From Too Many Chefs - www.toomanychefs.com

June 24, 2004
Raspberry Cordial

raspberries and sugar3.jpg There are a few projects in my life that tend to leave my friends and family scratching their heads in a bemused way, and thinking I'm slightly crazy. One such project is the wormery, of course (with the exception of my brother who is as crazy as I am). The other, is my raspberry cordial. I found this "recipe" tucked away in an article on the CNN site on something completely different (families with foreign relations? I don't remember really...). Anyway, the author threw out this intriguing bit: his or her Russian daughter-in-law made her own raspberry liqueur by simply layering equal weights of crushed raspberries and sugar in a large container, putting it in a dark cupboard with a loose lid to allow air to circulate and stirring every few days for a couple of months. I had to try it.

And it works! I've made it a few times now, and it makes a lovely raspberry cordial, suitable for gifts, adding to white or sparkling wine or drizzling over ice cream.

There are a few tips you need to bear in mind if you are going to try this at home:

Firstly, the air issue. As the raspberries break down, the sugar is transformed (don't ask me how, this is not a science class) into alcohol. One of the by-products of this (don't quote me) is oxygen. Or in any case, some kind of gas. Therefore it is imperative to leave an escape for the circulation of air. The second time I made the cordial, I bottled it too soon and fermentation was still taking place. Result: an explosion while we were at work and when we came home the raspberry juice seeping out of the cupboard made it look like we had a body hidden in there. How can you tell when it has finished fermenting? Well, as you stir it you'll notice bubbles rising to the top of the mixture. When you go to stir and discover there are no bubbles, this means you are getting to the end of the process. Wait another few weeks for good measure and then strain and bottle your cordial. If, when you open the bottle, you hear a "pop" noise (like opening a can of pop) you'll know you've bottled too soon. Just keep the bottle loosely closed for a while longer and test by closing it firmly for 24 hours before checking again for the "pop".

Keeping it clean. Before layering the raspberries and sugar in your container, rinse it out with boiling water. The first two times I made the cordial a tiny bit of mold appeared on the top of the mixture 24 hours after I started. I removed it with a spoon and it was fine afterwards. This time, I was much more clever and put a couple of inches of sugar on the top of the last layer of raspberries. Plain sugar on top, no air getting to the fruit: I think this should do the trick. You should also rinse the bottles you use for the finished product with boiling water before using them. This is alcohol after all, but it doesn't hurt to be careful.

Stirring. For the first week or two, stir with a long wooden spoon every couple of days. As time goes by the fermentation process slows down and you can make it less frequent, say once a week. You'll start to notice that there are fewer bubbles to stir out as you go; I figure if there are no bubbles there's no point in stirring, and wait longer for the next time. It helps to store the carafe in a cupboard you open regularly, but not necessarily every day!

Filtering. This is the only part of the process that is irksome. I've tried all kinds of suggestions for filtering and have yet to find anything that makes the process less messy and frustrating. The rest is so easy, though, you can put up with a little messiness in a good cause, right? Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth. Place it over a large bowl. Pour in the raspberry "sludge" and start pressing with the mix against the sides of the colander with a wooden spoon. To extract the maximum liquid, you really should use your hands. (Wash them first, of course!) You can do this with fresh cheesecloth two or three times to filter the maximum amount of raspberry from the sauce; it's up to you and your instinct for laziness. A warning: if you pick up the ends of the cheesecloth and bring them together and squeeze down on the "ball" of raspberry sludge, it will inevitably spill over the edges and make a mess everywhere. It seems like a good idea every time, and then doesn't work as well as you would expect. (By the way, wear dark clothes for this part of the process!) Also, do not bother trying to filter with paper towels or coffee filters: I've seen advice on using each, tried them and found they just aren't up to the force you need to push the liquid through. You might try the coffee filters once you have filtered several times with cheesecloth, but I'm not sure it'll be enough. I have also considered using the juicer on my food processor (which uses centrifugal force), but it holds so little alcohol I think it's probably not worth the mess it would inevitably make.

