Our family enjoyed a very fizzy Christmas this year courtesy of a fire engine red SodaStream. Ostensibly purchased as a Secret Santa gift for my husband, it has well and truly captured the imagination of my delighted teenagers. A very modern reinterpretation of the retro vintage soda syphon of my childhood. I well remember the ready supply of boxes of single use Sparklet steel gas bulbs in our kitchen pantry waiting to be screwed into our soda syphon. These have been sensibly replaced in the current reincarnation by a multi use rechargeable gas canister. So…what’s old is new again with a new generation mesmerised by the satisfying hiss of freshly carbonated water.
Whilst I love the aesthetic of this shiny, new appliance on my kitchen bench, I prefer my soda water unflavoured. The old fashioned way. Back in the day the soda syphon was considered tres chic and the height of sophistication, used by our parents when entertaining to prepare spritzers and aperitifs. On rare and very special occasions we were lucky to be allowed a glass of soda sweetened with just a little cordial.
Our brand new SodaStream has been cleverly marketed with a mind boggling array of flavours and colours. Suffice to say, my teenagers are now merrily working their way through a bumper syrup sampler pack which accompanied the purchase. Many of the flavours are nostalgically reminiscent of another long lost summer ritual of yore. The weekly delivery, by flat bed truck, of a crate of a mixed dozen of brightly coloured soft drinks to our door. A service popularly provided by any number of small, independent local bottlers; Loys, Crystal, Shelleys or Tarax spring to mind. How eagerly we awaited the arrival of those clinking glass bottles filled with exotic flavours; creaming soda, traditional orange, lemon squash, cherry cheer, lime, portobello and sarsparilla to name but a few.
This week fragrant punnets of sweet strawberries were in plentiful supply at the markets. Beautifully ripe and at their seasonal best. To me they represent the true taste of high summer, and the perfect opportunity to introduce my family to the simple delights of an old-fashioned but incredibly refreshing home-made strawberry cordial.
The recipe couldn’t be easier, involving no cooking at all. A crystal clear, cloudless cordial syrup requires just a little patience. The steeping of peak season berries in a simple sugar syrup over a minimum 24 hour period before straining and decanting into a glass bottle. I like to add a little zing to my cordial with the inclusion of both lemon and lime. Black pepper helps to intensify the flavour of strawberries, bringing out their natural sweetness.
Traditionally all cordials are made with the addition of a little citric acid to act as a preservative and enhance flavour and improve longevity. Citric acid is readily available in Australia in the baking section of supermarket shelves, but may be a little more difficult to come by in other countries. Omitting citric acid from the recipe simply means the cordial should be stored in the refrigerator and used within the week.
Those commercially available syrups might be convenient and easy to use, but nothing quite compares to the refreshing deliciousness of a home-made fruit cordial. My taste testers definitely agree.
Home-made Strawberry Cordial With Lemon and Lime
Makes two 350 ml bottles
500 g (2 punnets) strawberries, hulled & cut in half
1 small unwaxed lemon, thinly sliced
1 small unwaxed lime, thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups white sugar
2 teaspoons citric acid
1 1/2 cups water
a generous grinding of black pepper
PLACE the strawberries and lemon in a large ceramic or glass bowl with sugar, citric acid and black pepper.
BRING water to the boil and pour over strawberries, stir ring until all the sugar has dissolved. Use a clean spoon to check sweetness, add a little more sugar if required.
COVER with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours to allow the syrup to steep and flavours to infuse.
USE a clean spoon to taste the concentrate. If you prefer a more intense strawberry flavour allow to steep in the refrigerator for up to a further 24 hours before straining.
STRAIN through a cloth lined sieve and decant into sterilised bottles.
SERVE diluted to taste with still or sparkling water. For a delicious cocktail dilute with champagne or prosecco.