I don't want you to think that the only beverages I make are the alcoholic variety, but it seems that recently drinks with a little somethin' somethin' in them is what I'm drawn to. I favour drinks with lots of fruit flavours and what better time to enjoy these than in the middle of the growing season. Today I was planning on sharing a very classic, very summery drink, completely void of the strong stuff. But then I spied what is likely the last of strawberries in my fridge and realized I hadn't made what has been part of my preserving line up for years- strawberry cordial. Almost in a panic I raced to my overstuffed liquor cabinet- its for the desserts I make I swear!- and was relieved to find just the right amount of vodka in there. So I got to work. For about 5 minutes. Yup, that's how long it takes to make this stuff. Well maybe 10 depending on how fast your hulling skills are.
For those of you out there who think preserving it something your Gramma did, or something your crazy foodie friends do, think again. This is preserving. It requires no cooking, no measuring and pretty much no skill. The only requirements are a couple pints of good strawberries, a mason jar, some vodka and a few minutes.
My version adds a sprig of lemon verbena, la verveine as the French call it, one of my favourite herbs. It adds a bit of almost grassy lemon flavour to the drink and goes lovely with strawberries. While you can absolutely leave this out, if you have a plant in your garden or know someone who does I encourage the addition. Otherwise basil also would be lovely.
Now I realize the only thing wrong with sharing this recipe with you today is that you won't actually be able to enjoy it for a few months. Which doesn't help your "thirst". And for that I'm sorry I didn't document this last year to offer the finished product with you today. But I wanted to share with you the joy of making something yourself that rewards your patience. In a few months, when all berries except cranberries are but a whisper of a memory, you'll be able to enjoy a tiny glass of highly flavoured strawberry cordial that will take you back to warm summer nights and bushels of summer fruit.
Strawberry Verbena Cordial
About 2 pounds of fresh, local, great quality strawberries
About 1/2 cup sugar
About 2 cups vodka
1 large sprig of verbena
Wash and dry well a 1 litre mason jar with tight fitting lid. I find the plastic reusable lids made for canning jars excellent for this purpose as the metal ones tend to rust and make a sticky mess.
Start by washing your strawberries. Be gentle with them. Good quality fruit is important to prevent any spoilage. Spray lightly with water, then pour out onto a towel to catch any water, hull and slice in half dropping into your mason jar. They should almost fill the jar. Pour in sugar. It should come about 1/4 the way up the jar. Estimate a bit and don't over do it. Put the lemon verbena on top and pour vodka to fill the jar, pushing the verbena into the strawberries to submerge it.
Put the lid on top and then put aside into a cool, dry and dark place for 45 days, but no more than 3 months. Every week or two turn the jar upside down and then right side up again until the sugar is dissolved.
When time is up pour mixture into a sieve lined with 3 layers of cheesecloth set over a large glass measure. Let drain, then bring the corners of the cloth together and twist, gently squeezing out as much liquid as possible without too much pulp. Leave in measuring cup, covered, for a couple hours to let some sediment drop. Then decant into a clean and dry bottle. Pour slowly to leave as much sediment behind as possible.
As for any fruit based liqueurs such as this, its best to let it sit a couple weeks before enjoying. Be sure to use in 1 year tops as its fruit flavour will fade after that.
This recipe is easily doubled tripled or what have you. I've given a small recipe as a great first try and to be respectful of all of us with limited pantry space and lots more homemade liqueur plans.
Verbena can easily be left out or replaced with basil or mint
This cordial is great used in the kitchen as well added to any fruit salad, cream desserts, or mixed drinks.