When the end of orange season comes, more often than not we are left with a surplus of this wonderful fruit, which is a really good position for me to be in because it forces me to do something with the extra bounty before they go bad.
Orange marmalade is great, fresh orange juice is terrific but can become overindulgent and it doesn’t keep or freeze well either, and then there are other ways to treat an orange surplus… like making cordial.
Fresh oranges start perishing from the time they are picked and if you leave them piled in a container they will soon go mouldy, attract fermentation flies, and need to be thrown out or composted. Making cordial is a good way to make a large harvest of oranges last a great deal longer.
Home-made cordial beats the commercial stuff
Home-made cordial derived from our own fruit is not only delicious, but it doesn’t contain artificial chemicals and it’s a really efficient way to extend the season by making it into a drink syrup which can last weeks. Furthermore, home-made orange cordial is nothing like the commercially made stuff. Commercial cordial (besides all the artificial preservatives and colours) is a more concentrated product and has been processed to death.
Mind you, it isn’t hard to get home-made cordial a little more concentrated as it is just a matter of simmering it longer and reducing the juice down than adding a basic sugar syrup but I prefer to make a lighter version and not cook the hell out of it. Although, this doesn't mean more cordial syrup is needed as a mixer for my home-made version compared to most commercial cordials; quite the opposite actually, as the home-made orange cordial explained in this article only needs to be mixed at a fraction of the amount most commercial cordials require.
The reason I made this splitza recipe was simply because it’s easy to do and it follows a contemporary trend of people wanting to drink water but they don’t want water to taste like water. I got the idea from those water and soda drinks, which are marketed as “low sugar” and, so called, better for us than the full-strength soft drinks or cordials. The truth is, too much sugar is not good for anyone and even this cordial has a lot of sugar; however, the key with this drink is to use it sparingly in a chilled, icy, drink so the flavour is a hint and not the hero.
In other words, this orange splitza cordial is a light drink designed to give a hint of orange flavour just to take the sometimes boring edge off water or plain soda. A bit of flavour can really pep up a drink, especially on a hot day in the garden when you take a break under a shady tree and need a good thirst quencher.
Seriously, this cordial recipe needs far less for mixing to make a glass full than the commercial varieties, Therefore, the term "use sparingly" means just colouring the bottom of the glass and that's it!
Because of how little syrup is actually used per drink (if you use this cordial as explained when mixing with water/soda) you won’t get too much of a sugar hit anyway.
Unfortunately, the use of a sweetener is unavoidable, because the main reason sugar is used in making a cordial (rather than just concentrating juice and pulp) is for preservation. Sugar is a top preserving element, without the sugar being used as a preservative in cordial the product would spoil in a matter of days. However, with sugar added (just like jams, marmalades, confectionary, etc) cordial can last a lot longer and give us the chance to enjoy that orange flavour way past the season end.
Of course, the sugar also adds sweetness and makes the product go further but I’m not trying to justify its use; moreover, I’m just trying to illustrate why sugar is used. The recipe following is almost too simple and the only other additive besides the oranges and sugar is the citric acid which is a natural element derived from oranges and lemons (citrus). Citric acid is used in this cordial recipe to help preserve and to give the cordial a slightly more tangy taste.
Orange cordial splitza recipe (makes about 3 litres)
Oranges – about 20 or so (at least enough to make 2 litres of juice)
2 x kilograms of plain sugar
2 x teaspoons of citric acid
Juice the oranges and retain 2 litres of orange juice
Pour the juice into a preserving pot bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for about 10 minutes and the juice should reduce slightly.
Add the sugar and citric acid, then cook for a further 10 or 15 minutes ensuring you stir whilst scraping the bottom regularly so the sugar fully dissolves and doesn’t burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.
Turn off heat and let rest to cool, then when cool (or just warm) strain through sieve to catch any stray seeds or large pulp sediment. Pour the orange syrup into bottles for storage in the pantry or fridge. I just normally reuse a 2 litre soda bottle (plastic) to store my cordial and it does the job. The orange splitza cordial should keep for about 4 weeks or possibly longer in the fridge.
If you want more zing then try adding two lemons to the above recipe and taste the awesomeness!
Just to reiterate, the best way to serve this orange splitza is to mix it with soda water or mineral water and just enough cordial to lightly colour the drink, oh and plenty of ice cubes too…
Home-made cordial just like they used to make it in the old days with natural home-grown fruit is a notable way to quench a thirst. It’s also economical, a good method to use up a glut of produce, and doesn’t contain any artificial, cancer causing, preservatives and colours – just sugar, a bit of citric acid, and vitamin C.
I can’t wrap this article up without paying homage to the humble orange tree, which is what makes this recipe. If I had to pick one fruit tree to grow in my yard I would select an orange tree – what a marvellous act of nature. Orange trees are exceptionally hardy and practically grow in any soil, they don’t grow too big, but they do produce lots of fruit which hold on the tree for several months. If you want a cheap, care free fruit tree, which will help strengthen your immune system all through winter then grow an orange. Read more about growing oranges here.
As a side note, did you know this year in Australia, orange farmers dumped thousands of tons of perfectly good oranges because the market price was so low it wasn't worth the transport costs to deliver them from the farm to the supermarket? Unfortunately, this horrible waste of good produce (which barely made the mainstream news) is true and another example of how the sky rocketing energy and production costs is hurting farmers and small business world wide.
A young Valencia orange tree, at my place, laden with fruit (image above)
So if you ever come across a fire sale of oranges, or grow a surplus, why not turn some into an orange splitza cordial and make yourself a refreshing, home-made drink and extend your orange season just a little longer.
Feel free to use the comment section below and have your say (no email is required). If you want to talk about this topic in more depth you can also use our forum and go to the preserving section.
Thanks for reading and thanks for your support.
Look, and see the Earth through her eyes
Mark Valencia – Editor SSM