Friday, January 18, 2013

Refreshments for the heat

Today is the 10th anniversary of the devastating Canberra bushfires, that killed 4 people and destroyed around 500 homes.  The heat and dryness of the past couple of weeks has lead to conditions almost identical to those in the lead up to the 2003 fires.  Understandably some people are very nervous.  Today is another hot day with the temperature predicted to reach 39oC (102oF).  Last week I heard numerous helicopters overhead but none the past few days so I'm taking that as a good sign (they are spotting for fires in the National Parks around Canberra, there have been several small fires near Canberra and the smell of smoke was in the air).

I'm beating the heat today by staying inside with the curtains closed against the sun and making rhubarb cordial so I can have delicious drinks later this afternoon.  While thinking about writing this post I searched 'cordial' on the internet and was quite surprised to find that what I call cordial (as an Australian) isn't what other parts of the world call it!  So to clarify, this rhubarb cordial is a non-alcoholic fruit based drink mixer - it is best mixed with still water, soda water or tonic water.  My personal preference is cold soda water (and maybe a splash of Bacardi or vodka!).

We have three rhubarb plants but I must admit that while I don't mind rhubarb, I'm not a huge fan.  My favourite way to eat it is in a rhubarb and apple crumble, which is best eaten in winter - when the rhubarb is dormant!  So last summer we started making rhubarb cordial.  It is fruity and a little bit tart, so it is quite a refreshing way to use our crop.  This recipe is one I created by mixing up a few recipes I read on the internet and in magazines.

I'm not sure what variety of rhubarb we have, but it is quite green.

400g rhubarb stems, chopped into about 3-4cm pieces
300g caster sugar
1 lemon, juiced
1 litre water
1 tablespoon citric acid
 (Double the recipe if you have lots of rhubarb)

Place the chopped rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice, lemon halves and water into a saucepan.  Stir to combine.
Place saucepan on medium heat, without lid.  Stir occasionally to ensure the sugar dissolves.  When mix comes to the boil, reduce heat to a simmer.  Continue to stir occasionally.  Simmer until the rhubarb is mushy.
Remove from heat and leave to cool for a couple of hours.
Push the mix through a strainer to separate the stewed rhubarb from the liquid.
Put stewed rhubarb into a clean container, remove lemon halves and place into fridge, eat within 3 days.
Whisk citric acid into the cordial.  Pour into sterilized jars or bottles.  Place cordial into fridge and drink within 2-3 weeks.  Makes about 1 litre of cordial.

This is not as concentrated as shop bought cordials, so you dilute it 1 part cordial to about 3-4 parts water.  It is also quite cloudy from the sediment of the stewed rhubarb.  I have tried a recipe where you didn't cook the rhubarb, just let it sit for 24 hours.  That recipe gave a clear cordial, but I didn't think it was as tasty.

You can eat the leftover stewed rhubarb, it is quite nice with a dollop of thick cream!  Just remember a lot of the rhubarb flavour is now in the cordial, so it is a muted rhubarb taste.

Everything in the saucepan, ready to cook.
 Mushy rhubarb!
 Freshly bottled rhubarb cordial ready to go into the fridge.


  1. This looks delicious, I'm a huge rhubarb fan but my boyfriend's not so keen, maybe this could convince him - I love the idea of a vodka cocktail with added rhubarb cordial. You do need something tart and refreshing to drink when it's super-hot!

    1. If your boyfriend likes raspberry you could try enticing him by adding some raspberry cordial to the drink, it adds a delicious extra flavour (and a bit of sweet to counter the tart rhubarb!).