Black Haw Wine

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There are actually two very different genera with species commonly called “black haw.” The best known are the Viburnum prunifolium, commonly Black Haw, which grows in the eastern and central United States, and its cousin Viburnum rufilulum, or Southern Black Haw, which grows in the south-eastern and south-central United States. Unrelated is the Crataegus rivularis, or Western Black Haw, which is a true Hawthorn related to the rose. The former are what I will be speaking of below.

Key to determining whether you have a Viburnum prunifolium or Viburnum rufilulum are their fruit. The former produces ½ inch pink berries in small clusters which turn bluish-black in the fall and improve in flavor and sweetness after a frost. The latter’s fruit turns dark blue when ripe and is quite tasty. The fruit of both are commonly called wild raisins if left on the bush (because they dry out and look like raisins). Like raisins, they can be eaten raw, used to sweeten and flavor various dishes and can be reconstituted to plumpness through soaking in warm water. Harvest either when ripe or when dried.

  • 3 lbs ripe black haw berries
  • 3/4 lb black raisins or zante currants, chopped
  • 2-1/2 lbs granulated sugar
  • 7 pts water
  • 1 tsp acid blend
  • 1/4 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • wine yeast

Bring water to boil and add sugar. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Meanwhile, wash fruit and chop raisins or currants. Combine in nylon straining bag, tie closed and put in primary. Mash berries with piece of hardwood. Pour boiling water over bag, cover, and set aside to cool. When primary reaches room temperature, stir in remaining ingredients except yeast. Cover and set aside 12 hours. Add activated yeast. Ferment 10 days, stirring and squeezing bag daily. Remove nylon straining bag and squeeze gently to extract flavor. Discard pulp, transfer liquid to secondary and fit airlock. If required, top up when fermentation subsides. After 30 days, rack, top up and refit airlock. Repeat racking every 30 days until wine clears and no new sediments form over 30-day period. Stabilize, sweeten as desired, wait 10-14 days, and rack into bottles. This wine should be aged 6 months before drinking. [Author’s own recipe]