I could have called this 'Bramble Liqueur' but it's a French recipe and 'Crème de Mûres Sauvages' sounded so much better. It goes to show that I can be just as pretentious as le prochain homme. Whatever you call it, this is the ideal solution for the time when you've come home from picking blackberries with an embarrassingly large amount of fruit and no idea what to do with it. It will be perfect for making reviving kirs or dolloping onto desserts in the dark, winter months to come.
This is a pretty simple and very classic French method for making crème de mûres and it turns out that the old ways are the best. I've tried more complex and modern recipes with less good results. The type of red wine you use isn't absolutely critical but there's not a lot of point in choosing a really expensive one. It's also best to avoid one that's particularly tannic. The type recommended to me was a light pinot noir and, if you can find a decent one at a reasonable price, then that's a pretty good recommendation.
This will make roughly 750 - 800 ml of liqueur.
500 g blackberries, washed and dried
500 ml red wine (such as a light pinot noir, see above)
175 ml vodka (or, if you happen to live in or visit France, Alcool pour Fruits)
400 g sugar
Put the blackberries in a non-reactive bowl and crush them lightly using a potato masher or anything heavy and hygienic that comes to hand. Pour the wine and the vodka (or alcool) over the berries. Either cover the bowl or, better still, transfer the contents to a preserving jar and seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for 3 days, shaking the jar (or stirring the bowl) every now and then.
Strain the mixture through muslin into a large, non-reactive saucepan. This will take a while, so allow a fair bit of time. (You could speed the process up a little by passing the mixture through a non-reactive sieve first before straining through the muslin.) Add the sugar and place the saucepan on a medium heat. Bring the mixture to the boil while stirring to dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar has dissolved and the mixture has reached boiling point, turn down the heat and simmer gently for 5 - 10 minutes. At the end of this time the mixture should be a little syrupy but not too thick or gloopy.
Allow to cool, pour into suitable bottles and seal. Unlike many fruit liqueurs, this doesn't need time to mature, although some traditionalists insist that it should be left for a day or two before drinking. It should keep well if stored away from too much light or heat but, personally, I think that even expensive, commercial products lose a little of their flavour and freshness if kept for too long. There's no reason to suppose that it won't last until next year's berries are ready for picking, though, even if that's profoundly unlikely in my house.