Making your own homemade Marula beer

I know that most of you don’t have access to marula fruit so you won’t be needing this recipe – feel free to skip this post or just look at the pretty pictures.  I don’t think I will need this recipe again either.  I don’t even like beer.  You have to try once though. Right?

I roped in the expertise of Warren who makes quite a few batches of this beer each season. He just loves the stuff.

First collect ripe fruit from the ground beneath the trees and wash the fruit.

Remove the skins of the fruit.  I cut them round the equator and twist and squeeze the fruit pulp, pip and juice out.

Warren used this method for the photos but afterwards told me he is much quicker just using a butter knife, spoon or fork  and a special peeling motion. He told me that his friend, Masheplane does it so fast his hands blur.  I can imagine…

Collect all the pulp, pips and juice in a large container and once you have finished peeling the fruit, add clean water to just cover the fruit and mash the fruit thoroughly till the liquid in the bucket becomes quite thick.

Remove the pips and left over pulp by squeezing them a few at a time.

Cover and leave for 2-4 days depending on the strength you desire.

Skim off foam and pulp that has risen to the surface and if you wish you can strain the beer through muslin before bottling it.

Bottle in hot sterilized bottles and seal well

Store in a cool place till needed.

I added sugar to my brew after Warren gave me a taste of his beer.  Bleugh – it was VERY sour.

I will update this post in a few days once my brew has brewed and I have tasted it.

Edit:   To read about the final product and my opinion on it  please click HERE

Warning:  Please read this update HERE

Marula Jelly

As promised here is the recipe for Marula Jelly that I made this weekend.

Marula jelly is routinely served with any type of venison, but can be used with all types of meat.  It is delicious with cheese and biscuits or just on a slice of toast for breakfast.  It has a subtle flavour slightly reminiscent of honey.

  • Collect your marula fruit, wash them and cut or pierce the skins. Place in a large pot and cover the fruit with water and boil for 15-20 minutes.  Tip: It’s good to include some green fruit as they contain more pectin.

  • Strain the contents of the pot through a cloth (muslin or cheesecloth are good but I guess any type of clean cloth would do) and retain the water/juice

At this stage the juice looks just like fresh orange juice.

  • Wash out your pot, measure your juice and pour it back into the clean pot.
  • Add white sugar – volume for volume ie: 1 cup juice – 1 cup sugar
  • Heat gently while stirring to melt the sugar

  • Add the juice of 1 lemon per liter of juice
  • Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes or until gelling temperature has been reached (check by placing a drop or two onto a cold saucer, allowing to cool and then pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles)  I found I needed to boil for another 20 mins as I had a large pot of juice.  Tip:  Make sure you have enough space in the pot as the jam bubbles up very easily and you need to keep it bubbling ( I lost at least 1 bottle to “overflow”)
  • Bottle the jelly in sterilised bottles ( I boil mine)
  • Water-bath your bottles if this is your routine when making jams ( I don’t)
  • Allow to cool, label and store in a cool place until opening
  • Store open bottles in the refrigerator

I used about 5kg of fruit and this made 8 small bottles of jelly.

Foraging for food in the African bush

Most of us are accustomed to buying our food in shops or at the most picking your own homegrown veggies and fruit.  It doesn’t even occur to most of us to look for food in any other way. There is food all around us. Foraging and gleaning is so much more fun than shopping, you never know what tasty and unusual treats you might find around the corner, and you’re reducing the amount of food going to waste too.

Some folk in frugal circles in urban environments go dumpster diving and find the most amazing things and tons and tons of still edible foods thrown out by supermarkets and other stores. There are many blogs and stories about these people in the US and Europe who never need to buy anything.  In South Africa however, most of the food rejected by stores is given to the poor. Dumpster diving is like shopping in a crazy sale with hundreds of other people trying to get in first. There are very many hungry people here.  For this reason I find that I have shunned dumpster diving, leaving the pickings to people in more desperate circumstances than myself.

I do however want to make good use of the free food around me growing in the wild.  In Europe and the USA there are many books and manuals on how to do this and what you can pick and eat.  Africa has not been explored that well by foragers who write books.  Most foraging is done by the indigenous population and the knowledge is passed down the generations verbally so it is quite hard to find validated information with regards to food safety etc. I am slowly learning about some of the plants from various sources.

One of the most productive plants in our area is the marula tree.  I wrote about it some time back so if you want to learn more about the tree click here.  It is currently marula season.  We have about 6 of these trees in the immediate vicinity of our cottages, with two hanging their boughs right over the swimming pool.  The fruit drop out of the trees just before they are ripe and ripen on the ground.  Currently amidst the beautiful sounds of birds chirping and crickets cricking you hear the plop………….plop………….plop of marulas falling to the ground.  An occasional loud GLUG as one falls directly into the pool, and quite a few  thunk……drrrr……plooop of  fruit falling onto the patio and rolling into the pool.  At night we jump awake when they hit something hard when they fall (like our water tank for instance.)  I have read that each tree can produce more than a ton of fruit per season!  Thank goodness ours seem to have much less fruit than that.  I would be drowning in 6 tons of marula fruit by now. As it is, we struggle to keep up with collecting all the fruit that fall.

