What is a shrub? “Shrub” can refer to a few things, but for our purposes here, a shrub is a non-alcoholic syrup made with fruit, herbs, spices, sugar, and vinegar. You may have heard shrubs called “drinking vinegar”.
Shrubs pair well with spirits and sparkling wine and can be used in a wide range of cocktails. For those that don’t tipple, they pair especially well with sparkling water or tonic. Shrubs can also be used as the acid in a marinade or vinaigrette. Thankfully, making shrubs is really easy so having them on hand for all of your fancy pants kitchen adventures will be no problem.
What You’ll Need
- 1 cup ripe fruit, washed and cut if large*
- 1 cup organic granulated sugar
- 1 cup raw apple cider vinegar with the mother**
- maceration vessel
- glass jars & lids
- optional: herbs & spices
*When it comes to fruit, you can really use almost anything! Popular shrub fruits include berries, plums, and peaches, but it is February, so we’re using fruit that’s in season: kiwis, yuzus, and pomelos.
**A 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar will always work so feel free to scale up or down depending on your shrub needs.
***Shrubs start with really intense flavors: lots of sweetness from sugar and lots of acidity from vinegar. The longer a shrub sits in your fridge the mellower the flavor becomes. Start checking flavor 4 weeks after your shrub goes in the fridge, but know that some will need up to 8 weeks to reach their perfect balance.
Step 1: Macerate
Place your fruit in a glass mixing bowl. Cover with sugar and stir until each piece of fruit is surrounded by sugar (see below). Cover with plastic wrap and stick in the fridge. You can also do this in a reusable zip-top bag for plastic free maceration.
Keep in the fridge until the fruit exudes its juice and gets syrupy. Depending on the fruit, this could take a couple of hours or a couple of days. A few extra days in the fridge won’t change your shrub so it’s okay if the maceration is left for an extra day or two.
Step 2: Strain
When your fruit looks nice and syrupy (see photo), gently squeeze or mash to release any extra juices. Remove fruit solids. Transfer syrup into a glass jar, using a strainer if necessary, and scrape any remaining sugar into the jar as well.
Add spices, herbs, and other flavorings to the jar. We added fresh sage from the Teaching Kitchen’s garden to our pomelo shrub.
Step 3: Add Vinegar
Add 1 cup (or the amount to maintain the 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, sugar, and vinegar) of raw apple cider vinegar to the glass jar, lid, and shake vigorously. Shake everyday until the sugar has completely dissolved (you may need to do this just once or maybe a few times). Make sure to date and label the jar before you stick it in the fridge.
Step 4: Wait
Your shrub needs to hang out in the fridge for some weeks (the longer you go, the more mellow the vinegar flavor becomes). You can start tasting your shrub as soon as you’d like, although I think they really only become drinkable after a month. I like to keep a notebook with tasting notes as the weeks go by which also helps with reproducing successes.
Stay tuned for our next installment of this blog: Spring Drinks with Winter Shrubs! We’ll show you all of the (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) drinks you can make with your shrubs. Be on the lookout during the first week of April.