Up in Napa again, for the weekend, I felt summer on the way: the tall spring grasses fading from green toward gold, the grapevines in full leaf, and the blackberry vines now budding with green berries. Last weekend’s rainstorms were gone on by, radish blossoms peppered the empty fields with their white and purple petals, and the odd orange poppy hung on in the better-watered bottom lands. In a few weeks, there will be enough blackberries to spend entire days out picking—I’m going to need an inflatable raft to get to one of the bushes, but I’ll find a way. And I have an idea of what I’ll do with the surplus. Preserves, of course, and perhaps a little freezing, for winter pies, but even more fun will be the blackberry wine I want to try.
The recipe comes from the just-published River Cottage Cookbook, by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The author of The River Cottage Meat Book, Fearnley-Whittingstall lives in an English country home as a sort of full-time food experiment for his BBC cooking show. He farms, he fishes, he forages, he kills livestock and eats it. And, apparently, he makes wine. The recipe couldn’t be more simple: Pour two quarts of boiling water over four pounds of blackberries, mash the berries a bit, and let the whole thing sit for a few days, stirring every once in a while. Then create two and a half quarts of flavored simple syrup using sugar and the juices and zests from one orange and one lemon, as well as water, and add this to the pot. Now add one packet of baking yeast moistened with warm water, and put the whole thing into a demi-john fermentation jar at room temp for as long as it takes to become hooch. (Two to six months.) The next move is to rack the stuff—pour the juice off the sediment—and let it age for another six months before bottling. I’ll let you know how it turns out.