The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
Whilst blackberry wine is a delight, and should always be the first priority in blackberry season, make sure you save a few blackberries for making liqueur. Making liqueurs is simple and requires little or no effort, so you've no excuse. The colour of blackberry liqueur is worth the small effort alone!
On my blackberry wine page I discuss the tricks for picking and saving locally grown blackberries, but, instead of making wine we are going to make liqueur.
The basic difference between a homemade homebrew wine and a homemade homebrew liqueur is that we buy the alcohol instead of fermenting it ourselves. Go to the supermarket and buy the biggest bottle of the strongest vodka you can find. Avoid the flavoured vodkas. My favourite is Smirnoff Blue Label. This is usually available in 1 litre bottles - a good size for making liqueur. The Blue label Smirnoff is stronger (45%) than the regular red label, and is cheaper than the gorgeous black label.
I use a demijohn with a regular wine making airlock to make my liqueur. How many blackberries do we use? As many as you like! The limiting factor is the blackberries contain water - and this water will dilute the alcohol in the vodka, making the drink ultimately weaker - which we want to avoid. I usually use about equal volumes of blackberries to vodka.
Squish the blackberries and drop them into the demi john. Because the colour of blackberries is so delicate, it is important to add a small amount of sulfite to the liqueur. Probably about 0.25g at most. This does wonders for the keeping power of the finished liqueur. Pour in the vodka and shove in the airlock. Leave it in a cool dark place for a couple of weeks. The important part here is dark. Light will destroy the delicate colour of blackberry liqueur.
After a couple of weeks you need to strain the gunk off the liqueur. Use a filter bag or similar. I don't mind a few bits in my liqueur but some folks will want to filter until it is limpid.
Now we add some sugar. The is no better guide for the right amount sugar than your taste buds. Personal preference and the acidity of the picked blackberries will mean that the amount of sugar varies. Bring the liqueur into a warm place (25C) so that dissolving sugar is easier, and start adding fine caster sugar until the taste is as you require. If you go a bit too far, you can always add a bit of wine making citric acid or lemon juice to balance the flavour out. Add some glycerine to smooth the taste a bit.
Then leave the whole thing for another couple of weeks to calm down. Some people like their blackberry liqueur quite sharp, some sickly sweet - it is all personal blackberry preference. Try to balance the harshness of the alcohol, the acid of the fruit and the sugar. If the fruit is particularly ripe and low in acid, you may have to add some citric acid to balance the extra sugar required to mask the alcohol. You get the idea. If you really fancy it, keep adding both sugar and acid to the blackberry liqueur until you've got something really syrupy - but you might find you don't have the fruit flavour in there to support it, and it just tastes of sugar.
Serve either chilled, or cellar temperature in small glasses. Small glasses make it last longer - and choose some nice liqueur glasses - this will make your guests treat the blackberry liqueur more seriously than a finger splashed in the bottom of a teacup.
Teach your children the basics of alcohol awareness and drinking responsibly, and you wouldn’t have to think about calling an alcohol hotline for parents for help.