My friend L and I have been making batches of jam for a couple of summers now, but I’ll be honest: sometimes it is nice to have a recipe that does not involve expensive pectin, a truckload of sugar, and hours of stirring over the hot stove. Sometimes, you want to just put the fruit in a jar, forget about it for a few weeks, and then pull out something delicious (not to mention safe to consume). Enter the world of vinegars and cordials!
Today, I’m in the process of putting up some really phenomenal raspberry vinegar, the kind you keep in your pantry along with your other vinegars to make people think you know something about cooking. This is also the kind that might go in a stealthy, unmarked bottle, a mysterious elixir whose secret properties are known only to the alchemist in whose murky kitchen it is found. (My kitchen isn’t really murky, but I thought that was important to the metaphor.)
Fruit infused vinegars, then, basically involve taking a quantity of fruit (in the case of raspberries, about a quart) and a similar quantity of vinegar (in this case, five cups) and combining them, mashing the fruit slightly to release some of its juice; then covering the mixture tightly with plastic wrap (or a jar lid), and letting it stand in a cool, dark place for a few weeks.
I turned the jar over every couple of days to keep the vinegar and berries working. After three weeks, this particular batch seemed just right; the mixture had a robust, distinct raspberry aroma that nearly masked the vinegar scent. From there it was just a matter of straining the berries out and processing the vinegar for ten minutes in a water bath canner.
Another delicious non-jam recipe we are trying is a raspberry cordial. Similar to vinegar, this recipe asks you to combine the fruit, a bit of sugar, some vodka, and put it all in a cool, dark place for a couple of weeks. I have since strained the cordial and left it to settle, and after a week or so it can be “racked” (fancy term for siphoning off the good liquid and leaving any sediment at the bottom of the container). The cordial ought to make a delicious treat in winter, perhaps stirred into hot chocolate or reduced and drizzled over ice cream.
Or perhaps, depending on how cold, dark, snowy and long the winter becomes, we’ll just sip it straight, out of glasses.