Vintage quince cordial – also referred to as liqueur, brandy and ratafia – offers a means of preserving fresh in season quinces for later seasons in brandy with spices. I have created two spice mixes for this vintage quince cordial recipe. One spice mix is earthy featuring Australian indigenous spices wattleseed, strawberry gum, lemon myrtle, pepper berries, along with coriander, cinnamon and allspice. The other spice mix is simpler and has a fresh flavour including ginger, rose petals and coriander seeds.
It is quince season here now and the quinces are plentiful, good quality and cheap. I have posted this recipe now, although the cordial is still in the process of infusing – so you can join me in my quince preserving flavour pairing experiment. I will update the post on vintage quince cordial once the 2 batches of quince cordial are complete in 4-6 weeks, one of them has been infusing for 2 weeks already. I have tasted the one with the earthy wattleseed spice mix and it is delicious so I’m sure the results will be worth the wait.
Making vintage quince cordial for use in cocktails is easy but does take some time for the fruit and spices to infuse with the brandy. Cocktails calling for brandy such as the Japanese cocktail, the Hoop la!, Brandy fix and Brandy crusta can all be made using this brandy based vintage quince cordial which will add a quince and spice flavour to cocktails.
Cordial recipes are commonplace within Victorian house keeping and recipe or receipt books indicating that the practice of making cordials was a part of everyday life. I was inspired by the recipe of Salpice Barue (1836) in her Domestic French Cookery – it is a simple and elegant recipe that features, quince juice extracted from grated quinces, sugar, spices and brandy. I have been influenced in my method for making quince brandy by Paul Clarke’s (2018) process which he discusses in Serious Eats – he leaves out the sugar from the recipe and infuses the whole grated quinces rather than only the quince juice. It’s my hope that offering this vintage quince cordial recipe with a modern and local Australian flavour with local organic quinces, Australian indigenous spices in one mix and ginger, rose and coriander in the other, offers a renewed interest in this preserving practice and the vintage cocktails that can be made with the vintage quince cordial.
What is a vintage cordial?
A cordial also referred to as a liqueur, brandy or ratafia was a means of preserving in season fruit such as quinces, lemons, oranges, peaches or raspberries in brandy with sugar, spices and in some cases nuts or seeds. A vintage cordial is an alcoholic form of cordial, or liqueur, a concentrated essence that is flavoured with preserved fruit, spices, sugar, nuts or seeds and then employed as a drink by itself or in cocktails. Vintage cordial was alcoholic, unlike sugary modern concentrated cordial this was a sophisticated flavoured brandy.
Quince flavour pairings: Vintage quince cordial: 2 ways- Earthy wattleseed, Fresh ginger rose
In finding flavour pairings for quince I referred to Niki Segnit (2010: 1622-3) in The Flavour Thesaurus in which she provides a beautiful description of the flavour and aroma of quince as characterised by rose and fruity notes:
“Quince is famous for its heavy, sensual perfume…Quince’s aroma is a combination of apple, pear, rose, honey, with a musky, topical depth…Be sure to include the skin, where most of the flavour compounds are concentrated.”
I also referred to vintage recipes for quince cordial and quince liqueur which pair quince with brandy and spices such as coriander, cinnamon and cloves such as the recipes of Salpice Barue (1836) in her Domestic French Cookery and Eliza Leslie (1840) in her Directions for cookery in its various branches Jerry Thomas (1862) in his Bar-tender’s Guide and William Terrington (1869) in his Cooling cups and dainty drinks.
Mix 1: Earthy wattleseed: For the first spice mix I have selected complementary spices with Niki Segnit’s (2010) description in mind, including Australian indigenous wattleseed which has a chocolate toasted nutty coffee flavour, ambrosial strawberry gum and piquant lemon myrtle and sweetness of cinnamon myrtle and allspice, heat of pepper berries and zesty coriander seed.
Mix 2: Fresh ginger rose: For the second spice mix I was led by the fragrance of the quinces which do have a rose like floral smell that I think would pair well with rose petals and ginger and following Jerry Thomas (1862) recipe for Quince liqueur in his Bar-tender’s Guide I have added the brightness and zest of coriander to this mix.
How to make vintage quince cordial
I first stumbled upon a recipe for quince liqueur in Jerry Thomas’ (1862: 219) Bar-tender’s Guide where it is described:
“This is a delightful liqueur and can be relied upon, as it is in the possession of a lady who is famous for concocting delicious potations.”
