Summer is the perfect season for foraging. Meandering through the woods and along streams in search of edible wild fruits and berries is best done when the days are long and the breezes are gentle. Unfortunately Summer is also the perfect season for mosquitos, ticks, and poison ivy, but let’s not spoil the idyllic image of waltzing through the woods for all those who live in a concrete jungle. It’s lovely, really it is!
Growing in the woods near our house, down a path and around the bend, sits a large Mulberry tree. In early July the tree is laden with ripening fruit. Each branch holds dozens of berries which turn from a pale unripe white to a juicy dark purple over the span of a few weeks. A popular spot for all the wild animals, it is not uncommon to find a few turkey feathers, deer footprints, or even signs of raccoons around the tree. If we time it just right, we can get to the fruit before the wildlife strips the tree bare and pick a bucket full of inky berries. Now you may be familiar with the nursery song “Here we go round the Mulberry Bush”. The person who wrote that song must have been childless. There is no way any mother in her right mind would encourage children to play around a mulberry bush. Why not you ask?
Exactly. Despite heroic amounts of scrubbing and enough soap to clean a landfill we walked around with purple fingers for several days. It is a great way to get lots of strange looks!
So what can you do with mulberries that makes sporting purple fingers worthwhile? Well you can cook them down into a simple syrup and mix the deep berry flavor with vodka for refreshing and fantastic slippery slope cocktail. Or you can channel your inner grandmother and turn them into a homemade mulberry pie. I don’t know what it is about mulberries that feels nostalgic, perhaps it is because they are not commercially available, but whenever I cook with Mulberries it feels like I am going back to the days of farmhand suppers and lemonade served on the front porch. This pie carries that familiar homespun flavor. Sun ripened fruit melds with just the right amount of sugar to form a jammy filling wrapped between two flaky layers of crust. Paired with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream, it is a pie that turns berry picking and purple fingers into a very happy occasion.
Mulberry Pie (Printable Recipe)
Makes 1 9″ Pie
5 cups Mulberries (Don’t bother stemming the mulberries. It is nearly impossible to do so without destroying the berries and the stems soften and disappear into the filling once cooked.)
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Vanilla
3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
Pinch of Salt
1 Double Pie Crust (Recipe Below)
Pre-heat the oven to 425 with a rack in the middle and a baking sheet lined with foil set on a second rack just below it to catch drips.
In a large bowl, gently stir together the mulberries, sugar, flour, vanilla, lemon juice, cinnamon, and salt.
Roll out the bottom pie crust and line a 9″ pie plate with the crust. Pour the mulberry mixture into the pie plate. Roll out the top crust and gently set it on top of the mulberry filling. Pinch the two crusts together to seal the crust, and then cut a few slits in the top of the crust to vent steam.
Place the pie on the rack in the center of the oven. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and bake for 45 minutes, or until the filling is thick and bubbly and the crust turns a toasty light brown color. Remove the pie from the oven and let it cool on a rack for 2-3 hours, until the filling firms up. Slice and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Double Pie Crust
3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 cup leaf lard or shortening, slightly chilled
5 tablespoons (or more) ice water
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, and salt until blended. Add the cubes of cold butter and lard to the mix, and rub them between your thumb and fingers until they break into small pea-size pieces and are incorporated with the flour. Add 5 tablespoons of ice water to the bowl, and mix it in with a fork. Keep adding water by the teaspoonful until the dough sticks together when you press a small piece between your fingertips. The mix will still look quite crumbly at this time.
Dump the mix out onto a flat surface, and using the heel of your hand, press down and out four to six times, smearing the dough onto the counter. This will create layers of fat, providing a flaky crust. Use a bench scraper to scrape the dough off of the counter and form it into a ball. Divide the dough into two pieces and flatten each piece into a disk. Wrap the disks with plastic wrap and place them in the fridge for 30 minutes or up to two days. Let dough warm up at room temperature for 5 minutes before rolling it out.