As the atmosphere kept warming up the past weeks , I’ve been in constant search of efficient refreshments. When it comes to drinks, I’m inclined to believe that water is the ultimate thirst-quenching one, so I hardly drink any actual soft. Yet, there is a special soft drink I’ve been craving last summers, resurfaced from childhood memories.
Indeed, during their hot summers, people in Central Europe typically make szörp (read “surp”) aka cordials or concentrated fruit – often berry – syrups, which they can use right away diluted with fresh water – often sparkling – or preserve to enjoy summer fruits’ flavour even into winter. Thus, this is also a good way to use up berries you would have harvested, foraged or bought in bulk.
My favorite is the red currant or (piros) ribizli cordial. To me, red currants are like pearls of condensed summer which always remind me the time when I ate them freely right from the shrubs in my grandparents’ garden, surrounded by greens and warming light. Red currants look like gems, and when perfectly ripe, they also present just the right balance between sweet and tart.
But szörp can also be made out of raspberry (málna, another favorite of mine), cherry, and even plum, to your liking ! There are basically two methods to make it : raw or cooked. Obviously we have interest in keeping the best of the nutriments of those beautiful, delightful and vitamin-loaded fruits, that’s why I’ve been keen on learning the raw version (an example of cooked one is to browse here).
But then again there is a choice to make between using or not a preservative – citric acid as it happens – which appears to be the traditional way to make raw szörp out there in Central Europe. I got the stuff from a drugstore since it’s still used in France too for making preserves, but don’t know how easy it is to get elsewhere. This added to the fact I used to be somewhat skeptical toward using such a product, I also tried out a method using lemon juice.
Of course a preserving power equal to that of citric acid would require so much lemon juice that the taste of currant would be completely overpowered, but if you take care of using it within a week – which isn’t too difficult if you don’t make dozens of bottles – the resulting szörp is entirely satisfactory. Substituting honey for sugar as sweetener seems to help enhancing the preservation time of the final product in a more natural way, but I didn’t actually try it out since the taste I knew and was looking for would have been altered. Hence it isn’t part of the methods described below, but let me know if you give it a go !
And believe me: this cordial is summer in a bottle.
Ribizliszörp, red currant cordial
For 1/2 L (1 pt) cordial & about 1.5 L (1.5 quart) drink
- 300gr red currants, rinsed, stems removed, discolored and spoiled fruits discarded
- 200 ml water
- ½ tsp (heaping) citric acid
- 1 lb sugar, more or less
Preservative-less recipe: substitute the water + citric acid above with 185ml of water + the juice of half a lemon, but proceed likewise. Remember stocking it in the fridge and using it within a week.
Place the fruits in a glass mixing bowl and puree them, using either a potato masher or a hand mixer (finer or coarser doesn’t really matter, the cordial might just be a tad thicker when the berries weren’t processed). Dilute the citric acid in the water and add it to the fruits.
Stir well, cover with a clean cloth or cling film (loosely wrapped) and set aside for 24 hour, more or less according to the room temperature. Overnight should be fine if it’s really warm: you just need the juice of the fruits separating quite obviously from the pulp.
Strain the whole through a cheesecloth or very fine sieve (I use a permanent coffee filter) and transfer the juice into a measuring cup.
Add as much sugar (in grams) as the amount (in milliliters) of juice you got. I used 450 gr sugar for 500 ml juice and it was quite enough to me, so feel free to adjust to your liking and habits.
Stir to thoroughly dissolve the sugar and so that the juice turns syrupy.
Pour into sterilized bottles and stock in the fridge (in case it looks a bit cloudy strain again and put into newly sterilized bottles). Use within a couple of weeks.
OPTIONAL PRESERVING : put the bottles/jars into a pot big enough to cover them completely with cold water, by 1 inch if possible. Bring it to the boil and keep boiling for 10mns before turning the heat off. Leave the bottles/jars in the water till it’s completely cooled down, dry them then stock in a cool and dry place for up to year.
To serve, put ½ inch of cordial into a glass and pour over chilled sparkling water or still water with ice.
Give a stir to distribute the cordial evenly, drink and enjoy !