Blackberry acid. It’s nothing like the dreaded brown stuff you were warned to avoid at Woodstock. It’s a Prohibition-era recipe (from what we can tell) that was a soda fountain mainstay as well as a home treat, usually kept under lock and key until the preacher or other important visitors made their way to your doorstep.
This neat little charm is actually fermented and a touch fizzy but remains alcohol free. Think of Italian sodas. I love those things. This is a great way to have a DIY soda shop in your own kitchen, at a party or on the go. All you need is a jar of your homemade blackberry acid and a bottle of soda water and you’ll be the hit of the picnic.
The process of making this stuff is extremely easy, provided you have the right tools. Why am I not doing it right now? It takes almost a month to make. Yeah, it’s not hard. But the reward comes much later. Here is a quick guide to getting this fermentation process moving forward.
You’ll need to make a checklist of items you must have before you pick your berries. The first thing is tartaric acid. You can ask your local drugstore but chances are they don’t carry it. This organic crystalline acid develops naturally in the process of winemaking but doesn’t find its way to the shelves in a commercial manner as much as it used to. Mixed with sodium bicarbonate it becomes baking powder.
It acts well as a preservative in jams and jellies. It also carries certain health benefits with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. You may not see it in your local grocery store but you can find it on most any cheesemaking website. A quick Google unearthed brands selling for a couple of ounces under $5 or a pound for around $8.
Once you have your tartaric acid you’ll need a large mixing bowl, lots of cheesecloth, two quart-sized Mason jars and glass bottles with the nifty ceramic stoppers. Then it is time to pick your blackberries. You’ll need about 8 cups.
• 8 cups blackberries
• 7 cups sugar
• 2 tablespoons plus another 2 teaspoons tartaric acid
• 2 cups filtered water
In that giant mixing bowl combine all 8 cups of blackberries with the sugar. Add the acid and the filtered water and stir. You don’t have to break up the blackberries or cook them (although some recipes I’ve found do), just allow them to macerate in the sugar water for 24 hours with the mixing bowl covered with a towel or cheesecloth.
The next step is to strain the liquid through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Pour the liquid into the Mason jars (boiled and cooled for sterilization) and cover them with cheesecloth fastened with rubber bands or the ring lids. This will have to sit in a dark, cool location, such as a cabinet, for three weeks.
At this point you could either put lids on the Mason jars or pour the acidic syrup into bottles. What you are looking for is a liquid that is a little thick, maybe like cough syrup, and will coat the back of a spoon. It should be slightly fizzy with a garnet or ruby color.
Now we have our syrup. What’s next? Well, back in the day great granny may have impressed the pre-Coca-Cola preacher by mixing one part blackberry acid to two parts water. That’s a pretty stout non-alcoholic cocktail. A better result might be straight soda water over ice and the syrup to taste. This stuff is pretty potent. A little will usually do the trick.
It’s a great flavoring for lemonade. The kids will love that. Don’t go hog wild with it, just change the color a shade or two. That is a spectacular summer drink for sitting by the pool, underneath the shade tree or reclined on the hammock. The effect is amplified by the removal of your shoes.
As a dessert enhancer blackberry acid can work wonders, but use it sparingly. We want to have as much soda as we can. But if you really have to break open the jar to impress a guest, drizzle just a touch over cheesecake or ice cream. May I suggest Cammie’s Old Dutch Mexican vanilla?
If you get into making this you may want to quadruple the recipe or possibly start a new batch once per week until the blackberries run out. You can use it as currency once you’ve jarred it all up. And there’s nothing like reaching for a jar off the shelf during those midwinter blues to remind you there will be another summer.
Though blackberry acid is traditionally used for sodas and nonalcoholic drinks, there is an adult version. It’s a drink known as either the Black Lily or the Sweet Lily. They are one and the same; maybe there are more names of which I am unaware. Start with a tablespoon of the syrup in a champagne glass and fill with prosecco. Any dry champagne should do. Garnish with mint leaves and a seasonal blackberry. Move over, mimosas and poinsettias. Brunch just got better.
Take advantage of blackberries while you can. Dewberries will work very well, too. I’d imagine you could use just about anything you wish. I love blackberries, though. And I love sodas. Go out and get yourself some acid and cheesecloth and find a cool, dark spot. It’s worth the wait. I’ve got some coming my way in two weeks. Let me know how yours turns out. I’m always up for a sample.