Last year the weather was perfect for blackberries and we had an abundance of them in the northwest. Much of what grows here is the Himalayan blackberry which is not native and considered a weed. It easily overgrows most other vegetation, but produces a lot of tasty, but very seedy berries. Some object to the seediness, preferring cultivars with less crunch. If you aren’t a fan of blackberry seeds, this recipe strains out all the fruit bits leaving you with just the rich blackberry infused vodka.
Credit: http://www.stockfreeimages.com/I went a little overboard last year when picking berries, I admit. It was hard not too, they grow everywhere and all I had to do was step out my door to start filling up a bowl with those dark purple jewels. I ate them, I froze them, I baked with them, I preserved them. I made so many varieties of jam I lost track. But having filled my cupboard with blackberry jam, I needed to find a way to use a few more batches of the berries. It was either pick them or let my stoop turn purple with the fallen fruit. Online searches for blackberry recipies told me about making blackberry liqueur, which is quite simple and the initial time outlay is minimal - a good thing when you’re already sick of dealing with a purple stained kitchen. So while liqueur was the initial plan, I ended up doing things a little differently.
The recipes for liqueur are all about the same – sugar, blackberries (any fruit, really), vodka. After a little searching I realized that you don’t need to add the sugar when you start; it can be added after the blackberry flavor has infused the vodka. Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. How about I just set up the recipe and make comments as I go.
Blackberry vodka (or liqueur)
Part one - preparation
Carefully wash your blackberries making sure to remove all the stems and bugs. No green ones, and no moldy ones.
Let them drain in the strainer for a few minutes to get as much of the water as possible off.
Carefully spoon your berries into a jar for which you have a tight sealing lid. I use old pickle jars since they have a nice wide mouth. (Soak the jars overnight in water/baking soda to get rid of the vinegar taste.)
Using cheap vodka, but not the cheapest*, fill the jar to the top. Use the higher alcohol content vodka or your berries will just rot. Put the lid on, gently turn several times to release trapped air. Open the jar and add more vodka if needed. *The cheap stuff usually has an off taste that the berries won’t be able to overcome; don’t waste your money on the Finlandia, but don’t get $2 gallon either.
Close the jar tightly and put into a dark closet (I don’t know why it has to be dark, but most recipes specified “dark” so I went with it).
Weekly/monthly/whenever you remember, gently turn the jar a few times to mix the contents.
Save some cool bottles with screwcaps.
After four or five months, or whenever you get around to it, your blackberry vodka is ready to filter.
This is a bit messy. You could do it in the sink, I suppose, but I used a large mixing bowl.
Set a 4 cup or larger liquid measuring cup into your bowl or the sink. - The key here is wide mouth and spout, you aren’t measuring anything unless you’re continuing to the liqueur.
Set a strainer in the measuring cup and carefully pour the vodka out of the jar of berries. If it looks cloudy and you don’t like that you can filter again through cheesecloth or a coffee filter, otherwise pour it carefully into your clean bottle and cap tightly.
I keep my bottles in a cool, dark place and they’ve all been fine. This is why you use the higher proof vodka.
If you’re continuing on to liqueur, go ahead and filter your vodka through a coffee filter.
Now, for every cup of vodka, you want 1 cup of water, and ½ cup of sugar. Boil the water and sugar together until the sugar has dissolved, a minute or two. Let this simple syrup cool.
Mix the simple syrup in with the vodka and you’re ready to go.
Oh, yeah. All those jars of vodka saturated blackberries.
I made myself some ‘second run’ blackberry vodka by adding vodka to the jars of berries, turning it a few times, and straining the berries out of the vodka. There’s a little less of the blackberry flavor but it’s still pretty good.
The berries I put into the frig, tightly closed and I spoon them over ice cream periodically. They are completely soaked with alcohol and you shouldn’t give them to children or drive after eating them. I wouldn’t recommend adding them to your morning yogurt, either.
The vodka acts as a preservative for the fruit; I’ve had some in the refrigerator for months and they’re still good. You could use these for baking a cobbler or making blackberry sauce for some other desert if you wanted to cook off the alcohol instead of consuming it.
If you find really cute, smallish bottles, the blackberry vodka or liqueur is very pretty and it makes a great gift. If you’re feeling very industrious, the process is the same for strawberries and purple plums, but the result comes out pink, and purple. It’s a beautiful basket to give for the holidays, or as a housewarming gift. And it’s ok to give it away, because you’ve got your bottles of ‘second run’ to console yourself with.