Homemade Berry Cordial

With the last two quarts of strawberries from the weekend’s picking, I decided to make some cordial.  Last year I made a wild raspberry cordial (shown in the picture, mixed with seltzer), based on Leda Meredith’s recipe, that came out quite nicely.  It’s a bit too sweet for me to drink on it’s own (one friend said that it tasted just like Manischewitz wine!), but it’s delightfully refreshing when mixed with seltzer or sparkling water and it adds a lovely berry flavor to champagne or prosecco. Best of all, the recipe is easy-breezy: after a day or so of sitting, stirring a couple times, and straining a couple of times, all this needs is time; time for the wild yeasts to ferment the fructose into lovely, lovely alcohol.

It’s best to use organic, sustainably-farmed, or wild fruit for this recipe, as it does depend on wild yeasts for fermentation.  (If you want to try it but can only source commercial fruit, you can try adding just a bit of wine or a pinch of bakers yeast to the mixture in order to start the fermentation.)  I made red raspberry cordial last year and this year I’m trying strawberry; I really think that pretty much any berry would work.  So, when you’ve spent the day berry picking but can’t stand the thought of another afternoon at the canner – try this recipe.  Round about Christmastime you’ll have a delicious cordial with which to toast the holidays.  It also makes a wonderful gift – because nothing says “I love you” like a gift of homemade hooch! 

Adapted from Raspberry Cordial by Leda Meredith

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Berry Cordial

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 cups berries, fresh or frozen (rinsed, stemmed, hulled, etc. Do not wash too agressively as you want to keep some of the wild yeasts.)
  • 2 cups boiling filtered water
  • 2 cups sugar

METHODS

  1. Thaw frozen berries. In a non-metal bowl or crock, thoroughly crush the berries with a potato masher. Stir in the boiling water.  Cover the bowl with a cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. The next day, strain the liquid through a fine sieve, jelly bag, or several layers of dampened cheesecloth. (Reserve the pulp to make fruit leather).  Add the sugar and stir well.  Stir again every 15 minutes for 1 hour (5 times total).
  3. Strain the mixture again through cheesecloth, jelly bag, etc. Funnel the juice into clean bottles (I re-use wine bottles that I’ve run through the dishwasher). “Seal” the bottles with a small balloon that you pricked once with a pin (or a snack-sized Ziploc bag, pricked with a pin, and attached with a rubber band), or a fermentation lock. This allows the developing gases from fermentation to escape, without blowing the cork off the top of your bottle.  Balloons will inflate during active fermentation, and you should see bubbly froth at the top of the juice (if no bubbling appears after 2 or 3 days, add in some wine or yeast). 
  4. After about 2 months, fermentation should cease; once the balloons deflate, active fermentation is over and it is safe to cork the bottles.  Cork, store bottles on their sides in a cool, dark place, and wait at least another 2 months before decanting.
  5. Decant before drinking.  After decanting, you can store the cordial in clear glass bottles to highlight the lovely color. 

Yields about 5 cups of berry cordial.

OPTIONS

  1. As I said, I think most any berry will work in this recipe, especially wild-foraged berries (because the only thing better than homemade booze is free homemade booze!). For blueberries I would probably freeze the berries overnight to aid in releasing as much juice as possible.
  2. We opened the first of last year’s raspberry cordial at Christmastime; it was quite yummy mixed with prosecco, but on it’s own it was still a little ‘young'; a tad syrupy and a little harsh on the palate.  But the glass that I had today, mixed with seltzer and aged for just about a year, was smooth, light and refreshing.  I imagine, like many wines, it only gets better with more aging, so I will try to put up a double batch this year, so we can age some.
  3. I haven’t tried this recipe with honey; I don’t see why it wouldn’t work, but honey itself ferments, I believe (into mead), so, I don’t really know.  I may try it with some wild red raspberries this year (for completely local homemade alcohol) and if so I’ll update with the results.

STORE

Once you’ve decanted your cordial, store in a cool, dark spot; the longer you store it, the better it will taste!

SEASON

Most berries are in season from late spring, through summer into early fall.  With frozen berries you could make this cordial any time of the year.

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24 comments

  1. Tate Peterson

    It is best to avoid the bakers yeast and get a yeast from a home brew outlet or web store. It really doesn’t cost much and tastes so much better. Plus you can use a champagne yeast to make it a sparkling drink if you do it right!

  2. Emily

    I have a question, I made this, and it has been sitting with the balloons for about 4 days or so. I just noticed today that there appears to be mold on the top of the foam…is this good or bad??

  3. Hi Emily,

    I’m no expert at home-brewing, but mold is generally a bad thing. I’ve never had this problem with fermenting fruit (I would have thought there was enough acid & sugar in there to inhibit mold growth). Is there any way to skim the mold & foam off to salvage the rest of the liquid? Maybe you can stop the mold growth in its tracks. You might also consider switching to a sterilized bottle or jar; I don’t typically sterilize mine, but they are nominally sterilized by the heat of the dishwashing cycle.

    Anyone else out there have any advice for Emily?

  4. Emily

    I tried pouring it out of one of the bottles trying to keep the mold from mixing and I think I managed with that one…the other bottles I don’t think it’s gonna work without mixing into it. I guess I’m just gonna let it go and see what it does…hate that all that work will be for nothing. But I guess that’s just what happens in the kitchen sometimes! LOL

  5. Zymergist

    Mold is not good, and about the only thing in brewing that may be pathogenic. I would strongly recommend adding yeast to strawberries, as mold spores are prevalent on them. (grapes and other thin skinned fruit are less of an issue) The cultured yeast will overwhelm other organisms until the alcohol gets high enough to suppress them

    Table sugar does not ferment easily, making an invert sugar solution will help http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_sugar_syrup

    Bakers yeast will work, but not taste as good as brewing yeast (at least for a long time). Champagne yeast also takes a LONG time to become palatable. I would recommend a sweet wine (or sweet mead) yeast, or a cider yeast (which will keep a bit more of the tart edge and fruit flavor).

