Nooooooo, not that kind of shrub!! A shrub like an old school (colonial-era skool) American drink made with sweet drinking vinegar, OR it can refer to that sweet vinegar itself. It’s made by pouring mild vinny (apple cider, rice, wine, etc) over top of crushed fruits and letting it steep for hours or days, then the fruit is removed, sugar is dissolved in, and the resulting syrup is versatile and stable, and pretty like an magic elixir in your jar. It can be used in any way your brain can imagine – salad dressing, sauces, gravies, ice cream & yogurt topping, drink augmentation for both PG and R-rated beverages, others, all the things!
Yep. We demand shrubbery.
I had my heart set on making a rhubarb (or strawberry rhubarb) version first, mixed with sparkling water and being ever so pink… the nicest way I could imagine to enjoy these longer afternoons of watching the neighbourhood melt, and the nicest way of breaking in my new re-usable pink plastic curly straw.
But, you know, March.
A trip to the Jean Talon market was more a feast for the eyes (and for my mango-sampling baby) than for my rhubarb craving, but the vegetables looked cute. Ooh, colours. A small box of not-so-local Florida strawberries did find it’s way home with us, though. They were 92% attractive, they smelled amazing, they were a dollar. Perfect.
We crushed them up, made acidic strawberry soup, and after five days and a little sugar, my first shrub was born! After that came Papaya Shrub! (because eating locally was already not happening). A peachy-hued wonder! And they’re both beautiful, unusual and refreshing with sparkling water and I’m drinking them like crazy.
I used two different methods for the shrubs. The strawberry shrub was made following Marguerite Patton‘s instructions in Jam, Chutneys, Preserves, Vinegars and Oils, and the papaya shrub was made using an approximate 1:1:1 ratio of fruit, vinegar and sugar. The first is slightly more acidic, and the second more sweet, and both are sound starting points for exploration.
High quality vinegars are the best for this, such as apple cider, white wine, red wine, coconut, unseasoned rice, or whatever you have around that has a good flavour to begin with. Balsamic with strawberries are very nice, and you can use a lot more than I did!
I rounded the measurements out to make it easier to calculate different ratios – the amount of vinegar and sugar should always depend on the fruit.
- 1 lb (450 grams) fresh strawberries, cleaned and hulled
- 2 ¼ cups (560 grams) quality white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup (60 grams) quality balsamic vinegar
Crushed the berries and mix with the vinegar in a bowl, then transfer to a sealed container and refrigerate, stirring once a day, for 5 days. After 5 days, strain out the liquid with cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer and measure. For every 2 ½ cups (625 grams) of liquid, add:
- 1 – 2 cups (200 – 400 grams) white sugar
Use less sugar for a lightly sweetened vinegar, more for a sweeter result. In a wide saucepan, boil briskly to dissolve the sugar, then transfer to sterilized jars and seal down. Or, let it cool and store in the fridge for 6-8 weeks.
- 2 ½ cups (575 grams) crushed ripe papaya
- 2 cups + 1/3 cup (575 grams) coconut vinegar
Mix the crushed papaya and vinegar in a large bowl, then transfer to a sealable container and refrigerate for 5 – 7 days, stirring once a day. When ready, strain the liquid out using a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer and measure. I ended up with just over 3 cups (788 grams) of liquid, to which I added:
- 2 ½ cups (500 grams) white sugar
Boil the mixture briskly in a wide saucepan to dissolve the sugar, transfer to sterilized jars and seal down. Or, let it cool and store in the fridge for 6-8 weeks.