Making the Most of the Season's Harvest: Herbal Fruit Shrubs
This time of year in Northern Virginia, the farmers markets are in full swing, and berries are abundant. Throughout the summer, we will have access to fresh raspberries, peaches, apricots, and melons. I like to buy a bit extra of whatever is in season, but sometimes we are not able to eat it all before it starts to go soft. So, I use whatever is getting too ripe to eat to make delicious, healthy fruit shrubs.
I have a lifelong love of vinegar. My mother used to let me use liberal amounts of apple cider vinegar on my cooked greens, since that was the only way that I would eat them. So, as an adult, I was thrilled when I came across the concept of shrubs – drinkable vinegar flavored with fruit. It doesn’t get better than this!
Although I had been hearing about shrubs since the mid-2010s, I didn’t actually try them until a couple of years ago when we joined friends for dinner at Tail Up Goat in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC. A Michelin-rated restaurant, they offer a creative cocktail menu that includes two seasonal (non-alcoholic) shrubs. Having given up alcohol and caffeine during my yoga teacher training in 2017, I am always on the lookout for delicious, creative alternatives, especially when dining out with friends. So, I was thrilled to see that they were offering two varieties: strawberry basil and raspberry mint. I chose the strawberry version. One sip and I was in love! It was one of the most heavenly things I’ve ever tasted, with its perfect balance of sweet and sour, and bright fresh fruit flavor. I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try the raspberry, too. It was equally delicious. If it weren’t for the wonderful menu options at Tail Up Goat, I would have been very happy to forgo the solid food and just fill up on shrubs.
Back home that evening, I started doing research on shrub recipes, and found a nice simple one in the New York Times, which I adapted to my food preferences. Although you can use any type of vinegar, I prefer my old favorite, apple cider vinegar (raw is the best), both because of the taste, and because of its myriad health benefits, including allergy relief, treating sore throats, sinus infections and chronic fatigue, boosting your potassium levels, and much more.
So, I encourage you to try this simple, flexible recipe for a delicious, health-giving summer drink.
Fresh Fruit and Herb Shrub:
1 pound unpeeled and chopped/mashed fruit (pits removed, if needed)
1 cup organic cane sugar, or maple syrup, or honey
1/4 cup fresh herbs of your choice (mint and basil are abundant in the summer)
1 cup vinegar (I've tried apple cider, balsamic, and white wine. They all taste great, adding their own personality to the shrub)
Mix fruit and sweetener in a glass or other non-plastic bowl, mashing the fruit until it gets very juicy. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 24 hours. Stir the mixture well, add vinegar and chill for another 24 hours, or even a few days. The longer it sits, the more the flavors will blend and mellow. I have let my mixture sit for up to three days.
Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into another bowl, pressing the solids until you have removed as much liquid as you can. Pour the liquid into a bottle or canning jar for storage. It will continue to mellow, and the flavors will continue to deepen. This will keep in your refrigerator for a couple of weeks, although I find mine never last that long.
To enjoy, add 1 part shrub to 3 parts sparkling water or seltzer. Adjust the ratio to your tastes.