Wild Blackberry Wine

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Scooter68

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I'm a lousy judge of when a blackberry is ripe so my wife has always done the picking. Blackberries I pick are typically just as you describe, they are black but they are certainly not ripe and sweet. That might be the issue for you all but if you are experienced berry pickers then, yeah that variety might just need more sugar. ( I don't have that problem picking Black Raspberries - when they are black and pull off easily I know they are ripe, but with blackberries the color doesn't really give me a good ripeness read.)

To prepare my fruit for fermenting - Of course first I crush or do whatever it takes to 'free the juice' then I just start adding sugar (simple syrup (2::1)) until I hit the amount it takes to get the starting SG I want. Since the sugar level varies, I just go that way instead of trying to do any math calculations beforehand.

At 25 pounds if those berries are anything like our here in NW Arkansas - you already have enough for a 5 gallon batch. Also I've always worked with the berries after they have been frozen and that makes the crushing a little easier once they are thawed.
 

SLM

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Actually, she went 6 hours and now has 50 pounds. And a lot of stains on her skin and clothing!

I freeze as well. But when you say 5 pounds per G, is that all juice? Last year it took me 10 pounds to get a gallon of juice.
 

Raptor99

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A lot of the difference, and this is just my personal reading on it, comes from the amount of water in a berry. Big Plump berries from the store may have good flavor for eating but I'll take a smaller, less water bloated wild berry every time. I've had some mighty strong flavored black berry wine with just 5lb of blackberries per gallon. Most of those berries are between the size of a penny and a dime but packed with flavor.

There are different types of wild blackberries: The Pacific Northwest’s better (and native) blackberry The ones I have are Himalayan blackberries, which are larger and do not have as strong a flavor as some of the other wild blackberries.
 

Scooter68

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No, that's 5 lbs and water added to reach about 1.3 to -1.4 gallons.

BUT here's the thing - If you go to 10 lbs and it's too strong, you can always blend in some white wine or something complementary.
I prefer stronger flavors but for our variety of blackberries 5-6 lbs is plenty for a really solid flavor.
 

Raptor99

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Nice! We were in the midst of moving, so we only were able to harvest a few pounds, which we will probably save for pies. Do you have any tips for harvesting blackberries? It seems very labor intensive to pick them one by one. Toward the end we tried cutting off clusters and then removing the berries. That made it a little easier, but still a lot of work for each pound. Even the fully ripe berries did not come off the stem easily. How long did it take you to pick 124 lbs?!

I discovered that we have three different types of wild black berries on the property. One is the invasive himalayan blackberries that grow on tall canes. Those do not have as much flavor. We also have two varieties of "trailing" blackberries that grow along the ground. They are a bit smaller, but have a very nice flavor. I think that one of them might be these: Rubus ursinus | Landscape Plants | Oregon State University
 

SLM

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We only have the tall ones, 8-10 feet, which you helped me identify as Himalayan.

It is indeed labor intensive, and we know no shortcuts. My wife picked them all. A gallon ziplock holds about 7 pounds and each one takes about 2 hours to fill. So a considerable part of her summer went into that job, but she loves my port!

I was disappointed with the yield this year. Last year I got a gallon of juice per 10 pounds of berries. This year I got 10 gallons, so 12.5 pounds per gallon. I guess this summer's heatwave took its toll on my vines, as it did on many of Washington's vineyards.
 

wood1954

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One thing I might add about these blackberries. While the berries themselves are quite delicious as is, the juice is pretty sour and needs considerable sweetening. Having no experience with country wines, I'm not sure if this is typical.

Wife picked 25 pounds this morning and harvest is just beginning!
Those are some nasty looking plants, I’m thinking of planting thornless blackberries next year.
 

Raptor99

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We plan to plant quite a few different kinds of berry bushes next year, including blueberry, raspberry, currants, and huckleberries (if we can find some). Not sure yet if we'll plant domestic blackberries.

