According to Jackie French, until about 100 years ago cordials were very alcoholic and were mostly used for medicinal purposes. Nowadays they are non-alcoholic, refreshing drinks which taste particularly good when made from home-grown fruit, such as lilly pillies.
Lilly pillies are Australian native trees with glossy, green leaves. They produce creamy white flowers in spring and summer, followed by attractive white, pink, magenta or purple fruit. Raw lilly pilly berries don’t taste very good, because they don’t contain much natural sugar. However, when sugar is added to the berries to make cordial, they taste delicious. Here is Jackie’s recipe for lilly pilly cordial:
2 cups lilly pillies
4 cups water
1 teaspoon tartaric acid
2 cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons
Put the lilly pillies, water, tartaric acid, sugar and lemon juice into a stainless steel saucepan. (Tip: pick the lilly pillies when they’ve just changed colour. If left to ripen for too long they will become bitter.)Boil for about 5 minutes, or until the lilly pillies are just starting to soften.Mash the fruit, then tip the mixture into a strainer and strain out the lumps.Pour the liquid into sterilised bottles.Use like ordinary cordial – put a splash in a glass and add water to taste.
Note: The cordial should keep for at least a fortnight, and possibly longer, but remember it doesn’t contain preservatives, so it won’t last long. Keep it in a cool place – in the fridge in very hot climates, or on a cool bench in more temperate places. If it starts to bubble, turn cloudy, or looks or smells in any way odd or different from yesterday – throw it out! If possible, use several small bottles rather than one or two large bottles, as the fewer times your cordial is opened, the longer it may keep. If you want to make a really big batch, it’s best to freeze it till needed.