Bloggus Moribundus

Don't worry, I have some spectacular new posts coming soon. It's just that I'm spending my mid-life with my one-year-old daughter and it is difficult to find the time to scintillate you regularly with my bloggery.


All the Bookworm leaders we don't trust

One of the huge array of free services and products that Google provides in order to get our data in their clutches is the automated transcription of voicemail messages. I have my cellphone set to forward all unanswered calls to Google Voice, which then instantly transcribes any left message and emails it to me. While typically garbled in whole or in part, the transcript is usually enough to gauge the basic content and urgency of the message. It is far easier to read an email than go through the rigamarole of dialing in and entering prompts to listen to a message, with the result that I no longer do the latter. Sometimes the transcripts are so incomprehensible as to be amusing. Blame Marty Markowitz's heavy Brooklyn accent. 

Tomorrow is election day; don't forget to cast your vote!

 what's I'm delighted to call you because there is a very important election this Tuesday. Will Brooklyn District Attorney so I hope thatyou'll join the and supporting Democrat 10 times, along with the New York Times and all the Bookworm leaders, we don't trust fromsome of the truck show month, so I'm next may have. Again the course is a top notch federal prosecutor. He has a plan to get a legalguns or possibly as the integrity and this is to make each about the person is able to see if and Scroll. This is Borough President, Marty.Markowitz bridging the both a democrat Kent Thomson, but book with District Attorney this Tuesday, November 5th. Thank you.


Evolution of a Banksy: the subversion of vandalism UPDATED

We are now halfway through street artist Banksy's self-proclaimed "artists residency on the streets of New York," a so-far successful attempt to create a work on each day of October, in disparate locations of the city. More of a stencil artist than a graffitist, Banksy is still what used to be called a vandal. Property owners, the city of New York, and the MTA have spent countless millions* of dollars erasing, buffing or painting over the likes of him. His (or her) continued anonymity is astonishing given his fame. The one fuels the other, but by insisting on keeping hidden, Banksy is also insisting that his art remains of the street, outside, unsanctioned. For an artist who commands hundreds of thousands of dollars for works translated into a gallery context, this is rather the point of this month-long onslaught: I will come to your city, I will surprise and baffle on every night of the month, I will make art for the people and it will be free and I will not get caught.

The witty and accessible stencils that earned Banksy his notoriety tend, despite some pointed political commentary, to be one-liners: the stenciled girl  floating over the West Bank Barrier on a bouquet of balloons; a maid, sweeping the world's problems behind a trompe l'oeil white curtain; two bobbies, smooching; the bandanaed anarchist hurling a fistful of flowers instead of a molotov cocktail. 

In New York, Banksy has once-again put spraycan to some of his familiar stencils, but more importantly he is continuing the broader critique of commodification and art-as-business so deftly elaborated in his documentary film Exit Through the Gift Shop. What has been happening to the New York works within hours of their completion turns the economics and motivation of graffiti-removal, in the city that pioneered the cleansing of subway trains, entirely on its head. It is safe to say that property owners around the city are wishing and hoping that Banksy would strike their wall, instantly bestowing a valuable windfall upon them.

A phenomenon like Banksy's October show is precisely the kind of blog-fodder we at antarcticiana would normally avoid like the plague, but given that the home turf of Red Hook, Brooklyn was last week the happy recipient of Banksy attention, we're making an exception. The piece he did here is a perfect example of the multiple, interactive layers of baggage that pile up at the feet of almost every Banksy work, just as fast as it goes up on the wall or out onto the street.

Sometime in the middle evening of October 7th, the Banksy crew rolled up on this unassuming single-story cinderblock nothing of a building at the north-west corner of King and Van Brunt. Second-hand reports were that a white tent-like structure was quickly assembled to shield a portion of the wall from the view of any passersby. Presumably this is to protect the anonymity of the artist(s), but in and of itself I found this description hilarious; I had seen just a few weeks ago, at the Clinton Global Initiative, a similar tent set up in the middle of 53rd St. to enable President Obama to safely and invisibly exit his limousine and enter the Sheraton Hotel out of the prying eyes of midtown snipers.

