As I mentioned on Thankful Thursday a couple of weeks ago, I found myself with more berries than I know what to do with. I have a lovely cookbook called The Country Kitchen Cookbook that I picked up at my church‘s book sale a few years ago. It has a recipe for raspberry cordial. I have made it for a couple of years now. My first batch came out fantastic. It was still quite good a full year later. The batch I made the second year did not work so well. After a few months (I don’t drink terribly often), it had a film of mold or something on it and I felt obligated to dump it out without trying it. This year I am trying again, encouraged by the success of the first year. After all, there are only so many cheesecakes we can eat.
This year I am making two batches. I finished one up, following the original recipe, then I went to the liquor store for more vodka so I could try another recipe I had found online. When I was looking at the various vodka options, I noticed that they weren’t all the same proof. That is, some had more alcohol than others. They ranged from 24% alcohol (48 proof) up to 50% alcohol (100 proof). I asked the clerk if that could be why I got such radically different results between the two batches while following the same recipe. I may very well have just bought the cheapest vodka I found last year. He thought that seemed like a reasonable theory. He encouraged me to try the 100 proof, so in the interest of experimenting with success, I did.
The first batch I made this year, I used 80 proof vodka (Jenkin’s brand), which is probably the brand I used the first time, since it is the brand we usually buy for those rare times that we mix drinks. I did not take any pictures because I didn’t realize at the time that I would be writing this post. Basically, my process was to mix an equal volume of vodka and black raspberries. I used a 1.75 liter bottle of vodka and two quart jars of raspberries that weren’t quite full. These I mixed in an orphaned crock pot crock (I have more crocks than elements), put the cover on, and let it sit for a week.
When the week was up, I lined a large pot with a large piece of muslin, then poured the contents of the crockpot into it. I gathered up the edges of the muslin, and wrapped an old shoelace around it. I tied the two ends of the shoelace together, then wrapped it around, pulled one looped end through the other, and gave myself a handle for the enclosed bag. This loose end I hung up on an arm that I have in my pantry and positioned the pot under it to catch all the liquid dripping out. This is also how I strain the bones and veggies from my chicken broth.
When it was done dripping, I had a bag full of vodka soaked berries, and a pot full of juicy vodka. The berries taste good, and that could be a dangerous thing. I measured how much liquid I had (in case the berries added any volume with their juice — nope) and had about 7 quarts. I cut that with an equal volume of water, and added some sugar. In this case I added two cups of sugar — one for each quart of vodka. Once it was dissolved thoroughly, I hunted through my kitchen for appropriate bottles and settled on two empty 5# honey jars. I filled them both plus another half of a quart canning jar. They are now sitting in my pantry aging, except for one that I took to my neighbor’s son’s birthday party. All the adults said it was very smooth. Made me proud.
On my way home from the liquor store, I realized that this was going to be the post for today, so I made sure to take some pictures of the process in case you want to try it (assuming you are at least 21, of course, or whatever your local drinking age is).
I did a little bit of reading up on how to do food photography, and learned that natural light is best, and there are special lights that you can get to mimic daylight. I have a full-spectrum light that I got for sewing (well, actually, I got it for better seeing lice in my kids hair when they get an infestation, but the light was designed for color work when sewing, and I do sew a lot), so I pulled it out and tried it in my dining room after the sun set. Those photos looked ridiculous. Not for the lighting but for my attempt at a “professional” background. I gave up and decided to be authentic and just took everything outside to the picnic table on a slightly cloudy day.
The first step is to assemble your ingredients. In this case it is regular sugar, strong vodka, and two quarts of berries. I imagine this would be super yummy with cherries, too, but I don’t have any right now to try it out. Click on the images for bigger versions.
Dissolve sugar into vodka
I have read several different recipes for cordial, and each one has a different sugar to liquid ratio. I decided to try 3 cups of sugar to my 175 ml bottle of vodka. Pour vodka into the orphaned crock pot, followed by 3 cups of table sugar.
Now use your wooden spoon and stir until the sugar is all dissolved into the vodka.
The final step for the first day of process is to add the berries. I imagine that this recipe would work with probably any kind of fruit. Oh! I bet peaches would be divine. Just dump the berries into the pot and try not to splash yourself. An apron would be a good idea here.
Put the cover on your crock and put it away for a week. Mine goes on a tucked away shelf near the floor in my kitchen. Wait very
impatiently for it to sit and get all yummy.
A week later (or more)
Now that you have had life happen, and you kept putting off your cordial, it is time to finish. You will need:
- your crock full of vodka, sugar and berries
- another large bowl or pot to strain into
- a clean cloth (I used a 24″ square piece of muslin)
- a gallon jar (or three quart jars)
- a canning funnel (unless you have superior aim)
Strain out the fruit
Line the large receptacle pot with the cloth, as I did in the photo above. Remove the lid from the crock and carefully begin pouring it out into the cloth-lined pot. Have your husband notice that the cloth is about to get sucked down into the pot and grab hold of it to secure it for you. Thank your husband because now you don’t have to fish for it under the fruit and vodka. Beware of splashing, because all the little berries will make lots of splashes as they hit the water that fell out before them. Do not wear your nice clothes for this. Remember the apron you used for the first steps. Berries are great at staining. Gather up the edges of the cloth to form a sack. Let the liquid drip out, then give it a good squeeze to wring out the last of the juice from the berries.
You will now have a pot full of booze just as your neighbor stops by. Your hands will be sticky, too. Try to look nonchalant about not touching anything.
Now you have two options. The first is to add an equal amount of water to cut the potency, as I did in the first batch. The second is to go ahead and call it done, which is what I did this time. Using your canning funnel, pour the cordial from your receptacle pot into the jars. Again, thank your husband for stepping up and pouring for you as you try to figure out how to pour it with one hand so you can take photos with the other hand. We used a one-gallon-former-pickle jar after making sure it didn’t still smell like pickles. We could have used three 1-quart canning jars, or five pint canning jars, but it seemed more fun to put it in a pickle jar.
Label your jar well for future reference.
Since your neighbor has stopped by, offer her some boozy berries.
Put them into jars so you can follow up on your husband’s suggestion of making adult berry sauce for ice cream and the like later. Put them in your hubby’s office fridge (doesn’t everyone have a fridge in their home office?) or label them so the kids don’t accidentally eat them.
And there you have it. Pour yourself a glass and enjoy.