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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Farmers’ Market Life in Austin

Bird's Eye Market View

Bird’s Eye Market View

Yesterday was market day at the Austin Downtown Farmers’ Market, part of Austin’s Sustainable Food Center network.  I’m told it is one of the largest in Texas, and although not packed with vendors, there was still plenty of variety to choose from.  Good things are happening in the realm of charcuterie, too; we found more than one source for such delicacies as duck, quail, and goose.

Springfield Farm IMG_0076

I am such a sucker for arugula, I jumped on a huge bag of tender greens offered by Springfield Farm out of Moulton, Texas, about 90 miles to the southeast.

And that’s nothing in Texas.  Many vendor’s farms are considerable distances away and think nothing of making three or more weekly trips to work the circuit of popular markets.  Even with outlandish transport costs this is just part of doing business in these parts.

I was impressed with the wildflower honey at Austin Honey Company.   Their creamed honey is just that: light and incredibly smooth, showing a mixture of floral notes―which change, based on the bees’ grazing tendencies at any given time of year.

Lemon Ginger Shrub MG_0117Another discovery came from the Shrub Drinks booth, where co-owner Cynthia Guido jokingly cracked that “they aren’t selling bushes”.  No, they are marketing a wide variety of artisanal drinking vinegars apparently enjoyed way  back in early Egyptian days (i.e., a long time ago).   In 17th century England and during colonial times shrub was used as a way to preserve fruit.  The resulting bitters-like syrup was used in beverages with water or soda or as a mixer in alcoholic cocktails.

Much later back at home, we put our feet up and treated ourselves to tall icy glasses of  Pelligrino water infused with Apple, Lemon, & Ginger Shrub.   Ah yes, very refreshing indeed―after another grueling day at the market.  What a life.