I’ve been experimenting with shrubs – not in the garden – but in the kitchen. Don’t think leafy and green, think sweet, sour and refreshing.
Shrubs were made as a way to preserve fruit before refrigeration. And though I have not yet achieved my jam goals for the summer – I am quite sure I could fill a winter’s quota with this acidulated syrup made from fruit, sugar and vinegar.
The recipe below is a bit of a shortcut as it uses heat to break down the fruit quickly. (If you are a purist you can just let the fruit macerate in the sugar for several days.) Once finished, you can use the syrup as a base for cocktails, but I’ve mostly been mixing it with soda water for everyday patio and barbecue accompaniment. Its tartness pairs well with food and is great at quenching thirst.
Rhubarb, cherries and peaches are all delicious but mellow strawberries make a nice intro to the form. Bring on Happy Hour!
4 cups quartered strawberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
In a medium pot combine 4 cups quartered strawberries and 1 cup sugar. Mix and allow to sit 1 hour to begin to draw out the juices. Add 1 cup vinegar (start with white vinegar or apple cider on the first try but balsamic is also a tasty option).
Bring to a simmer and allow to cook about 10 minutes until the strawberries are very soft and more juice has been released. Cool and then strain the juices through a fine sieve. Bottle or pour into a Mason jar and refrigerate the syrup. You can discard the strawberry pulp or use it as a topping (try it on ice cream).
For an average drink, start with 2 tablespoons syrup and top with soda water, then adjust to your own tastes. For a cocktail, allow for a 1:1 ratio of syrup to alcohol, add soda then adjust. If you use too little syrup you will get more of the tart notes but less of the sweet.