    I would also recommend doing the fermentation in a 1 gal jug, then once it stops bubbling rack (pour the brew off the sediment, can be done more cleanly with sanitized tubing by siphon) into your sanitized storage bottles (or a secondary fermentation jug to make sure you don’t get a bit more fermentation after the racking). Leaving the brew on the primary lees (or yeast) can cause off flavors due to breakdown of the yeast. (There is a lot more tech that will help make the process easier, faster, and produce a better end result, but there are many books out there so I don’t want to do too bad a data dump)

    (also, not to nitpick but this would be a wine rather than a cordial, a cordial is a flavor extraction performed with distilled spirits and sweetened)
    Great reference; http://www.amazon.com/Making-Wild-Wines-Meads-Unusual/dp/1580171826

    Cheers!

  6. Emily

    So, back with an update…I don’t think that it was mold. I think it was just the way the foam looked. My balloons have deflated and I tasted a tiny bit and it tastes great! I have now capped them and will let them mellow for a few months. I think I’m gonna try this when blueberries are in season in another month or so! Thanks!

  7. Emily,

    Thanks so much for reporting back! I’m so happy to hear that it all worked out. Yes, the foam/bubbles in the fermenting stage doesn’t look all that pretty (I should have mentioned that! Sorry.)

    I opened some of last year’s strawberry a few weeks ago for a Mother’s Day cocktail: it was fabulous. Enjoy it!

  8. Pingback: Air Locks for Mason Jars – My Fermenting will Reach New Heights « Well Preserved

  9. Pingback: Berries are Coming – and so is the Hooch! « Well Preserved

  10. Djinnaya

    I’ve been fermenting for about two months. I can smell yeast from the balloon, but when I look in the bottle, the foam has become a fairly solid mass, almost like a komboucha baby. I’m presuming this is just the yeast all massed together?

    When I cork it for the two months before decanting, should I put it in a new bottle and leave the yeasty mass behind, or should I just cork these bottle as they are?

  11. Hi Djinnaya,

    I’ve never seen a yeasty “mass” like you describe; you are certain it is not mold? If it is yeast, I would like decant the liquor at this point to clean bottles and try to leave behind the yeast.

  12. mandy

    I did raspberries and blackberries from the farmers market. The balloons inflated within the hour, but after only one month, have deflated. Should I keep them “brewing” for another month, as prescribed, or is it possible they are ready to bottle? My kitchen is quite warm in the summer. Is it possible the temps accelerated the process? Thanks for any help! :)

    • Hi Mandy,

      You should be fine with 1 month of fermentation: and yes, warmer temps speed up the process, so that is probably what happened. It won’t hurt to leave it in the bottle for another month, but if you think fermentation is done, I say go ahead and decant to your storage bottles.

      Kaela

  13. K

    Would this recipe work for other fruits besides berries? I have a ready supply of quince and persimmon that I’d like to turn into a fermented dessert beverage. Any suggestions?

  14. I think persimmon would be easy; just give the fruit a mash, or a whir in the food processor, to break it up. Quince, however, could be a different story: it is so very hard when ripe that it could be difficult to cut into small pieces. I suspect that cooking for a long time (as we normally do to extract the juice) would inactive the natural bacteria that allow fermentation. You could try cooking to extract the juice than adding in some champagne yeast.

  15. Marie

    A month or so ago I purchased two 64oz. bottles of fresh pasturized, unfiltered apple raspberry juice. Since we have been traveling back and forth to our beach house, they sat in my spare fridge unused. I noticed the plastic bottle bulging and a foam on the top. When I opened the bottle, there was a carbonation fizz to it and it smells like a mild wine. Could I make that into a cordial now, or is it OK to use it? When we traveled to Croatia last year, some of our elderly relatives quickly brought out a cherry liquor and one made from walnuts. It was so yummy! I thought I might try and make this a tradition for other relatives!

  16. kjeb

    Just bottled up some black-raspberry cordial a little bit ago, now to wait two months for it to ferment! I tried just a small spoonful after I added the sugar and I cannot wait for it to be done, thanks for this recipe :D

  17. kjeb

    Just thought I needed to come back and give a report on my black-raspberry cordial. I made my batch August 16, 2012 and thought my cordial had been a complete failure since my balloon barely inflated. And when I tried it after several months it did not taste all that great…However, I had a gut feeling to just cork it up and tuck it away, so I did. And boy I can say that was the best decision I made! I COPLETELY forgot about it for 1 1/2 years and just yesterday when packing up my kitchen for our big move did I stumble across the old bottle marked 8/16/2012. My father in law picked up the bottle and asked about it, I told him that I had tried making cordial and it turned out really bad and I have no idea why I bothered keeping it. I told him he should just dump it out for me. Well he opened the bottle and it had a lovely popping sound and smelled strongly of alcohol (hehe…) he then poured a small glass and then another haha! Then he gave me some and it was THE most delicious thing I have ever tasted! Boy am I glad I held on to it! My only regret is I’ll have to wait another two years to have some more delicious cordial/wine! Yum, thank you for sharing!

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