The southeastern United States’ native passion fruit (Passiflora incarnata) is exquisitely delicious. Find out how to turn this tropical-flavored fruit into a lightly fermented, sparkling cordial.
If you live in the eastern half of the United States — from Texas eastward and from the Great Lakes southward — you’ve probably seen the large, ornate purple flowers of passion fruit vines growing in the wild. If you’re like us, you even grew up eating passion fruit in late summer through early fall, or having “maypop” fights with your friends.
“Maypops” are a colloquial name for the fruit, and they do indeed “pop” when they hit your body with enough velocity. Here in South Carolina, we didn’t have many opportunities for snowball fights, so we had to make do.
When perfectly ripe, the interior passion fruit pulp surrounding the seeds takes on a slightly yellow hue and is absolutely divine. Ripe native passion fruit tastes tangy, sweet, and tropical. There’s no fruit to really compare them to flavor-wise; you just have to try them.
If we’ve peaked your interest, we’d highly encourage you to also read our article: Native passion fruit (Passiflora incarnata): how to find, ID, grow, and eat.
How do you eat native passion fruit?
If you’re new to native passion fruits, you might be wondering what you can do or make with them. First, note that the skins are inedible. They won’t hurt you, they’re just papery and tasteless.
The magic is inside. The pulp around the seeds is where all the flavor is in a native passion fruit. The small hard seeds are technically edible too, and virtually impossible to separate from the pulp without cooking and straining.
So when you eat a raw native passion fruit, your best bet is to just suck on the pulp and swallow it whole, seeds and all.
What can you make with native passion fruit?
We don’t just forage native passion fruit, we also cultivate it in our gardens. That means we end up with way more fruit than we can eat, so we have to figure out recipes for long-term storage.
In the kitchen, passion fruit lends itself beautifully to sweet treats; think: jelly, jello, sorbet, ice cream, etc. If you happen to have ripe passion fruits available in late summer when native pawpaw fruits are ripe, we’d highly suggest you try our pawpaw passion fruit sorbet recipe. You’ll thank us if you do!
For most passion fruit recipes, you’ll want to cook the fruit with a bit of water, then strain out the seeds. However, one of the best and easiest passion fruit recipes we’ve come up with is sparkling passion fruit cordial, a sweet, lightly fermented effervescent drink that really showcases the extraordinary flavor of the fruit.
No cooking involved, and you can leave the seeds in until the very end of the process…
Important tips for making sparkling passion fruit cordial with Meyer lemons
1. Fermentation time
Our passionfruit cordial recipe requires a simple ~one week fermentation process that utilizes the natural beneficial lactic acid bacteria (LAB) on the fruit combined with native yeasts.
The added sugar feeds the microbes, accelerating the fermentation process and boosting the flavor. By the end of the fermentation period, a significant percentage of the sugar has been digested and you’re left with a very slightly alcoholic (maybe ~2% ABV) beverage that’s rendered bubbly/effervescent via the C02 produced by the microbes.
When is your passion fruit cordial done fermenting? Probably between Day 5 – 8, but it’s sort of like Goldilocks knowing the right temperature of porridge: it’s up to your flavor preferences.
Taste a small amount of cordial each time you stir it. Within a few days, you’ll notice the sweetness starting to decline as interesting, nuanced flavors and effervescence emerge. Wait too long and funky, off-flavors will emerge.
When your passion fruit cordial is done, strain the liquid, jar or bottle it, and put it in your fridge. The cold temperatures will slow microbial activity to a crawl, arresting the fermentation process. The cordial will last for many months in the fridge, giving you plenty of time to enjoy it.
2. Lemon zest and juice
To bump up the acidity levels and counterbalance the sweetness of your passion fruit cordial, we recommend adding Meyer lemon zest and juice. (Here’s how to grow your own organic Meyer lemons and other citrus in non-tropical climate zones.)
If you can’t get organic lemons, skip the zest and just use the juice.
3. Temperature considerations
When making this native passionfruit cordial, keep the mixture around room temperature, no cooler than 68°F and no warmer than 82°F (20-28°C). Too cool and you’ll slow fermentation to a crawl; too warm and you can create conditions that encourage pathogenic microorganisms and/or produce “funky” flavors.
Also, keep your passionfruit cordial out of any direct sunlight throughout the fermentation process.
4. Glass with breathable lid
During the fermentation process, we recommend using a glass jar, rather than metal or plastic to prevent off flavors of chemical leaching.
Also, use a breathable fabric like linen, cheesecloth, or paper towels tied on to the surface. This keeps fruit flies out. Plus, it allows your microbes to off-gas and breathe.
For good results, it’s essential that you vigorously stir your cordial at least twice per day. This oxygenates the mixture and helps prevent pathogenic microbes from gaining a foothold.
We stir our passion fruit cordial with a metal spoon once in the morning when we wake up and once at night before bed, for about 30 seconds each time.
Recipe: Native passion fruit sparkling cordial with Meyer lemons
Native passion fruit-Meyer lemon sparkling cordial
A delicious lightly fermented beverage made from native passion fruit (Passiflora incarnata) and Meyer lemons.
- 1 cup passion fruit pulp & seeds
- 1 cup sugar or honey *you can use a little less if you'd like
- 1/2 Meyer lemon, zest and juice (not pith)
- 3 cups water
Dissolve sugar or honey into warm water using a whisk. Let cool to room temperature. Place passion fruit pulp/seeds into a jar and muddle them with a muddler or by hand to extract the juice and break the skin surface. (If muddling by hand, wash your hands with warm soapy water first.) Add sugar water, lemon juice, and lemon zest to jar with passion fruit and stir all ingredients together. Cover with a firmly attached breathable cloth and place in a spot that receives no direct sunlight.
Vigorously stir ferment for about 30 seconds or more at least twice each day. We stir once in morning and once at night. Take a small taste each time to monitor how the flavor and fermentation process is progressing, being careful not to double dip and introduce mouth bacteria to your cordial - yucky! The mixture will decrease in sweetness over time and the flavor will become more nuanced with bubbles becoming noticeable on the tongue.
After 5-7 days (see notes above recipe card) strain, jar/bottle, and refrigerate the cordial. Immediately plant the leftover seeds in spots where you want more passion fruit vines to grow in the future!
Enjoy your finished passion fruit cordial as a probiotic digestif or aperitif, or use it as the base for one-of-a-kind adult beverages.
As mentioned previously, your finished cordial will last in the fridge for many months, so there’s no rush to drink it quickly. Even though refrigerating it puts the microbes to sleep, the fermentation does continue at a drastically slowed pace, so you’ll notice the flavor continue to evolve (and become less sweet) with time.
Get more passionate about passion fruit with these articles:
- How to find, ID, grow, and eat native passion fruit
- How to grow fruit year round in your garden
- Gulf fritillary butterflies and their host plants, native passion fruit
- Recipe: pawpaw passion fruit sorbet recipe