Recipe: Sloe and cardamom cordial

PUBLISHED: 10:13 05 September 2020 | UPDATED: 14:43 10 September 2020

Sloes can be foraged in September and are lovely turned into a cordial or flavoured spirit  Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis

Sloes can be foraged in September and are lovely turned into a cordial or flavoured spirit Picture: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis


Get out into the wild foraging and make a batch of your own seasonal squash.

My annual leave last week was a bit of a washout. Besides a couple of patchy days of sun, the weather left a lot to be desired and meant (apart from a gorgeous day paddle boarding on the Norfolk Broads at Coltishall) we spent a lot of time indoors. The kids bunkered down in their rooms, and I fed my obsession for Cary Grant, wasting whole afternoons watching leading ladies swoon over his charms in everything from To Catch a Thief, to My Favourite Wife.

In between binging on black and white flicks, I did venture outside for a bit of foraging, albeit with a huge chip on my shoulder. You see, the veritable feast of blackberries that have been dangling, jewel-like, in the copse opposite my house have started to die off. There’s a few red ones left to ripen, but barely enough to warrant a pie or crumble.

The scent on the air at this time of year, I always describe as being filled with delicious decay. The over ripe, sickly sweet perfume of fleshy plums and wind fallen apples riding on the gusts of a September chill. The insidious waft of moulding late strawberries in supermarkets –they never seem to last a day in the fridge.

There’s always a longing for summer in the first week of September.

READ MORE: Make our blackberry, dark chocolate and almond cake

Coming to the rescue, on the bank holiday Monday, a friend dragged me out to show me a bumper crop of sloes growing in drifts atop the hedgerows in a field near the local rugby club. The colour of bruises, some dusted in a silvery, velvety coat, sloes herald the beginning proper of the autumn foraging season. Elderberries, hawthorns, rowan berries, rosehips, mushrooms.

Be careful when you pick them. Sloes (blackthorns or prunus spinosa by their proper name) are usually surrounded by long pointy thorns – if you think blackberries are spiky, check these out. Ideally, if you’re making flavoured gin, vodka or white rum (like my aforementioned friend who rocked up with two huge reusable Ikea sandwich bags to collect her bounty), it’s customary to leave sloes until there’s been a frost, rendering them softer and more likely to yield their sour, cherry plum juices. But a spell in the freezer overnight will do the same job.

I really don’t like gin so decided to add another cordial to this year’s growing foraged collection – lemon and elderflower, plum and tarragon, rhubarb and vanilla. Sloes are tart and mouth-puckering and a hint of cardamom softens their flavour somehow, lending a Scandi vibe to this drink. Dilute it with sparkling water, fizz or your favourite white spirit. It’s lovely drizzled over a crumble or plain vanilla sponge cake with cream too.

Sloe and cardamom cordial

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(makes just over 1lt)


1kg freshly picked sloes, washed

1lt water

Juice one lemon

10 green cardamom pods (bashed but not crushed)

60g sugar per 100ml liquid (allow about 700g white granulated sugar)

5 extra cardamom pods, lightly bashed

1 1lt sterilised bottle (and hot at the point of bottling)


Place the sloes, water, lemon juice and bashed cardamom pods in a large pan. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Mashing to soften. Leave to steep for up to one hour.

Pass through a fine sieve or jelly cloth and return to the heat with the sugar. Bring to the boil once more, allow to cool slightly. Pour into a heatproof jug or bowl with a lip and decant into your hot, sterilised bottle. Add the 5 extra cardamom pods.

Store somewhere cool.

Wonderful with fizzy water, drizzled over desserts, or dashed into fizz, gin, white rum or vodka.

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