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This year I have been making cordials and squashes – I had a pleasant fantasy of being able to supply enough to for the needs of my son, nieces and nephew. In the event I have been the victim of my own success and cannot keep up with demand.

My cordial making frenzy had at its heart the recipes from the excellent River Cottage Handbook No. 2: Preserves written by Pam Corbin. The book was given to me for my birthday last summer and has been a constant source of inspiration and satisfaction. It covers all manner of preserved things from jam, jellies and chutneys to cordials and vinegars. I really cannot recommend it highly enough, I love my copy, and it is now a bit sticky & warped and has things written in the pages – a proper recipe book.

In most cases I have used Pam Corbin’s recipes as a starting point and diversified. First I made her lemon squash, then I made her suggested orange and lemon squash (`St Clements’) variation and then, emboldened by my success, I made my own invention `Citrus Squeeze’ with lemons, oranges and grapefruit; delicious!

So are cordials `herbal medicine’? While they’re certainly not medicine in the specific treatment sense I do feel they are part of herbal medicine in the wider sense that incorporating herbs into daily life helps to forge a different relationship with plants, food, health. It’s also true that if you make your own cordials or squashes you can control the ingredients; choosing organic ingredients, raw cane sugar, using no preservatives or colours etc, and they are cheap! Finally, I feel a strong link with my ancestors when making my own preserves and drinks, my recent forbears would not have found it a novel or strange occupation and in a deeper way I also feel that I am demonstrating my love for my family, as well as having the most enormous fun and almost instant satisfaction.

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