It’s day four of Drink Week! Today’s topic is the fruit shrub. These are a concentrated fruit syrup, spiked with vinegar, to give it an appealing sweet/tart flavor profile. They definitely need dilution, so top them with a bit of sparkling water (and make sure to click over and enter the Sodastream giveaway). Make sure to check out the previous two Drink Week posts, Black Raspberry Syrup, Cherry Bounce and Other Boozy Infusions and No-Cook Sour Cherry Syrup.
I started hearing about fruit shrubs a lot last summer. A bartender, upon hearing that I was a canner, mentioned that he made his own. I started seeing them discussed on various cooking blogs. And I spotted the bottled version that Pennsylvania growers Tait Farm makes and bottles. When my friend Albert mentioned them again recently, I realized it was time for me to give shrubs a try.
The combination of fruit, sweetener and vinegar that makes up a shrub goes back to colonial days, when they were a popular way to preserve and enjoy the fleeting bounty of summer. Now, I realize that some of you might be initially turned off by the idea of drinking vinegar, but truly, shrubs are worth your consideration. You know how satisfying it can be to balance the sweetness of jam with a bit of lemon juice? Well, shrubs work on a similar principle, while also managing to enhance the flavor of the fruit. The tonic that results from the combination of fruit juice, sugar and vinegar is a delicious miracle.
In doing my shrub research, I settled upon the cold brewing technique outlined in this post over on the Drinks section of Serious Eats (penned by cocktail expert Michael Dietsch). I liked it because it was dead easy and meant that I didn’t have to turn my stove on again (always a plus in late June in Philadelphia). In a wide-mouth quart jar, I combined a rough cup of black raspberries with a cup of cane sugar and smashed the heck out of them with my handy muddler. Once I had a messy mash, on went a lid and the jar headed for the fridge to hang out for a bit.
Two days later, I pulled the jar out. With most normal fruit, the sugar will have pulled a great deal of the juice out of the fruit. These black raspberries were thicker and stickier than many berries I’ve seen and so needed a little bit of additional water to get well and truly syrupy. I added all of a 1/2 cup to really get things going.
When I was ready to make the shrub, I strained the seeds and pulp from the syrup, really working the solids to ensure that I was squeezing every last bit of juicy goodness from them. This yielded about 1 1/2 cups of syrup.
To the syrup, I added 1 cup of vinegar. The instructions on Serious Eats call for apple cider or red wine vinegar. I actually used some of the blackberry vinegar I made with seeds from a jam making session last summer, but I realize that not everyone has a cache of blackberry vinegar. Follow Michael’s advice and use the apple cider or red wine vinegar. Stir the vinegar into the syrup and stash in the fridge. It should taste good right away, but the flavors will continue to deepen and evolve, so try and let it hang out a little while.
Make sure to save those leftover black raspberry seeds and start a batch of infused vinegar. Your future self will thank you! Oh, and pour the sparkling water carefully when there’s some shrub in the glass. It makes those bubbles fizz and explode (as you can see in the picture above).