Note in this pre-Banksy Google Street View the varied tonal grays where the property owner has rather lazily painted over previous graffiti. I'm certain it is no accident that Banksy chose such a wall. He made a similar choice a few days earlier.

The resulting artwork was a simple stencil of a pink, heart-shaped balloon, heavily patchworked with band-aids, floating up the wall. The balloon is a favorite in the Banksy iconographic toolbox. It represents liberation from constraint, imagination, taking flight. According to the gently fatuous faux-museum "audio guide" posted with photos at Banksy's NYC website, this heart represents the "battle to survive a broken heart." Of course to Red Hookers, it can only represent resiliency and the uplifting of our neighborhood, now all-but-fully recovered and soaring once again, one year after hurricane Sandy.

(Not my image: boosted from Banksyny.com, linked above)

According to these photos, the piece seems to have survived the rest of the night and seen the light of day. Quickly, however, layers began to pile up. As soon as the location of Banksy's October 7th stencil was made known, it was scrawled over by graffitist "OMAR," who apparently makes what little career he can out of defacing Banksies. Such behavior is of course in the time-honored New York tradition of graffiti greats claiming territory, or over-painting perceived peons, except that Omar is by no stretch a graffiti great, nor can jumping in a car and rushing to the scene of the latest Banksy be described as marking territory. What's interesting is that public sentiment is clearly against Mr. Omar, who is seen as no better than some maniac rushing into a museum and dumping a bucket of paint onto a Monet. In bloglandia, Omar is a vandal, destroying the art of Banksy. This is perhaps because Banksy is far more famous, far more successful, and far more creative than "Omar," but it surely also has to do with the very real notion that Omar is destroying cash value where Banksy has just added it. 

Soon thereafter, perhaps because his temporary New York HQ is said to be right here in Red Hook, Banksy seems to have revisited the scene of the crime to get in the next word, appending "is a jealous little girl" to Omar's self-aggrandizing tag, in dainty typescript. Someone else, with distinctly un-streets penmanship, then wandered by with some purple spraypaint.

(Not my image: boosted from NBC news)

Meanwhile, we can imagine the owner of this modest building bitching about the quickly evolving mess on his wall as he heads to the utility closet for his trusty can of off-gray paint. As he emerges with bucket and brush he finds a crowd of art-lovers gathered on the sidewalk. No, they inform him, you haven't been vandalized, it's actually more as if you had won the lottery! Don't you know that gallery Banksies have sold to celebrities for hundreds of thousands? Don't you know that a street Banksy was cut out of a wall in London and auctioned off for 1.1 million

(Not my image: boosted from theverge.com, linked below)

Away went the gray paint. When I first saw this piece, after returning from a jaunt to West Virginia, it was covered with an enormous square of plexiglas, PL'd, and then duct-taped to the wall. When I next saw it, the following day, the plexi had been entirely painted over, and visitors had attempted to pry it from the wall. The owner of the building, out of a deep and selfless desire to maintain access to public art, or perhaps some other reason, then hired a night-watchman to guard the wall. This local worthy sat out on the sidewalk for at least an entire night in a deck chair, just as the weather was getting nippy. But the long-term economic deficit implied by this strategy, or possibly the ever-present threat of napping, soon became apparent. The owner decided, one imagines, that selflessness might be alright for some, but there comes a moment when one must stop messing about. It was at about this time that workmen covered over the already mutliply-defaced Banksy with a shallow box made from cold-rolled iron angle and welded one-quarter-inch steel plate, bolting it right into his precious cinderblock wall. 

This double-parked would-be Banksy viewer found only sheet steel, itself tagged with the note below, reading "SELFISH! Art is for Everyone!" 

