Seasonal Recipe: Mulberry Vinegar

Seasonal Recipe: Mulberry Vinegar

Mulberries are dropping off the trees, staining sidewalks and bare feet, and giving the birds toxic ammunition to deposit on your car. Don’t get mad, get even…eat them! Mulberries make wonderful pies and jams. Personally, though, I think they are best when fermented. Not only are mulberry ferments superb, they are extremely easy because the berries are loaded with wild yeast. They are practically fermenting themselves before they even leave the tree. Making mulberry cordial, wine, and especially vinegar is high on my to-do list every June. I use the mulberry vinegar all year long to make marinades and salad dressings.

Mulberries are also super easy to collect. You simply need to lay a tarp or an old bed sheet under the tree and wait. Put your tarp down in the morning, and by late afternoon you will have all the berries you need. Don’t worry that the fruit is sitting in the heat. In fact, sitting in the heat is part of the process. It helps the yeasts and bacteria start growing. The debris that falls on the tarp- the unripe berries, bits of catkins, twigs, etc- is also important because it provides extra microbes. So when you collect up your berries, you should remove the larger sticks and such. But don’t remove the smaller debris.

There are lots of different microbes on the mulberries. You want to encourage the ones that make vinegar and discourage the ones that make other stuff. The concept is similar to raising plants…different plants need different types of soil, different amounts of water and sunlight. So in your garden you need to create the proper conditions for the plant you want to grow… The same is true with microbes. You need to create the right conditions for the type of organism you want to grow. In this case, vinegar-making microbes.

To do that, put about 4 cups of (unwashed, debris included) mulberries, 1 cup of sugar, and 1/4 cup lemon juice in a 2 quart jar. Then fill the jar with water.The vinegar-making microbes need oxygen, so cover the top of the jar with a cloth to allow it to breath. Then set it in a warm sunny place, like you would sun tea.

The wild yeasts and bacteria that will do the fermenting are on the unwashed berries and the debris. The lemon juice is important because it creates a slightly acidic environment, which allows “good” organisms to thrive while inhibiting “bad” ones. Don’t worry about the sugar in your final product. It’s there to feed those microbes.  Think of it as the “pay” they demand in return for doing the “work” of turning your berries into vinegar. By the time the vinegar is ready, the sugar will be long gone.

After 24-48 hours, you will begin to see bubbles. You may also notice some up and down movement of some of the smaller debris particles in the liquid. These are signs that the fermenters are hard at work and you are ready to go to the next step. Strain the liquid and mash the berries through the strainer. Your liquid will turn dark red and opaque.

Return the liquid to the jar and discard the pulp. Put the lid on the jar upside down so that it is not airtight. Put the jar at room temperature in a location where it won’t be disturbed, such as the back of a cabinet or on top of the refrigerator. Now you simply need to wait.  In 4-6 weeks, you will have mulberry vinegar.

 

You will know it is done when it smells and tastes like (surprise) mulberry vinegar.

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