Chokecherry Cordial

Do you remember how Anne of Green Gables was going to serve her friend Dianne raspberry cordial but chose the wrong bottle and served alcohol instead? Well here is a recipe for an old-fashioned alcohol-free cordial like Anne was intending to serve.

In most areas of the world, cordial is synonymous with a liqueur or as a non-alcoholic fruit-flavoured syrup or drink, but I grew up with a cordial being a vinegar-prepared drink (sometimes called a “shrub”). It was made with an excess of berries and served on hot summer days when you’ve put out a lot of energy haying a field or hoeing a garden. Be warned, this will taste nothing like the bottles of Raspberry Cordial they now sell on Prince Edward Island! I like to think this tangy-er version is perhaps what they would have made here in the Maritimes in Anne’s day. This recipe provides a concentrate syrup to add to water or club soda or other mild-tasting soda. You can also substitute another type of berry or fruit. Raspberry and blueberry work well. I use chokecherries because they are free and you need a lot of them to make a little concentrate.

Chokecherries (aka Virginia Bird Cherry or Bitter Berry. I am picking a bit late in the season so they weren’t as plentiful as they would have been a few weeks ago.

Chokecherries (Prunus virginiana) grows throughout North America and is quite plentiful where I live. Like anything in it’s family – plums, peaches, cherries – do not eat the pit! Eaten in large quantities, the pit can cause cyanide poisoning. The fruit itself is beneficial – high in antioxidants and is supposed to help with inflammation. If you aren’t sure of what you are picking, please do not guess with any type of plant in the wild. Go with someone you know until you become familiar with the leaves, fruit, flowers, bark, etc. of whatever you are foraging.

My harvest of cherries

You don’t need any special equipment for this besides a strainer or sieve. The recipe I follow is not for canning, but I choose to do so.  You can store this in the fridge for up to 3 months (believe me, it won’t last that long). I can’t see why you couldn’t freeze it as well, although I haven’t tried it myself. (You could freeze in an ice cube tray and add to a glass of water for individual servings.) Hope you enjoy!

Chokecherry Cordial

  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
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Ingredients:
Chokecherries – as many as you can pick (or any other edible berry)
Vinegar
Sugar

Sort through cherries and pick out any leaves or twigs or shrivelled fruit.

Gently crush fruit in small batches with the bottom of a glass or potato masher to break the skin. Place in a glass or ceramic jar, bowl, etc. and cover over with vinegar. Cover with a towel and let sit on counter for 2 days.

Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a bowl and let drain for 1-2 hours.

Measure the liquid and add it to a pot. Measure out the same amount of sugar as you had juice, and add it as well. Bring to a boil while stirring and boil for 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Add 1-2 tbsp (or to taste) to a glass of water, or mix in a pitcher at a ratio of 1:3, or to taste. Store in refrigerator.

Straining the chokecherry and vinegar juice
I like to store mine by canning – using sterilized jars and hot water bath for 5 min.

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