It's cool and damp here in Orange today. We've had almost 10 days of intermittent showers, and that's great for deer farmers but terrible for cherry growers.
As the orchards of Orange rev into harvest, picking for the Christmas market, the weather is playing games but not its part. That said, the fruit is coming in steadily and despite the rain, in great condition. We've been working our way through box after box at home and have also picked up a few kilograms of second-grade fruit, still beautiful in flavour but slightly compromised by the rain. They are perfect for preserving, and all found their way into my big jam pot, with some lemon juice and vanilla, on their way to becoming one of my favourite things, cherry and vanilla cordial.
Bottled up individually, cherry and vanilla cordial makes a lovely Christmas present and is particularly good with sparkling wine or over loads of crushed ice, mineral water and even a splash of vodka. Yummo.
Cherry and Vanilla cordial
This recipe is closely based on one given by Skye Gyngell in My Favourite Ingredients. Skye is one of my favourite food writers and I look to her books often for inspiration. If you haven't come across her wonderful way with flavour, texture and colour please check her out! Makes about one litre.
1kg ripe cherries, second-grade is fine
300g caster sugar
Zest and juice of one lemon
Two vanilla pods
1 litre water
Wash the cherries and let dry in a colander. Transfer to a large preserving pot or saucepan and add the sugar, lemon juice and zest, the vanilla pods (split and seeds scraped into the mix - don't forget to put the pods in too) and the water. Stir gently and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes then let cool slightly. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve, extracting as much liquid as you can. Then divide among individual bottles, label up and give away!
Just tell the lucky recipients to keep their bottles in the fridge for up to a week (or so).