If you take a stroll around any large garden attached to an historic building (like Charle’s Darwins home Down House) you are likely to find a mulberry tree. James I encouraged his subjects to plant mulberry trees in order to promote the silk industry (silkworms famously enjoy eating mulberry leaves.). James’ dream of a flourishing English silk trade never came to fruition but the trees remained, their legacy being a wonderful crop of fruit towards the end of summer.
Mulberry trees can reach up to 30 feet in height and can become rather unwieldy if left unchecked. A friend has such a tree growing in her garden. Its pendulous lichen covered branches reach almost to the ground and this time of the year are laden with large, reddish black berries rather like elongated blackberries. Victorian poet Robert Browning referred to mulberries as being ‘black blooded’. Indeed when you try to pry then from their branches the fruit bursts leaving your hands (and if you are unfortunate enough your clothing too) coated in scarlet juice which is difficult to remove. Evidently the best way to collect mulberries is to wait for them to fall from the tree naturally but this requires patience.
Despite the bountiful fruit on its boughs, it is rather difficult to find specific recipes for mulberries in old cookery books. It may be that like the blackberry, mulberries was so prolific and naturally sweet that it was deemed unnecessary to create recipes using them. Generally speaking mulberries can be successfully used as a substitute for any recipe containing raspberries or loganberries. Elizabeth David uses them to great effect in a classic summer pudding. I have to agree with Mrs David that a mulberry summer pudding is superior to the traditional kind made with raspberries and red currants.
- 200-250g stale white bread or brioche (this is one occasion where shop bought brioche works well)
- 500-600g fresh, ripe mulberries
- 100-125g granulated sugar
- Clotted cream or thick pouring cream to serve
- Cut the bread into thin slices and remove the crusts. Use the bread to line a small basin (around 600ml capacity). Press the bread into the sides of the bowl – you may need to overlap the slices to ensure there are no gaps. If the bread won’t adhere try spraying it with a little water (it should be damp rather than wet). Make sure you have enough bread left over to make a lid for the pudding.
- Put the mulberries in a pan with 100g sugar. Slowly heat the mulberries until the juices run. They shouldn’t be too mushy at this stage. Add more sugar if you think it’s needed. Pour the mulberries into the bread lined basin. Around 500g should do it but don’t put in too much of the juice. Any mulberries and juice left over can be blitzed and sieved to make extra sauce for the pudding.
- Fashion a lid with the remaining bread, again ensuring there are no gaps. Cover the bowl with cling film then put a small saucer on top of the pudding with a 1kg weight on top of that. Place in the fridge overnight (although it can be left for a couple of days if you wish).
- When you are ready to serve the pudding, carefully run a round bladed knife around the edge of the basin. Place a larger plate over the bowl then invert the pudding (you may need to give the bowl a shake to encourage the pudding to come out). Mrs David liked to serve her mulberry pudding with pouring cream but I prefer clotted cream. Don’t forget the extra mulberry sauce if you have it too!