When I saw the first quinces yellow-green and covered in downy grey at the market, I remembered the recipe and started researching other vintage and modern recipes for quince cordial, liqueur, brandy or ratafia. Jerry Thomas (1862) uses bitter almonds in his recipe and I found out it’s possible to substitute apricot kernels for these as they are not available as poisonous. It not being the right season for apricots I decided simply to add a spice mix following the vintage quince cordial recipes I had found in Victorian era household and cookery books such as that of Salpice Barue (1836) in her Domestic French Cookery which did not include the bitter almonds.
Vintage quince cordial recipes such as those of Salpice Barue (1836) in Domestic French Cookery and Eliza Leslie (1840) in Directions for cookery in its various branches grate the quinces and then allow them to sit overnight before straining off the juice and adding sugar, spices and brandy – this mixture is then allowed to infuse for from 2 to 6 months. Salpice Barue (1836) writes:
“This cordial improves by age, and is excellent.’
Jerry Thomas (1862: 219) in his Bar-tender’s Guide employs a similar method but calls for a timing of 2 weeks before decanting his quince liqueur.
Paul Clarke (2018) writing for Serious Eats follows a similar method although he leaves out the sugar and allows the whole grated quinces and whole spices to remain submerged in the brandy in a preserving jar in a cool dark place and recommends infusing quince liqueur for a minimum of 6 weeks and up to a year before decanting.
How is this recipe for Vintage Quince Cordial: 2 ways – wattleseed, ginger rose different?
Inspiration for the method – I was inspired by the simplicity and elegance of Salpice Barue’s (1836) recipe in her Domestic French Cookery but have modified this with Paul Clarke’s (2018) method as described in Serious Eats for cold infusion with whole grated quinces and spices without the sugar covered with brandy in a preserving jar in a cool dark place. I shake the contents of the jar every so often to encourage even distribution of the brandy throughout the mix. I tasted the first batch with Earthy wattleseed spice mix after 2 weeks and it is delicious.
Flavour pairing – The flavour pairing and spice mixes for Vintage Quince Cordial: 2 ways – Earthy wattleseed, Fresh ginger, rose are my own contribution informed by my reading of the vintage recipes and the spices they call for such as cinnamon, cloves, mace, coriander and The Flavour Thesaurus description of the aroma of quinces. I have explored the aroma of quince from experience and from Segnit’s (2010) beautiful description and paired to complement the floral and fruity aroma and flavour with chocolatey, earthy wattleseed blended with strawberry gum, cinnamon myrtle, lemon verbena, pepper berries, allspice, coriander; and a simpler blend fresher flavoured blend of fresh ginger, rose and coriander.
Small batch vintage cordial sampler – I have made small batches of vintage quince cordial as a sampler rather than the larger quantities required in the vintage recipes or in Paul Clarke’s recipe – enough for one quince per batch – as the quinces I had access to were on the large side. I believe that vintage recipes are sometimes best approached as a sort of experiment that you can try out on a small scale before committing to a larger production and I have followed this method with my posts on punch and posset as a way into these wonderful vintage recipes that is more accessible offering a taste of the past in the present.
Tips for making vintage quince cordial
Organic quince to best use the flavourful skin – I chose to use quality local organic quinces that were yellow and ripe to make this vintage quince cordial recipe as the skin of the quince contains a large part of the flavour so it is important to include the skin in the infusion. Remove the downy grey fluff by gently rubbing the quince and wash the skin well before grating.
Advance preparation – Quinces oxidise or turn brown when exposed to air quite quickly, so I recommend preparing your spices, brandy and jars in advance and grate the quince last, so that you are promptly able to submerge it in the brandy. Quinces also bruise quite easily so handle them gently to avoid this.
Measures – The brandy measure given here is an estimate the rule of thumb here is that the grated quince and spices need to be submerged beneath the brandy in order to preserve them in the alcohol and allow the flavours to infuse. You may need slightly more brandy depending on the size of your quince and how compacted your jar contents are.
Stamping down and shaking during infusion – I employed my cabbage stamper to stamp down the grated quince before adding the brandy in a larger size preserving jar to allow space for this process and a little head room to allow shaking. Gently shaking the contents of the jar during the infusion process allows for even distribution of the brandy throughout. Ideally all surfaces should contact the brandy. You want to stamp down the mix but not too much because the brandy still needs to penetrate each surface.
