I love blackberries. When I was a small person, my birthday treat was a bowl of stewed blackberries topped with a generous dollop of double cream. Considering my birthday is at the end of March, my mum did a brilliant job of ensuring my wish could be granted every year! So just now I am in my element, picking blackberries as we take our hound for his country walks, quickly filling a tub whilst he runs round getting covered in grass seeds, then popping the blackberries in the freezer when we get home.
Bearing in mind that we already have a LOT of blackberry and apple steeping in alcohol, that I am not so keen on blackberry jam (too pippy), and as there’s only so many crumbles, muffins and cakes a girl can eat (really…), and our freezer is getting a bit full, I decided to use some of my spare blackberries to make cordial.
We use a lot of cordial, because we make water kefir (a rather delicious probiotic & enzyme rich fizzy drink you can brew at home), and we flavour the kefir with cordial during the fermentation process. I usually buy Rock’s cordials, but they are expensive, so it’s brilliant to have an alternative. To make my blackberry flavoured water kefir even more nutritious, I decided to do more foraging and add elderberries to the cordial. These amazing berries are incredibly rich in vitamin C, so we will hopefully be free from ‘flu and colds this winter!
There are lots of stories about elderberry stems and twigs and toxicity – I don’t have any particular concerns, having reassured myself by reading this, but I do make sure to remove as much of the twiggy and stemmy bits as possible (more because of the bitterness that they bring than for any other reason). I find the easiest way to do this is to freeze the umbrels of berries whole, then pulling the berries off the stems by dragging a fork through them. You get cold hands, but it is quicker this way, and you don’t get quite so purple.
Look how gorgeous the blackberry and elderberry water kefir looks! It tastes as good as it looks, I promise:
You will need glass bottles to store the cordial – I like these glass bottles from Lakeland because they fit in the fridge without taking up too much room. I also buy this brand of extra virgin olive oil because it comes in lovely reusable bottles. If you sterilize the bottles correctly (there’s a great method described on this very useful post about cordials – under the heading ‘Preserving’), the cordial will keep in a cool place (fridge or cool cupboard) for up to 3 months (but never drink anything that smells off or is bubbling!!). We are currently experimenting with putting some of our cordial in plastic bottles and freezing them – I shall let you know how that goes.
The recipe I am giving here made 2 litres of cordial, plus an extra 500ml that I popped into a a plastic bottle and froze. But you can reduce the quantities (as long as you keep the proportions) without any trouble. You might want to make just a small batch to start off with, just to check that you like it.
Enough of the preamble – here’s the recipe…
Blackberry and Elderberry Cordial
- 1kg blackberries
- 500g elderberries (after removing from stems)
- 225g granulated sugar per 600g juice after straining (I used 750g for these quantities)
You will also need a large piece of muslin, or jelly bag to strain the juice, a large bowl to catch it, plus enough bottles to hold about 2.5 litres of cordial.
- Put the berries in a large pan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for a few minutes so that the fruits release their juices. Squish the fruit a bit with a wooden spoon, fork, or potato masher to extract lots of juice.
- Whilst this is happening scald a large piece of muslin or a jelly bag by pouring boiling water over it. Once the bag has cooled a bit, squeeze out the excess water, and drape it over a large bowl.
- Pour the contents of the pan into the muslin cloth/jelly bag, then catch up the corners of the muslin and bring them together, suspending the muslin/bag over the bowl so that the juice can drip out. I tie my muslin cloth to one of my cupboard handles with the bowl on the work surface beneath.
- Leave the juice to drip overnight – don’t squeeze the fruit or you will get very cloudy, slightly unappetizing cordial.
- The next day, measure the juice into a large pan. Make a note of the amount of juice you have and calculate how much sugar you need to add. Add the sugar, bring slowly to the boil, and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Whilst the cordial is simmering make sure you have the bottles ready sterilized and sterilize a funnel and small jug or ladle to transfer the juice.
- Once the 15 minutes are up, allow the cordial to cool a little then pour the juice into the prepared bottles.
As you can see, I’ve also been making plum cordial, with the 2014 plums that were still hanging round in the depths of our freezer. I used the method outlined here, which works very well, although I like to add a touch of lemon juice when I serve it, to perk it up a bit.
If you don’t do water kefir (I know, it’s a bit obscure, but I do urge you to research its benefits), these cordials are lovely served like standard squash or with sparkling water, and the blackberry and elderberry cordial is particularly delicious diluted with hot water, when you are feeling like you need a bit of comfort.