Making cordials at home is almost a lost art but creating your own refreshing blend is surprisingly easy.
It’s certainly the time of year for citrus here in the Wet Tropics and I think everyone would agree it has been a bumper crop.
Every tree I see, whether it be orange, mandarin, lemon, lime, grapefruit or lemonade, is dripping with fruit.
With such a bounty, it’s hard to ensure as little as possible goes to waste. . .
I’ve been facing this problem with my Washington navel orange.
For the first time ever, it is laden with the juiciest fruit I have seen. Especially compared to last year’s crop which was ‘woody” and dry.
It’s amazing what a difference it makes when you feed your citrus with a proper, organic citrus blend fertiliser. Sounds like common sense, I know, but it took me awhile to grasp that concept. Slow learner.
So, after becoming a competent orange grower, I was now faced with the problem of using as many of said oranges before they fell on the ground to become fruit fly fodder. Juicing them was one option, and a very tasty one at that, but juice only stays fresh for a day or two and I was looking for something with a bit longer shelf life.
Marmalade sprang to mind, but to my taste navels are a bit too sweet for this. From past experience, the slight tartness of Valencia oranges creates a more balanced and complex marmalade compared to navels.
Then I started thinking, what about cordial?
Now I’m not talking about the stuff they sell in supermarkets. I doubt they have any real fruit juice in them.
I’m talking about using real fruit. After a little Googling, turns out homemade cordials were once a staple in most Australian homes.
Batches were whipped up and served when guests came for a visit, and many a conversation would have been held on verandas in the hot afternoon sun while savouring a cold glass of cordial.
Ah, the good, old days.
I came across a few recipes online, all with the basic ingredients of orange juice, orange rind, sugar (can’t get away from this), water and citric acid (a preserver for sure, but at least you can research it and know what you are dealing with – seems harmless to me).
After a bit of experimentation I came up with my own version as I believe you have to adjust it according to the oranges you are using. Backyard fruit isn’t as consistent as the commercially-grown stuff.
My oranges might taste more watery than yours, or your’s might be less juicy, or vice versa. There can be many subtle differences.
Most recipes call for the juice and rind to be added to a sugar syrup (mixture of equal parts water and sugar) but I found this dilutes down the orange flavour in favour of sugary sweetness.
Not what I am after.
So what I did was juice enough oranges to get 1.5 litres of juice. Place this in a large pot and add the finely-grated rind of however many oranges you juiced. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a light simmer. Now let this slowly reduce to 1 litre.
You may have to adjust this, depending on how strong the flavour of your juice was. It should be end up rich and concentrated.
Most recipes then tell you to make a sugar syrup, but found I got a better result by adding a cup of white sugar to my juice – no water. Stir this in until totally dissolved.
At this point, I added a 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid, just to help give it a longer shelf life. Feel free to omit if you want, especially if the cordial will be used in a couple of days.
Next, strain the cordial through a strainer, then bottle. I used some old vinegar bottles I’d re-cycled. This recipe makes around 1 litre of cordial.
Most recipes call for double the amount of sugar I use, but I have cut back because we all consume far too much sugar as it is.
Place the cordial in the fridge until cold then add it to water at a ratio of roughly 5:1 for a delicious, refreshing treat. It lasts for at least a week in the fridge, but if you have kids it will get smashed long before then.
This is a very simple recipe. I am sure you can see the endless potential to make many different types of cordial at home using different fruits, separately or combined.
Give it a go. If you come up with a good one, please share it by posting a comment!