The Bean and I are taking turns to fish out the fruit that fall into the swimming pool.  We collect about 20-30 a day from the pool.

What makes the marula fruit such a brilliant free-food is that it is very healthy and can be used for so many different purposes.

Nutritional Information: Vitamin C: 180 mg, per 100 g of fruit (4 times that of an orange).
The kernel (nut) is calorie dense: 700 calories per 100 grams. The nut is considered very nutritious, being high in healthy oil (57-61%) as well as protein (30%), and a collection of trace minerals and b vitamins.

The fruit itself can be used in many ways:-

  • Fresh fruit
  • Jams and jelly
  • Beer and wine
  • Fruit juice
  • Seed oil for cooking (very similar to olive oil properties), preserving and cosmetic use.
  • Seed kernels for eating and cooking. – High protein and healthy oils. (African substitute for pine nuts)
  • Kernels can even be used as a light source. They burn like candles.

Last year we had just moved onto the property at the end of marula season and all of the fallen fruit went to the animals and compost.  This year I have been determined to make use of this valuable and free resource, so this weekend I made marula jelly. (I will post the recipe as a separate post) and I will be making marula juice and will attempt to brew some experimental beer. I will also be trying to get the kernels out of the seeds to use in salads and if I can will try to produce some of my own marula oil.

Although you may not live in the countryside or have a marula tree in your neighbourhood, keep your eyes open for wild fruit trees or even ones planted in parks, find out about plants in public areas that can be foraged for free and lastly look around your own garden – you’ll be surprised at what you can find. There are many flowers, weeds and plants that you can eat.

The fabulous marula

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The history of the marula tree goes back thousands of years. Archaeological evidence shows the marula tree was a source of nutrition as long as ago as 10,000 years BC. The Marula, Scelerocarya birrea, subspecies caffera, is one of Africa’s botanical treasures.  Not only the fruit, but also the nut, are rich in minerals and vitamins. 

Legends abound on the multiple uses of the tree, the bark, the leaves, fruit, nut and kernels. Most well-known as the fruit that ‘drives elephants mad’ when dropped to the ground and lightly fermented, marula is a much-loved tree in the veld in Africa. It was a dietary mainstay in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia throughout ancient times. 

We have 5 of these trees around our cottages and they are all currently dropping fruit in their thousands.  It smells rather nice, however, they sink in the swimming pool and we have to fish them out and sweep hundreds off our paved area around the pool daily.

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The marula fruit is very juicy and aromatic and is the size of a small plum. It may be eaten fresh and the flesh has an extremely high vitamin C content. It may also be cooked to produce jam, juices and alcoholic beverages.

Uses

The skin of the fruit can be boiled to make a drink or burnt to be used as a substitute for coffee. The wood is soft and used for carving; the inner bark can be used to make rope.  The bark can also be used to make a light brown dye. 

Inside the flesh is one or two very small tasty nuts which are rich in protein. Oil is used as a skin cosmetic. Their green leaves are eaten to relieve heartburn.

The bark contains antihistamines and is also used for cleansing by steeping in boiling water and inhaling the steam. A piece of bark is crushed into a pulp, mixed with cold water and swallowed in the treatment of dysentery and diarrhoea. The bark also is used as a malaria prophylactic.

Interesting facts

Marula trees are dioecious, which means they have a specific sex. This fact contributes to the belief among the Venda people that bark infusions can be used to determine the sex of an unborn child. If a woman wants a son the male tree is used, and for a daughter, the female tree. If the child of the opposite sex is born, the child is said to be very special as it was able to defy the spirits.

In more recent times, the marula has become famous across the word due to this alcoholic beverage:

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A decidedly yummy liqueur made from the marula fruit.  The Amarula factory is based about 100 km’s from our house near Phalaborwa.

In 1974 the marula fruit made its debut in the movie Beautiful People by Jamie Uys.  Here is an excerpt.

 I was sent a similar clip from friends of ours in Brussels recently, asking if we have this fruit near us and if so – when could they come and visit us.

Research has shown  that these scenes were improbable and, in all probability, staged. Elephants would need a huge amount of fermented marulas to have any effect on them, and other animals prefer the ripe fruit. The amount of water drunk by elephants each day would also dilute the effect of the fruit to such an extent that they would not be affected by it.  Apparently the animals were fed fruit that had been soaked in alcohol – highly unethical I know, but in 1974 there were not as many animal rights campaigners as there are today.  If this myth was true – we would have to ingest 25% of our body weight in fruit to get drunk.  One truth though, is that elephants really ADORE eating marula fruit.

For us – the plan is to attempt to make marula beer (similar to ginger beer).  You do get more potent types as well as a marula mampoer (homebrewed type of schnaps) – but we will stick to the milder stuff for now.  I also want to try to make marula jelly and jam.  I will keep you posted on our attempts.

Does anyone know of any other recipies we can try using this amazing fruit?