Making cordials from fruits was the ultimate ‘waste not, want not’ solution for having more of a particular crop than could be eaten or kept. And still now it’s a great way to use up any fruits that are starting to go past their best.
That’s only partially the case with this cordial. Forced rhubarb – that accidental gift of delicate sweetness that we’re indebted to a misplaced bucket for – is coming into season now. It is lovely in crumbles and all the usual rhubarbness, but I think that cordial is where forced rhubarb excels. Because you don’t peel the rhubarb, its skin gives the drink a wonderfully silly bubblegum-pink colour that counteracts the bleakest of these still-winter days.
Rhubarb cordial makes a refreshing drink when mixed with sparkling water. Even more refreshing with champagne. Beyond refreshing when mixed with gin for a rhubarb gimlet.
220g caster sugar
Put it all into a large pan, bring to the boil and then turn down to a low simmer. Leave it for 20 minutes with the lid on, then turn the heat off and leave for another hour. Try to resist the temptation to lift the lid off as you want to keep all the flavours trapped inside.
Strain through a fine sieve, really mushing at the fruit to get all the juice out. You’ll end up with a lovely rhubarb puree by-product that goes very nicely indeed with ice-cream.
Pour the cordial into sterilised bottles – there will be about 1l of cordial. It will keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge.
Sometimes I like to add a hint of an extra flavour to the pot of rhubarb – any of these would work really well: two star anise; zest of an orange; a couple of sprigs of rosemary; a vanilla pod.