As we approach the British berry season, we need to plan ahead. Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown are armed with recipes to make sure the summer bounty lasts into autumn.
It’s those red fruits that we harvest in our garden when the sun seems neverending and the temperature can only be described in the same manner as ripened berries – succulent. OK. You’ve got your berries – strawberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants – and you want some of your summer crop to last only moments and some to pop open at Christmas to savour that last little breath of summer goodness.
Fresh berry cordial
Place 450g berries plus 300g golden caster sugar in a saucepan with 300ml water. Add the juice and zest of a lemon (if you’re making blackcurrant or redcurrant cordial) or the same of a sweet orange (if you’re making strawberry cordial). Simmer on a medium heat until the strawberries soften or the currants burst. Take off the heat and strain through a jelly bag. Finally, bottle and seal in sterilised bottles and refrigerate until you are ready to use. Or go ahead and be hasty. Pour 25ml of your cordial into a Collins glass, add 25ml of your favourite spirit, and top with sparkling water. A batch of fresh cordial will last a month in the fridge – if it ever lasts that long.
No, not the almond-laced biscuits. No, not the herbaceous concoction filled with fruits and crushed nut or fruit-stone kernels rested on grappa or wine that every Mediterranean household holds dear a secret recipe for its compilation. We are talking plain and simple Victorian-era English ratafia. No heat required.
Harvest 2-2.5k fresh, very ripe strawberries. Clean, remove leaves, and place in a large mixing basin. Sprinkle 500g golden caster sugar on to the berries layer by layer. Mash down with a potato masher, cover with a cloth and let stand overnight. Place the entire contents in a large, sterilised clip-top jar. Add a litre of vodka or London Dry gin.
Seal and store in a cool, dark cupboard for a week, shaking the jar every day. Run the contents through a jelly bag at least two times to filter. Last, but not least, bottle and seal in sterilised bottles and allow the liquid to mature for about a month. The resulting liqueur is a lovely digestif to serve in cordial glasses as an accompaniment to a board of creamy cheeses or just on its own.
And one parting thought. If you have room, freeze bags of cleaned, harvested berries in loads of 1-1.5k. If you are heading to the market or the local pick-your-own farms, you can collect batches ahead of time and also start the all-important process of breaking down the skins for your next summer project – fruit wines.