12 January 2016

Homemade summer cordial

One of the pleasures of a slow summer is having the time to make cordial. Drinking homemade cordial on a hot day is one of joys of the season for us so I make sure our favourites are ready for the hottest days. I love ginger cordial, Hanno loves elderberry cordial, so they are our mainstays. Made with fresh ginger and elderberries from our tree in the backyard, I just add lemon and sugar and that's it. Cordial bought at the supermarket is generally a concoction of water, preservatives, artificial flavours and colours. Making your own is easy to do and a much healthier option. I make up the drink with a small amount of cordial syrup and add cold sparkling mineral water and ice. Hearing those ice cubes clinking in the glass is one of the things I love about summer.

Two bags of elderberries from the freezer, a lemon and lime, water and sugar. That's it.

We've been stripping the tree of elderberries for the past couple of months and freezing them. I have a good stockpile of frozen berries now. I want to have the syrup on hand in winter to help us through any viruses or colds we do get. Luckily it's a rare event.

To make the cordial, add the berries with no stems, to a saucepan add the rind and juice of a couple of lemons or a lemon and lime (use whatever you have) and just cover them with water.  Bring to the boil, turn down the heat, simmer for 15 minutes and leave the pot on the stove to steep for about 6 hours. Then drain the liquid off through a fine sieve, or a colander with a muslin cloth in it. For every 2 litres of liquid, I add 3 cups of sugar, return it to the heat, and stir until the sugar dissolves. The amount of sugar you add depends on your own taste and how sweet the fruit is.

You'll need about this amount of the cordial in a 200ml glass. We fill the glass with cold sparkling mineral water but you could use cold tap water too.

Pour the cordial into a sterilised bottle. It will keep for over a year in the cupboard but when you open it, store it in the fridge.

It's easy to make cordial using any fruit you grow in the backyard or if you see summer fruit on special at the shop, grab some and make it up. The cordial will keep perfectly well until you drink it so there's no problem making it up in summer and drinking it much later in the year. You could make cordial using any kind of berry, any citrus fruit, mangoes, pineapple, passionfruit or any fruit that you'll get juice from. The drier fruits, like berries and mangoes, are best cut up, boiled in water and steeped, before adding sugar to the strained liquid. With other juicier fruits, such as citrus, you squeeze the juice and add sugar syrup. Adjust the strength of the sugar syrup according to the taste and type of fruit, and your own taste for sweetness.

Normal sugar syrup is 1 kg sugar to 1 litre of water.
Weak sugar syrup is 500 grams sugar to 1 litre of water.

Juice whatever fruit you have and depending on what it is - the more mellow the flavour, the less sugar you'd add. So, for example, I'd use a normal strength sugar syrup for lemon cordial and a weak sugar syrup for orange cordial. So taste the fruit first and add the amount of sugar you think it needs. Sweet fruit will need less but keep in mind that the sugar not only adds sweetness, it is a preservative too.

If you haven't had homemade summer cordial yet, try to find some fruit during the week and make cordial this weekend.  It is one of those summer tasks that I'm sure will become a yearly ritual.

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