Sydney has just suffered its worst heatwave since records began – a week of hot and humid weather culminated in three days of 40°+ temperatures across the city (for those not on the celsius scale 40°C is equivalent to 104° fahrenheit).
In Penrith, the official temperature peaked at 46.9°C (116.4°F) but in the bitumen heat traps of a modern city, temperatures soared to over 50°C. For three days, we cooked, flying foxes fell from the sky and died en masse, koalas fell out of trees and people were putting ice out in bowls for the wildlife to drink. Australia was officially the hottest place on the planet. ‘Sydney is hotter than Death Valley’ people tweeted… our green harbour city was hotter than the desert valley of death.
Like a lot of families, we spent the most of the days bunkered down, curtains drawn, fans on – with excursions to the local shopping centre to bask in the air-conditioning. On Saturday, I went to my local library to work – I arrived just after opening at 9.30am and when I left mid-afternoon, the library looked like a refugee centre – all the seats were taken, people were sitting on the floor resting against all the available wall space. Elderly couples stuck like glue to the comfy armchairs because once they got up, the chairs were snapped up by the endless flow of heat refugees.
It could have been worst. Three days of catastrophic fire threat with fires all around the state but, surprisingly, no major fires in the Blue Mountains. That was something to be thankful for – a fire in the mountains or northern suburbs would have engulfed the city in ash and smoke, along with the heat – truly ‘Apocalypse Now’ territory. And around three o’clock on Sunday, the cool change came through and I felt like dancing in the street. I flung open the windows and doors of the house and let the cool air wash through. It was such a relief.
During the week before the worst of the heat hit, I made this lime cordial. At the end of last summer, I bought a muddler and I’ve been making lime and bitters ever since, simply by squashing two lime quarters in the bottom of a glass and adding soda, bitters and ice. But when the catastrophic heat hits, a bit of sweetness really lifts the spirits and this lime cordial really ups the ante on the before dinner mocktail. I love my muddler and for Christmas this year, I gave a few to family and friends as presents. They were a massive hit. On Christmas Day, we were muddling up all kinds of wonderful combinations – lime and mango, watermelon and mint, along with pomegranate mojitos. Lime cordial makes an excellent sugar syrup for all kinds of mocktail mix ups.
This recipe is a master recipe and you can use other citrus fruit but lime cordial is the taste of summers’ past for me. When we were kids, my mum would buy the small bottles of Cottee’s cordial concentrate and mix them in 2 litre flagons to make a cheap cordial that was considered good enough for the kids. The el cheapo lime cordial was a lurid dark green and tasted pretty awful but, as always in the olden days, the adults didn’t drink the cheap rubbish stuff – they had the special Schweppes lime cordial and, occasionally, we kids would be allowed to partake of this special adult treat. Homemade lime cordial is even better though, plus it’s super easy to make and will give your soda, lime and bitters a sophisticated edge that’s even better than Schweppes.
Matt Preston’s Lime Cordial
Adapted from Taste.
- 10 limes (oranges, lemons, blood oranges or a combination of citrus can also be used)
- 6 cups of sugar
- 4 cups of water
- 2 teaspoons citric acid* (see note below)
- 1 tablespoon tartaric acid*
- Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest from five of the limes and juice all of the limes.
- Bring water to boil with lime zest.
- Add sugar citric acid and tartaric acid, stir until sugar is dissolved and simmer for three minutes.
- Remove from heat and add lime juice. Pour juice through a fine sieve, if you want a clearer, less cloudy cordial.
- Bring to a boil and simmer for another two minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Remove zest and pour into sterilised bottles.* Be warned: this makes quite a bit of lime cordial (about 1.75 litres), so make sure you have enough bottles sterilised. Old whiskey or liquor bottles are good, but I used some old Soda Press cordial bottles that I recycled.
*Citric acid and tartaric acid can be found in most supermarkets, generally next to the baking powder and bicarbonate soda in the baking section. Don’t confuse tartaric acid with cream of tartar – they are not the same and can’t be substituted for each other.
*I sterilise bottles by washing them well and placing them in an oven on 120°C for 20 minutes.