Going blind. This is the most common reaction I get to telling people about my hobby, some lame joke about going blind. Let's use a little common sense here: we are not using a bathtub still. At most, the cordial seems to get about half the alcoholic strength of a glass of wine. It's really just enough to ensure that the liquid doesn't go off and you don't have to refrigerate.

Storage. The cordial probably won't keep more than a year or two; we have never managed to keep our share for more than six months. I say "our share" simply because I usually fill a couple of small bottles to give away at Christmas time and save less than a liter for home consumption.

For more information on making fruit liqueurs and liquors, you can check out the web site of one Gunther Anderson. His liquors mostly seem to involve adding store-bought alcohol to fruit to make new flavours, but he has some good advice on storage and filtering. Not only that, but he has my recipe for Prunes with Armagnac, given to me by a French friend's mother (under my maiden name). So obviously he is a man of taste and discernment!

One last note: in France, sugar is commonly sold in 1 kg bags. Raspberries, it turns out, are also sold in 1 kg bags when you go to a frozen food store, such as Picard. Coincidence? Maybe, but it eliminates a lot of messy measuring when you are trying to get equal weights of each ingredient! (Also, buying enough fresh raspberries, even in season, can be so expensive as to make you prefer buying your raspberry liqueur ready-made from the liquor store.)

So hopefully you will not find this a crazy concept. I'll report back in a few months time with a photo of the finished product. Unfortunately, the really pretty carafe I chose initially would only accomadate about half the mix so I had to switch to the old water-filter carafe you see in the photo. When the top cracked, I kept it just in case and as you see found a good use for it. (Don't recycle, re-use!)

Ingredients (note the pretty carafe):

raspberries and sugar1.jpg

Layered raspberries and sugar (not very pretty as I had to transfer from carafe, note the sugar all over the counter):

raspberries and sugar.jpg

Here you can see why a water carafe with a lid is ideal for this purpose: it covers the carafe well enough to keep dust out, but the pouring lip allows air to circulate.

So, hopefully I will encourage some more people out there in my own personal brand of madness. I think it absolutely irresistible to make my own alcohol. (Does this mean I should call AA?)

Posted by Meg in Sussex at June 24, 2004 7:06 AM | TrackBack
Comments

I remember another attempt you made at an infusion of mint in vodka. None of us were brave enough to try it and the stuff sat in that little bottle for three years.

This sounds like a lot of fun. I have an alternate theory for why the sugar might help prevent mold growth - it may be that the sugar will create osmotic pressure on the mold cells preventing them from getting going by sucking the water out of them. This is the same reason honey doesn't spoil.

You can count me among those who don't think you're crazy. Overly original, perhaps, but not crazy.

Posted by Barrett on June 24, 2004 at 8:54 AM

Ah yes, the mint. That was an unfortunte experiment, underaken without a recipe and with very little common sense. I tasted it once or twice but it just tasted like vodka with mint. And then the mint leaves went black and when I came back to visit you two years after moving out the little bottle was still on the shelf in your house. Mmmm...now who's the crazy one?

I thank you for the support, however. Just be glad I didn't buy you a wormery for your wedding present! (I almost did for my brother but then thought of his poor bride and refrained...)

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 24, 2004 at 9:01 AM

If you had bought us a wormery, I think it would have ended up as a salad bar for the cats...

Posted by Barrett on June 24, 2004 at 9:06 AM

Your cats are smarter than that.

That reminds me of the phrase the www.wigglywigglers.co.uk people use for one of their products: "live bird food"!

Posted by Meg in Paris on June 24, 2004 at 9:13 AM

Well thank you for the wonderfully explicit process of making Raspberry Cordial - i was given a recipe by an old english woman at a party and she added whiskey to hers (50/50) and she swore to me that she never drinks!!!!
I will try your version (hers involved no mixing and a 3 month fermentation but involves more $ due to the whiskey addition) and will report back with either failure or success!
Merci Beaucoup for sharing!

