I got super addicted to Shrubs when I was in LA over the summer and haven’t been able to stop making my own since! It’s fair to say that Shrub making has become my main hobby!
“But what is a shrub?” you say.
A shrub refers to a cocktail or soft drink that was popular during America's colonial era, made by mixing a vinegared syrup with spirits, water, or carbonated water. The term "shrub" also applies to the sweetened, vinegar-based syrup, from which the cocktail is made. When people talk about drinking vinegars they’re often referring to a shrub syrup, most of the time mixed with water.
The American version of the shrub has its origins in 17th century England where vinegar was used as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of berries and other fruits for the off-season.
By the 19th century, typical American recipes for shrubs used vinegar poured over fruit (traditionally berries) which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days. Afterwards, the fruit would be strained out and the remaining liquid would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and then reduced to make a syrup.
How I like to enjoy Shrub both here and in America is mixed with carbonated water as a refreshment. As it’s acidic, it helps those of us with poor digestion and is great drunk before, with or after a meal to aid digestion in those of us with low stomach acid. A friend of mine told me about how his Mum used to have a shot of Apple Cider Vinegar each morning when he was growing up to help speed up her metabolism. She has since past but it’s a big memory that stands out for him about his Mum. I love hearing stories about people using vinegars and shrubs as tummy tonics. It’s a fascinating culture!
As someone who is hugely into fermented foods and is massively anti waste, it’s unsurprising that I’m so into this as a way of using up fruit that’s bad or about to go off. I love preserving fruits in season now for the winter and picking or buying them locally.
When it comes to making shrubs, there are a few different methods and variations in fermentation time. I’ve played around with different fermentation times and when to add the vinegar. I’m still doing lots of experimentation and I encourage you to do the same. It’s what makes this so much fun! There’s just one rule - don’t cook the fruit. The flavour won’t be as deep if you do and the fun is in the fermentation!
What you’ll need
- As much fruit as you like (I’ve used plums, strawberries, blackberries, pears, raspberries). Try to buy local and organic if you can. Or better yet, forage for your fruit!
- Cane sugar. Try to buy fair-trade and organic.
- Raw apple cider vinegar
- A large bowl
- A funnel
- A measuring jug
- A potato masher
- Cling film
- Glass bottles
- Glass jars
- Wash your fruit and chop it up, removing seeds in the case of plums and other seeded fruits. You don’t need to chop berries up too much as they’re already pretty small. Chop blackberries in half, strawberries into halves or quarters.
- Weigh your fruit and place it in a big bowl.
- Add a third of the weight of your fruit in sugar to the bowl. So if you’ve got 900g of fruit you’ll be adding 300g of sugar. Stir the sugar through the fruit.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and leave in the fridge or a cool room away from flies for 2 days.
- After 2 days strain the liquid into a measuring jug leaving the fruit in the bowl. Add enough apple cider vinegar to make up half the weight of the fruit juice. So for 500ml of fruit juice add 250ml vinegar. Stir the fruit juice and apple cider vinegar together.
- Pour this mixture back into the bowl with the fruits and cover the bowl with cling film.
- Put the bowl back into the fridge or its cool place and leave for anywhere up to 5 days. One day is fine if you’re impatient to try it. You can leave it for longer next time you make a shrub.
- When you’re ready to bottle your shrub get your bottles, funnel, potato masher and jars together on your worktop.
- Mash the fruits to get the last bit of goodness out of them.
- Using your funnel strain the juice into bottles. This might take a while as you might have to unclog the funnel a few times.
- Once all the juice has been bottled place the remaining fermented fruits in jars to use through yoghurt and granola for breakfast or instead of jam on your toast in the morning or with clotted cream on scones! MMMmmm…
- Use the shrub like you would a cordial through sparkling water or mix with gin, tequilas, rums and other spirits to liven up a cocktail recipe.
Happy Shrub making! Can’t wait to see your delicious concoctions! :)