Monday, July 14, 2008

Mulberry Madness!

Every summer our family turns purple. The color stains our hands, clothing, hair, teeth, and the stepping stones in our berry patch. The color remains in the cracks in our cuticles for days and never really comes out of our clothing, but we've come to accept the purple spots as the one drawback to having a very productive mulberry tree.

Before moving to this house, none of us had eaten mulberries before. All we saw was a little tree shading the overgrown area we planned to turn into a berry patch. After clearing the land, mulching, and planting blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries, we left the little tree for another project. We planned to take it down.

Imagine our surprise when that little tree seemed to sprout fat, juicy berries overnight! From that day on, we've been mulberry harvesters, mulberry jam-makers, mulberry-juice-drinkers, and mulberry-pie-bakers. It's true that the little pseudo-berries don't have a ton of flavor on their own. They do, however, have plenty of sweetness and juiciness.

They pair well with tart rhubarb in a pie and are so colorful when juiced & paired with maple syrup to sweeten lemonade. Lately, I've been baking with mulberries and oats for hardy treats. This week it was Sunny Mulberry Oat muffins and Mulberry Oat bars.

Mulberry Oat Bars

*Modified from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Raspberry Oatmeal Bars from The Joy of Vegan Baking to be wheat free, use of lots of mulberries, and not need pre-made jam.

3 cups mulberries, freshly picked
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt
1/3 cup Earth Balance or butter

Wash the mulberries. There's no need to remove the stems. In a small saucepan, heat the mulberries and maple syrup until simmering (the juice will be released from the mulberries). Using a potato masher or fork, mash the berries until there are no whole berries remaining, but the mixture is still chunky. In a separate bowl, mix the water and cornstarch to form a slurry. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the mulberries and stir to combine. Turn heat to low and stir frequently for about 5-10 minutes, or until thickened to a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat.

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 8"X8" square glass baking dish. In a mixing bowl, combine sugar, flour, oats, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt. Add the Earth Balance or butter and rub the mixture together until it forms a crumbly consistency. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the baking dish. Spread the mulberry jam over the oat crust. Top with remaining oat crumbles and bake for 30-35 minutes. The bars will cut best if you allow them to fully cool first.
*Note: If you don't have oat flour, you could also use rice flour. Or you could use a food processor to whiz rolled oats into oat flour. Or you could use wheat flour instead of oat flour, and omit the xanthan gum. I'd like to try it with cornmeal!

By the way, I still sing the little nursery rhyme:

All around the mulberry bush
The monkey chased the weasel.
The monkey thought 'twas all in fun.
Pop! goes the weasel.

in my head when I pick mulberries.


nano said...

I'm still waiting for my mulberry bar!

Oh, & I have a question about the pickled peppers...

Liz said...

Yeah, I really shouldn't have eaten your mulberry bar. But it was so good...

What's your question? I'll guess and give you some answers:
Yes- they are spicy
Yes- they might have serranos in addition to jalapenos, which is not traditional for escabeche
Yes- I grew them in my garden
No- I don't remember if the carrots and onion were local (but probably at that time of year they were)
Yes- They're freaking awesome on nachos!