Now that summer is just around the corner (fingers crossed), more and more delicious seasonal produce should be coming our way. Whether you’ve grown it yourself, foraged it, got it at the market or local pick-your-own farm, why not use some for home-made cordial?
We’ve been using up the last of the rhubarb (see picture), but you could use all types of berries and soft fruit, stone fruit, grapes, apples – whatever’s in season. Late last summer I used a mixture of plums, grapes and apples and included brandy in one batch for a more grown up version (which makes a particularly good kir).
This recipe is based on one from the every reliable River Cottage Handbook on Preserves by Pam Corbin and the results are delicious. Serve diluted with water, chilled white wine, fizz or use in desserts – they’d be wonderful in fruit jellies or as glazes for tarts.
Rhubarb or any other seasonal fruit
Warm sterilised bottles
Wash and roughly chop your fruit (berries will just need picking over and strawberries hulling) and place in a large, heavy based saucepan. For each 1kg of blackcurrants, apples or hard fruit add 600ml water; for each 1kg plums or stone fruit, add 300ml water; for 1kg soft berries or rhubarb add 100ml water.
Gently bring to the boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer until the fruit has softened and the juices have been released. This shouldn’t take much longer than about 45 minutes. You could use a potato masher to help this along if necessary. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
Scald a jelly bag, muslin cloth or clean tea towel and suspend it over a large bowl. Carefully tip in the cooked fruit and let the juice drain through overnight. Don’t force it through or your juice will get cloudy.
Pour the juice into a clean saucepan and for every litre of juice add 700g sugar (this can be reduced according to taste and the ripeness of the fruit, but remember that sugar acts as a preservative). Gently heat the mixture to dissolve the sugar then remove from the heat. You might to need to skim the liquid as it warms up.
Decant straightaway into the prepared bottles (if you like, add brandy at this point) and leave a gap of 1cm at the top. Seal and store. Once opened, keep in the fridge.