In the shrubs...

by - Sunday, June 30, 2013

Passing down the wide aisles, casting a wayward glance at the booths housing roofers, landscapers, and wind chimes, my eye caught a nestled table tiered with samples to sip. Yum! This seemed to answer the sluggish quest for an elixir. Though I cannot recall the name of that company now, I certainly remember the sweet and pleasantly tart cranberry cocktail we sipped at the NJ Home Show. It was made with their signature cranberry shrub - a sweetened fruit vinegar - simply stirred with seltzer, and it was mighty refreshing! I was hooked. Sold! We brought a bottle home with us.
This was my introduction to fruit shrubs, which date back thousands of years in China, the Middle East, England, and early America. Today's mixologists are reviving these sweet and sour syrups to balance flavors and create intriguing new combinations for cocktails and mocktails too. We finished that bottle in record time, splashed with cherry seltzer and a cluster of ice cubes, topped vanilla ice cream, and stirred with sparkling wine.
Shrubs are very easy to make, and in combining a variety of fruit (with herbs too), you can create an all-natural beverage with health benefits. All you need is apple cider vinegar, sugar and fruit. Let me show you how to make a simple strawberry shrub...

There are two ways of preparing the syrup - hot-shrubbing or cold process. For hot-shrubbing, the juice is strained off the fruit after being boiled for a short time with herbs or spices, then steeped in the sugar. I wanted to confer more fruit flavor, so I opted for the cold process. First, I cut fresh, cleaned strawberries, about two cupfuls, into a bowl.

Next, pour one cup of sugar (I used organic raw sugar) over and toss the strawberries, coating them well. You will see the fruit begin too break down into a pink pulp almost immediately.

I wanted as much of the flavor I could get from the batch, so I used a masher to press the strawberries and sugar together, accelerating the process of creating a thick syrup.

Pour an equal part of apple cider vinegar - one cup - into the bowl and give it a good stir. You're almost done! Leave it refrigerated for a couple of days to let the flavors meld. Once ready, simply strain the strawberry pieces out and you are left with the syrup.

A little goes a long way, so a couple of tablespoons with seltzer will yield a delightful, tangy refreshment. Enjoy a little something piquant found in the shrubs... xoxo-Sonya

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