Similar insanity has greeted most of Banksy's October output. My favorite response to his work so far were the East New York entrepreneurs who covered their neighborhood Banksy with squares of cardboard and then charged slumming hipsters $20 to get a look at it (this is $5 less than MoMA charges for admission). Some headlines have suggested that Banksy just can't get a break in New York, but unless he is far dumber than his work suggests I think he must be laughing uproariously at every twist and turn and value-enhancing antic.

Somewhat late to the party, and demonstrating a startling lack of business acumen, Michael Bloomberg "told reporters Wednesday that graffiti ruins property 'and is a sign of decay and loss of control.'" Mr. Mayor, Banksy is no vandal, he's wealth creation.

*According to Craig Castleman in Getting Up: Subway Graffiti in New York (1984, MIT Press, Cambridge. Pg. 149), the MTA spent $300,000 on graffiti eradication in 1970, a figure that spiraled upward by orders of magnitude in the subsequent decades.

Update #1: My friend Amy Helfand send the image, below, of the handwritten sign currently posted on top of the sheet steel box. The one calling the box-makers meanies and art-concealers has apparently been removed:

This suggests they cut out the wall and that the steel plate is just covering a big hole, but I suspect that is a red herring.

Update #2: The property owner has finally gotten it together to remove the wall. Walking past, this evening (Sunday, October 27th) I found him observing two laborers who were drilling out a kind of postage-stamp perforation all the way around the outside of the piece. The building appears to be made of brick, not block, to judge by the brick dust, below.

Dude: "Don't take pictures."
Me: "I'm on a public sidewalk, I can take as many pictures as I like."
Dude: "Good answer. But if you write something, you have to tell us, and if it is something bad, you are responsible. We are preserving it. If it was your wall, would you spend $3,000 to preserve this artwork?"
Me: "I have no idea what I would do. The whole thing has been a comedy since the beginning."


Carlos Menchaca for City Council!

Down in deepest Sunset Park the other day, I pulled the car over to send a text (don't text and drive, kids!) and found myself parked right in front of a Mexican specialty store. From the contents of the front windows, it looked like its taste in Mexican specialties ran pretty deep. I'm a sucker for that stuff, so I ponied up for 15 minutes worth of parking credits and went in to check it out. With an unpronounceable name like "Plaza Xochimilco,"* it's a fair bet the place was not designed or stocked with gringos in mind. I was not disappointed. The shelves held dozens of varieties of dried chiles, obscure brands of Mexican soda pop, nixtamalized corn,** molcajetes and nuestras señoras de Guadalupe up the ying-yang. 

In the front was a fridge case with plastic bags full of fresh epazote and papalo**, this year's most fashionable Mejican ingredient out on the west coast, but one still near-unobtainable around this way. I had some in a sandwich at the Red Hook ball fields a few weeks ago, and have been on the lookout for it ever since. In the front window was a poster for Carlos Menchaca. His is a smiling face I got to know well, almost a year ago, after Red Hook was walloped by hurricane Sandy. Menchaca was the guy who marshalled the large quantities of volunteers who came down from dryer neighborhoods to help clean up the hood. Tireless and invariably pleasant and friendly while surrounded by mountains of soggy rubble and dozens of eager-but-anxious volunteers, all raring to go, with nobody quite sure yet what they could do, Carlos brightened the mood when a lot of us residents were wandering around wondering if we would ever again live in our houses, drink in our bars or eat in our restaurants.

I don't frankly know if he had already considered running for office, or if this experience of organizing and helping people pushed him in the direction of city government, but he's getting my vote. It won't be easy. City Councilperson isn't exactly mayor or president, and most people, I fear, will vote for the incumbent simply because they may have heard of her.**** 

Carlos lives in Red Hook now, having fallen in love with the neighborhood in those trying post-Sandy weeks. I'm not surprised to see his posters in most every neighborhood window here, but I was surprised and pleased to see his face behind glass in the demographically very, very different depths of Sunset Park. I think he's going to get elected. He helped us. You should help him.

*I'm going to go with zhou-chee-mil-co. For all you would-be papalo-purchasing punters, it's on 5th Avenue between 62nd and 63rd. (Brooklyn, obv).

