Mulberry trees grow all over the Lowcountry; in downtown Charleston they dump gallons of berries on sidewalks and parked cars for two months each summer. The grackles love them, but the trees are really a sort of curse on the neighborhoods where they grow. Some years I’ll purposely prune trees back at the wrong time of year so that they don’t bear the next year; some years I make mulberry wine. This wine is awfully sweet, but it can be used as a cordial. It improves with age, and by its third year it resembles port. Before the wine is ready to drink, during the fall deer season,

I open a bottle and marinate a haunch of venison in it before roasting. The rest of the wine will clear in about a year, indicating that it is ready to be drunk. Turn the bottle upright about a month before pulling its cork so that any sediment settles to the bottom of the bottle. Like a late bottled vintage port, it continues to mature in the bottle; it must be decanted.

This is a country wine, the recipe for which you can find on any British or European farm. You will need several items not found in the everyday kitchen to make it. If there is a wine-making supply store where you live, it may stock the hard-to-find items. A jelly bag is used to extract the juice of the fruit. One can be made simply by tightly stitching a piece of muslin into a funnel shape; a bleached country ham bag is perfect; a clean, heavy cotton pillowcase will also work. Wine bottles must be sterilized; the recipe will fill 4 to 5. Corks and bottle corkers haven’t changed much in several hundred years. Buy an inexpensive plastic corker and the best corks you can find. The wine ferments in a 3-gallon glazed crock, often available at garden stores.

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Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mulberries
  • 2 quarts boiling water
  • 2 pounds sugar
  • ½ ounce fresh compressed yeast

Method

Using a nonreactive container, crush the berries and pour the boiling water over them. Leave them to soak for 24 hours. The next day, let the liquid drip through a jelly bag, muslin, or a clean heavy pillowcase hung from a hook over a 3-gallon container. Do not squeeze or force the mixture through, or the wine will have too much sediment and will never clear. Bring the liquid just to a boil and add the sugar, stirring until it is completely dissolved. Allow the sweetened juice to cool to below 120°. Crumble the yeast on top and stir in. Pour into a glazed crock, cover with a clean towel, and allow to ferment for 2 weeks before transferring to sterilized wine bottles. Cork the bottles and store them on their sides in a cool, dark place until the liquid clears, about a year. Improves with age.

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