. if your crust edges start to get too brown, just cut some tinfoil into strips and cover the edges with it.
Let your pie cool. This isn’t one you want to eat piping hot. Add ice cream if you’re so inclined. =)