I’d had a romantic vision in my mind about making redcurrant cordial, something more in keeping with the word ‘cordial’. What I hadn’t anticipated was the 7 kilos (15 pounds) of redcurrants my single bush would yield under not very thorough picking.
The simple recipe (see below) became a more complicated logistical matter of our largest soup pot, two other large pots, stockings, and four hands. I completely failed at finding the picturesque muslin frame for draining fruit, or for that matter, finding any muslin in our rural area. Wine making tools, beekeeping equipment: no problem. Muslin and jelly frames? Forget it.
The simple notion of boiling a few redcurrants with water and straining them became a multi-step event that involved my partner in crime holding open a pair of (brand-new) knee-high stockings over a pot while I skilfully ladled large quantities of currant pulp into the waiting stockings. After two attempts and three skin burns, he stopped me.
“Where are those weird potato peeling gloves your late grandmother gave us ten years ago?” The ones we’d never used until now, still fresh in their original packing, right under the sink where we parked them in bewilderment at what we would ever need them for. Thanks, Grammy! A few iterations later, the stockings were harnessed to the handles of the large soup pot, merrily straining the rest of the juices from the thousands of redcurrant seeds and bits of skin left behind. Sadly, I was too consumed in the making to document the picturesque sight of stockings filled with current pulp. Also, by that time it was almost midnight.
But the cordial is delicious – sweet, tart, full of summer flavor. Worth the effort. I made this Swedish version of the cordial from SwedishFood.com, but used a bit less sugar than called for because I like the tartness of the fruit.
500 g (1 lb) redcurrants, 180 g (6 oz) fine sugar, juice from 1 lemon
1. Rinse the currants, leave them on their stalks but remove any coarse stalks.
2. Put the berries in a saucepan and add 120 ml (½ cup) of water. Bring to the boil and let simmer until the berries have burst (about ten minutes, much longer if, like me, you have several kilos worth of fruit).
3. Line a sieve with muslin (or use a stand as shown above) and strain the cooked currants. I don’t actually recommend knee-high stockings as a sieve, but they work in a pinch. Wear thick gloves if you are holding open the stockings.
4. Return the juice to the saucepan and add the sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil and let simmer for 3 minutes. Remove any scum from the surface with a spoon.
5. Pour the hot liquid through a funnel into a sterilised bottle. (Sterilise by washing and then placing in an oven at 120°C (240°F, gas 1) for 5 minutes.)
We’ll be mostly drinking the cordial mixed with sparkling water, champagne or prosecco (at a ratio of about 1:8) but it can be used in salad dressings, poured over ice cream, frozen, or added to hot water for a refreshing hot drink.