How I Made Wild Blackberry Cider

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Well, everyone, I made Blackberry Cider, all by myself! OK,  so I have to start off by telling you that I don’t have any real experience with brewing anything besides kombucha (which you should totally try, if you haven’t!)  Four out of five of my brothers like to brew all sorts of alcoholic beverages, so my main source of experience is in tasting stuff and being interested in what other people are doing. Also, I tend to have an aversion to following instructions.
If anything, all of these qualifiers should serve to encourage you to try brewing, especially if you are good at following recipes, or don’t mind winging it. Even without any guidance, I managed to come up with a wild culture and make a really nice brew. Once again, this is less of a specific recipe and more of a “Look what I did, I’ll bet you can too!” sort of post. I’ll give you some helpful links.
The beginning of the process was actually before foraging for blackberries. I made a starter culture by accident when I was trying to make a lacto-fermented strawberry drink. This was a matter of mixing strawberries, water and sugar, and covering the jar with cheesecloth and letting a natural culture grow. When I noticed that it was bubbling, I tasted it and was really happy to identify right away the familiar cider yeast flavor that I taste in local Suffolk ciders. That drink was really good, and I have to say I was really surprised that it turned out so well, especially since I had so little idea of what I was doing. But I saved some of that culture for future use. Here is a good link on developing a natural cider yeast. Of course, you can also order a commercial yest. This one is said to work well for ciders. I will just note that mine was bulkier in body, but that may have had something to do with actual strawberry fruit in mine.
[Update: Since the time of this first brewing experiment, I have made so many wonderful homebrews! I have also learned that this is not technically a cider because it does not contain any apple juice– maybe Sparkling Blackberry Wine would be a better name. ]
Here are some basic homebrewing supplies you will need for this project: a demijohn, an airlock, a funnel and swing-top bottles.
What I Did:

1. When we got the blackberries home, I added some bay leaves from our tree, and cooked them with a gallon of water for about an hour.

2. I added a lot of sugar, and let it dissolve. (Again, just look up a recipe for better proportions!)

3. I sterilized a demijohn, strained the berries, and pressed as much liquid as I could out of them, and poured the syrup into the demijohn. I topped up with water, and just made sure that it tasted really, really sweet. The yeast feeds off of the sugar, and so there needs to be plenty in the mix. I let the liquid cool to about body temperature before adding my starter culture.

I didn’t have a whole lot, and was worried that I had waited too long to use it without feeding it, and that it might be inert. But I went for it anyway. I put the stopper and airlock on, wrapped the jar in a tea towel to protect it from the light, and let it sit.I think that I had really pushed the limit with keeping  my culture alive, because nothing happened to my jug of juice for the first week or so. I really thought I had just wasted all of those berries. But I still left it, and didn’t check again for another week or two. And when I did, I was really surprised! The above pictures were from when I realized, “It’s alive!!!”  It smelled good and beery, but was still way too sweet, and not fizzy enough. I gave it another week wrapped up next to a heater, and it was looking good.4. So at about week three, I was ready to siphon it into bottles. I bought grolsch-style bottles, which tend to handle carbonation better and don’t need to be capped or corked. You can see in the glass above that there wasn’t a lot of carbonation at this stage. Putting them in bottles and letting them sit out for a few more days let the yeast eat some more sugar and catch the co2 produced by that.I made sure to save plenty of the yeast for my next brewing project. There was such a thick layer this time! And this time around, I also fed it some extra sugar after a week, to keep it happy until I used it for a ginger brew yesterday.Here’s a little sample of the Blackberry Cider today– look at all that fizz! I’m not sure what the alcohol level is, but I’d guess somewhere around 5%, just on taste. It’s still a bit sweeter than I prefer, so I’ll let it sit a while longer and eat some more of that sugar up. It is really delicious!! And the best part was surprising and impressing my husband with the results of my very nonchalant approach to home brewing.Cheers!

Right now I am also in the middle of my first attempt at making elderberry wine with fruit we picked in our neighbor-woods— I’ll let you know how that goes, but it will require more time. A really nice part of making this kind of cider is the time factor– we can enjoy the brew less than a month after the fruit-picking.
I hope you’ll look into making your own beverages– it’s a lot of fun!Here are some resources you might want to check out, if you want to read more about home brewing: Booze for Free and True Brews.