Straining and decanting – Use a cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer to strain the brandy and a fine pouring jug or funnel to decant into a clean container or brandy decanter.
How can you use vintage quince cordial in cocktails?
Vintage quince cordial can be used in cocktail recipes calling for Brandy. There are many vintage cocktail recipes that call for Brandy – using a quince cordial preserved with brandy and flavoured with spices will add a quince and spice flavour punch to vintage cocktails such as Harry Craddock’s (1930) Hoop la! in The Savoy Cocktail Book, and Jerry Thomas’ (1862) Japanese cocktail, Brandy julep and Brandy fix or Brandy crusta in his Bar-tender’s Guide. Quince offers a delicate floral and fruity flavour that I have paired with a complex earthy wattleseed spice blend and a fresher, zestier blend of ginger, rose petals and coriander. Vintage quince cordial will afford a depth and complexity of flavour not possible with brandy alone allowing for interesting new variations in vintage cocktails calling for brandy. I’ve also been making quince pickles so I’m imagining a quince brandy sour using the quince cordial and a souring element made from pickle brine.
Vintage quince cordial sampler: Seasonal flavour pairing experiment
I hope that you are inspired to join me in this vintage quince cordial sampler and to create your own flavour pairing experiments based on what your experience of the aroma and flavour of quince are and your feeling as to what would taste well with this. You will find my suggestions for two spice blends below in the recipe one complex and earthy with Australian indigenous wattleseed blended with strawberry gum, cinnamon myrtle, lemon verbena, pepper berries, allspice, coriander; and the other simpler and fresher with fresh ginger, dried rose petals and coriander seeds.
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Vintage Quince Cordial: 2 ways - Earthy wattleseed, Fresh ginger, rosePrint Recipe
- Earthy wattleseed spice mix: 1 large ripe quince, washed, cored and grated, include the skin as there is much flavour in the skin
- 1 teaspoon wattleseed
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon strawberry gum
- 1 lemon verbena leaf
- 2 pepper berries
- 175ml brandy – enough to submerge the grated quince and spices completely
- Fresh rose, ginger spice mix: 1 large ripe quince, washed, cored and grated, include the skin as there is much flavour in the skin
- 2 teaspoons dried rose petals
- 1 tablespoon unpeeled, washed ginger, grated
- 175ml brandy – enough to submerge the grated quince and spices completely
Sterilise 2 larger style 750ml preserving jars – there will be some head room – see Resources
Measure the spices for the earthy wattleseed and fresh rose, ginger spice mixes
Prepare the grated ginger for the fresh spice mix
Prepare 2 measures of brandy 175ml – so this is to hand, with extra available in case it is needed to submerge the quince mixture
Rub the downy grey fluff from the quinces, wash the quinces well and core them, grate them finely including the skin
Pack your jars with the grated quince and spices
Press down the mix firmly with a muddling stick or cabbage stamper
Pour in the brandy to cover the grated quince and spices
Seal with a clean lid
Keep in a cool, dark place for 6 weeks, shaking every other day to evenly infuse the mixture
Strain out the spices and quince using a cheesecloth over a wire mesh strainer
Decant into a clean glass jar or bottle using a funnel or fine pouring jug
Enjoy in brandy cocktails
Salpice Barue (1836, 2016 reprint). Domestic French Cookery(Annotated): French Cooking Carey & Hart: Pennsylvania.
Harry Craddock (1930, 2018 Dover reprint). Savoy Cocktail BookDover: New York. Constable: London.
Eliza Leslie. (1840). Directions for Cookery, in its Various Branches
Niki Segnit (2010). The Flavor Thesaurus: A Compendium of Pairings, Recipes and Ideas for the Creative Cook Bloomsbury: London, Berlin, New York.
William Terrington (1869, 2017 reprint). Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks Routledge: London & New York, reprint by Hard Press: Miami.
Jerry Thomas (1862, 2018 reprint). The Bartender's Guide: Bon-Vivant's Companion Dick & Fitzgerald: New York, reprint by Thomas Majhen.
Quince cordial, liqueur, ratafia & brandy recipes
Paul Clarke (2008). MxMO: Make your own. (Quince Ratafia recipe). In The Cocktail Chronicles.
Paul Clarke (2009, updated 2018). Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: How to make quince brandy. In Serious Eats.
Paul Clarke (2009, updated 2018). Quince brandy recipe. In Serious Eats.
Brandon Matzek. Homemade apple and quince liqueur. In Imbibe: Liquid Culture.