Bitter Orange Cordial

by Ana-Marija

If you’ve been following me on Instagram, you will have realized by now that I’m more of a plant than animal person. My windowsill is currently brimming with all kinds of succulents and similar plants able to withstand my rather random efforts at watering.

I also have a shameful confession to make. Once, while I was doing my studies in Zagreb, I left a plant locked up in my Zagreb apartment for three full months while I went home for the summer holidays. Let me repeat that: three months in a tiny apartment facing south, windows closed. Sometimes, I’d lay on the beach and wonder whether I’d find the little guy alive. And indeed I did. He (I consider this particular plant to be a male – weird, yes) was in quite a pathetic condition, but he somehow resurrected and there he is, approximately ten years after I’d gotten him as a present, on my winsowsill.

All of this goes to show that even though I am not the best of gardeners, I do like plants. Perhaps because my mother used to have a wonderful garden chock full of flowers when I was a little girl. I used to play there and pretend I was cooking with dirt and leaves while all around me, wherever I looked, there were colorful flowers and greenery. Our garden used to have only two proper trees: a palm tree which is still standing tall and a bitter orange tree, which a neighbor just cut down on a whim (it impeded the view from the house she used only a couple of weeks a year). As that was the tree which had provided me with shade to play in and with innumerable construction plans for a tree house, the 10-year-old me cried the whole afternoon when the tree disappeared so suddenly. Actually, I still miss it while climbing up the stairs to my mom’s place.

It was also the tree from which we used to pick bitter oranges which my mother would then use to make sour orange cordial. She used the technique which I described in the What’s Cooking in Dubrovnik cookbook (just a mix of orange juice and sugar), whereas here I tried another traditional way to prepare this feast for your tastebuds.

Bitter aka Seville oranges are one of the symbols of Dubrovnik – you’ll find bitter orange trees all over town – e.g. there are some in the Park next to Pile Gate – but a lot of them goes to waste because people don’t know what to do with them or if they do, they often lack the time to fiddle in the kitchen. Too bad as their bitter taste lends them a powerful special note and a level of sophistication. I got a special delivery from my friend Rea, who has a couple of trees in her garden.

As I wanted to put those to good use, at the moment I also have some fortified wine with sour oranges marinating in the darkest corenr of my cupboard, we’ll see how that goes, but I do hope that I’ve got myself (and Rea) some nice alcohol for the hot summer days ahead.

As far as this cordial is concerned, there’s not much work involved, take a look below, in the meantime, I’ll be sipping mine while the little one is asleep.


  • 1 l water
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 500 ml bitter orange juice

Make a simple syrup by combining water and sugar in a pot and cook until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup cook for 5 mire minutes and then remove from the eat and let cool.

Add the squeezed bitter orange juice to the syrup (you can leave some pulp in the juice if you like it that way, no need to strain), mix thoroughly and pour into sterilized bottles/jars.

Keep in the fridge (the cordial can keep for quite a long time due to the high sugar content and the sterilization process.)

To serve, mix some cordial with water and if desired, add some ice. You can also use it as sweetener for your tea.

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Roma Motha-Tihveräinen 18/02/2018 - 8:40

Love your English foodblog and consider me a keen fan from this moment! Enjoyed reading the ’behind the scenes’ story about the bitter orange tree! Thankyou!

admin 18/02/2018 - 20:34

Dear Roma, such a nice surprise to find your comment here! Believe it or not, I was just thinking about you today as I went to pick up some groceries for my mother. Glad you enjoyed the little sotry, I’ll try to keep them coming at a regular pace. Thank you and keep in touch <3

What to sip this summer: Vin d'orange - Ana-Marija Bujić 30/05/2018 - 10:40

[…] or cordial, this is pretty much what it boils down to when deciding what to do with bitter oranges. However, […]


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