Posted by Sandrine castel on December 5, 2005 at 9:22 PM

This raspberry cordial recipe is not at all far-fetched! I grew up in a small city filled with people of Polish descent and new Polish immigrants who did this very process. Most people had large raspberry brambles in their backyards and in the summer, huge glass jars filled with the berry/sugar mixture lined front porches as far as the eye could see (we kept them out in the sun, capped with a generous helping of cheesecloth to keep any unwanted additions out)!

It works and it is delicious. I hope everyone enjoys it!

Posted by Katherine on July 6, 2006 at 8:32 PM

I just want to be sure is one kg equal to one liter in dry ingredients? I want to get started on this recipe for the holidays!!!!

Posted by steph on September 20, 2006 at 4:59 PM

This is actually a raspberry wine recipe. A cordial uses the fruit or herbs to flavor the already fortified alcohol, like vodka or brandy. It does not use the fruit to make the alcohol, which is what is occurring here.

Posted by Justin on September 27, 2006 at 12:27 PM

Steph, one kilo does not necessarily equal one litre in dry ingredients. It does for water, but the density of dry ingredients varies (as does liquid come to think of it) so you really need to measure the sugar in weight.

Justin, I checked the epicurious dictionary and the Merriam Webster and they both define cordial simply as "liqueur". And according to M-W, liqueur is "a usually sweetened alcoholic liquor (as brandy) flavored with fruit, spices, nuts, herbs, or seeds". I haven't hit the make-your-own-alcohol sites but it seems that cordial is not an unreasonable name for it on the surface!

Anyway, hope you try it and like it! I just called it cordial because it sounded like something a couple of maiden great-aunts could safely drink...!

Posted by Meg in Paris on October 3, 2006 at 12:11 PM

Thanks Meg that is what I thought. so i have to weigh the two ingredients then? i don't have a weight balance yet but just out of curiosity how much in US measurements for sugar and raspberries?

Posted by steph on October 6, 2006 at 1:44 PM

Thanks Meg that is what I thought. so i have to weigh the two ingredients then? i don't have a weight balance yet but just out of curiosity how much in US measurements for sugar and raspberries?

Posted by steph on October 6, 2006 at 1:45 PM

Whatever you want to call this, it's wonderful. Just bottled a batch I started late in the summer, and i'm thrilled with how well it turned out. Thanks Meg for the recipe.

Posted by L on November 10, 2006 at 8:39 PM

Whatever you want to call this, it's wonderful. Just bottled a batch I started late in the summer, and i'm thrilled with how well it turned out. Thanks Meg for the recipe.

Posted by L on November 10, 2006 at 8:42 PM

Whatever you want to call this, it's wonderful. Just bottled a batch I started late in the summer, and i'm thrilled with how well it turned out. Thanks Meg for the recipe.

Posted by L on November 10, 2006 at 8:46 PM

I've started my raspberry patch and I can't wait to try this Cordial concoction.

Posted by Dave on January 19, 2007 at 6:19 AM

WE UP HERE USE THREE GALLONS FRESH BERRIES MASHED 1 GOLLON WATER 3 CUPS SUGAR HEAT TO DISSOLVE SUGAR LET COOL MIX WITH BERRIES LET SIT 24 HOURS ADD 2 BOTTLES 190 EVERCLEAR SIT 24 HOURS STRAIN AND BOTTLE IN DARK WINE BOTTLES CORK PUT IN DARK PLACE READY TO DRINK IN 30 DAYS BUT WILL LAST IN BOTTLES MORE THAN A YEAR IF YOU LEAVE ALONE BUT SORRY THIS IS THE BEST BY FAR TRUST ME I BEAT EVERYBODYS

Posted by barry on June 27, 2007 at 7:49 PM

WE UP HERE USE THREE GALLONS FRESH BERRIES MASHED 1 GOLLON WATER 3 CUPS SUGAR HEAT TO DISSOLVE SUGAR LET COOL MIX WITH BERRIES LET SIT 24 HOURS ADD 2 BOTTLES 190 EVERCLEAR SIT 24 HOURS STRAIN AND BOTTLE IN DARK WINE BOTTLES CORK PUT IN DARK PLACE READY TO DRINK IN 30 DAYS BUT WILL LAST IN BOTTLES MORE THAN A YEAR IF YOU LEAVE ALONE BUT SORRY THIS IS THE BEST BY FAR TRUST ME I BEAT EVERYBODYS

Posted by barry on June 27, 2007 at 7:52 PM

OPPS 6CUPS SUGAR SORRY!

