Pokeberry Ink Recipe 2012
2/3 cup ripe pokeberries (which yields about ½ cup or 118 ml juice)
1/8 teaspoon alum
3.5 grams gum Arabic
1/8 cup (30 ml) 100-proof vodka (= approximately 10% alcohol concentration)
3-4 whole cloves
1. Crush berries through a non-metal fine mesh strainer, using a pestle. Collect the juice, including the foam, in a non-reactive bowl, preferably glass (the foam will go down overnight.) Discard the seeds.
2. Add the alum and stir well. Add the gum Arabic and stir well. The gum Arabic will take a while to dissolve, even overnight. Add the vodka. Stir well and allow to sit overnight.
3. Stir well again, then make a writing sample with a glass pen to check the flow of the ink. I found I needed to strain the ink through cloth one more time. Add the whole cloves. Note: the alum and gum Arabic can make the writing line look a tad grainy. Add a little distilled water if necessary (one drop at a time) until the ink flows well with a dip pen. This recipe yields approximately ½ cup (118 ml) of pokeberry ink.
Sample written on Sugarmade paper (bamboo/sugarcane fiber) with various pens (a bit on the dull side):
Writing sample on Strathmore 100% cotton paper (with much more vibrant results):
This is the old vinegar/salt recipe, found in a pioneer cookbook:
This is what pokeberries look like (Phytolacca americana):
The berries now removed from the stem:
Crushing the berries:
Observations: I had to tweak the ink to get a decent flow. It seems once you add gum Arabic, alcohol and maybe even the alum, you begin a dance of effecting ink flow. The vinegar/salt recipe required no tweaking. It always flowed well. The vinegar recipe might be a tad more vibrant than the alum/gum Arabic one, but this may be the result of adding alcohol, which may have diluted the color a little. It'll be worth it if the color can be preserved for a longer period of time.
I was able to get this new recipe to work in a Parker Vector (though don't rush out to try it... I'm waiting to see if it'll eat the pen or not. I tried the vinegar recipe in a Platinum Marker last year, and by the third day it had eaten the plastic ink feed on the pen and gushed out-- you can find info about that in this thread.) I don't think this new recipe is as acidic as the vinegar recipe, however, so I have good hopes this will work. Try at your own risk! With either recipe, the most vibrant results are always obtained with a glass or metal dip pen, however.
The longer this ink dries on the paper, the more water resistance it has. I doubt this ink is lightfast because the vinegar recipe was not (that one faded dramatically within only one day in the sun and disappeared completely within three days). But I'll test it and then post my findings later. The vinegar recipe also showed dramatic fading on pages stored in the dark within a year, too. So enjoy this ink in the short-term!
Here's an older thread about fermenting pokeberry ink. I found the fermented version to be an even more unstable ink, though. But for the ink makers on the forum, you might want to read through all the threads for more information and options.
Edited by fiberdrunk, 18 July 2012 - 00:13.