Sipping a homemade cordial, fragrant with summer memories is preserving perfection. Both flavour and smell instantly evoke a day, a place, even – a moment, the memories flooding back, like keeping time in a bottle. A trip to the market in late spring early summer would inevitably result in my mother buying huge bunches of rhubarb. Great thick stems marbled in pink and green just needing a little heat and sugar to come alive. Once home it would be instantly chopped and put into a pan with plenty of water and cooked until it was soft all the way through, sweet from the sugar and swimming in wonderful syrup. She’d serve it hot with custard, both liquids swirling around each other creating an irresistible mix of vanilla and rhubarb flavoured juice, thick and creamy and thin and sweet.
This rhubarb cordial with the addition of vanilla evokes that mix of fruit and custard, the old fashioned childhood flavours that can be enjoyed as a squash, added to a summer sparkling wine or brought bang up to date with a splash of vodka a few strawberries and a dash of soda. If you haven’t made cordial before it’s really easy and think how great it’ll be to bottle all those summer memories.
- 900g Rhubarb
- 390mls water
- 2 tsp Vanilla paste
- 3 Star anise
- 280g caster sugar
- Chop the rhubarb into roughly equal pieces about 4 cm and add to a large pan with the water, vanilla paste and star anise.
- Place on a medium heat and bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the rhubarb is completely soft and falling apart. Skim the surface to keep the cordial clear.
- Line a colander with a clean muslin or tea towel and strain the juice into a bowl or jug, leave the rhubarb juice to drain through into the jug or bowl for about 30 minutes. You can twist the cloth and squeeze the juice out, but the resulting cordial will be a little cloudy. It doesn't affect the flavour.
- Put the juice into a clean pan and add the sugar. Place on a medium heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and then pour into sterilised bottles. Fill right to the top and seal immediately.
- Keep in the fridge and consume within 6 weeks or freeze in ice cube trays.