Preserving berries as a cordial takes me hurtling back to childhood. My grandmother would make a syrup from the wild blackberries she would pick each summer. She’d fill green bottles that seemed colossal to me, and the stuff was rich, heady and gorgeously dark.
I haven’t yet found a blackberry patch big enough for those purposes, but the elderberries we gathered share many qualities with the blackberry. They are ever so beautiful, and I was very pleased with how they really did pop off the stem like little buttons when pushed by a fork, just as my Preserves handbook says. Lovely! I was eager to taste them and had a ripe, raw one.
Still, I persisted, and cooked them til soft in a bit of water.
Here in London, away from all of my preserving equipment, I kept it quite simple and used what I had. Cheesecloth, scalded to prepare it, and folded in layers, did the trick to hold the crushed berries and allow them to drain overnight into a clean jar. (I’ve reserved the berry pulp for an infused vinegar, following the advice of Food in Jars)
In the morning I resisted tasting the liquid until I’d dissolved sugar into it over low heat. Then I sampled it again, my first taste of elderberry cordial.
I put up a very small bottle to save for fighting wintry flu bugs. We tasted the rest diluted with water, though I’m sure that sparkling water would be very fine and sparkling wine still finer. Everyone agrees. Marvellous stuff.