Shrubs (or drinking vinegars) have been made for thousands of years as a method to preserve and use old fruit, enjoy after a days work, and even as health drinks. A shrub is essentially fruit syrup with vinegar that makes for a refreshing treat when mixed with soda water, ginger beer or added to cocktails.
Shrubs are really simple to make and only require fruit, sugar, vinegar and a little patience. The two basic methods to making shrubs are:
- Combine the fruit and sugar and let it macerate at a cool temperature, strain it, then add the vinegar….OR
- Combine the fruit with hot vinegar to start the breakdown of the fruit, let it sit, strain it and add the sugar at the end.
These two methods both will produce quality results but with different flavor profiles. The cool method will give you a more vibrant fresh fruit flavor, as well as a good bite of acidity from the vinegar. In contrast, the warm method yields a jammy cooked fruit flavor and more subdued acidity.
Choose the method you use and your ingredients based on how you plan to use your shrub or what you want to mix it with. You can choose any combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar so think ahead and decide what flavors you are after. Add in turbinado or demerara sugars to get some darker molasses notes, or use wine, apple cider, or any other vinegar to add more depth of flavor.
As with other preserves, making shrub is a great way to use fruit that is over ripe or blemished, and mushy fruit can give you an even more concentrated flavor. Sometimes you can get damaged fruit for cheaper at a local farmers market or even a large grocery store.
When adding the final ingredient the goal is to go for an even balance between sweet fruit and acid, so it is always best to add slowly and use less than you think at first. I wrote “to taste” in the recipes because the liquid that you are left with after straining out the fruit is going to vary in sweetness and volume based on: type of fruit, water content, time, temperature and variety of sugar used.
FOR THE COLD SHRUB METHOD:
- 400 grams Fruit - (your choice)
- 400 grams Sugar - (your choice)
- Vinegar to taste - (your choice)
- Cut the fruit up into 1/2 inch pieces and stir in the sugar evenly.
- Leave in a covered container at room temperature for 24hours-3 days until the sugar has pulled out juices and the liquid has some clarity.
- Strain the liquid from the fruit/sugar mixture into a bottle.
- Slowly add the vinegar of your choice to taste.
FOR THE WARM SHRUB METHOD:
- 400 grams Fruit - (your choice)
- 400 grams Vinegar - (your choice)
- Sugar to taste - (your choice)
- Cut the fruit into 1/2 inch pieces and add to a covered container.
- In a small saucepan, boil the vinegar.
- Let the vinegar sit for 1 minute (so it falls below boiling) before pouring it over the fruit.
- Let the fruit and vinegar mixture sit for 24 hours-5 days based on desired strength and flavor.
- Strain the liquid into a bottle and slowly add the sugar to taste.
BOTH METHODS CAN BENEFIT FROM A FEW DAYS IN THE FRIDGE! You can certainly use your shrub as soon as it is finished, but letting it sit one or two days in the fridge will help combine all the flavors into a single tart fruity drink.
Once finished, shrubs can be stored cool for several months and often get better with time.
Try adding shrub to cocktails, soda water or a quality ginger beer over ice.