Once you’ve made your own fruit cordials, your family will beg you to continue and you won’t look back. You'll start collecting bottles like a mad thing. You can make them out of pretty much any fruit you can lay your hands on. I know that rhubarb isn’t a fruit, but we eat it as such, and you can make the prettiest cordial out of it with an unusual but wonderful flavour. I got the idea for this recipe from Fern Verrow – an inspirational book about a farm run on organic and biodynamic principles and using seasonal produce for sensational taste.
Anyone with a garden patch of rhubarb or an allotment will know that it’s difficult to keep rhubarb under control once it gets going. This year, with the rains in January – which turned into a full-on flood in my allotment as the Mersey overflowed – the ground was saturated. Rhubarb loves that; you even need to water rhubarb when it’s raining, it’s that thirsty. This spring, it’s so happy, you can nearly hear it singing as it grows.
Once you’ve made enough crumble, cakes, and pies to keep you going, give this cordial a go as well. I use a jelly bag which I hang from a wooden spoon handle put through two cupboard doors in the kitchen, but you can line a sieve with cheesecloth and let it drip through that also.
As with all preserving, sterilise your bottles, funnel, jugs, and spoons well to help the cordial keep without spoiling.
Makes about 1 litre Timings: 1 hour work with overnight straining
Clean your rhubarb but don’t peel it as if you were making a compote. You want as much of the pink outside string bits as possible for the colour.
Cut it into 2cm chunks and put it in a large pan with the water over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and let it cook for about 30 minutes until it is really soft.
Spoon the liquid and pulp into a jelly bag and let it drip through into a bowl overnight. Don’t squeeze the bag as you want the juice to be clear.
Measure your juice and put it in a large pan. I had 1 litre of juice from this much rhubarb but you might have more or less depending on your type and juiciness of stalks.
For every 1 litre of juice add 600g sugar, the juice of 2 lemons and a teaspoon of citric acid. The citric acid helps the cordial keep longer but you can leave it out if you don’t have it – you just need to keep the cordial in the fridge or freezer if you aren’t going to use it in a couple of weeks.
Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and then bottle into sterilised bottles.
Add sparkling water and a few blue flowers for a perfect summer drink or make a cocktail for something a bit different for your garden party.
A Hug from the Kitchen
Healthy, hearty, happy food, for good times and bad. Cheer yourself up, or spread the cheer around your family and friends.