Monday, October 16, 2017

Fermented Pokeberry Ink

I have now successfully made ink from pokeberries, adapting a Fermented Pokeberry Ink recipe I found at Fountain Pen Network.

Here are the steps and my notes.

First and foremost, don't forget about it while it's fermenting! I left our first batch for a week (writing Pokeberry Ink every day on your to-do list and then still not doing anything about it doesn't really count as remembering it) and so it over-fermented. We had to throw it out and begin again. Luckily, this is a really quick process, as compared to the black walnut ink recipe we are also trying this fall.

Day One

Take several kids who are old enough to know that pokeberries are poisonous down to a patch of poke and let them pick the ripest blackest juiciest berries they can find. Fill a small plastic water bottle (just get a bottle of water from the grocery store... you'll need to throw away almost everything you use for this project) about 2/3 of the way full of berries.

Note: If you have them wash their hands with soap and hot water right away after picking the berries, they won't be stained as much.

Put the lid on tight and shake it really hard to mash the berries up. It will now be about 1/3 full, but you won't be able to tell because the whole bottle will be stained on the inside.

Add a packet of yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons) and put the lid back on and shake it some more.

Then take your bottle of mashed pokeberries, juice, and yeast and pour the contents into a larger bottle. I used a large Bolthouse Farms smoothie bottle. Cover this bottle with a piece of fabric and fasten it tightly with a rubber band. The fabric will allow the contents to breathe while they are fermenting. I used an old birdseye weave cloth diaper doubled over.

Let the bottle ferment in a dark corner for 24 hours. I put it in my garage, out of direct sunlight.

Day Two

On the second day, turn the entire bottle/fabric/rubber band setup upside down and set it in a large plastic cup which you are also willing to throw away. Put on rubber gloves. I tried to let the liquid seep for a while out of the bottle and into the cup but it mostly just wicked around and stained all of the cloth diaper and didn't really go into the cup. So I ended up removing the rubber band and fabric and making a little pouch of the berries and juice and then squeezing it really hard to get all of the liquid out. Squeeze as much as you can into the cup, then throw your fabric and berries away.

This is your unfiltered ink.

Now the next step is to filter it. Take three glass bottles which are headed for the recycling bin and line them up. I used amber colored cider bottles. Put a coffee filter in each one. The directions say to use one bottle and wait a long long time for the ink to make its way through the filter, but using three bottles makes more sense. I also found that it wasn't necessary to rubber band the coffee filter in place. It's so crammed into that little bottle opening, it stays just fine on its own. Just fold it long and thin and put it in, then carefully open the folds of it out so that you have a long tube of coffee filter with a bit sticking out the top of the bottle like a flower. You should be able to get your eyedropper and your liquid into the filter easily. I put my finger down into the bottle to open the filter up, but you have to be careful not to break it by pushing your finger too far in and puncturing the bottom.

Take your eye dropper and label it ART ONLY with a fine point sharpie. Happily, we already had an ART ONLY eye dropper. The pharmacy usually gives these away for free.

Using the eye dropper, pick up your unfiltered ink from the cup a little at a time and place it in the filters in the bottles. Do not force it through. Be patient. This can take a few hours but you only have to wander over every ten minutes or so to put some more liquid in. And it's much faster if you've set up three bottles.

I did all of the second day activities in my laundry room utility sink, which doubles as our art sink. Pokeberry does stain!

When all of the ink has made it through the filtering step, pour it into your storage container. I reused a 3 oz vanilla extract bottle because it's the right size for my quantity of ink (which only filled it about half way) and it's already a pretty amber color.

Of course, if I really get into this writing with a real pen thing (or my students really do), I will have to splurge on a real inkwell!

Venetian Glass Dipping Pen with Colored Inkwell

100% all glass
handmade in Germany

This post contains affiliate links to the materials I actually use for homeschooling. I hope you find them helpful. Thank you for your support!

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