Eğin Mulberry Molasses

Fruit, nuts and fruit preserves - Turkey

White mulberry (Morus alba) is cultivated in almost every village in Anatolia; however, the white mulberry grown in Eğin province (now known as Kemaliye) of Erzincan, Turkey is known for its unique sweetness and seedless white berries. In villages of Eğin, mulberries are collected form trees in May and June, then dried under the sun, and over ripened mulberries are preserved as molasses. Molasses making is long living tradition that is still present in the region. Its production is the first imece (collective work done in Anatolian villages) of the year in many regions.   This activity brings all family members together and starts with placing clean cloths under mulberry trees. While men shake the trees, women collect the falling mulberries. Then, mulberries are put in bags and pressed in a concave stone named as a salk. The juice is strained and drained off from a chute on the side of salk and cooked with special molasses soil, which is brought in from the mulberry orchards. This soil acts as acid neutralizer and makes the molasses sweeter. While the molasses is boiling, in some villages producers add thyme, local herbs called sütleğen e yarpuz, citrus and fig leaves that balance out the difference in sourness among mulberries and give the molasses a pleasant flavor. Once the molasses is boiled enough for long hours over a wood fire, it is placed on trays and left to dry under the sun. This drying period varies depending on the temperature. For instance, in southern regions usually 3-4 days are enough, but in north it might take up to 10 days.   Mulberry molasses is mainly produced for personal or family use, though some small family farms sell their excess product at the local market or online in small quantities. Mulberry molasses is used in preparation on traditional sweets such as asure, pumpkin cooked in syrup, and a local sweet named as lazut. In the Tokat region it is added to meat casseroles with quince. The most common uses of molasses in sweets or other homemade products are in mulberry fruit paste with walnuts or hazelnuts, jams and mulberry vinegar. The uniqueness of Eğin mulberry molasses comes from its being made with dried mulberries, not with fresh ones. Additionally, it can be easily identified among other varieties due to its crunchy texture. Local people in Eğin do not prefer softened mulberries and use them instead as animal feed.   Mulberries are an important part of Eğin’s culture. In many poems, local songs, the term of mulberry can be seen; even a family living in Eğin is named after dried mulberries: dutkurusugil. Today, however, migration from rural areas into cities has been trastic. In the late 1800s, the area’s population was 19,000, but today it includes around 1250 permanent residents (up to 6000 in summers). Older generations are finding it difficult to continue farming, and younger generations are not interested in this work. In the past, Egin used to be the area capital of mulberry production, but today, orchards and products like the mulberry molasses risk being lost for good.