With all the beautiful summer fruit shining at the farmer’s market, I have been obsessed with making my own shrubs. What are shrubs? Shrubs are syrups consisting essentially of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Shrubs originated in 17th century England. It was a way to preserve the fruit by adding vinegar to the fruit, such that the fruit flavor was preserved and could be enjoyed when the fruit was not available. Fruits were also preserved in some kind of liqueur as well in that era. It was made popular in Colonial America as well by the Europeans. Shrubs are best enjoyed in the hot summers, along with sparkling soda and some ice. The shrubs can be infused with herbs and spices to give it more depth of flavor.
Making shrubs is very similar to making jam. The fruit is macerated with granulated sugar. What is maceration? Maceration is the process where the sugar is involved in extracting the juices from the fruit. The sugar completely dissolved and make the fruit juice very potent with maximum fruit flavor. Then comes the process of either the heat process or cold process of shrub. I tried both the methods, and I preferred the cold method better. The heat process was cooking the fruit and sugar together, along with a bit of water, and then mixing with the apple cider vinegar, but in the process the brightness of the fruit is lost. In the cold process method, although it takes 3 days for the shrub to be finally made, the fruit flavors were much deeper and flavorful.
In the cold process method, the fruit, herb or spice and granulated sugar is mixed together and the fruit macerates for 24 hours. After 24 hours, the vinegar is added, and the shrub gets more flavor over the next 48 hours. After the 3 days are completed, you strain the fruit using a sieve, and strain out all the shrub syrup, using a rubber spatula to lightly push against the fruit to extract all the fruity flavor. I let the shrub marinate in the bottle for another 2 days. It lets the strong acidy vinegar flavor subside over time, and the flavors are more cohensive as time progresses. I found this method the best. Serious Eats recommends to strain the fruit and then add the vinegar after 1 day, but I did find more fruit flavor after the entire mixture was combined with the vinegar and then it sat in the fridge for 2 more days.
Fruits that are best for making shrubs are riper fruits, which may be soft, to get the maximum sugar and sweetness and flavor out of it. You can use any berries, like strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or even stone fruits like peaches, apricots, nectarines, pluots etc to make shrubs. I plan to make shrubs in the fall with figs and also apples and oranges.
The best part about making shrubs is infusing them with herbs and spices to make it more interesting. I made shrub flavors using all the flavors that I had for my jams and they have all turned out fantastic!
The flavors that I made are:
Nectarine + Star Anise + Ginger
Pluot + Lavender
Strawberry + Hibiscus
Apricots + Ginger + Rosemary
Peach + Saffron + Ginger
Blackberry + Basil + Ginger
Other flavors you could try are:
Blackberry + Pluot
Apricot + Saffron
Strawberries + Rose
Raspberries + Rose
Strawberries + Thyme
Strawberries + Mint
I have used only apple cider vinegar so far in my shrubs but I know you can use red wine vinegar as well in the shrubs. I think red wine vinegar would be great with strawberries or pluot or figs or grapes. It would work out really well in terms of the color as well.
*BENEFITS OF VINEGAR:*
The benefits of vinegar are numerous. It is fantastic as an energy boost, it is used for detoxification, it aides weight loss, it is great for upset stomachs as it kills bacteria, it is also used for speeding up the metabolism of the body. It is used in dandruff control and balancing out the pH levels on the scalp. People have been known to drink apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning as a means to aid weight loss. It helps to improve the gut biome, reducing bloating and keeping one full for longer.
Shrub making has become an obsession and I have really enjoyed the whole process of making them. It does not take time, and makes for a wonderful syrup that can be used to make a refreshing drink in the summer. Simply add 1 oz of the shrub, with some ice and sparkling soda, and it makes for a fantastic drink. My kids have been loving all the flavors of shrubs that I have been making and have been enjoying it on a daily basis.
If you are looking for bottles for your shrubs, after much research I found these amazing bottles on Amazon, that I am totally digging. I think I need to have shrub business now with proper labels! Haha. I need to ask Raj to make the labels and branding for my shrub bottles! That would be so much fun isn’t it?!
You can even use the shrub to make cocktails, using the spirit of your choice, with the shrub, and sparkling soda, or champagne. Or come up with your own cocktail concoction.
If you do make this shrub recipe, please do not forget to tag me #thejamlab on my Instagram @thejamlab, and/or leave a comment on this blog post.
Hope you all are doing well!