Why You Should Try Drinking Shrub + 10 Delicious Recipes

Why You Should Try Drinking Shrub + 10 Delicious Recipes

Derived from the Arabic word sharāb which means “to drink”, shrubs – or drinking vinegars – are concentrated sweetened fruit syrups that can be added to water, seltzer, or cocktails.

Shrubs have enjoyed a long and interesting history, going back as far as the 15th century. Originally a medicinal cordial, shrubs were simply fruit-infused liquors that were recommended by physicians of the era for reinvigorating the body and spirit. The drink became quite fashionable in Europe over the next century, mostly because smugglers would sink barrels of rum and brandy off shore to avoid paying taxes; fruit was added to the brew to help cover up the taste of seawater. Over in the New World, American colonists used vinegar to preserve fruits for winter, and the sweet-and-sour by-product became a thirst-quenching drink in its own right.

But just like switchel, drinking shrubs fell out of favor once home refrigeration came along. Fortunately, shrubs have experienced a revival of late, mostly because they are delicious, but also because they are healthful, easy to make, and incredibly practical. Read on to discover the lost art of shrub making:

What Is Shrub?

At its most basic, shrub is a combination of fruit, an acetic acid, and a sweetener. Allowed to steep for days or weeks, it is a fermented food that benefits imbibers with a host of probiotics, enzymes, and B vitamins. And since it’s a drinking vinegar, it offers a delightful way to include more vinegars in your diet, which is always a good thing.

Because shrubs can be made with every kind of fresh fruit, any type of vinegar, and the sweetener of your choice, this beverage is so very versatile – the possibilities for ingredient combinations are practically endless.

How To Make Shrub

There are several ways you can make shrub, but we will focus on three methods: cold processed, hot processed, and zero-waste scrap shrubs. Before we begin, you will need:

  • 2 cups of fresh fruit, chopped
  • 2 cups of vinegar
  • 1 to 2 cups of sugar
  • Quart-sized canning jars or glass containers with a lid (you can get these from this page on Amazon)
  • Cheesecloth, fine mesh sieve, or coffee filter

Although the presence of vinegar will prevent bacteria from growing in your shrub syrup, it’s always wise to sterilize your containers. Place glass jars and lids in a large pot filled with water and bring to a boil for 10 minutes. Carefully remove the hot jars with tongs and set on the counter.

Cold Processed Shrub

Place fruit and sugar in the jar, mashing the fruit to draw out the juices. Screw on the lid and place in the fridge. After 24 hours, stir well and add vinegar, leaving a ¼ inch of headspace in the jar. Store in a cool dark place such as a cupboard or fridge for at least 24 hours and up to one month. Once the flavor of the fruit has steeped into the vinegar, strain out the fruit using a cheesecloth. Repeat as necessary until the vinegar is unclouded and clear. When tightly sealed and stored in the refrigerator, shrub will last up to six months. To serve, add one tablespoon of shrub to a glass of water and stir.

Hot Processed Shrub

A quicker way to prepare shrub, the hot process reduces the waiting time considerably but the slower cold process technique often produces deeper, more complex flavors. To make, add equal parts sugar and water to a saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Add fruit and simmer until fruit juice is blended into the sugar water. Once the mixture has a syrupy texture, remove from heat and let cool. Pour into a jar, straining out the fruit solids with a cheesecloth. Add vinegar, allowing for a ¼ inch headroom, screw the lid on tightly, and store in the fridge.

Scrap Shrub

Practically free, making scrap shrub involves saving up your fruit cuttings – apple peels, pineapple cores, stone fruit pits, and bruised cuttings, for example – and steeping them in vinegar. Keep adding fruit scraps as you go and once the jar is full, let it rest for at least one week. Strain the fruit scraps out and add sugar, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Shrub Syrup Recipes:

It’s really fun experimenting with different fruits, acids, herbs, and sweeteners, but if you want to follow a tried and true recipe, these shrubs are delicious and can be fine-tuned to your particular tastes:

1. Cherry and Mint Shrub

  • 2 cups of sweet cherries, crushed
  • ¼ cup of red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ¼ cup of mint leaves

Mix cherries, mint leaves, and sugar. Refrigerate overnight, stirring twice. Strain fruit from fruit juice. Add apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar. Stir well and serve with tonic water.

2. Rhubarb Shrub

  • 2 pounds of rhubarb, chopped
  • 1 cup of white wine vinegar
  • 1 cup of sugar

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low, cooking until the rhubarb breaks down. Remove from heat and pour into a jar, straining out solids. Let it cool and store in the fridge. Mix with soda water or spirits.

3. Lavender Kumquat Shrub

  • 1 pound of kumquats, quartered
  • 1 cup of honey
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of lavender buds

Place kumquats, honey, and lavender in a jar and mash to draw out juices. Cover with lemon juice and vinegar, screw on lid, and let it rest for 2 days. Strain out solids and store in the fridge for one month. Serve with soda water.

4. Plum-Orange Shrub

  • 2 cups of plums, pitted and chopped
  • 10 black peppercorns
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 cups of brown sugar
  • 1 ½ cups of apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup of balsamic vinegar

Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar and mash well. Cover and place in fridge for 2 days. Add vinegars and stir. Replace lid and store at room temperature for at least one week, stirring daily. Strain out solids and store in the fridge. Serve with seltzer.

5. Pumpkin Shrub

  • A 2-pound pumpkin
  • 1 ¼ cups of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon

First, prepare pumpkin puree from the fresh pumpkin. Allow puree to cool, and then add sugar, cinnamon and vinegar, stirring well. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours. Strain out solids. Screw on lid and store in the fridge for one month. Serve with plain or fizzy water.

6. Cucumber and Dill Shrub

  • 2 large cucumbers, chopped
  • ¼ cup of fresh dill
  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • ½ cup of apple cider vinegar

Combine fresh dill and vinegars, steeping overnight. Process cucumbers and a touch of water in the blender until pureed. Strain out the solids from cucumber juice as well as vinegar mixture. Combine vinegar and cucumber juice. Store in the fridge.

7. Raspberry-Lemon Shrub

  • 2 cups of raspberries
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 1 cup of apple cider vinegar
  • 10 black peppercorns

Mash together raspberries, lemon zest, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 48 hours. Add white wine and vinegar and let the mixture rest for 2 weeks, stirring daily. Strain out solids and store in the fridge.

8. Green Grape Shrub

  • 5 cups of green grapes, halved
  • 2 cups of turbinado sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of whole cloves
  • ⅓ cup of white wine vinegar

Combine grapes, sugar, and cloves in a bowl, mixing well to dissolve the sugar. Cover and place in the fridge for 2 days, stirring daily. Strain mixture and add vinegar. Store in the fridge.

9. Peach-Ginger Shrub

  • 1 pound of peaches, pitted and chopped
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 ¾ cup of white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
  • ⅓ cup of grated fresh ginger

Mash peaches in a bowl. Add sugar and ginger and stir. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Press peach mixture through a fine sieve, removing solids. Combine peach juice and vinegars, stirring well. Store in the fridge for 7 days, stirring daily. Serve with ice water or seltzer.

10. Tomato and Basil Shrub

  • 1 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 20 fresh basil leaves
  • ½ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of apple cider vinegar

Combine tomatoes and sugar and mash well. Steep basil leaves in apple cider vinegar overnight. Combine tomato and basil mixtures in a jar with a lid, shake well and place in the fridge for one week. Strain before serving.

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