I know that people really can’t “roll in the grave”, which is what, if it were humanly possible, my teetotaling Great Grandmother Adelaide would have been doing last night while I was bottling up and capping said spirits in the kitchen long after everyone else had begun to slumber. Maybe the fact that I waited to do this late at night, in quiet solitude means somewhere back in my ancestry, there might have been some moon shiners doing the same thing in the backwoods of northern Alabama. But wait, Great Grandmother was a teetotaler.
When I was a kid, and for a long time afterward, I thought teetotaling was spelled “teatotaling” and referred to tea-drinking folks. I mean, my Great Grandmother, Grandmother, and my parents did love their sweet iced tea. So much so, that it was our supper-time beverage my entire growing up years. Lil Sis and I didn’t figure out until we were adults and learned about the caffeine content in tea that the reason we had so much trouble falling asleep at night was because of that supper-time glass of sugar-laced iced tea. But you have to admit–there is nothing quite as refreshing as a glass of it on a hot, humid south Louisiana afternoon. But we’re talking about cordials, not tea.
You can look back and see the super-productive blackberry patch not very far from Camp Dularge where we picked buckets of berries. And you can read how Lil Sis and I made jam, preserves, dumplings, cobbler, and put 8 quarts in the freezer. But with such a bumper crop, what else could we do with these black beauties? I know! Blackberry Cordial!
As I started looking at recipes online for Blackberry Cordials, my mind wandered back to a time when Dotter was an impressionable girl, and we consumed together the “Anne of Green Gables” video set. More specifically, I was recalling the scene where Anne and her bosom buddy, Diana Barry, are playing grownups and allowed to enjoy some of Marilla’s Raspberry Cordial while she is away. You might remember this, too:
And then there was the popular TV series, “The Waltons”, featuring the Baldwin Sisters and their “Secret Recipe”, which will always remain a secret, I do believe. Whether it was shine, wine, or cordial, we may never know.
So, with all those wanderings, I decided to try two different variations of Blackberry Cordial. The first was made from crushed whole berries, water, sugar and alcohol steeped in a large glass jar in a dark place for about six weeks, strained and bottled.
Somehow, I just happened to have the prettiest light green bottles with these cute old-fashioned clip stoppers, just waiting to serve the purpose of displaying this beautiful, dark ruby red liquid. After straining through a very fine filter, you can still see a little of the sediments suspended in the cordial.
After straining the 3/4 full gallon jar, the yield was about two quarts of the pretty cordial, enough to fill these four decorator bottles and six pint jelly jars. After that, there was just enough left to fill a tiny glass, which I imbibed while making the labels later last night. It was sweet, with only a very slight hint of the alcohol. Actually, it tasted like a delightful dessert drink, and I hope whomever is graced with a gift of this will enjoy the effort put into making it!
The second recipe might be more like a wine, but I’m not sure. This one is much more cost effective, because all the recipe required was berry juice, sugar, and water and its own fermentation processes to become a cordial. The process was much more labor intensive, though, with having to crush the berries and squeeze out all the juice, and then filter into bottles to sit for about two months in a cool, dark place.
The balloons on top of the bottles indicate that fermentation is taking place, the gasses inflating the balloons. When the balloons go limp, the fermentation process is over. The liquid is then filtered into decorative bottles, placed on their sides in a dark place for a couple more months. This should be interesting, and I’ll be sure and let you know what this batch tastes like!
Before I finish this out, you need to know one more way I use these blackberries–a cure for diarrhea. Take about 1/4 cup of berries and 1/4 cup of water and bring to a boil in small pot. Cover and let steep for about an hour, then strain the juice. Dose is about 1 tablespoon for small child or 2 tablespoons for teen and adult at onset of ailment. Continue every 2-4 hours as needed. The blackberry decoction is a natural treatment with no negative side effects, which we have used for many years.
I’d like to think that my ancestors wouldn’t mind my finding yet one more purpose for the generous gift of berries Nature provided us this past spring. I’d like to think they would consider me industrious and enterprising. Once again, The Bible speaks most plainly to me on the topic–that we should do all things in moderation. With that in mind, I wish that Adelaide and I could have sat on the porch swing, spring irises and wisteria blooming all around us, and sipped a little spot of cordial, leaving the iced tea for a hot summer afternoon.