Do you play mad-scientist at home sometimes? What was your most surprising creation?

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How I made Wild Blackberry Cider

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67 Responses to How I Made Wild Blackberry Cider

  1. Chelsey October 31, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    How fun! I love reading about these little adventures you get into. The cider looks great!

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:39 am #

      Thanks, Chelsey! Being able to share with you always makes it more fun for me, too!

  2. Valerie {all mussed up} October 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

    What pretty stuff! It makes me think just a little of the scene where Diana drinks too much homemade raspberry wine in “Anne of Green Gables”… (:

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:40 am #

      Oh, that totally made me laugh! That was one of my favorite scenes.

  3. greatdana October 31, 2012 at 4:15 pm #

    Delish! I approach my brewing and any fermenting for that matter in the same nonchalant way and I never use chemicals. I’m in it for the natural ferment! I’ve had my losses but way more successes! 🙂 Can’t wait to hear about your wine. I’m getting close to bottling my pomegranate wine that been brewing for months and months now, already the most tasty brew I’m made!

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:43 am #

      Oh, I wish I could try your pomegranate wine– that looked/ sounded so good! And as long as you’re not using anything expensive, then the losses here and there are not too troubling– just educational…

  4. Rocio October 31, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    You know what’s funny here? You said that you created “a starter culture by accident.” I’m sure this is exactly how our ancestors discovered fermentation too–completely by accident! Rotting fruit plus a few bacteria equals an evolutionary necessity/benefit. Paleo diet indeed!

    Seriously, though, this looks tasty!

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      Yes, Rocio! The only difference here is that I had to add sugar… But true cider ferments are just juice. I went to a boarding school for missionary kids in high school, where of course there were lots rules… But we managed to make “wine” by just leaving our grape juice out until it got fizzy (on accident the first time, on purpose a time or two after that!) It’s like nature intended for us to drink ciders, wines and ales– it takes very little effort, and happens on accident too!

  5. Anonymous October 31, 2012 at 10:07 pm #

    There is a book you will enjoy called “The Thrifty Forager” by Alys Fowler. She used to be on BBC Gardeners World. I have seen it in The Works bookshop or you could reserve it at your local library.

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:48 am #

      Oh, so funny you should mention that! I am a big Alys Fowler fan, and have looked at her books a very often in the bookstore. We just had a branch of The Works open in our town, and on my first visit I saw her book there for cheap and picked it up!

    • Hazel November 2, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your cider experiment- it looks fab!

      We make apple (hard) cider most years (not this year- no apples sadly) with a group of friends by just squashing and pressing apples and leaving them airlocked in demijohns.

      I’m a huge Alys Fowler fan too, and recently went to a fermentation workshop that she took- all set to lactoferment anything that sits still now!

    • Ariana Mullins November 5, 2012 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Hazel! How sad about not having enough apples this year for your cider-making event. That is exactly the sort of thing I would LOVE to do. And I am glad to hear you will be doing lacto-fermenting now! I haven’t written about it, but I am always culturing something in our cupboards. I got the Nourishing Traditions cookbook about 7 years ago, and that was all the inspiration I needed to turn my kitchen into a lab– so much fun! It’s a bit of a bummer that there just isn’t as much excess produce this year to ferment and store up…

    • Hazel November 5, 2012 at 8:57 pm #

      I’ve only read Nourishing Traditions (and Wild Fermentation) in the last year, so I’m bit of a late starter!

      If you fancy a trip to Oxfordshire next autumn, you’re more than welcome to come and help out! It’s all very rough and ready, but makes surprisingly drinkable cider. My children love making it, even though they only get a small amount of the finished product. (Proportionately, as apple juice I mean! I realise that last sentence makes it sound as though I give them small glasses of cider!)

    • Ariana Mullins November 8, 2012 at 2:45 pm #

      Hazel, we will absolutely take you up on your offer, if we are around at the right time of year! We would love to do that. I was sad to realize that we had missed the local cider and apple festivals this year.

