Vodka Plus Berries Plus Sugar Equals Cordial

Homemade Creme de Cassis

Homemade Creme de Cassis

If it is foggy, the raspberries must be ripe and will grow fuzz in an hour. If I am too busy for words, the black and red currants are falling off their bushes. If the birds are flitting in and out of the garden, the blueberries must be ripe. Oh, wouldn’t it be grand if all we had time for in this short, summer season was to wander among the berry bushes picking the fruit at its perfection, making pies, jams, jellies, mousses, or wonderful desserts with berries all over them.

Instead, if I get them picked at all, eaten out of hand in the garden, (not the currants which are too sour), about all I can manage some weeks is to heave them into the freezer and hope for better times. Or I can heave them into vodka and wait until December to deal with them.

Making our own cordials is a good deal easier than one might think, and yields Christmas presents or comforting sips all year long. I find it brainlessly easy to do, thank goodness.

I’ve made cordials with vodka mostly, but brandy works, too. Best thing, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on them; you use an inexpensive alcohol. The formula is elastic so you can make a small quantity or more, as you wish. You can blend fruits, if you wish, for variations on flavor. Over time, I’ve been sneaking the quantity of sugar down to make a cordial with enough in it for the right cordial consistency, but not so terribly sweet as to make my teeth ache.

I have a black currant bush, and am very fond of the resinous, rich, dark fruits. It is the currants that get the vodka treatment most often but it works perfectly well with other berries, too. The result is called crème de cassis which is just the ticket for adding to white wine for kir, or to bubbly for kir royale.

This is the general formula, adaptable to several different kinds of small fruit. If you have a little fruit, use a small jar; if you have a lot, use a big one. Sip it, dribble it on ice cream, use it for sorbet. Mainly you can use this for procrastination.

Fruit Cordials
 
Ingredients
  • Cordials
  • Soft fruits such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants
  • Vodka
  • Sugar
  • Put the fruit into a jar, pour vodka over it to cover. Let stand. When the fruit become pale or a month or so has passed, drain it, pressing the fruit very lightly to extract the juice and vodka. Measure it. Measure out an equal or slightly less quantity of sugar. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, and stir in the sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves completely. Bottle.
Instructions
  1. Put the fruit into a jar, pour vodka over it to cover. Let stand.
  2. When the fruit become pale or a month or so has passed, drain it, pressing the fruit very lightly to extract the juice and vodka. Measure the liquor.
  3. Measure out an equal or slightly less quantity of sugar.
  4. Bring the mixture just to a simmer, and stir in the sugar, and stir until the sugar dissolves completely.
  5. Bottle.

 

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.