This is the first year that our King James Mulberry has had a useable crop. Although it started to crop from about it's second year, the crop has been light. This year there has been a steady number of rip fruits from late July. Through early August there were enough fully ripe, black fruit to snack on whilst gardening; in the third week of August there were enough to fill a small desert bowl to have with cream. However, even when refridgerated they keep very poorly. I picked a bowl one day; they were forgotten that evening, but I decided to eat them the next afternoon. They tasted a bit mildew - when I looked the ones at the bottom of the bowl were completely mouldy, with very obvious white mycelium fibres already covering the fruit.
By the last weekend in August, black fruits picked straight from the tree were tasting a bit mouldy. Not 'winey' as some fruits go when overripe but mildewed, very strong mould. To be fair, the weather really hasn't helped, it's been very damp over the last few weeks and I've noticed blackberries shrivelling on the bushes too, the Devil has been spitting early this year.
Today, even some of the mid-red coloured fruit look a bit shrivelled so I decided to pick the remainder of the reachable crop and jam them, just over 1kg, enough for a small quantity of jam.
There aren't really any guidelines anywhere for how to use mulberries, but I think we will be better prepared next year. I have to say that using them is made more difficult by my husband refusing to eat them unless they are completely black, when they lose a lot of their acidity (my palate can take them just a tad 'redder'). They drop so easily at this stage, it's easy to lose most of them. But there is about a week in early- to mid- August when they can be eaten like other soft fruit. From that point on I think it's better to pick in stages, freeze, and then jam (or wine) at leisure. Mulberry jam rivals strawberry in the most delicious jam stakes (the fruits that don't break down are wonderfully chewy, like finding bits of fruit toffee in your jam), but is very hard to come by as so few people have mulberry trees, and they are tedious to pick. I wouldn't be without a mulberry now though, the taste of a really ripe fruit is on a hot summer day is indescribable, no other fruit matches it for intensity.
Husband made the jam (usual method of 1kg dry fruit to 1kg sugar), but for some reason decided to add pectin, as he wasn't sure how much mulberries have naturally. The answer is plenty; adding pectin made it far to thick. Personally I like my jam slightly runny or jelly-like in consistence, not completely solid (technically this would be fruit 'butter' anyway). Also I should have been a bit more careful in picking through them, as I let through the odd woody stalk that didn't break down on cooking. Live and learn, the flavour is good regardless.