Posted by BARRY on July 8, 2007 at 8:08 PM

As far as the air issue goes: as the raspberries break down, the sugar is transformed into alcohol.

The by-products of this is carbon dioxide, not oxygen. It's the same gas used to carbonate fizzy drinks with. So if you use a tight enough lid, and strong enough bottle you can produce fizzy raspberry cordial...

Posted by Bored Chemist on July 16, 2007 at 12:27 PM

This definitely sounds like something I want to try. Do you know if thawed frozen raspberries would work just as well as fresh ones?

Posted by Allie on August 16, 2007 at 11:02 AM

Allie, you can use defrosted or fresh raspberries just as easily as frozen ones. I would probably be a little more vigilant in keeping an eye out for the odd spot of mold, though, as they break down very quickly. Just be careful to cover the last layer of raspberries well with sugar and use a spoon to pick away any moldy bits. Once it starts fermenting (a matter of a day or two) you won't need to worry any more.

Hope you like it!

Posted by Meg on August 17, 2007 at 1:55 AM

Thanks, Meg! I'm about two weeks into the process now and it seems to be going along well. Another question, though, have you tried using other types of fruit? What about adding spices or additional flavorings? Thank you!

Posted by Allie on September 16, 2007 at 11:15 PM

Barry, I would like to try your recipe. What size bottle of Everclear do you use?

Posted by Jean on June 7, 2008 at 6:43 PM

The conversion of sugars to alcohol and carbon dioxide is the result of natural yeasts that are airborne, and also found on the skins of fresh fruit (particularly the "bloom" on fresh grapes, which is why mushed up grapes eventually become wine). Frozen fruit will probably have been "cleaned" so will have less natural yeast on them, but there should be enough "ambient" airborne yeasts to get a batch going - failing that you could add a little bakers yeast if you're feeling basic, or maybe some wine-making yeast if you want to be a bit more fancy.

Posted by Andy Hawkes on November 8, 2008 at 2:30 PM

My mother (Polish connections again) used to make raspberry juice using just sugar and raspberries layered in a jar. I never thought of it as alcoholic, it didn't seem to ferment. I'm wondering whether the fact that she put a thick layer of sugar on top of each layer of fruit just extracted juice and prevented fermentation? Anyone know about this? It is part of my childhood memories and it was great to find this recipe.

Posted by Magpie on June 30, 2009 at 6:02 PM

3 GALLONS BERRIES RASBERRY/BLUEBERRY/BLACKBERRY IS THE BEST I THINK BUT BLUEBERRY PRETTY GOOD ALSO AND STRAWBERRY KIWI MADE THEM ALL AND ALL GOOD.1 GALLON DISTILLED WATER.SIX CUPS SUGAR TWO FIFTHES 190 PROOF EVERCLEAR.STRAIN AND PUT IN DARK BOTTLES BROWN WINE BOTTLES BEST STORE IN COOL DARK PLACE GOOD AFTER 30 DAY,S STORE LONG TIME.

Posted by BARRY on November 8, 2010 at 3:33 PM

It's wild yeast within the raspberries which is causing your fermentation.

Frozen raspberries may or may not work, dependant upon whether the yeast has died or just gone dormant.

Posted by Alan on March 16, 2011 at 8:43 AM

I did this and I think it's been 2.5 or 3 months sitting in the pyrex bowl with cheesecloth over it. It smells a little moldy. The raspberries are crunch and don't taste good--they have a slight flavor of mold. The liquid is completely opaque and extremely thick, pretty much like store-bought honey. Is this right? I am not sure I would give this to someone as a gift. Along the way I've spooned out some to top icecream, and it was fabulous, but it tastes just a bit moldy now. I don't see any mold, though.

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