**I've only just noticed that "tamal" is embedded within this word.

***Known to some as "summer cilantro", this may be a bit of an acquired taste. This weekend, my sister told me "your corn salad tastes like soap." Well, maybe, but if so that would be a cilantro-grapefruit artisanal body bar.

****S_____ "no hace nada" G________z, who won't be getting a name-recognition-boosting mention from the likes of me.

Corn Salad Recipe:

12 ears Jersey sweet corn
1 red bell pepper
1 medium red onion
1 pint sweetest cherry tomatoes
12-15 fresh papalo leaves
1 lime
1/4 cup fine olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cut the kernels from the cobs of corn. Chop red bell pepper and red onion very fine. Chop papalo into fine shavings. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Mix well in a bowl. Juice the lime and mix with the olive oil, salt, and pepper to make a dressing.


The Ancient Airborne Yeasts of Crete

Back in May 2012 I received a facebook message from a recently decamped New Orleans friend, the painter Myrtle Von Damitz III:

I'm in the countryside of central western Oregon with the same family as last year--they run a big greenhouse and this is the busy season--my friend's sister married a guy from Crete and they live here half the year and back in Greece the other half. The food here is pretty much like eating in the Garden of Eden and everyone relishes it. Anna and Markos brought back some bread starter--they asked the baker at their favorite bakery in a village in Crete for some and he surprised them by obliging--it's been around since before he became a baker.
They asked me if I had any baker friends back in NOLA to send some to. You're not in NOLA, but if you give me an address I will mail you some of the starter. You're the only bread baker I know! They make some pretty good bread, mostly simple, no yeast.

Intrigued by this unsolicited offer, I replied at once that I would be honored.

I bake bread using my own starter, the wild yeasts harvested from the air right here in the wilds of Red Hook. Now almost three years old, that starter has been fed and kept alive not only by me, but by house-sitters, subletters, a neighbor and former tenant, my mother, and anyone else I could con into dropping by the fridge and adding some flour and water to the Ball jar during my frequent travels. Even my wife, for whom the kitchen is a rarely-visited and unfamiliar land, something like Uzbekistan, even Katie has helped the starter survive my absences, removing half of the bubbling mass and replenishing the bacteria with fresh whole wheat flour.*

But three years are few, compared with the romance of ancient Greece. Who could say how long that cretan sourdough had survived? Generations, certainly. Centuries, perhaps. It is a fabulously romantic notion, rather like a legendary and likely apocryphal stock-pot said to have been continuously bubbling on a Lyonnaise hearth since the medieval period, never cleaned, with fresh ingredients and water being added every day. Ancient flavors simmered eternally right on down to the present day. Would those ancient cretan yeasts persist? Would the bread baked with it be redolent of the savage, rocky and herb-choked slopes of that most rugged of greek islands? Could such bread be said to be an expression of cretan terroir?

The rationalist in me says no, absolutely not. The yeasts that rise sourdough bread are introduced with the ground wheat that feeds it, or harvested accidentally but inevitably from the air, and it seems to me that very soon after transplanting that starter from Crete to Oregon the local flora must begin to dominate. After all, the flour added is not cretan, nor is the air, and both are constantly replenished in one's baking practice.

Nonetheless, the romantic in me begs to believe otherwise. Could it not be that the strains of yeast, once established, propagate themselves at the expense of the local yeasts? Might they create a stable colony capable of overpowering any freeloading visitors? The many online purveyors of sourdough cultures subscribe to, or at least exploit, this romantic notion, offering things like original California Gold-Rush San Francisco Sourdough, and "Tasmanian Devil" Australian starter. The implication is that by purchasing some far flung fungus, the home baker will be able to marshall exotic flavors and traditions right in their own kitchen.

In this case, romance was obviously going to win out over rationalism. There was only one problem: although I checked the mail hopefully, every day, no starter was forthcoming. Weeks went by. It seemed unsporting to inquire, or pester.

