Monday, June 11, 2012

Shrubbing Around

Rhubarb/Lemon Balm Shrub
Ever drink a shrub?   Shrubs are also known as “drinking vinegars.”  They’re made with fruit, vinegar and sugar and can be used as the basis for lots of summer treats like sodas and cocktails. I discovered shrubs when a friend gave me a generous helping of fresh rhubarb.   I’ve never grown it and have never cooked with it.  I didn't feel like baking so I passed up lots of recipes for rhubarb cakes, bars and muffins, but then I saw a tweet urging me to be “adventurous” and try a rhubarb shrub.  That got my attention.   

What I found out is that shrubs are a super alternative for someone like me, because I dislike drinking plain water, but don’t use artificial sweeteners.   Shrubs are all-natural and you can easily control the amount of sugar and customize them to your liking.  The possibilities for shrubs are infinite, and recipes vary widely.  There are many formulas and as just as many opinions about which is best.  There is even a blog devoted to shrubs! With music!  Check out

The basic recipe for a shrub is :

1 cup of vinegar
1 cup of fruit
1 cup of sugar

chopped rhubarb
Smoosh and smash the fruit and any other flavorings in a non-reactive saucepan.  Add the vinegar, and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat, leave to cool and allow to step unrefridgerated for 2-4 days.  After that, strain out the fruit and any other solids, and bring the mixture to a simmer on the stovetop once again.   Add the sugar and continue to simmer.   Once the sugar is dissolved and the shrub is allowed to reduce slightly, remove from heat.  It can then be stored in the fridge- glass Mason jars are ideal for storage.

So far I’ve made 2 shrubs: 

Rhubarb Lemon Balm Shrub
2 c. chopped rhubarb
¼ c. chopped lemon balm
2 c. apple cider vinegar
1 c. sugar  (I wanted to see what it would be like with half the recommended amount of sugar.  I found it plenty sweet.)

Strawberry Balsamic Lillet Shrub
1 c. crushed strawberries (This was the perfect thing to do with the sadder, not-so-perfect berries from my little patch.)
1/4 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. Lillet appertif - this is a super-juicy French concoction that I had on hand. It’s a blend of wines and orange-flavored liquors.
1 c. sugar

Here are some ways I’ll be using the syrups:
Pour directly or mix with maple syrup to pour on pancakes,  combine with vodka, gin, (shrubtinis?), wine or champagne,  pour over ice cream or sherbet
Combine with carbonated water or mineral water if you prefer things less fizzy, use to flavor a yogurt smoothie or stir into plain or vanilla yogurt, drizzle on hot oatmeal, put several tablespoons over crushed ice and make a snowcone, use in salad dressings, use in meat marinades.

What else can be done with shrubs?  I’d love to hear your ideas!


Anonymous said...

how have I gone through my adult life without knowing about shrubs?! Guess what I'll be making! (just happened to pick some blackberries yesterday....)

the home tome said...

You have once again introduced me to something I have never heard of - and here I thought shrubs were just those green things lining the front of my house! Nice post.

TALON said...

I love that you always teach me new things, JGH. I've never heard of these types of shrubs and I can see the endless possibilities. Like you, I don't like drinking plain water either. And I like the idea of the rhubarb one. I can only make so many rhubarb pies :) Thank you!