Saturday, July 5, 2014

Fun with Shrub

It's the height of summer strawberry season here in northwestern Wisconsin, and that means there is a glut of berries to be had.  I've put a couple quarts away in the freezer for winter treats, and made a batch of my favorite strawberry lime jam.  I've also eaten at least a gallon, straight from the patch.  Is there anything better than that, I ask you?

But still, there are berries needing dealt with.  Luckily, I've discovered  delightful concoction called "shrub".  Basically, it's a drinking vinegar.  That may sound gross to you, but you must trust me: shrub is absolutely delicious, with the final product having a whiff of vinegar pungency but hardly any "pickle-ish" flavor.  It tastes like pure essence of fruit, captured in a glass.  I love it over ice, with a liberal topping of seltzer water or club soda. It's refreshing and cooling and delights the taste buds.  It's simply perfect after working outdoors on a hot summer's day!

Intrigued?  You should be.  You should run out now and get some quality distilled white vinegar, fresh local fruit and herbs, organic sugar and quart jars.  Go now.  Then, come back and follow this recipe:

Homemade Shrub--aka The Summer Drink of 2014

You'll need: one quart jar, cleaned with a lid (I like the plastic storage lids for this purpose); at least a couple cups of fresh fruit of your choice; distilled white vinegar, best quality you can locate locally; sugar to measure; water to measure.

To start your brew, chop your fruit into smallish pieces.  I tend to slice strawberries or blackberries in half.  Put your fruit into the clean quart jar. *Note: I've been experimenting with adding fresh herbs to the mix--lemon balm, lemon basil, sweet large leaf basil, mint--which is refreshing and lovely.  Be bold! It's your shrub, so mix it up however you want.

Fill the jar with vinegar.  I usually pour it in until it reaches the little "ledge" marking the start of the screwband part of the jar.  Maybe that's called the neck?  I don't know.  Anyway, that's where I fill it to.  Now, put your jar off to the side of the counter and leave it to sit 2-3 days.

Time's up! After the 2-3 day steeping period, break out a large glass measuring cup.  Park a strainer over that puppy, and decant your quart jar.  You can compost the fruit, feed it to the chickens, or repurpose it in some other creative way.  You should be left with 2-3 cups of gorgeously colored vinegar.
See? So pretty...
Time to make the simple syrup! Here's the part where you get scientific, sort of.  However much vinegar you have, you need to measure out the same out of sugar AND water.  For example, you have two cups of vinegar.  Measure out two cups of sugar, and two cups of water.  Put the sugar and water in a saucepan.

Heat the sugar-water mixture over lowish heat.  It will start off cloudy, and then go clear as all the sugar crystals dissolve in the solution.  Take it off the heat, and add your vinegar to this simple syrup.  Tah dah!  You've just made shrub.

Generally, I wind up with two quart jars of finished shrub.  Pour the shrub into your jars, pop on a lid and a label, and store it in the fridge.  It will keep for weeks in there, but I bet you drink it in short order.  When you want to drink some, pour two to four tablespoons into a glass with ice, and top off the glass with club soda or seltzer.  You can even drink it with flat water.  It's refreshing, sweet-tart homemade soda decadence, with real fruit in it.  No fake crap here.  Just pure, delicious summer. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you - I was trying to remember this!


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