If summer blackberry picking has netted a rich harvest of plump, sweet berries, incorporate some of the bounty into sweet, tangy blackberry brandy for sipping or drizzling over ice cream. The largest of wild berries, purplish-black blackberries grow across most of the United States. Making blackberry brandy demands no hard and fast formula; adjust the ingredients to suit your preferences.
To prepare the blackberries for brandy, pick through them carefully, discarding soft or moldy berries, then place the berries in a colander and rinse them gently to avoid bruising the berries. After the berries have drained for at least 10 minutes, place them in a large bowl and crush the berries lightly with a potato masher or the bottom of a drinking glass.
At this point, it's a good idea to measure the berries so you have a starting point for adding vodka and other ingredients. In general, use approximately equal parts brandy and berries, or if you prefer a milder brandy, use one part vodka to two parts juice. If you like, you can stir in a small amount of regular brandy. Extra flavorings depend on your preferences, but typical add-ins include cloves, cinnamon, a few drops of vanilla extract or a strip of lemon peel. Use flavorings in small amounts so they don't overpower the berry flavor. Mix the ingredients thoroughly.
Pour the brandy mixture into small, sterilized jars or one large glass jar. Age the brandy in a cool, dark place for three weeks, stirring gently once every week. After the brandy is aged, strain it by pouring the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined colander or sieve. Pour the filtered brandy back into the glass jars, let it age in the cool, dark place for another week, then strain once more.
After the brandy is strained for the second time, bring a small amount of water -- about one-quarter to one-third the amount of berries -- to boil in a sturdy saucepan, then add sugar and heat, stirring constantly, just long enough for the sugar to dissolve. The amount of sugar depends on the desired sweetness, but two parts sugar to three parts berries is a good starting point. A small taste will tell you if your brandy needs more sugar. Pour the brandy into jars or decanters and let the brandy age in your refrigerator for a minimum of eight weeks. An aging period of 12 weeks results in a better flavor.