About testing dye plants and cranberry honey wine…


The last yellows and orange dyes of the autumn season 2016

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything here, that’s because I’ve been working very hard this last few months with all kinds of dyeplants, experimenting a lot, working with a new/old fascinating fermentation technique, it is a different but similar workprocess than the way I used to dye, but with better results. In the process I’m writing all my dye-recipes down, making lots of notes, taking pictures and so on. I will post pictures very soon, to give my readers an idea on what I’m up to. In the meantime you can visit my  Instagram page. I will make all the results available as soon as I can, maybe in the form of an ebook or something else, I don’t know yet.  My idea is to work with plants all year long. I have the ambition to create some 50 different shades on wool and silk. So please be patient with me, as I want it to be as complete as it can be, I will write it down in English, which is not my native language, so that too will take longuer in the end.


One lemon and two oranges…

In the meantime I will post some other stuff, like this cranberry honey wine recipe for instance I always make a week or two before Christmas/Yule


the ingredients:

one bottle (75 cl) of a good red wine – I use a homemade fermented fruit wine from elderberries and blackberries but a nice French wine is fine too.

The cranberry or large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) is a non-native plant in Europe, but they occur in the Netherlands on the Frisian Islands, also known as the Wadden Islands and in some other places in Friesland and Drenthe. Mostly found on Terschelling Island. They grow there because once upon a time, a barrel of cranberries washed up on the beach after a shipwreck around 1845. The Terschelling Cranberry Honey Wine is quite a popular recipe. (Terschellinger Cranberry honingwijn).

edit:  there are cranberries in Europa too (Vaccinium oxycoccos) It is known by the common names: small cranberry, bog cranberry or swamp cranberry. It is widespread throughout the cool temperate northern hemisphere, including northern Europe, northern Asia and northern North America . But the one I’m using in this particular recipe is the large cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon): the American cranberry, it is a North American species of cranberry. These are the ones who washed up on an Frisian island in the 19th century. I’m sure you can use the small cranberry too in this recipe, if you can find them in the wild, why not?

1 handful dried cranberries

2 tablespoons local honey

1 teaspoon gluhwein spices

you can make some yourself with a blend of grated orange peel and/or lemon zest, cinnamon, ginger, star anise, black cardamom, cloves and vanilla bean for instance …

Bring the wine gently to the boil with the cranberries and the spices, simmer ten minutes until the berries pop open.

Let the mixture cool down at around 40 degrees C°, filter the wine in a mesh strainer and cloth, press the cranberries, add the honey, mix well and leave to cool.

Pour this very tasty and medicinal wine into a bottle and use within two weeks


and see you soon…

Red Red Wine

One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.

Henry David Thoreau

Fermenting plant juice is not only good to obtain dyes…

I’m brewing elderberries and blackberries to make yummy red wine,

taste a bit like Bordeaux…

harvesting Elderberries Urd ar Brunnr

harvesting elderberries

picking blackberries

and blackberries…

elderberries of the stem

one kilo ripe black elderberries taken off their stems

elderberries and blackberries wine

the mixed berry juices are now fermenting in a demijohn

Both berries are well known for their medicinal use and their antioxidant activity

Elderberry & Blackberry wine,

my red wine recipe:

For approximately  9, 5 litres wine, you will need:

one kilo ripe black elderberries (Sambuscus nigra) all taken off the stem (not the green ones as they are slightly toxic)

one kilo ripe blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

6 litre high quality water

1700 grams of sugar

2 teaspoons wine yeast (don’t use bread yeast)

2 teaspoons tartaric acid, 2 teaspoons pectic enzyme, 2 teaspoons citric acid or the juice of two lemons

You will also need a fermenter (demijohn / dame-jeanne) and an airlock

Wash the elderberries under cold running water, put in a pan, add one litre water, bring to the boil and simmer without cover for approx 4 min (to neutralise sambunigrine in the seed which will evaporate)

Let the juice cool down, I usually let it cool well covered overnight and then proceed in the morning

Press the berries through a cloth and strainer, press really well to get all the juice out, put the strained juice into a pan and add 2 litre water and 850 grams of sugar. Mix well till all the sugar is dissolved, no need to heat the juice.

Do the same with the blackberries but bring it just below a full boil then let it cool down, press and add the same amount of water and sugar

Put both juices in the fermenter. The temperature should be like room temperature. Now add the yeast and place the airlock on top of the fermenter. The airlock allows carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation while not allowing air to enter the fermenter, thus avoiding oxidation. Cover the fermenter with a dark cloth, fermenting works better in darkness. Yeast will take a day or so to get rolling, but by the next day you should see it bubbling. The ideal room temperature is 21°  Celsius, beneath 17° C the fermentation will slow down or stop. Add the teaspoons tartaric acid, pectic enzyme and citric acid after a day or two.

That’s it, now you just have to wait, allow fermentation to continue for two to three months, depending on room temperature

When all the bubbling has stopped and all the yeastly sediment is on the bottom, it’s time to siphon the wine in one or more glass jars and let the wine sit in a cooler place. After a few weeks you can siphon again and bottle the wine, now let them age for a while


elderberries art

I won’t throw what’s left of it away but I will test it to see if there’s any dye stuff in it, you never know !

and with the remaining pulp I will prepare a pinkish dye