As witches we all know, after every ritual its time for cakes and ale. This months Kitchen explores making our own cordials for ritual and celebration.
Cordials- cordials are basically fruit and or herb flavored liqueurs. I find them much easier than home made wines with much less muss and fuss.
Author/s: Inger Skaarup
Issue: July, 2000
With intense flavors and rich colors, these delightful drinks capture the essence of the season for enjoyment any time of year.
Demands are heavy on the summer garden's fruit and berry harvest. Summer fruits are called on to pack jams and jellies with flavor, sparkle in fruit pies and tarts, complete compotes and entice diners with a never-ending succession of fresh fruit desserts. If you haven't also tried your fruits and berries in making fruit cordials, you are missing a great opportunity to preserve the flavors of summer.
Fruit cordials are easy to make, allowing you to enjoy the natural rich flavors and color intensity of summer any time of the year.
Preparing fruit cordials is a time-honored endeavor; these drinks have been made and served for centuries. Early American settlers came with recipes and learned to adapt newfound ingredients to create old-world flavors. Fruits, along with herbs and spices, were commonly used to flavor the drinks served for pleasure or taken as potions for reputed medicinal benefits. A single taste of a cordial, packed with lush fruit flavor, should be enticement enough to continue this richly rewarding garden harvest tradition.
Fruit cordials are the perfect drink for both formal and informal occasions. For special events, serve guests your home-brewed liqueurs with pride. This old-fashioned drink lends itself well to being served with a certain amount of circumstance indicative of gracious hospitality -- a pretty glass decanter, sparkling glasses, starched linens and delicate cookies.
A cool presentation on a hot day is equally fitting for this delightful drink. Serve it in a tall glass with ice, perhaps topped off with tonic or sparkling water, as a refreshing way to end a day's work in the garden.
In the kitchen, substitute your own bottled creations in recipes where other liqueurs are suggested. Try them sprinkled generously over fruit-filled crepes, used to moisten pound and layer cakes, splashed over fresh fruit dishes, in fruit sauces, used to flavor whipped cream and fruit-studded ice cream. Another tasty way to show off your cordials is in luxuriously rich ice cream toppings, sweets and confections such as truffles. They are equally dazzling in festive punches and cocktails and great used as flavoring in hot chocolate and coffees on cold winter evenings.
With a shelf full of fruit cordials, the summer season won't end with the picking of the last vine-ripened berries. These luscious and beautiful spirits will let you drink a toast to the garden's harvest -- as well as the gardener -- any time you want to celebrate the glorious taste of summer.
Making fruit cordials is a simple process of infusing alcohol with fruit flavor, much like steeping tea leaves in hot water. As the natural, fresh sweetness of the fruit blends with the punch of the alcohol, the cordial takes on the intense flavor and sparkling color of the fruit. Although these delicious drinks are simple to make, they require a certain amount of precision in measurements and procedures to obtain the most flavorful and clearest finished cordial.
The spirits called for in the following recipes are pure grain alcohol, vodka and bourbon or brandy. Although most brands of grain alcohol are practically tasteless, vodkas, brandy and bourbon have differing tastes according to the distiller. Select a smooth liquor with a flavor you like. The water added to the liquor base also may affect the taste of the finished product, as water quality and flavor vary. Use distilled water for the best result.
Brewing fruit cordials does not require any special equipment. You will need a large container for aging -- big wide-mouthed glass jars with tightly sealing lids or ceramic crocks with lids are ideal. (Do not use plastic containers or plastic implements as the flavor of the plastic or previously stored food or liquids may be transferred to the fruit cordial.)
For the initial fruit preparation, you will also need a wooden spoon, glass measuring cups, metal measuring spoons and a metal funnel.
Following an aging process, strain out the fruit pieces through a metal colander or fine wire-mesh strainer. To remove the finer fruit particles and sediment, line the strainer with a fine straining material such as unbleached muslin cloth, jelly bags, linen cloth or several layers of cheesecloth. The cloths may be washed and reused. Some liqueurs may also be strained through disposable coffee filters, although several of the recipes will produce liqueurs too thick for this method to be effective. The filters may disintegrate before straining is complete.
If these straining methods do not adequately filter out the fine particles and sediment from the liqueur, try siphoning off the clear liquid. Begin by placing the cordial container on a level surface to allow the sediment to settle. Using a long piece of plastic tubing, carefully siphon off the clear liquid into a clean container. Discard the sediment at the bottom of the drained container. Repeat the process, if necessary.
If you plan to make a large quantity of cordials or will give some as gifts, you may consider investing in a wine filter as it produces the clearest cordial possible. Available in winemaking equipment and supply stores, wine filters work by a siphoning method that forces the liquid through a very fine, changeable filter.
Finally, for the finished fruit cordials, you will need an assortment of clean bottles. Wine bottles, with screw lids or clean corks, are most convenient for storage purposes. For girl giving, use smaller, unique bottles available in kitchen and import stores, as well as in winemaking shops. For a tight seal, use new corks, which can be purchased in many sizes in hardware stores. Corks will allow the cordials to evaporate, however, so for long-term storage, seal the corks with wax.
The recipes indicate the minimum aging time suggested for each type of fruit cordial. After this aging time, the fruit cordial is ready for cooking purposes. You may want to age the liqueur a while longer before drinking, to take the edge off the alcohol and mellow the flavors. If properly sealed and stored in a cool, dark place, fruit cordials will keep for about three years.
Bottle up one or more of these liqueurs. Whatever your selection, the result will delight you every time you pour a glass of homemade fruit cordial
BASIC LIQUEUR (CORDIAL) RECIPE
The basic process involves using fruit to provide the basic flavour, and adding a distilled spirit and sugar. The fruit was usually pressed by hand (or feet) and mixed with sugar (though sometimes allowed to stand alone.) The spirit was added and allowed to mellow while picking up the characteristic of that particular fruit. Exotic essences were added when making special cordials. This basic recipe is designed as a very simple ("I have no clue, and can't find a recipe") recipe from which to start all cordials. It is very similar to ones in the CA Guide to Brewing. I have found that using a good quality vodka (not Popov, ~- use Absolut, Smirnoff, or Finlandia) makes a big difference.
2 lbs fresh fruit 2 cups 100 proof vodka 1 cup sugar
Throw it all in a blender, and puree it well. Pour it into a bottle and let it sit for 2 to 3 weeks. Strain out the pulp, and then filter through a coffee filter. Some liqueurs may need to age some more, but most will be ready to drink. A great number of recipes call for either a pinch of cinnamon or 1 vanilla bean. If you think this might add to the taste or enhance the fruit taste, by all means try it.
One method I use to extract more flavour from the fruit is to freeze it. Because water expands when it freezes, freezing will rupture the cell walls in the fruit, thereby releasing more of the essence of the fruit.
Sugar syrup is used for many recipes. The ratio is 1 part water to 2 parts sugar. Boil together for about 5 minutes, making sure the sugar dissolves. -The syrup must be cool before adding to the alcohol mixture, as heat evaporates alcohol.
1/2 cup water + 1 cup white sugar yields 1 cup syrup. One cup syrup plus three cups 80 proof vodka equals 60 proof liqueur. Two cups syrup plus three cups 80 proof vodka equals 48 proof liqueur. If using grain alcohol (190 proof, use twice as much syrup, with an extra 1/4 cup of water per cup of syrup.
Summer Crafts, Making Cordials, Harvesting Herbs, The Horned God, Lemon Balm, Amethyst, Mead Moon,