Sunday, 2 September 2007

How To: Make Spiced Berry Cordial

Winter still seems a long way off, but this is the time of year to pick the berries you'll need to make all kinds of great Christmas concoctions. Spiced berry cordial is probably just about the best Christmas drink you can have - it warms the body and spirit like nothing else (especially with a shot of brandy or rum!) I've just made some berry cordial today, and it is fantastic stuff. I took pictures while doing it to illustrate each of the steps; click on any picture to enlarge it.

700 g fresh blackberries
300 g fresh elderberries
500 g sugar
20 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks

2 large pots
fine mesh sieve
muslin cloth/cheese cloth
siphon or funnel
empty screw-top wine bottles
pectic enzyme/pectolase (optional)
potassium/sodium metabisulfite (optional)

  1. First you need to pick the berries. You could buy them of course, but that would be expensive, and not really the point of making your own cordial. Go find some in the woods - there are absolutely loads of berries out there. I think the optimal mix is 7:3 blackberries to elderberries but you could use mulberries, currants, blueberries, or any other kind you want. In a good spot you can pick 1000 g or more in less than an hour.
  2. Remove all unripe/overripe fruit, and any stalks or leaves. Rinse berries clean in a sieve or collandar.
  3. Put berries in a large pot, and fill the pot with water to just cover the berries. Cook over medium heat to reduce the level of liquid to the desired thickness. A potato masher or fork may be used to help crush the berries. Stir occasionally.
  4. The longer you cook it the more concentrated your cordial will be. Usually you will want to cook off between 20% and 40% of the original level of liquid. This will take about 30 to 60 minutes.Once you have cooked down the berries, let them cool.
  5. At this point, you may wish to add 1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme/pectolase per 1000 g of berries. This helps dissolve the berries and extract all of the juicy goodness out of them. Pectic enzyme is cheap, and is available in any homebrew shop. Dissolve the pectolase in a small amount of water and stir in. Whether you have added pectolase or not, cover your pot and let it sit overnight.
  6. The next day, pour the mix out of one pot and into a fine-mesh sieve, draining into another pot below. Be careful not to splash juice everywhere!
  7. Once the sieve is well drained, put the contents of the sieve into muslin or cheese cloth. Squeeze thoroughly to extract all of the remaining juice. You can extract virtually all of the juice this way. Compost the contents of the cloth.The cloth may be washed for reuse.
  8. Now we will add sugar and spices to the juice. You may vary the proportions for your taste, but high levels of sugar will keep it from spoiling, and taste normal once the cordial is properly diluted. If you decide to use low levels of sugar/no sugar, you will need to pasteurize the bottles once done (not covered here). I add (per 1000 g berries) 500 g of sugar, 20 cloves, and 2 cinnamon sticks. Allspice, nutmeg, and ginger would also be good additions. Add and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
  9. Heat juice to boiling. Simmer for a few minutes to infuse juice with spices. Let cool. If you want to drink immediately, you can do so now. Follow steps for bottling the remainder below:
  10. The bottles should be sterilized before being filled. You can do this by soaking them with a mild bleach solution, boiling them for a few minutes, or rinsing the insides with a metabisulfite solution (from homebrew shops). If you have metabisulfite, that is the easiest method. Be sure to sterilize the caps and siphon/funnel too.
  11. Once the mix has cooled to a non-scalding temperature, use a siphon or funnel to pour the cordial into the sterilized screw-top wine bottles. This can be messy, so cover anything that should not get sticky red juice on it! Distribute spices evenly between bottles.
  12. Store bottles upright in a cool, dark location. Cordial will keep for at least a year, possibly much longer if you sterilized/pasteurized it properly. The sugar and cloves are natural preservatives. Refrigerate once opened.
  13. To drink, pour a small amount in a mug and add hot water and rum/brandy if desired. Dilute cordial to taste, usually about 1 to 5. Delicious.What you see to the right (1 liter of cordial) was made from 1000 g of berries. 1500 g of berries would have filled the two bottles completely. When diluted, you can get about 10 to 20 mugs of cordial per bottle.

1 comment:

Kathy Turcotte said...

This sounds quite lovely. I have a huge amount of wine berries this year and I have blueberries I have not used yet so I may actually combine the two and/or do them seperately.
Is England lovely?
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