Have you heard about shrubs? They are quite fashionable these days, which could turn me off, a bit of a rebel that sometimes I am, but then again I was too curious to completely ignore them. Plus, I am quite fond of vinegar and acidic goodies in general. I first heard about shrubs through Fer’s blog Chucrute com Salsicha. Her style of cooking is quite similar to ours, so when she started raving about shrubs, I paid attention. But it took me more than a year to finally try one. I am a beginner still, trying flavor combinations, levels of acidity and sweetness, but it is so much fun, I hope you consider playing with this type of drink. Plus, if you or someone you entertain prefers to stick to non-alcoholic beverages, shrubs are perfect. Say goodbye to boring sodas, or the same old same old sparkling water with a twist of lemon, and embrace the amazing variety of the world of shrubs.
Shrubs are a mixture of fruit or vegetables with alcohol and/or vinegar. They originated in England in the 15th century, in versions used for medicinal purposes and generally containing some type of alcohol. A couple of hundred years later, the practice of using vinegar to preserve fruits arrived in the Americas, and by the 19th century, shrubs were quite widespread. Fruits such as berries were mixed with vinegar, left to infuse for days or even weeks. The liquid was then strained, sweetened and used as a syrup to make drinks, both alcoholic or not. Nowadays, you can find countless recipes around, even whole books written on the subject, such as this one, which I own. I share first my all-time favorite, which happens to be the simplest one to prepare. Then I offer two more with a totally different flavor profile. Shrubs last for a long time in the fridge, they are festive, fresh, and contrary to alcoholic beverages, there’s absolutely nothing to fear. No need for designated drivers, no risk of hangovers, no inconvenient behavior, such as dancing naked over the table while guests are trying to concentrate on dessert. Unless you really feel like it, of course. But keep in mind you won’t be able to blame the drink!
(adapted from Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs)
2 large cucumbers
1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
Add cucumbers and mint leaves to blender. Blend until pureed.
Press puree through a fine-mesh strainer into a medium bowl. Add cucumber juice, both vinegars, sugar, and kosher salt to a jar or bottle. Shake very well to combine and refrigerate.
To drink, pour some over ice cubes, and complete tall glass with carbonated water. Mix and enjoy. If needed, add a little more sugar (I did not).
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: This is my favorite shrub so far. Love it, love it, love it! I have a hard time sticking with only two glasses with my dinner, because it goes well with all sorts of main dishes. I know, the color is a bit odd, although I was pleased by how it matched my manicure of that particular week… As you know, I am easily amused. Next time I will add lemon zest and a touch of lemon juice in place of the mint. Just for fun.
Moving on, this second shrub is a very fruity and floral option, with a shockingly gorgeous color…
RASPBERRY STRAWBERRY & ROSE SHRUB
(inspired by The Kitchen McCabe)
1 + 1/2 cups raspberries
1/2 cup water
1 + 1/2 cups strawberries, quartered
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup raw honey
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon rose-water (see comments)
Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan, along with ½ cup of water. Bring to a simmer, stirring to completely dissolve the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let cool completely. Pour mixture into a blender, along with the raspberries, honey, rose-water and vinegar. Blend until smooth. Run the mixture through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids. Place the syrup in a container and refrigerate for several days, up to a week. The syrup can also be used right away.
Simply pour a small amount on a tall glass over ice cubes, and top with carbonated water. Adjust sweetness if needed, add a sprig of mint if you’d like.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: My only issue with this shrub is the amount of rose-water. I did not even use the full tablespoon and found it to be overpowering. I suggest one teaspoon max, see how you feel about it, if you like a more perfumed drink, add 1/2 teaspoon more to the bottle. Or you could conceivably omit it altogether, and make it exclusively fruit and vinegar. This is a much sweeter shrub than the cucumber, and the flavor of the berries comes through nicely, contrasting with the acidic vinegar. I also added less sugar than the original recipe called for, but would probably add even less next time.
Finally, my third shrub for this initial collection, a nice blast of spice, ginger in all its glory!
(from Chucrute com Salsicha)
1/2 cup minced ginger
1 cup apple cider vinegar, unfiltered
1/2 cup granulated sugar
In a small saucepan place the ginger and the vinegar. Heat to boiling, turn the heat off and transfer the mixture to a Pyrex type container. Let it cool to room temperature for 24 hours.
Strain the mixture through a very fine sieve over a bowl, allowing it to drain for 5 to 10 minutes, without pressing on the solids. The strained volume should be around 3/4 cup. If you have less, complete that amount with vinegar. Discard de ginger, and add the liquid to a small saucepan. Add the sugar and boil, stirring occasionally. When the sugar dissolves, simmer for a couple more minutes, then allow it to cool, and transfer to a clean bottle. Refrigerate until needed.
To drink, add a small amount to ice cubes on a tall glass, and complete with sparkling water, a 1:4 volume syrup to sparkling water is a good starting point.
to print the recipe, click here
Comments: This last shrub is for serious ginger lovers only, a very strong and potent ginger hit with each sip. I love ginger in all kinds of recipes savory and sweet, but I had to use about 1/8 of the volume of syrup to sparkling water, otherwise it was a bit too strong. Another great use for this particular shrub is as a component of salad dressings, just add it as if you were using vinegar, whisk a bit of olive or grapeseed oil, and a touch of salt. Very nice option over simple greens or roasted beets. Shrubs (in their undiluted form) can also be poured over ice cream or sorbets, but I haven’t tried that yet.
I hope you enjoyed this small sampling of shrubs and consider giving them a try.
I have a big list of flavors to try, so stay tuned for more…
ONE YEAR AGO: Date Truffles
TWO YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Mousse from Baking Chez Moi
THREE YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Brigadeiros
FOUR YEARS AGO: Pumpkin Espresso Loaf
FIVE YEARS AGO: Caramelized Carrot Soup
SIX YEARS AGO: Miso-Grilled Shrimp
SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Special Holiday Fruitcake