One Batch of Blackberries, Five Versatile Uses

blackberry-wineWhen a recipe calls for a fruit like blackberries, many times the instructions are to use the fruit a certain way and then discard what is left over.  My wife and I like to make as many things as possible from one batch of fruit.  It stretches the value of our fruit and our dollars.  Here is how we found five different uses for one harvest of blackberries.  You will be surprised at the versatility of the common blackberry.

We decided to plant some thornless blackberries a few years ago, and we obtained some free cuttings from craigslist.  We planted the cuttings along our front porch and each summer since we have had an abundance of berries.  As they ripen, we pick them and put them in the freezer to save for a winter project.

This year, when winter rolled around, we were able to get five separate uses out of our stored blackberries:

– Blackberry Wine
– Blackberry Juice
– Blackberry Jam
– Blackberry Tincture
– Blackberry Vinegar

Homemade Blackberry Wine, Straight from the Front Yard

We thaw our blackberries and use a steam juicer to extract the juice.  We get as much juice as possible.  If we don’t have five full gallons of juice to use for making wine, then we add water to make five gallons.  We typically have about four gallons of juice, with one gallon of water added.  The pulp remaining from the juicing is saved for later to make jam.

We heat the juice on the stove to dissolve the sugar, and we add more sugar to bring the wine to the level of alcohol content we desire. We determine how much sugar to add by using a hydrometer to display our sugar content.  We pour the heated juice into a fermentation bucket to begin the first fermentation process.  After it cools to room temperature, we add five Campden tablets (one tablet per gallon of juice) to stop the natural fermentation of the berries, and we let that sit for 24 hours covered with a light towel.  After 24 hours has passed, we add one packet of wine yeast per the instructions included on the package.  After adding the yeast, install the lid on the bucket and insert an air lock on the lid.  You will see and hear the air lock bubbling as long as fermentation is taking place.  When it stops bubbling after seven to ten days, the wine is racked (siphoned) from the bucket into a 5 gallon glass carboy.  The sediment, or mother, at the bottom of the bucket is not racked.  Save this for later to use in making vinegar.

Install a stopper and air lock on the carboy.  The wine will continue to ferment until it is racked again into another carboy after three to four weeks.  This process continues until fermentation is complete and the wine can be bottled.

If you want to make juice, rather than wine, you can simply drink the juice from the steam juicer.  The juice is very high in antioxidants.  When possible, we try to make enough juice so that we can make wine and still have some juice left over.  If you make juice, but not wine, you won’t be able to make the blackberry vinegar recipe below.

Homemade Blackberry Jam Recipe

To make jam, use a Sauce Master to process the pulp that is left over from juicing.  This will separate the sauce from the seeds and skins.  But don’t throw away those seeds and skins, save those to use later in making a tincture.  The jam recipe calls for:

– 4 cups blackberry sauce (substitute juice)
– 3 cups sugar
– 1 box dry pectin

Add the pectin to the blackberry sauce, or juice.  Bring this to a rolling boil.  Add the sugar and return to a rolling boil, boil for about 1 minute.  I have found that the jam sets up really nice if you heat the jelly until it reaches 215 degrees, after the pectin and sugar have been added.

Skim the foam off of the top, and ladle the jam into hot jars.  Add heated lids and rings, and finger tighten the rings.  Place the filled jars in a hot water bath, covered by two inches of water.  Bring the water to a boil, and boil the jars for seven minutes.

How to Make A Simple Blackberry Tincture

Blackberries are high in antioxidants, so I knew that the seeds and skins left over from making the jam would be useful to make a great health tincture that we could add to our vitamin regimen or use to treat colds.

Making tinctures is the easiest task of all during our annual blackberry project.  Fill a glass jar with the seeds and skins left over from making jam.  You want the blackberry material to fill the jar about 3/4 full, and you fill the rest with 100 proof alcohol.  I use vodka, but you could also use 80 proof brandy.  The tincture should be placed in a dark place and vigorously shaken every day for six to eight weeks.  At the end of this time, strain off the liquid (this is your tincture) and store it in a dark bottle or a dark cabinet.  The tincture has a long shelf life due to the alcohol.

Flavored Blackberry Vinegar

The sediment from the fermentation bucket that you used during the first fermentation of the wine is great for making blackberry vinegar.  I take the left over “mother yeast” from the bottom of the bucket and put it in a mason jar.  I cover the mouth of the jar with a paper coffee filter and secure the filter with a rubber band.  I let this rest for several months, with no shaking.  When the vinegar passes my taste test, I strain it into a bottle or jar and store it in a cabinet.  Voila!  This rich, delicious vinegar is great for salads.  If this is taking too long, sometimes I add a little vinegar to the jar to speed the process.

These are the five blackberry goodies that we got from our annual front yard harvest this year.  All of this, provided for free, from our loving Heavenly Father God.


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