  6. Gretchen November 1, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

    Yummy! I just got around to reading this post and I’m glad I did! I am chicken when it come to fermenting as I’m afraid of poisoning myself or my family. =0/ BUT Chris does like a good cider/beer so I may have to give it a try sometime!

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:50 am #

      Gretchen, I have never made anyone over here sick, and I am pretty lax about stuff. I think it would be hard to poison yourselves. Do you like kombucha tea? That would be a great place to start! Or sauerkraut. Once you get some of those basic concepts down, fermenting other stuff will seem pretty approachable. Plus, you know you have quite a few cousins who would be happy to offer you advise!

  7. Amanda November 1, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

    That is so amazing! It looks really yummy. I wish I could try homebrewing out but it seems so intimidating! Can’t wait to hear about the wine.

    • Ariana Mullins November 2, 2012 at 10:52 am #

      Amanda, it could hardly be easier! You might want to check out a book called “Booze for Free” form here in the UK. The guy just takes all sorts of available stuff, adds sugar and culture, and makes himself limitless supplies of beverages. My husband has a parsnip wine and a beet wine in the mix right now, and we’ve been really surprised by the wonderful flavors that have developed!

  8. Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl November 2, 2012 at 1:13 pm #

    Way cool! Please come share at my Farm Girl Blog Fest:

    Fresh Eggs Daily

  9. Meghan @ Whole Natural Life November 2, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

    Fun post! I’m sharing it on Facebook.

  10. Anonymous November 3, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Hmm.. I’ve never had all that much luck with blackberry wine, and it’s interesting you say here that you cooked the berries first. I wonder if that’s where mine is going wrong? I also never get that amount of fizz!

    • Ariana Mullins November 5, 2012 at 11:34 am #

      Hi there! I think the difference is probably in the yeast culture. From what I understand, a wine culture does not produce this sort of fizzy result– my yeast was a wild one, that is definitely more along the lines of a cider. Maybe you can talk to someone at your local homebrew shop about a different yeast? Or, make your own wild one!

  11. Aubrey @ Homegrown&Healthy November 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Yum, I wonder if it would work for Raspberries as well? I also have an aversion to following directions and shy away from all things fermented (Kombucha being my exception as well)

    • Ariana Mullins November 8, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

      Aubrey, I think that the tartness of raspberries would be really nice! You could balance them by adding apple juice, making it a “proper” cider…

  12. Aubrey @ Homegrown&Healthy November 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Yum, I wonder if it would work for Raspberries as well? I also have an aversion to following directions and shy away from all things fermented (Kombucha being my exception as well)

  13. Aubrey @ Homegrown&Healthy November 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    Yum, I wonder if it would work for Raspberries as well? I also have an aversion to following directions and shy away from all things fermented (Kombucha being my exception as well)

  14. Elie November 17, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    Sounds amazing, Ariana! Love that picture of you enjoying a glass…

  15. Lea H @ Nourishing Treasures December 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

    Thank you for your submission on Nourishing Treasures’ Make Your Own! Monday link-up.

    Check back tomorrow when the new link-up is running to see if you were one of the top 3 featured posts! 🙂

  16. grassfood January 7, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

    I really want to focus on making things like this, thank you for the inspiration. Have you made beet kvaas? It is really good and very good for you. Cheers – Jamie

  17. Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots April 21, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    YUM. This looks so amazing! I need to mash up some berries now…

  18. Little Mountain Haven April 22, 2013 at 10:56 pm #

    that looks soooo amazing!!! our blackberries are 8 feet tall and 20 feet across, something tells me we’ll be making this cider this summer!! thanks for the recipe.

  19. Anonymous April 24, 2013 at 12:53 am #

    WARNING!!! Bottling without knowing for sure that the fermentation has stopped can create bottle bombs. Literally. Simply google ‘bottle bombs’ as yeast live easily under pressure, they can create enough CO2 to blow the top off and make a wicked mess, or worse, explode and hurt somebody.
    There are simple solutions all over brewing websites..

    • Ariana Mullins August 23, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

      Yes, you are correct. I always bottle with swing-top bottles, and always recommend that to my readers.