Flash forward 13 months, to June 24th of this year. A post by Von Damitz, with whom I had more or less fallen out of touch, washed up in my facebook feed. It was a link to an article about bread, possible fallacies relating to gluten intolerance, and the sourdough biome.  The pull quote was this:

"Expert bakers are thus essentially bug ranchers, managing their herds to achieve their signature balance between flatulence and, well, that other stuff. The result is a fecundity of enzymes, amino acids, and more than 200 flavor compounds."

"Word," I flippantly commented. "Where's my starter?"

Using starter instead of commercial yeast has several benefits. Bread baked with it takes much longer to go stale; it imparts flavor--that famed San Francisco sourness comes largely from the lactic acid produced when the yeasts "consume" the flour in the fermentation process; the intensity of this flavor can be regulated simply by varying the amount and maturity of the starter; it is free of charge, so long as the baker finds some use for the flour and water removed during division and feeding. Another result of this processing is the off-gassing of carbon dioxide; this gassy bubbling is what introduces space and levity into a loaf of bread. The carbon dioxide pockets in the dough ultimately become the crumb structure of the loaf.

Soon afterwards, Myrt wrote back, typifying the rationalist perspective: "the greek starter was probably no longer greek (or cretan) a month after its time in Oregon, but I'm heading up to the farm tomorrow and bringing a collection jar."

A few days later, on the way to the airport, en route to spending the July 4th holiday weekend in Tennessee, I received another message: "At last, starter is in the mail to your P.O. box, marked perishable, wrapped up the wazoo. They say it's due on Friday."

This wasn't great news. We were due back Monday evening, too late to go to the post office, and although starter can survive just fine in the refrigerator, where the cool temperatures retard all of its bubbling and frothing and dividing and conquering, left at room temperature for too long it can quickly overextend itself and expire in an acidic puddle of its own juices. 

I didn't write anything of my concerns to Myrtle. Once back in New York, somewhat worried, I made my way to the Clinton Street post office at the earliest. On July 5th, in England, a gifted jar of home-made rhubarb chutney had exploded, destroying the kitchen of a small apartment, and that had been in the fridge!

I handed over my claim slip and received my wild yeasts, which had been fermenting all along their merry way to Brooklyn. In two small Ball jars, wrapped tightly in paper and plastic bags, I found, intact, and innocuous in appearance, a few tablespoonsful of soupy white liquid. They had clearly blossomed and then died back, for the one marked Crete, despite being half-empty, had at some point oozed out from under its Ball jar lid. The outside of the jar was caked with a now-dried, bready substance. I was lucky indeed that it hadn't exploded, and lucky that Myrtle hadn't screwed the lid on any tighter.

The yeasts were not dead! It took only a couple of feedings (50% white flour and 50% dechlorinated water) before the Cretan starter began to bubble merrily. Holes, like pores, were visible on its surface, and it had doubled in volume. Here I was, in possession of my own little vat of ancient Greece. It was time to bake.**

"Cretan ciabatta," on fire bricks at the bottom of the oven.

Splendid crumb structure despite the slight overproofing suggested by the largest cavity just below the crust.

The dough was very wet, for two reasons. I usually incorporate significant whole wheat flour into my loaves, and whole wheat flour is more absorptive than the white flour I decided to use to respect the whiteness of the starter. Also, at 100% hydration, the cretan starter was wetter than my typical mixture. While not soupy, the dough was almost unmanageably flowy. I fermented it overnight in the refrigerator to imbue the loaf with the maximum in Aegean island flavor. In the morning, the dough was worryingly moist. Nonetheless, it was veined internally with a powerful honeycomb of carbon dioxide voids stretched through with springy strands of gluten. It reminded me of the wet dough for Ciabatta, and I treated is as such.

