One of my latest obsessions are cold brewed shrubs.
What’s a shrub? Only the most unlikely and equally as wonderful combination of fresh fruit, sugar, and vinegar. It may sound lip puckering, or downright nasty — sugar, vinegar, and fruit? But it’s not. It’s truly wonderful and possibly the most refreshing of drinks around, surpassing sun tea and lemonade, or mint infused ice water.
It’s also not new. People have been making shrubs for centuries. First as a ferment, preserving fruit by combining it with sugar and leaving it to grow beneficial bacteria. You can still make a shrub as a ferment, but it’s also possible to make them as a cold brew topped with your vinegar of choice. It takes less time and, with refrigeration, lasts through the season and even from summer into winter.
All that’s needed to make a shrub is fresh fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Any type of fruit will do, whether you’re growing melons, pears, berries, or even sweet vegetables like beets. They all take on new meaning when left to steep in sugar and mixed with vinegar. (Though, right now, berry shrubs are my favorite.)
What You Need
- 1 part fruit
- 1 part sugar (try white, raw, agave, or a combination)
- 1 part vinegar such as apple cider, champagne, white or red wine, or coconut.
What You Do
- Start with clean fruit. If meaty, like with melons or even stone fruits, remove seeds and skins, and cut into smaller chunks. Berries can be left whole.
- Combine fruit and sugar in a bowl and gently mash, but not as you would jam. It doesn’t have to be beaten to a pulp, but simply opened and exposed to the sugar because your goal is to make syrup.
- Mix well and cover the bowl before placing it in the fridge for 48 hours. (You can make an fine syrup in as little as 6 hours, but I find a longer steeping time is better.) Stir the mixture once or twice a day to coat the fruit in sugar.
- Once 6 to 48 hours has passed and you see a decent amount of syrup collecting in the bottom of the bowl, it’s time to strain off the syrup from the remaining solids using a fine mesh strainer. Scrape extra sugar into the syrup and then whisk in 1 part vinegar.
- This is your shrub. Pour it off into a canning jar or bottle, cap it, shake it vigorously, label and date it, and return it to the fridge.
You can drink it right away, but it’s better if the flavors are allowed to marry for a few days.
Serve it over ice with seltzer, in lemonade, frozen into popsicles, or in your favorite mixed drink with fresh herbs and fruit. Try it in a cucumber, gin fizz, a margarita, or paired with rum and a squeeze of lime. Yum.
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