Fresh blackberries only last for a few days to a week after picking, but can be preserved and enjoyed year-round as blackberry cordial. Take a sip of this sweet liqueur after a meal and you'll know exactly why, in "Anne of Green Gables," Anne Shirley and Diana Barry were such fans of Marilla's raspberry cordial. Traditionally made with alcohol, the drink can easily be adapted to a non-alcoholic version safe for children.
As common sense would dictate, this cordial cannot be made without blackberries to flavor and color the drink. Fresh blackberries provide the best option, but you can also thaw frozen blackberries. Add the blackberries to a canning jar, crock or other container with a tight-fitting lid. Opinions vary on whether it is best to add the blackberries whole, mashed, or pureed in a blender or food processor, so it really depends on your personal preference. Soft, fragile blackberries fall apart easily enough when you shake the jar, but mashing and pureeing speeds up the process. Blackberries are naturally tart with a bit of sweetness, so you might wish to add sugar to sweeten the cordial at a rate of about 1/2 cup of sugar for 1 cup of blackberries. Alternatively, mix the finished cordial with simple syrup to taste -- boil equal parts sugar and water to make simple syrup.
In its simplest form, the cordial consists of blackberries, alcohol and optional sugar. You can add spices for even more robust flavor, which can contribute to the cordial's suitability as a digestif. Add whole black peppercorns to give the cordial a spicy bite, lemon or lime zest strips for a citrus zing, or even other berries for a blended berry cordial. Maple syrup or honey can substitute for or augment the sugar content in the cordial.
Many would argue that blackberry cordial must be made with brandy, but some recipes use vodka to provide the alcohol content. The choice depends entirely on preference, with brandy making a sweeter, more liqueur-like drink best suited as a digestif or after-dinner cocktail. Adjust the amount of brandy or vodka depending on the desired alcohol content -- use equal parts blackberries and alcohol for stronger cordial, or 1/2 cup of alcohol for every 1 cup of blackberries for less kick. To take the guesswork out of measuring, simply add the blackberries, sugar and spices, then fill the container to the top with brandy or vodka. Splurge on quality brandy or vodka for best results.
Making the Cordial
It takes several weeks to months for the concoction to transform from a blend of ingredients to a finished blackberry cordial. Seal the jars or containers tightly, and store them in a cool, dark place such as a cellar or basement. Store the cordial for a minimum of four weeks to allow the fruit flavors to infuse in the alcohol. Shake the jars vigorously at least once weekly to break up the berries and mix the ingredients. The alcohol prevents the berries from rotting and growing bacteria, so you can store the cordial indefinitely. Serve the blackberry cordial neat -- at room temperature and at full strength -- or dilute it with ice or a mixer, such as lemon-lime soda or club soda.
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