I wonder if thornless varieties are more susceptible to pests. At my old house I noticed birds landing on my blueberry bushes, but not on the raspberries. Squirrels will probably stay away from bushes with thorns as well.
 

jskags

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I put in several varieties of Blackberries over the course of the last 6 years or so. We could never rely on wild so we started planting tame blackberries. With the Deer in our area, the thornless really take a beating and I do not like messing with the nets. I started putting in tame varieties that are thorned. Once we figured how to handle them with thorns and having them in a controlled trellis, we started seeing our yields grow exponentially. We now have only triple crown thornless. The rest are all thorned varieties. We have approximately 300 plus feet of trellis. canes every 3ft. We make and sell jelly locally. This is my first year making wine with them. It has always been my hopes to start. My family has a long history in Germany and Missouri making wine.
 

ChuckD

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We have wild blackberries as well but very inconsistent harvests so plan on planting some this year as well. I’m on the edge of zone 5 so none of the thornless varieties are hardy.

Raspberries on the other hand love our climate so I’m planting those as well.

And no, thorns will not deter squirrels, birds, deer, or mice. Just us soft humans!
 

ChuckD

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Those are some nasty looking plants, I’m thinking of planting thornless blackberries next year.
Talk to your friendly UWEX agent first. According to the WI plant research farms the hardy to zone 4 or 5 claims on thornless berry varieties is a load of 💩 and you will be lucky to get a crop every 5 years. I was told few blackberry cultivars are hardy up here and all are thorny ones. Apparently even though we have wild blackberries here all the breeding has focused on areas like Missouri and Arkansas.
 

ChuckD

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Those are some nasty looking plants, I’m thinking of planting thornless blackberries next year.
The UW Extension berry specialist recommend Darrow and Illini Hardy. He said the best thornless is Chester ant that’s Marginal in zone 5. There are claims that Ebony Hardy may be good but that haven’t run trials on it.
 

Ohio Bob

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I pick wild blackberries at the back of the property by hanging a 2quart zip lock freezer container around my neck, one hand is leather gloved to move branches, the non-gloved hand picks the berries. When it starts to get heavy I dump them in a larger bowl. Each days harvest is water rinsed and goes in the freezer in 1 quart ziplock containers (for easy stacking).

Regarding your recipes, I try to avoid adding any water other than used to boil sugar. Adding water just to fill the carboy is just diluting the must. I get 5-8 pounds of berries per gallon, this number is gallons after primary fermentation once the pumice has been removed. I use this number to plan for carboy sizes, etc.
 

jskags

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Im very fortunate. I live in Southeast Mo about 30 miles from the AR border. Blackberries of any variety grow well here. When picking your berries be sure to allow the shine to just disappear before picking. A shiny blackberry is not fully ripe. Blackberries do not continue to ripen off of the cane. If you pick it shiny and sour that is how it will remain. Our sweetest harvests for juices and jellies happen while we are picking and the juice is staining our hands. It is not pretty to sell that way but it will really change the sweetness of the blackberry. Just some food for thought.
 

jskags

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I pick wild blackberries at the back of the property by hanging a 2quart zip lock freezer container around my neck, one hand is leather gloved to move branches, the non-gloved hand picks the berries. When it starts to get heavy I dump them in a larger bowl. Each days harvest is water rinsed and goes in the freezer in 1 quart ziplock containers (for easy stacking).

Regarding your recipes, I try to avoid adding any water other than used to boil sugar. Adding water just to fill the carboy is just diluting the must. I get 5-8 pounds of berries per gallon, this number is gallons after primary fermentation once the pumice has been removed. I use this number to plan for carboy sizes, etc.
I just started a batch with 9 pounds. I was using 4 to 5 and it just didn't have that depth i was looking for. I was going to go with 10 but they wouldn't fit in my bucket, so 9 it is on this batch. I did the same on this batch. I only added water to dilute sugar. Fingers crossed
 

Ohio Bob

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Maybe I should clarify that I measure the sugar content of the must with a refractometer. However many pounds of sugar it takes is what it gets. In that sense I’m only using the pounds of fruit to know how many bags of sugar to buy, not that I’m going to use them all.
 

BigDaveK

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Early last year as an experiment I topped off my raspberry and blackberry canes about shoulder height and dramatically increased my yields. Will definitely do it again. I'll have to try it with my wild blackberries this year. My problem is that I have the multiflora rose interspersed with the wild blackberries. Years ago farmers planted them instead of constructing fences. Hard to control, impossible to remove, and I swear the damn things will move to grab you if you get too close.
 

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