I’ve become enamored with shrubs. Not the outside kind that grow in the ground, but the kind you drink – otherwise known as drinking vinegars.
Shrubs are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance due to the explosion of cocktail culture. It’s why I got interested in the first place – a flavorful vinegar is a great way to add acidity and brightness to a cocktail.
But then something happened along the way – I tasted the finished shrubs and found that I really liked them on their own. They’re not for everyone – although there’s a bit of sugar added, they’re still pretty bracing. But we love to drink a shrub over ice on a hot day, and I have to say everyone that’s sampled the ones I’ve made so far have really liked them.
There are a couple of ways to make a shrub – hot or cold process. The hot process involves cooking sugar and water, then adding the fruit and cooking some more. The fruit is strained off, vinegar is added, and the shrub is done. I don’t know, this seems a little too much like making jam to me. The cold method starts with sugar and fruit, which macerates at room temperature for days. The fruit is strained off and the resulting syrup is mixed with vinegar.
I’ve been using a hybrid of the two processes that I think results in a really nice flavor and allows for less sugar added. I macerate the fruit in vinegar for about a week, then strain off the fruit. I then simmer the syrup for a short time with some sugar to finish off the shrub. This way, I can control the sweetness of the final mix at the end.
I made a few versions of this shrub before settling on this recipe. I like the addition of balsamic vinegar, but to be honest, the version I made with straight coconut vinegar was really good too. The basic ratio is pretty versatile and can be changed to your taste – I recently made a cherry-balsamic shrub using rapadura sugar instead of white sugar.
I used white balsamic vinegar in order to preserve the color of the shrub. Regular balsamic should work fine flavor-wise, but it probably won’t be as pretty. I’ve included weights as well as volume measurements – if you have a scale, you can just weigh everything into one jar and there are fewer dirty dishes.
I usually make up the shrubs in a mason jar with a lid, or, for a large batch like this one, a 2.5-L Weck tulip jar. Use something with a spill-proof lid – it makes it easier to agitate the mixture every day.
Yield: about 6 cups
4 cups (300 g) fresh ripe strawberries, cored and quartered
5 cups (1,250 g) apple cider vinegar
1 1/4 cups (300 g) white balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. (20 g) peppercorns, cracked
1 1/4 cup (250 g) sugar
Add the strawberries, vinegars and peppercorns to a large glass jar or container. Seal tightly with a lid and agitate to mix. Let sit in a cool spot for seven days, agitating daily.
After seven days, strain the syrup using a fine strainer into a saucepan. Discard the fruit and peppercorns. Add the sugar and stir. Cook on medium heat for 10 minutes, or until the sugar is completely dissolved. Taste to ensure the sweetness level is to your satisfaction – if not, add more sugar and dissolve.
Pour the finished shrub into bottles and store in the refrigerator.
- Strawberry-Balsamic Shrub