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