Tag Archives | shrubs

Soda Week at Table Matters

I have spent the better part of today canning 55 pounds of tomatoes, five pounds of peaches and a few other edible odds and ends. My refrigerator is cleaner than it’s been in weeks and there’s a load of laundry gently chugging away in the other room. This can mean only one thing. I’m getting ready to head out on vacation (I can’t be the only one who feels compelled to finish all pending culinary projects before leaving town). Before I dash out the door, I want to point your attention at something I happen to think you all might like.

Recently, a team of folks over at Drexel University relaunched a website called Table Matters. It’s a daily site dedicated to stories about eating, cooking, drinking and the many delicious things that can happen around a dining table. I’m contributing to this new site on a weekly basis and my pieces are going to be about kitchen skills and from-scratch cooking, which should be a nice compliment to the canning and preserving content I write here.

This week, they’ve been running stories about soda (and who doesn’t like something cool and carbonated, particularly this time of year?). My contribution was about my love for the idea of cocktail hour paired with my unfortunately inability to hold my alcohol. The resolution? A trio of recipes for homemade shrubs, syrups and herbal infusions. You’ll also find stories on root beer floats, a guide to Philadelphia’s tastiest house-made sodas and easy cocktails that use soda as their base published in the name of Soda Week.

Take a little time to check out Table Matters. Though this incarnation of the site is still young, the writing is strong, the topics are fun and the recipes are seasonal and make for mighty good eating. It’s a nice addition to the food conversation and I’m quite pleased to be a part of it.

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Blood Orange Shrub

prepping blood oranges

I’ve been thinking about making a blood orange shrub since they first rolled into my local markets. After all, their ruby color just screams to be made into a fizzy drink. And though I went crazy for shrubs (also known as drinking vinegars) last summer, it’s been months now since I stirred up a batch.

juicing blood oranges

Though I’m sure I’m not the first to turn blood orange juice into a shrub, I didn’t see much out there on the internet to guide my hunch. So I re-read the technique for cold brew shrubs laid out by Michael Dietsch on Serious Eats and adapted to suit my needs.

I juiced 4 blood oranges, which yielded 3/4 cup of juice. Out of blood oranges, and wanting to get to a full cup of juice, I also sliced and squeezed an aging navel orange that had been rolling around the crisper. Despite looking a little desiccated, it served admirably and provided the needed volume.

blood oranges

I combined the 1 cup of juice with 1 cup sugar and let them sit until the sugar was entirely dissolved. This took about an hour (I did give it a quick stir every time I walked by, to help things along). Once there were no visible signs of granulated sugar in the juice, I added 3/4 cup of apple cider vinegar and stirred it all together.

blood orange juice

The recipe I was adapting from used a 1:1:1 ratio for the juice, sugar and fruit, but I chose to use a bit less vinegar so that the delicate flavor of the blood oranges wasn’t drowned out by the brute force pucker of the vinegar. I’m happy with the results, as the finished shrub is wonderfully assertive and fruity.

finished shrub

My favorite way to use this shrub (which I just store in the fridge, cooking does bad things to blood orange juice) is to simply combine a couple soup spoons full in a glass with sparkling water. Though I haven’t tried it yet, I do believe it would be really good with a splash of gin.

I also imagine it has a world of possible applications in cooking. Imagine deglazing a pan of chicken with this shrub instead of some wine. Instant blood orange chicken (follow that sauce up with a dollop of blood orange marmalade to emphasize the flavor).

 

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Drink Week, Day Four: Black Raspberry Shrub

black raspberry shrub with fizzy water

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.

mashed black raspberries + sugar

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.

straining

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.

blackberry infused vinegar

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.

black raspberry seeds and the shrub

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.

fizzy overboard!

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).

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