This post comes from my friend, Miriam, a fellow West Virginian and Mountaineer. She's a fantastically creative, intelligent, beautiful mother, daughter, and domestic goddess.
We had an abundant berry harvest this summer which I took full advantage of, freezing about fifteen pounds of black raspberries and about fifty of blackberries. So, after we'd made multiple cobblers and a few batches of jam I started pondering what else I could do with this abundance of frozen fruit. Doing something involving booze just seemed to be the natural course to take!
This a recipe of my own that I partly invented and partly snagged from other sources aka random stuff on the internet. My first batch was primarily a learning experience and this is the result. This can also be done with store-bought berries and no-one will judge you for it.
I call it Lugosi's Revenge in honour of my favourite old horror star. :)
You will need:
1 750-ml bottle of decent quality unflavoured vodka
1 pint of mid-grade brandy
5-6 cups of fresh or frozen blackberries (you can replace part or all of that with black raspberries)
Two cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4'' strip of lemon zest about an inch long
Large glass bowl
A glass jar or bottle large enough to hold about three quarts with a tight-fitting lid
Two wire mesh strainers, one coarse, one fine
A couple yards of multilayer cheesecloth
Bottles to hold the finished product (I keep the empty vodka and brandy bottles for putting the cordial in)
Put the berries in a large microwave-safe bowl and add about a cup of the sugar. Heat the berries in microwave until steaming, stirring in the berries and crushing them to release the juice. (This can also be done in a saucepan as long as you're careful not to let the berries burn at all.) Strain the resulting pulpy mess and pour the syrupy juice into a medium sauce pan. Be sure to squeeze as much juice as possible from the seedy pulp that will be left behind as every bit of it will intensify the flavour of your cordial.
Put the pot of juice on very low heat, gently bring it to the lowest simmer and stir occasionally for an hour and half or however long it takes to reduce the sweetened juice to a syrup. It will black, thick, very sweet and intensely flavoured. Let it cool in the pot (it will congeal and become fairly jelly-like; good luck resisting the urge to taste it less than three times and daydream about ladling it over ice cream).
Add the vodka and brandy, stirring it about in the pot to collect all the berry flavour. Pour it all into the large jar or bottle and add the vanilla and lemon zest. Close or cover tightly and put it away in a dark, cool spot for anywhere from two to four weeks. About once a week or so swirl the contents of the bottle and put it back.
After two to four weeks you can start the straining process. You can strain the cordial as much or as little as you like. (I prefer it clearer and more filtered, my boyfriend prefers it more murky and less filtered; it's all a matter of individual taste.)
I like to pour it through the fine mesh strainer (and you will have to stop and rinse your strainer from time to time as it clogs with residual berry pulp) at least twice before starting with the cheesecloth. I've found that starting with one layer of cheesecloth and then increasing it each time you pour the cordial through results in a nice clarity. This will consume a fair bit of cheesecloth as it also will get clogged fairly quickly. However, by the time you're done, you'll have a glorious little beverage to sip on cold winter nights.
Also, it's great when added to Sprite, ginger ale, or champagne for a sweet fizzy drink with a nice berry kick to it.