Oh that Dogberry Wine

In rural Newfoundland, store bought anything in earlier days was rare. People fended for themselves, and their neighbours, and as I’ve mentioned before, trades of things were common.

Store bought alcohol was as well rarer than now.  People made their own home brewed beer with their own recipes, not the kits like we used. I remember even hearing of potatoes and raisins in the mix.  Lemon Gin was popular, though it may or may not have had any lemons or juniper berries for that matter though they do grow back home.  Wine was also common, usually from blueberries which are plentiful.  I’ve heard some made some from apples and other berries as well. And I’ve even heard tell of people making dandelion wine, though I can’t say its something I’d ever want to experience.

But the granddaddy of them all had to be dogberry wine.  Dogberries are plentiful most falls back home, people would often use them as a portent of winter.  More berries meant a longer winter. Being so plentiful, people used them as another source for wine, and one year Eric and I decided we had to try it.

Finding a recipe for it from either mom, or a book, I forget, we followed it, and fermented the berries into wine and bottled it into, whatever bottles we had on hand.  And of course we tried some.

Well lets just say the results were less than spectacular in the way paint thinner is a little unlike champagne. It has to be pretty bad when we couldn’t even manage to drink any of it.  Other than a taste here and there to remind ourselves how bad it was.

That said though, we did manage to get rid of it.  To this day I’ll never understand how he could drink it, but one day Eric, Junior and I (and likely more) planned to meet and head off ice fishing and atv/skidooing.  I remember we went to round pond and L pond, and on the path between them there was an old one room cabin.  We went in there and lit a fire, warmed ourselves for a while, and had a drink, and watched and laughed as Junior was somehow able to manage to drink a whole bottle of the stuff.  As for me, I’d rather have drunk a bottle of varsol!

Good times with good friends.  Those are the things we miss most.


For anyone foolhardy enough, here’s a recipe from Downhome Recipes:
Dogberry Wine (Beverages)
• 2 quarts dogberries
• 1 doz. apples
• 4 quarts water
• 8 cups sugar
• Yeast
Cook berries and apples in water. Strain. Add sugar in a large crock. When lukewarm, add 1 pkg.
yeast. Store in a warm place until all bubbles have gone. Strain again and bottle.

Bakeapple Led

Back home, when someone went astray, or got disoriented, the old folks would say they were fairy led. As in led astray by the fairies.  Well there were no fairies involved in this story, but we were definitely astray!

Bakeapples, or as they are known in some parts, cloud berries, are a favorite back home.  They are very sweet, with a sticky consistency, that’s great for jams and to top other things with.  Mom has been known to make a bakeapple tart in the same manner as people make partridge berry tarts.

I was never a big fan of them myself, I do like them, but find them overwhelmingly sweet, and don’t want a lot of them.  But for some reason, one summer, around the same time as now, prior to me moving away to Nova Scotia, Bernard and I decided to go bakeapple picking.

On the upper end of Random Island, there is a big big barren where bakeapples grow.  One thing about bakeapples though is that they grow one berry per plant, nearly on the ground, and the plants are often 6 inches to several feet apart.  We went through the woods at the tv tower, and walked through the short bit of woods till we got in on the barren.  We then walked till we found some berries and got down to picking.

The big issue though is that once you’re in the middle of a barren, with your head down, when you look up all the directions look pretty much the same.  We picked and picked till we were both tired and later evening was coming on, and then decided to make our way out of the woods.  Well of course when we looked up, nothing looked much different than anything else.  Luckily the barren was up on a rise, and we could see water, but unluckily, Random Island is an island, and water was visible in many directions.  Also unfortunately trees blocked some of the view, so we could only see water in the distance, and not see the bar bridge.

Well there was nothing for it, but to pick a direction and start walking and so we did, for what seemed like hours till we got to the edge of the barren and found a path.  We decided to follow it, with no better plan, and it shortly intersected with a much larger path, which turned out to be the road that someone whose name now escapes me had at the upper edge of the island for their mill.

We finally made it back to the road, and started our hike back to the car which was about 2 or 3 miles back at the old tv tower.  Not much traffic on the island, so we were resigned to walking the whole way, when finally a car came by, and who did it turn out to be?  Dad and Mom!  So of course the picked us up and carried us back to the car, from where we finally made our way home after being …… bakeapple led.

If the lightning doesn’t get them!

The oldfolks would say, there’ll be lots of bakeapples if the lightning don’t get em!  July, whether there’s any truth to it or not, or just superstition or coincidence, is an important month in determining the yield of some berries.  Obviously a late frost is likely to kill the young forming berries, but we also used to say a lightning storm would kill the bakeapples (a topic for another post) before they could ripen.  Whether there’s any scientific basis for this, or why it seems to be true I don’t know.

One thing that did seem to be true though was that the yield of dewberries, also known as plumboys, seemed to be an indicator of how many bakeapples you’d get.

That was kind of irrelevant to the kid me, and possibly still would be to the adult me if I were anywhere to get some of these!  These wonderful little berries used to grow around our fence, and on the side of the old school garden path. While we never picked them to make a jam or jelly, I’ve spent many an hour hunting them out and staining my hands with their delicious red juice.  Looking similar to a raspberry, with a little seed in each nodule, they were more translucent in coloring, and would darken to a deep wine color with a ton of juice for their size.

Rubus arciicus - Dewberry

Rubus arciicus – Dewberry

They too seemed to have some sort of reverse affinity with lightning though.  If there happened to be a local lightning storm when they were ripening, the yield always seemed lower.  Again for whatever reason, even if it was just the power of suggestion in out minds, I can’t say.

In any event, I hope the lightning doesn’t get them, and someone mails me up a few hundred thousand!