City Fruit continues our holiday recipe blog series with a focus on shrubs! Our partner, Slow Food Seattle, shares our mission of preserving and protecting local foods. Make use of your apples this season with shrubs!
Shrubs, or drinking vinegars, might not seem immediately appealing to the unfamiliar, but these tart syrups consisting of fruit, vinegar and sugar have a lot to offer.
For one, they’re a creative way to add the tang of acid to a cocktail in place of the usual lemon or lime flavors. For another, mixed only with soda water, they’re a sophisticated, less-sweet non-alcoholic beverage option.
And of course, they serve a utilitarian, workhorse purpose that fits the syrup’s thrifty origins: the vinegar helps preserve and extend the life of the fruit used in the shrub. So they are great at capturing the flavors of seasonal produce.
Shrubs are part of Slow Food’s Ark of Taste, “a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction.” On the tradition of fruit shrubs, the Ark of Taste entry describes:
Shrub is a colonial-day drink whose name is derived from the Arabic word sharab, to drink. It is a concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar that is traditionally mixed with water to create a refreshing drink that is simultaneously tart and sweet. In the nineteenth-century, the drink was often spiked brandy or rum.
Ubiquitous in colonial times, the use of shrubs as a flavoring for tonic and sodas subsided with increasing industrial production of foods. The entire shrub market was practically ceased until the Tait family in Pennsylvania revived the drink.
Considering the popularity of shrubs in the cocktail community in recent years, it seems we can consider the revival a success!
To help spread the word about the appeal of the shrub, Slow Food recently teamed up with Anu Apte and Courtney Matzke of Rob Roy and Swig Well for a class on how to make shrubs and use them in cocktails. We’re happy to share a couple recipes from the class that feature this season’s fruit superstar: the apple. First, the recipe to make the shrub itself, then a punch you can use it in for holiday entertaining. You’ll find these recipes posted on City Fruit’s site tomorrow!
If this is your first time making a shrub, know that the process is very forgiving and quite open to experimentation. A general good guideline is one part fruit to one part vinegar to one part sugar, but as you can see in the apple shrub recipe, sometimes you might reduce the amount of vinegar or sugar depending on how sweet/tart your produce is. Your taste buds will be your guide!
Leslie Seaton serves on Slow Food Seattle’s board of directors. Check out her post tomorrow with two apple shrub recipes to get you started!