Have you ever tried a shrub? Not the woody plant shrub, but the “drinking vinegar” shrub?
A shrub is a drink made of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Some shrubs also contain alcohol. The sugar, acid, and optional alcohol preserve the fruit, which was one of the original purposes of a shrub. Prior to the invention of refrigeration, a shrub syrup was a means of preserving fruit long past its picking. Shrubs were popular in Colonial America, mixed with cool water to provide a pick-me-up on hot summer days (source: Serious Eats).
I first saw shrub on the menu at Astoria’s The Queens Kickshaw about a year ago, and I finally went back to taste one.
After an exciting bike ride from West Harlem through Randall’s Island and finally into Astoria, I took a pit stop at The Queens Kickshaw to scarf down a grilled cheese and a strawberry shrub (they also have golden raisin shrub available now). The shrub gets served with seltzer, and tastes like a homemade vinegary soda.
To make a shrub, you need a hefty amount of sugar, but you also need a hefty amount of vinegar. The sugar is really there to preserve the fruit and mute the vinegar sting. If you are worried about the high sugar content, a small amount of shrub goes a long way in a drink, so you only need a little bit of concentrate to reap a lot of flavor.
To make a shrub at home: Combine fruit with sugar, let it sit, macerate, let it sit. Two days later, add some vinegar. Store at room temperature for about a week, shaking or stirring at least once a day. After a week, strain it, refrigerate it, drink it.
I now have Cherry Balsamic Shrub at the ready in my fridge for a sweltering summer day refreshment. This shrub has a strong balsamic flavor, so if you are not a big balsamic fan, use more cider vinegar in your ratio.
To drink a shrub, you can:
-Mix it with seltzer and ice. About 1 part shrub to 4-6 parts seltzer, depending how strong you want it.
-Make a shrub cocktail. I did cherry balsamic shrub + gin + seltzer. Bourbon and cherry would work, too.
-Cook with it. I added a tablespoon of cherry balsamic shrub to my clafoutis batter. Would go nice in a roast chicken, too. Or drizzled over ice cream or in oatmeal.
-Drink it straight up (super concentrated and strong that way).
I am still new to the slightly fermented vinegar drink thing, but I am happy with my first batch. Of course, you can experiment with different fruits and different vinegars. I recently tasted a cucumber serrano chile shrub at a bar that was both crisp and fiery.
Don’t forget your re-usable stainless steel straw!
Cherry Balsamic Shrub
recipe from Carey at Reclaiming Provincial
makes about 1- 1 1/2 cups
1 cup cherries, halved and pitted
3/4 cup granulated sugar
5-10 black peppercorns
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl or jar, stirring to evenly coat the fruit. Allow mixture to sit for about 1 hour, then macerate until everything is nice and broken up (I used my cocktail muddler). Cover and let sit for 24 hours. (At room temperature is fine, but feel free to stick it in the fridge too.)
After 24 hours, macerate the mixture again, crushing the fruit as much as possible. At this point, you can add the vinegars immediately, or let it sit for another 24 hours. (Carey recommends giving it the additional 24 hours, as she think this extra fermentation time does nice things for the final flavor. I agree!)
When ready, add the vinegars and stir well. Store at room temperature for 7–9 days, giving it a good stir (or light shake if using a jar) each day. When finished, pour the mixture through a fine sieve (you can use cheesecloth but I didn’t have any so I just used the sieve) then transfer to a clean jar or container. Store syrup in the fridge.
To mix: Add 1 part syrup to 4-6 parts seltzer. 1 part gin or bourbon optional.