Soon the house was filled with the spectacular aroma of baking bread, albeit more venetian in style than cretan. Was it just my imagination, or was there an herbal edge to it, as of a bouldery Rosemary and Thyme-choked hillside? After giving it an hour on the cooling rack I carved into it. I have never been to Crete, much less to Armeni, in Rethemno,*** so while it may be anticlimactic to report it, I cannot say if my loaf shared the rustic flavors of the village bakery there. But it was delicious, especially dipped into some fine greek olive oil.

Many thanks to Myrtle Von Damitz III both for mailing me the starter and for kind permission to reproduce images of her paintings here.

*Commercial bakeries that bake daily easily keep their starters going for years and even decades, given that constant feedings are simply a natural part of the baking process. Home bakers, and especially travelers, have a more difficult time of it. I have successfully frozen starter and brought it back to life after months away, but I generally find that two weeks without a feeding brings refrigerated whole-wheat starter to the brink of exhaustion and death; if I am home but not baking I try to "feed" it about once a week, discarding half of the contents of the jar and topping it up with an equivalent quantity of fresh flour and (dechlorinated) water. Bread starter has a pet-like tyranny to it.
**Technical notes in the comments.
***These two words, "Armeni, Rethemno," were just legible on a bit of masking tape on the lid of the jar, half effaced by oozing starter.


A Jarring Experience

Due to various travels, it has been several Saturdays since I was last able to visit the stellar Fort Greene Farmer's market, which spreads out along the south-eastern flank of Fort Greene Park on Saturdays only. I'm not sure if it was the long absence that made everything look good to me, or whether the abundant late rains have helped farmers grow a bumper crop, but it all seemed extraordinarily fresh, green, firm and splendid. The result, of course, was massive overshopping. At the end of wandering up and down the vegetable stands Ruby's folding perambulator could scarcely fit in the trunk of the car, for it was crowded to bursting with bunches of beets, carrots, onions, eggplants, okra, amaranth, lemon cucumbers, more beets, cilantro, squash blossoms and zucchini.

Once home, with the bounty spread out on the dining room table, the excess was obvious. All this perfect legumery would rot and shrivel in the crisper drawer long before we would ever get around to eating it. There was only one possible solution: a long afternoon of pickling.


Mulberries for Ruby (with apologies to Robert McCloskey)

On a recent trip to Greece, to visit what might best be described as a sustainable techno-hippie commune, I was astonished, again, by the number of olives growing everywhere. Every curve, every rise of the land, every back yard and neglected plot held stands of the trees, their distinctive gray-green leaves swaying in the Aegean breeze. I asked one of the cofounders of the Telaithrion Project if each and every one of the thousands of oliviers that I had seen from the car window had a putative owner. "Absolutely," he said. "But it is cheaper for the people to go to the store and buy olive oil than to bother harvesting and pressing their own, so many people in this village just let us help ourselves to their olives."

When I got back to Red Hook I described this vision of thousands of unharvested olive groves to my dear friend Erika. Both of us were somewhat horrified by the thought of all those splendid olives falling down to the ground and going to waste. We're accustomed to paying twenty dollars for a liter of fine oil at Caputo's or carefully tasting the $6.99 per pound selection of olives at the bar at Fairway. What paradise to have your own olive tree in your own backyard, we mused, without even taking into account the climate that comes with one! I told Erika that the folks at Telaithrion aren't certain exactly how much of their diet comes from foraging, but that they think it might be as much as 20%. When I had arrived, in their front yard, there were bedsheets spread on the ground beneath two mulberry trees, to collect the fruit.

"Now when you start talking about mulberries," said Erika, "I guess I kind of get it. We have a giant tree up in Rockland County, and I admit we don't do a very good job of harvesting the fruit." It's easy to fantasize about other people's fruit trees, but when it's in your own backyard it's harder to make it happen. In New York City? Who has the time?

Actually, Ruby and I do. My peripatetic freelance existence makes for some intense work when I'm on, but when the calendar is empty I bake bread, make preserves and lounge about the house with my seven-month-old daughter to my heart's content. Inspired by the greeks, and without so much as asking Ruby if she wanted to participate in my jammy schemes, I plonked her in her stroller and we headed out into the wilds of Red Hook in search of mulberry trees. (There are no olives.)

