This is one of those recipes that until you’ve made it once, you wonder why you need it. And after you’ve made it, you wonder how you can do without it!
Shrubs are basically fruit syrups, made with fresh berries or stone fruit, vinegar and sugar. This is a perfect time to use those not so perfect berries, slightly misshapen orbs, or pieces of fruit where you’ve cut off the spoiled bits. Once they’ve soaked in vinegar for a few days to a couple of weeks, sugar is added and it’s all turned into an amazing syrup that you can add to cocktails, marinades for meat, even salad dressings or dessert fruit sauces. They are that versatile! This is a great way to preserve what is in season, even if you aren’t up to the whole canning and preserving process with a whole tray of berries etc.
“The word “shrub” is comes from the Arabic sharbah, which means “a drink.” (“Sherbet” and “syrup” also come from this Arabic root.) …They have a long history stretching back to the Babylonians (who added date vinegar to water to make it safe to drink), and the Romans (who mixed vinegar and water to make a beverage called posca). Colonial-era sailors carried shrubs, rich with Vitamin C, aboard their boats to prevent scurvy. Shrubs also gained popularity during the Temperance movement, and many 19th- and early 20th-century housekeeping manuals contain recipes for them.” (quote from ‘The Kitchn’)
I found the original recipe at the The Kitchn website. They have a fabulous tutorial that is a great guideline to whatever you want to use. It’s the foundation or template, and the rest is up to you and your imagination 🙂
Last year I made a Cherry Shrub with black peppercorns. Cherries really lend themselves to more intense, strong spices for depth. Anything less would get lost in the earthy intense sweetness of cherries. This year I decided to try out juniper berries and whole allspice. This would give the final syrup a slightly exotic and savoury touch. Disclaimer: whether you are using a cherry pitter, or just cutting them in a half and removing the pit, be prepared with a good apron, and consider doing the job inside a plastic bag or something. Despite your best efforts, your hands will end up looking like the prime suspect in a criminal case.
I’ve already used this syrup as a base for a cherry compote over chocolate biscuits and whipped ricotta. Kinda going for a Black Forest gateau feeling there! Jim loved it. So I will definitely use this method again, whether it is with chocolate crepes, or cake etc. And for an evening aperitif, add some to your bourbon, and you will be very happy!
So, cherries are still in season as I write this quick blog post. And all sorts of other berries are in abundance at the farmers markets. Pick a berry or cherry at make a shrub. It will keep for months in the fridge. And then come October when you add a touch to an Autumn cocktail, you will be reminded of Summer! Next Spring I’m making a rhubarb shrub (can’t believe I’m giddy NOW for next year’s rhubarb season!) Come Autumn I want to try one with pears- how wonderful this would be in drinks, or over crepes, or as a syrup for cakes etc. And of course an Autumn salad would be an amazing way to showcase a pear shrub.
How’s your summer going? Or winter, if you are south of the equator. I hope you have more lovely and happy days than not. We’ve had a tumultuous summer weather wise, but it seems like we are getting the heat finally. Usually we have dealt with hot, hazy, humid days by now, forcing everyone to stay inside close to their air conditioners. But that hasn’t been the case thus far. Now watch, it will all change next week, because I wrote this down!!
I’m sharing this recipe since some of you on Instagram have asked for it. And I’m so happy to do so. If you ever have any requests, please feel free to drop me a line- I’m here for you!! In this case, I’m sharing the step by step tutorial from The Kitchn. But feel free to check out the original here.
A fruit syrup, preserved with vinegar and mixed with water or alcohol to make a tangy, refreshing beverage. An old-fashioned favorite, shrubs have steadily made a comeback in the last several years — especially on cocktail menus.
- 2 cups fruit, in this case cherries , cleaned, peeled, seeded, and chopped (if necessary)
- 2 cups vinegar
- 1 tbsp whole juniper berries lightly cracked by pressing on them with the bottom of a jar (but don't pulverize them)
- 1 tbsp whole allspice lightly cracked by pressing on them with the bottom of a jar (but don't pulverize them) Can be replaced with black peppercorns
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar
Sterilize the container: Wash the canning jar in hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly. Submerge in a pot of warm water to cover by 1 to 2 inches, bring to a boil, and boil for 10 minutes. For the lid or cap, wash it in hot, soapy water; rinse well; and scald in boiling water.
Add the fruit: Carefully remove the jar from the water using canning jar lifters or tongs and place on the counter. Transfer the prepared fruit in the container. Add the juniper berries and allspice.
Add the vinegar: Place the vinegar in a saucepan and heat to just below the boiling point, or at least 190°F. Pour the vinegar over the fruit, leaving at least 1/4-inch headspace in the jar. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp cloth, and cap tightly.
Let it stand: Let the vinegar cool completely and then store the jar in a cool, dark place, such as a cupboard or the refrigerator. Let it stand at least 24 hours and up to 4 weeks until the desired flavor is reached.
Strain it: Strain the fruit from the vinegar through a damp cheesecloth or coffee filter. Do this at least once, or repeat as desired until the vinegar shows no cloudiness. Discard the fruit or save it for another purpose (it's often delicious for use in chutneys).
Add the sugar: Place the fruit-infused vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a clean, sterilized container (use the original mason jar or other bottles; see step 1 for sterilization procedure) and cap tightly.
Store: Store the shrub syrup in the refrigerator. Tightly sealed, it can last for up to 6 months. Taste before using to make sure the flavor is still good. Discard immediately if it has mold or any signs of fermentation, such as bubbling, cloudiness, or sliminess.
Serve: To serve, mix 1 tablespoon shrub syrup into a glass of still or sparkling water, or even champagne. Taste and add more syrup, if desired. Shrub syrups may also be used as cocktail mixers, in salad dressings, and more.
Quart-sized canning jar or other glass container with a lid or cap
Deep pot Measuring cups (liquid and dry)
Funnels (useful, but not required)
Clean kitchen cloth or paper towel
Fine cheesecloth or coffee filter
Berries are perhaps the finest fruit for shrubs, but cherries, peaches, plums, pears, and other fruits may be used. They should be ripe and sweet, but they do not need to be perfect; this is a great opportunity to use farmers market "seconds" and any fruit that is abundantly in season. Fruit should be thoroughly washed and may be peeled, chopped, or lightly crushed to shorten the infusing process. Ginger, citrus peel, or even peppercorns may also be added for flavor.
Any vinegar may be used, as long as it is labeled as having at least 5 percent acidity. Distilled white vinegar has a clear, sharp flavor; apple cider vinegar tends to be milder with a fruity flavor; and wine vinegars, while more expensive, often provide a superior smooth flavor. Balsamic vinegar is delicious with cherries and strawberries.
Making Shrubs Safely
Because vinegar is high in acid, it does not support the growth of the bacteria that produces botulism. However, some vinegars may support the growth of other harmful bacteria, so cleanliness and proper storage is important.