Neighborhoods are weird things, aren’t they? I think they have to do with the human tendency to reduce big things down into a reasonable size. What i mean is that i live in the neighborhood of Lenox Place, which is in Decatur, which is in Dekalb County, which is part of Metro Atlanta.
What sets my neighborhood apart except for a convenience of geography? It is a small neighborhood with no business at all, really. Just a group of diverse housing options lumped together with a name…
Am i supposed to feel “pride” for my neighborhood? Am i supposed to be happy that we have this name, which really makes no sense. I mean, Lenox Square Mall is miles away, so why are we named after it?
Okay, so maybe i am totally overthinking this. Let’s just accept that i do not really understand “neighborhoods” and move on.
When i moved here i was struck by how much rosemary there is growing in the neighborhood. Within 500 feet of my condo there are about 3 rosemary bushes that each reach about 4 feet in diameter. That is a lot of rosemary, and at times the air can smell of it, especially when the bushes are blooming.
Later i noticed that for a few months in the early summer, there are a lot of trees that drop these dark, sweet berries. Research showed that these are mulberry trees, and the berries are edible. These trees are everywhere around here. In fact, we have one at the end of the driveway for my condo building.
For the past few years i have been harvesting mulberries and making preserves. Mulberries have a taste like a mild blackberry, and when you boil them down with sugar they make a yummy jam that goes well on toast, or waffles, with peanut butter, etc.
Recently i came across a posted recipe for orange-thyme jam. This post sat in the back of my brain as i harvested mulberries, de-stemmed them, and simmered them to make a batch of preserves.
I had mulberries left over after that first batch. What to do with them?
One day i was riding back from work and i brushed up against one of the many rosemary bushes that line the streets. As the smell of the rosemary lingered in the air, a sudden insight came to me: i should make preserves with rosemary and the rest of the mulberries!
It was a perfect idea, since both mulberries and rosemary grow around my neighborhood. In fact, i could name this combination after my neighborhood – Lenox Place Preserves.
1.5 Cups of de-stemmed mulberries (but If you don’t have mulberries i think that blackberries would work well in this recipe)
4″ of fresh rosemary, needles removed and chopped, branch discarded
1 cup of sugar
1. De-stem the mulberries. This is a painfully long process, but it makes for a better product in the long run.
2. But the mulberries in a big pot and add the sugar, then mix thoroughly. Let that sit while you do the next two steps — the sugar will draw the water out of the berries.
3. Remove the rosemary needles from the branch and finely chop them, then add them to the berry-sugar slurry.
4. Zest the lemon into the pot, then squeeze in the lemon juice. Mix it all together.
5. Turn the heat to medium high and simmer. The reason you want a big pot is that the process of making preserves goes through a few steps:
a. As it first starts to boil, the entire mixture with froth up like crazy with a thick purplish foam. Ignore the foam — it is air trapped in the mixture being released. It will go down in about 5 minutes. If any foam lingers after that point, skim it off and discard it.
b. Boil for maybe 20 minutes or so. First the pot will spit, boiling hot sugar flung out of the pot as the last of the water turns to gas. This is why you want a big pot.
c. After the water boils off and it stops spitting, you will be left with just sugar and fruit. Watch this, and stir frequently. There will be a color and sheen change that takes place gradually as the preserves process. I can’t quite describe this — i do not know the words. Just … the liquid will thicken and at one point it will start turning shiny. Light will reflect off of the boiling surface in a myriad of blues, reds, and purples. When it gets so shiny that light is almost reflected off it like a mirror, then it is ready.
I know that is not a very scientific method of determining when the preserves are done, but that is how i do after much experience. You can also scoop up a little on a spoon and blow on it for a minute, then let it sit for two minutes. If it runs like a liquid, then it is not done. If it is thick and moves like jelly, then it is ready.
Pour into jars, seal, and enjoy.
I got 1.5 half-pint jars out of this batch. It took me about and hour and half to make it, but most of that was either pulling stems from berries or watching the sugar boil.
This is good. there is just a hint of rosemary flavor at the back of the sweet berry flavor, like an after effect. I think that the subtle taste works well.
When i let Minos try it her first response was, “That would go great on crackers, with cream cheese!” Having no crackers, i toasted some bread, smeared it with cream cheese, then spooned on some Lenox Place Preserves. That was, indeed, yummy.
We also tried it with marscapone, but i was underwhelmed, perhaps because i am not fond of marscapone.
At any rate, i am please with the results of this. The flavor of my neighborhood, in a convenient spreadable form.