Like wild animals, mulberry trees leave tell-tale sign. Looking down the block from the corner the rich dark berries may be invisible on the tree amongst the green leaves, but the swollen, dark fruits scattering the sidewalk are a dead giveaway. 

Low-hanging fruit: An early June mulberry branch, brimming with berries. I can't tell you where, or I would have to kill you.

Above, a typical presentation; an unruly tree has long ago breached the confines of its owner's yard, shading the entire sidewalk with its fruit-laden boughs. Perhaps because they are smudged and smeared by passing pedestrians, who tend to collect a seedy, gooey purple paste on the soles of their shoes, mulberries are not on the New York City Parks Department list of officially sanctioned trees. Although there may be exceptions, the eager forager must therefore typically go in search of the overhanging branches of trees planted on private property. Although nobody has ever come out of their house and accosted me for stealing their berries, this possibility does give urban mulberry gathering an added frisson, the thrill of the trespass. My sense that Ruby's irrepressible grin would help take the edge off any such potentially unpleasant encounters was just another reason to bring her along.

Ruby enjoys the shade of a mulberry tree. Note the dense scattering of fallen fruit on the sidewalk behind her.
Ruby slumbers, while daddy harvests.

Ruby dozily guards the slowly filling mulberry pot with her stroller.

Here an aggressive mulberry has forced its branches through a chain-link fence, soiling the sidewalk with its sugary offerings.

A few days shy of ripe. (I picked the ripe ones before taking this photograph.)

Mulberries come in two varieties, purple, and white. In Red Hook, at least, trees with purple fruit far outnumber those with white fruit, but I did find a few of the latter variety, which are mixed in, above. I believe them to be sweeter, and more highly prized, but perhaps I just think that because they are more scarce.

A healthy bowlful, on the kitchen counter.

The same berries, after macerating overnight in two cups of sugar. Some people skim off the foam before they begin cooking down the jam, but I don't bother.

A case of half pints. I would estimate it took approximately 20 cups of berries to make these, and approximately two-and-a-half mulberry-picking man-hours.

An extra half jar, for immediate use.


Most recipes for mulberry jam call for an obscene amount of sugar, as much as one cup per cup of berries. That's not mulberry jam, that's mulberry-flavored simple syrup. The problem is that even with low-sugar pectin, mulberry jam won't set very well unless the pectin reacts with a lot of very hot sugar. For me this isn't a problem; I don't care if the jam is runny. You are most likely going to be spooning this over vanilla ice-cream anyway. I used about three cups of sugar for every 8 cups of berries.

You need:

8 cups of berries
3 cups of sugar
1/2 cup of fresh or bottled lemon juice (you want this for the acid, not the flavor, so bottled is fine, and perhaps more consistent).

Ball Jars (about six half pints)

Wash your berries really well; they are, after all, urban berries, subject to soot and exhaust and I know some of them fell on the sidewalk when you were collecting them. Some nerdlins try to remove the tiny green stems. Really? They are very, very small, and I can't see them having a deleterious effect on the final flavor.

Mix the berries and the sugar in a bowl, then gently crush some of the berries with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon, to release some of the juice. Cover and refrigerate overnight. While the berries are macerating, get a good night's sleep.

Clean and then sterilize your ball jars in a boiling water bath. Put your jar lids to soak in the hot water once the jars are ready.

Put the contents of your berry bowl into a saucepan and bring it to a gentle boil over medium flame. Stir while simmering for a minute or five. (If you want to go the pectin route in hopes of firm and spreadable jam, follow the direction that came with your pectin and add the appropriate quantity now--probably a lot more sugar will be required....) Stir your lemon juice in well and turn off the heat.

Pour your jam into the jars, preferably with a canning funnel, and set the lids. Tighten your jar bands finger tight and process the jars in a boiling water bath (fully submerged) for ten minutes.

Spoon over vanilla ice-cream and enjoy.