Blackberry Wine Recipe - Mock Claret with less than a kilo of blackberries
Are you looking for a blackberry wine recipe because you've just foraged less than one kilo of blackberries from somewhere? That may not be enough blackberries for a standard Blackberry Wine Recipe, but it is enough to make a lovely Mock Claret instead.
The summer holidays are in full swing and we're doing the usual juggling. Running our business whilst making sure we get small chunks of time off so the boys have a fantastic and memorable few weeks.
Some days that time off simply means knocking off early and retiring to a pub somewhere around here. We take the UNO cards, settle down for a quick family game whilst perhaps partaking of their finest bowls of chips (assuming they're serving chips that early and will sell us some without a main course). Because we're a classy family, don't you know. Then home for proper dinner.
Last week we did exactly as above, and the pub we chose had a garden surrounded by blackberry bushes. The bushes themselves were by a railway line with the branches hanging over the pub fence. And there were loads of ripe, juicy blackberries just begging to be picked. Not to mention the elderberries... but that's for another day.
I won the game so, rather than sit there watching whilst the others played for second and third place, I went to the car to see if I had any containers. I then spent 20 minutes picking blackberries. And, inevitably, cutting myself to ribbons on the thorns and wire fencing. And when you get blackberry juice in the cuts, well that's all part of the fun.
When we got home, I started looking for a blackberry wine recipe. I quickly realised I didn't quite have quite a full kilo, which is the minimum that most recipes call for. I scanned my old wine books and found a recipe by Brian Leverett in Winemaking Month by Month. Written in 1979, there are all manner of good things in this book.
My eye was drawn to his recipe for 'Mock Claret', which only needed 0.75 kilos of blackberries. By the end of the evening my foraged blackberries were juiced and on their way to making Brian's Mock Claret. In the book he says "this wine only requires a short fermentation and maturation period and will be ready to complement the turkey this Christmas". He also says "this wine is one of the best table wines that the amateur can hope to make". Well I'm an amateur, and I have high hopes indeed.
Blackberry Wine Recipe - Mock Claret
Makes one demijohn (1 UK gallon, 4.5 litres) of wine, which will become 6 bottles.
- 1.5 lbs (0.75 kilos) blackberries, lightly washed under the tap in a colander
- 1 bottle of grape juice concentrate
- 3/4 lb (0.5 kilos) granulated sugar
- 1 tsp pectic enyzme
- 1 tsp red wine yeast (I used all GV11 Red Fruit Wine Yeast because I had some left over from making blackcurrant wine. Any all purpose wine yeast will do).
- 2 fermenting buckets, one with a lid if you have one. If you don't have fermenting buckets, any old (clean) food grade bucket will do.
- A couple of clean tea towels
- 1 straining bag, or muslin or cheesecloth if you have it.
- A demijohn (if you don't have one, someone in your family probably does in the garage. Or you might find one waiting for you at the local dump - more about sourcing glass demijohns for free here).
- 1 bored bung and airlock
- A funnel
- 1 glass or plastic bottle (capacity of about 1 litre)
Juice your berries
Sterilise all your equipment, including the straining bag (don't worry about the tea towels).
Now you need to extract the juice from your blackberries. Do not be tempted to press or bash them in case you break the seeds and they get into your wine. Blackberry seeds will make your final wine taste woody. So instead, pop your berries into a straining bag and tie it with string.
Put the tied bag in a sterilised bucket with the tied bit hanging over the edge. Pour over 2 litres of boiling water. Cover the bucket with a lid (tea towel if you don't have a lid), allow the contents to cool until they're cool enough to handle. Lift the muslin bag so the juice strains out of it.
When it has almost finished dripping, pop the bag of berries into bucket number 2. Cover the juice in bucket 1 with a tea towel and leave it to cool. Pour another 1.5 litres of boiling water over the bag in the second bucket, pop lid/tea towel on and leave to cool. Meanwhile boil another half litre of water in a saucepan and put the sugar in it. Stir until it has totally dissolved.
Cool everything down
Leave all three vessels to cool down. When they are all at room temperature (bucket number 1 with juice, bucket number 2 with bag of berries and juice, and saucepan with sugar), squeeze the bag of berries gently into the bucket to extract the last juice. Compost the de-juiced blackberries. Our worms love them. This all sounds a bit faffy. In reality it only takes a few minutes, it's the cooling down bit that takes longer.
Get your wine started in the demijohn
Pour the (now cool) sugar water into your demijohn using the funnel. Then add the two buckets of juice through the funnel, but don't fill the demijohn completely. My advice would be to leave at least 3 inches at the top to start with.
Put the remaining juice into the sterilised bottle. Put the lid on and put that bottle of juice in the fridge for a couple of days.
Add the pectin enzyme and yeast into your demijohn, give it a swirl and fit the bung and airlock. You are leaving more of a gap at the top of your demijohn than would usually be advisable. The reason for that is because both times I have made this wine, it has fermented fiercely for the first 3 days. Red froth up through the airlock, up the wall and everywhere. If you keep back the extra juice and wait until fermentation has calmed down, you're less likely to have the mess I had.
Then simply top the demijohn up with your juice in the fridge.
If you have juice left over once you've topped up, what I usually do is leave it in the plastic/glass bottle (or move it to a smaller one if you have one, just make sure you sterilise it).
Get a balloon, rinse the balloon under the tap, turn it inside out and rinse again to get rid of that dusty stuff that always seems to be on the inside of balloons. Put a pin prick in the balloon and fit it to the top of the bottle. Et voila, a makeshift airlock that lets air out but not in. If it doesn't work you've lost nothing, but you might just get some wine out of that last bit too.
I now have two demijohns of this bubbling away. Wonder if it will be complementing the turkey this Christmas? [Edit: yes it did!]
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