Shrub: To Drink, Not Plant

Old fashioned shrub is a lively vinegar based drink gaining popularity as a mixer for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.  A basic shrub syrup is made from fresh fruit, other flavorings, and vinegar.

Before refrigeration, the acid in vinegar was considered a preservative for the fresh fruit syrup, ensuring it would improve over time. Herbs, spices, and other additives were often introduced not only to add character but to mask potential off-qualities. It is thought that one of the first American cocktails probably included a shrub syrup with either rum or brandy.  Some health proponents regard vinegar-laced beverages as a restorative and even beneficial in weight loss.

Over a year ago, I mentioned my initial shrub experience here while visiting the Austin farmers’ market. I was especially intrigued by the yin-yang effect of an Apple Lemon Ginger version—in the Texas heat, it was a nice change and highly refreshing.

Since it’s pear season I decided to try my hand at making a batch and am amazed at how easy and tasty it turned out. I learned it’s important to use ripe fruit, a few bruises will not affect the end results.  The amount and type of sugar and vinegar will depend on the fruit’s sweetness as well any other flavors introduced.Shrub, full bottle

The comice pears used were sweet and juicy with abundant pear flavor and a whisper of floral notes. I decided to incorporate ginger and lemon again; flavors I suspected would support and enhance the pear’s.  After tasting champagne wine vinegar and two types of apple cider vinegar, I opted for a mild and fruity apple cider vinegar with 5% acidity opposed to the champagne vinegar’s 7%.

I opted to combine the peeled and chopped fruit, grated ginger and lemon with the sugar and let it stand in a cool place for well over 24 hours; enough time for it to soften and blend together. I added an equal amount of vinegar to the mix, combined it all and placed it in the refrigerator to blend and mellow for a couple of days. I checked on it daily and noticed a decidedly more integrated quality each day.

On the third day, I ran the fruit through a fine sieve. The syrup was a gorgeous coral color, which I did not expect, it had the true essence of the pears, the ginger and lemon gave just enough to balance and highlight the fruit.

I spent way too much time dithering over the cloudiness of the syrup with coffee filters and sieves. After considerable debate, I decided it was way too good to extract well over half for the sake of clarity.  Still, the fruit residue left behind looks much like pureed applesauce, and is just about the best thing I have ever tasted. Much like a gourmet uncooked pear butter, I have eaten it with yogurt, by itself, and even spread on toast.

Pear Ginger Shrub

Pear Ginger Shrub

The shrub syrup is just as good, shouting sublimely pear in tandem with a sprightly tart boost. Thus far, I have mostly enjoyed it over ice, topped with sparkling water and a good twist of lemon.

After a couple of sips, I’m energized and revitalized. Seriously. You be the judge.

Pear-Ginger Shrub Syrup

3 cups ripe pear, cleaned peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tbsp. peeled ginger, grated
1 tsp. lemon peel, grated
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
Sparkling water, lemon wedges for serving

  1. In a large, clean bowl mix the chopped pear, ginger, and lemon peel with the sugar and combine well. Cover with plastic wrap and store in a cool place overnight.
  2. The next day, give the pears a quick stir to dissolve any sugar and add the vinegar. Let the pears rest a day or two in the refrigerator to develop flavors.
  3. Stir the mixture again, pour it through a fine sieve to strain, pressing to release as much liquid as possible. To remove cloudiness, if desired, strain again through cheesecloth or a coffee filter. Transfer to a clean jar or decorative bottle. Store in refrigerator up to 3 months.  Discard if bubbling or signs of mold appear on top.  Yield:  1 – 1/2 cups or more shrub syrup.

To serve:  In a glass with ice, combine 1 – 2 tbsp. shrub syrup  with still, soda, or sparkling water.  Adjust to your liking and garnish with lemon.

 

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