What an abundance we have by way of Tasmanian summer fruits! During the last two weeks we have picked Morello cherries, delicious preserved for later use in Black Forest Cake and as a topping or filling for tarts. They also make an exquisite cherry cordial syrup. You can of course make cherry syrup from sweet varieties of cherries, but I like a cordial with a zing which makes the Morello cherry ideal for this application. Picking them is always a delight from the four smallish but very heavily laden trees in Chris Wisbey’s orchard, chatting as we pick in the warm summer sun.
We’ve since been given red cherry plums that also make excellent cordial. I have used them on occasion as a base for Worcestershire sauce, which was very acceptable. They make quite good jam too, though I do prefer the yellow cherry plums for the purpose. I have tried making jam with them but it didn’t set very well, which is how I came to know that they make a good syrup that serves as a cordial or to pour, coulis style, over ice cream, panna cotta or even pavlova. It also makes an excellent flavouring if included in yoghurt or ice cream. They too can be preserved by the Fowlers method, though I have found that the skins always remain bitter, even if a heavy syrup is used and no matter how long they are stored.
Again this year my friend Amanda invited us to come to pick mulberries from their huge tree on their property at Murdunna. I have never seen a mulberry tree bigger – it is reportedly over a hundred years old. A dam on the bank just above the tree ensures a good crop, the mulberries unfailingly bursting with flavour. Mulberries make a nice jam – sometimes people combine them with apples to increase the pectin level to ensure a good set. However, I prefer again to make a cordial syrup. Within an hour or so of arriving home after picking last Sunday, dozens of bottles of the cordial were lined up on the bench, very reassuring as just we recently finished the last bottle made from last year’s picking.
It seemss to be the year of the berry here in Tasmania – even our own garden is yielding many more than we can possibly eat. This is unusual as we live on the edge of the forest (shady) and by the ocean (cool sea breezes). Is it possible to get sick of summer pudding? I am beginning to wonder as we have had the luxury of so many this season. I have taken it off the family menu for a time before we really do tire of it, instead freezing the youngberries, boysenberries, raspberries and strawberries as they pile in from their bushes. They will be a real treat during the winter months when I’ll be able to make all sorts of warming winter berry puddings.
It appears from this that I have a strong leaning towards making fruit syrups and indeed this is the case. They taste so good and are free of artificial colourings, flavourings and preservatives. For parents whose children are affected by such artificial additives, it is well worth the minimal effort of making the syrup. But of course anyone could and should make them – you will be amazed at how the flavours of the fruit are captured in the bottle.
So here is a recipe for the mulberry version of the cordial. You can substitute other berries or a mix of different types of berry, even including some of the weight in sweet cherries. The Morello cherries can be substituted for the entire weight of mulberries.
4 cups water
2 level teaspoons tartaric acid*
Place the berries and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer very gently for 10 minutes. Strain through a colander, pressing down to extract maximum juice, and then the resulting liquid through a fine kitchen sieve.
For each cup of the resulting liquid add 1 cup of sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat immediately to a bare simmer and cook 2 minutes more. Stir in tartaric acid, pour into sterilised bottles and seal immediately.
The cordial will keep at room temperature but in warm weather or climates it would be best to keep it in the fridge. In either case, refrigerate the bottle once it is opened.
* Tartaric acid is a white crystalline organic acid that occurs naturally in many plants. It can be purchased at supermarkets where it is generally found near the baking powder.