Blackberries in the Fall (recipe: Blackberry Cordial)
Blackberries are a summer crop where I live. I see them as God’s way of helping us through the miserable parts of Deep South summers. In the midst of stifling heat, oppressive humidity, mosquitoes that will tote you off, we have blackberries. Luscious, beautiful, black-purple orbs that bring delight to your lips all the way down to your toes. Blackberries that make you dream sweet dreams. Blackberries that cast magical spells on grandchildren and cause them to have an unbreakable bond with grandparents that feed them the blackberries. Oh, the wonders of blackberries. They are a gift from God, indeed.
Sometimes I long for a never-ending blackberry season. But, I suppose something that lasts continuously will start to lose some of the aura that makes it so special.
This blackberry season, we were blessed with a bumper crop from our backyard vines.
I wanted to make something I’ve never made before: Blackberry Cordial. It was a popular drink during Colonial times and is simply spiced sweetened blackberry juice with just enough brandy to make it medicinal.
Thinking of blackberries always makes me miss Granny tons and bunches. My earliest food memories involve her and blackberries. But, she would never make or drink blackberry cordial. Both she and Granddaddy were teetotalers. Now, I swear to goodness Granny used cough syrup that had more alcohol than table wine. The mess would burn the fool out of your gullet. If you started coughing around her, you better run or else you’d face the wrath of the most awful cough syrup man has ever know. It was a prescription that she got filled at Gilstrap Drug Store in Geneva, AL. I don’t know what was in it, but it packed a punch. None-the-less, she was influenced by her religious teaching that “al-ke-hall” was all bad all the time. I respected that.
So, today was the day. I made the cordial back in mid-July during the height of blackberry season . It’s now the end of September and it’s been mellowing in my pantry. The end result is purely wonderful. Spiced sweetened blackberry juice with just a touch of brandy. Just enough to make it medicinal.
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adapted from The Gift of Southern Cooking. Serve over ice as an aperitif or as an after dinner drink in a cordial glass.
yield: about 3 pints
4 cups blackberries, washed well
3 cups water
2 sticks cinnamon
1 bay leaf
4 to 5 black peppercorns
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cups brandy
Place blackberries, water, , cinnamon, bay leaf , cloves and peppercorns in a saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring often and mashing the berries.
Remove from heat and strain through cheesecloth without squeezing. The yield will be about 4 cups of blackberry juice. Stir in brown sugar while the liquid is still warm until sugar dissolves.
Let cool completely. Stir in brandy.
Sterilize jars by boiling the jars and lids for 10 minutes. Remove from water. Pour cordial into sterilized pint canning jars, screw on lids and store in cool, dark place for at least two weeks before serving.