  20. Joyce June 12, 2013 at 4:13 pm #

    New follower via email, can’t wait til you post on elderberries. A friend of mine has elderberries all over her property, she said I can harvest them as long as she gets some of the wine and syrup we will make with them. I have made syrup before, but never wine so this will be exciting.

    Consider sharing at Tuesdays With a Twist (runs through Saturday.)

  21. Joyce June 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    Sorry forgot to add the link.

  22. Carol J. Alexander July 3, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    So then, how do you store it? Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop. Please come back and visit us this week:

    • Ariana Mullins August 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

      In the refrigerator! I don’t let it go for very long– we drink it up within 2 weeks or so.

  23. Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 1:20 am #

    You are making me want to make cider and wine… thanks for the happy eve for me… have a wonderful day… it is 80 degrees here on Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles, CA…

    • Ariana Mullins August 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm #

      Catalina! So awesome. I’ve visited many times (I’m from Los Angeles) but never met anyone who lived there. Nice!

  24. nepdxbungalow August 9, 2014 at 8:32 pm #

    Have you tried making vinegar yet? I bet that would make a great vinegar for dressings and marinades.

  25. Renee September 6, 2014 at 10:40 pm #

    Help! I read this blog, got all excited, picked a million berries now have no idea what to do! I have strawberries, sugar and water that have been out for a few days. It’s fizzing but doesn’t taste like alcohol. We picked berries yesterday so I had to do something with them. I cooked them down , added sugar and water. Strained. Because the strawberry stuff doesn’t seem to b ready I have the juice in containers. How long before the strawberries will be ready? How much do I need for a gallon demijohn? Should I refrigerate ten juice while I wait for the culture? Please someone help!

  26. John September 24, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    Just cause it’s sweet doesn’t make it good. Get wine and cider recipe book. Use wine yeasts; wild yeasts are risky. Do you really want a wine or cider with a “sourdough” bread taste? Measure your sugar, don’t add sugar until it “tastes really sweet.” To much sugar keeps yeast from reproducing due to osmotic pressure. if you don’t like the “chemical fertilizers” called for in some of the recipes; they can be substituted with chopped up organic raisins.

    If you follow a recipe, use wine yeast, and be patient (ie expect it to brew for a year.) You will have a product that instead of your friends saying “Wow, you made this?” They will be saying “WOW!!!!, YOU made THIS!!!?”

  27. james August 10, 2015 at 6:24 pm #

    a great thing i found to do when coming to the racking stage after initial fermentation if you want to end up with a sparking drink and dont mind it being a little cloudy, is to buy those dead cheap 2L bottles of sparkling water from any supermarket. they cost nothing (cheapest i found was 14p) ditch the contents and you have a sterile container designed to hold a pressurised liquid! no cleaning required, if you want to give them to friends its a handy size. just let the excess pressure off once a day (twice in summer) and this way you dont need to bother with air locks and the like.

  28. Mesha Vadvana August 22, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

    Nice post very juicy article!! 🙂

    • ariana September 21, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Thank you Mesha!

  29. Marvin September 3, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    Your blackberry cider looks beautiful and tasty, thanks for sharing.

    • ariana September 21, 2016 at 8:30 am #

      Thank you Marvin!

  30. steve harris September 20, 2016 at 11:29 am #

    Hi my name is Steve wondering how’s the elderberry wine going this year ! first made it along time ago one gallon made some two years ago wish made more to drink on colder and wetter nights. Trying other berries with it to make it healthier hoping as it has a good remedy for colds nice to have at Christmas. thinking of adding some rum with some of it to brandy up ! for those cold nights. P S See what Ariana thinks . Steve.

    • ariana September 21, 2016 at 8:32 am #

      Hi Steve! Sadly, we have no elderberry wine brewing this year, since we moved to Southern Spain and have no elderberries! Luckily, excellent grape wine is cheap. 🙂 I think adding some brandy to your “medicinal” wine sounds lovely! We still have several bottles of elderberry wine from 2013 aging– we will look forward to drinking some of Suffolks beautiful countryside some Christmas in the future.

  31. skarz February 25, 2020 at 2:38 am #

    I can’t believe you took the time to write out that entire post, take / edit the photos, and make the graphic at the bottom and yet you won’t tell how much sugar to add. And here we are, going to Google looking for the real information I was looking for…


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