Driving back from Newcastle on 4th September, we made a diversion to York to make sure all was sound with my parents' house while they are away. The fact that there were ripening figs to be harvested did not cross my mind. With the lavender pruned and a bowl of figs collected, we made our way to York Victorian Cemetery, arriving half an hour before it closed. Even at my most efficient, this did not give us time to pick the 12 lbs of blackberries that I wanted, so Claire and I returned the following Sunday morning, 11th September, armed with baskets and plastic bags.
It was a beautiful day - we are experiencing the warmest and longest Indian Summer that I can remember - and picking blackberries was a pleasure. I tried an area of the cemetery where I have not been before: one that began to be populated with graves in the 1950s. Generally I try to avoid tombstones younger than a century, but the fruit was so luscious and large that I made an exception. The names to whom I will raise a glass when I first taste this wine are Frank Roberts, George Zimmerman, Elijah and Rose Copley and (in particular) Ethel Metcalfe. Thank you all.
In two hours I managed to pick over 7 lbs of blackberries and Claire got more than 5 lbs, so my goal was achieved: a triple batch of blackberry wine.
Back at home I did not wash the fruit, it being so ripe (another week would have been too late) and I only rescued one woodlouse, so I suspect the wine will not be truly vegan. I crushed the fruit in my bucket with a potato masher, added 7 lbs 12 oz of sugar and poured over 14 pints of boiling water. This is less water than in previous years but then the blackberries produced more liquid. (In fact, I could have had another pint and a half of water in there.)
On Monday morning I added the yeast and (only) one teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase. I put the wine into its three demihohns on Friday night, 16th September. This took about forty minutes and by the end the liquid was more of a thick gravy than a free-flowing wine. It is fermenting well and is a lovely vibrant aubergine colour. Aubergine wine - now there's an idea!