Harvest time is upon us so I’ve been busy toiling in the garden
as most of you must also be hard at work doing, putting up things for winter, preserving, salting and pickling. Nuts and berries seem to be in abundance this year so once my winter stores are complete I thought I would use some of the excess to make inks. Normally I make iron gaul ink but there are other, simpler recipes worth trying and I thought I would share some of mine with you.
Blackberry ink is a rich purple liquid and yet it dries a grey/black colour making it a nice contrast to your paper. The recipe is not a difficult one to make up, unlike the iron gaul ink, it only takes a few minutes instead of a few days, or weeks depending upon which receipt you choose to follow and as soon as the mixture cools you may begin writing.
You will need a small sauce pan, half teacup of water and half a teaspoon gum arabic. Remember, blackberries stain. First you will put a handful of berries in your pan and add the water. Bring it to the boil and let it bubble for one minute. Take the pan from the heat and use the back of your spoon to press down on the berries to release their juices. Strain the fruit pulp from the liquid (you may set your fruit pulp aside to make a tart later on.) Once the liquid is strained, add the gum arabic and stir until dissolved. At this point add a couple of drops of your favourite oil, such as lavender or rose. This will make the mixture smooth and easy to write with. Let this cool, and perhaps make your tart in the meantime, and when you are through with your tart, your ink should be ready to use. Keep in mind that this is an ink that should not be stored, but used sooner rather than later. Some use just half teaspoon of vinegar and half teaspoon of salt instead of the gum arabic but I find this mixture tends to be too thin and does not write well.
Elderberry ink is made in the same way, and produces a deep vermilion ink that dries a beautiful plum colour. This ink stores better than the blackberry ink when kept in a tightly sealed ink bottle.
Another ink from the garden bounty is walnut shell ink. The squirrels have done part of the job for me by discarding the shells under my walnut tree and so a pleasant walk in the garden to collect them was time well spent. You will need the shells of 4 walnuts, a teacup of water, one teaspoon of vinegar, one teaspoon of gum arabic and half teaspoon of salt. Wrap the collected shells in a cloth and crush them with a stone until they are reduced to small pieces but not dust. Place the shells and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the salt, gum arabic and vinegar, turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Let the mixture cool and then strain it through a cheese cloth into your ink bottle being mindful that your cloth, or sieve will be stained in this process, in fact, this ink stains clothing wood and hands so please do use caution when preparing. Once your ink is strained, a tightly sealed container will keep it fresh.
For those of you living in town, tea may be used as a means to make ink. Save your discarded grounds and add five heaping tea spoons full of tea grounds into half a tea cup of boiling water. Black China tea is best for this although you may use India tea as well for a softer coloured ink. Let this steep for at least 20 minutes, then strain. Add half a teaspoon of salt and half a teaspoon of vinegar, a teaspoon of gum arabic and again, a few drops of your favourite essence oil. Decant into your ink bottle and use as needed. This ink produces a lovely brown ink, much like the iron gaul ink.
As you know my garden is my inspiration for many things so I am happy to share my receipts with you. Other berries such as raspberries may be substituted in the first receipt to create different colours of ink for your writing and drawing. Nature’s generous bounty always provides for us. I look forward to seeing you all at the harvest celebrations.