We’re talking shrubs, preserved syrups made with fruits and vinegars, not the kind you find in your garden. Imbibing vinegars may not sound appealing when you desire a summer afternoon refresher but they are making a come back. A shrub is an-old fashioned syrup made by macerating fresh fruit in sugar and vinegar. It’s an extraordinarily fruity, tart and sweet mixture that dates back to Colonial times. Like salting and smoking meat in the pre-refrigeration days, preserving fruit in sugar and vinegar was a problem solving necessity. Put shrubs on your radar as you will likely find an inventive Mixologist at your local tavern offering creative concoctions using these syrups as an alternative to conventional lemons and limes.
Shrub Love – The History of Shrubs
The American version of the shrub originated from 17th century England where they used vinegar as an alternative to citrus juices in the preservation of summer harvested berries and other fruits which was enjoyed during the off-season. By the 19th century, classic American recipes called for drenching their summer bounty of fruits with vinegar which was left to infuse anywhere from overnight up to several days; then they strained the fruit which would be mixed with a sweetener such as sugar or honey and finally reduced to make a syrup. During the hot summer months, the sweet-and-sour mixture would be added to a glass of water or soda water as a thirst quenching soft drink. Often times the fruit syrups were used in alcoholic beverages as well. Shrubs eventually fell out of popularity when the refrigerator was invented. These days, however, serving up vinegar-based shrub drinks has become popular once again as Mixologists seek to reinvent historical tricks of the trade and you can find a slew of shrub recipes which are incredibly easy to make at home.
Shrubs are also excellent used in savory marinades and sauces for meats and they’re great flavor enhancers for icings or poured over ice cream and yogurt!
Lime Serrano Shrub (1 bottle)
8 limes zested
4 cups lime juice
4 cups sugar
4 cups white wine vinegar
4 Serrano green chilies, whole, no slit.
To make the Lime Serrano Shrub: (1 bottle)
Zest 8 limes. Juice 4 cups of lime juice. Dissolve 4 cups sugar in lime juice. Add 4 cups white wine vinegar, shake. Add 4 peppers. Let sit for at least 6 hours up to four days after the vinegar has been added and taste for heat. The vinegar will still be strong but you don’t want to leave in the peppers indefinitely. If you want more heat slit the pepper. Decant into a 16 ounce bottle with swing top rubber stopper. Shrubs will keep up to one year in fridge.
Lime Serrano Shrub Cocktail
1 jigger Lime Serrano Shrub
2 jiggers Vodka
1/2 jigger St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur
1 jigger Lime Juice (fresh)
Pour all of the ingredients into a shaker and fill with ice. Shake and fine strain into a chilled martini glass “straight up” or serve over ice and garnish with lime wedge. You can adjust the sweet:-sour ratio to your liking.
Cherry Shrub with Absinthe
• 1 oz absinthe
• 1 oz cherry shrub
• 1 oz lemon juice
• 2 oz ginger ale
• lemon wedge garnish
Combine absinthe, cherry shrub, lemon in a cocktail shaker with 3-4 ice cubes. Shake vigorously for a few seconds, then strain into a tall glass filled with ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge if desired.
To make the cherry shrub:
Chop 2 cups of cherries and place them in a large glass jar. Mix in two cups of cane sugar and let macerate for 2-3 hours at room temperature. Place lid on jar and refrigerate for 7 days shaking the jar once or twice a day to dissolve the sugar. After 7 days strain the fruit mixture thru a fine mesh sieve squeezing the pulp to extract all the juices. Add 1 cup cider vinegar and 1 cup black cherry balsamic vinegar. Decant into a 16 ounce bottle with swing top rubber stopper. Shrubs will keep up to one year in fridge.
Roasted Chicken and Apricot-Citrus Shrub Salsa (Adapted from Tyler Florence’s “Fresh” Cookbook)
For the Chicken:
6 whole chicken legs (drumstick & thigh) free-range chicken
1/2 cup smoked olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 -1/2 pounds baby creamer potatoes in assorted colors
For the Apricot-Citrus Shrub Salsa:
3 tablespoons Apricot Shrub
1 navel orange
Extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
6 breakfast radishes
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
Flowering cilantro buds
Fleur de sel
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Rub chicken all over with some of the smoked olive oil, ensuring it gets in all the crevices. Season all over with salt and pepper.
For the Chicken: Set the chicken legs in a large roasting pan over two burners and heat over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the chicken legs skin-side down and sear for 4 to 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over, add the potatoes to the pan, and drizzle with more olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the joint between the thigh and drumstick reads 160 degrees to 165 degrees F. The potatoes should be golden on the outside and tender in the middle. Remove from the oven and allow the chicken to rest for 5 minutes.
For the citrus salsa. Use a sharp knife to cut away the rind and pith from each of the citrus fruits. Holding the fruit over a bowl, carefully cut between the membranes to free the segments. Let the juices and segments fall into the bowl. Add about cup extra-virgin olive oil to the bowl and 3 tablespoons of Apricot Shrub and season with salt and pepper. Cut the radishes into very fine matchsticks on a mandoline or with a sharp knife. Fold them into the citrus salsa, and add the chives. Serve the roasted chicken with the potatoes and citrus salsa, and garnish with flowering cilantro. Season with fleur de sel.
To make the apricot shrub:
Chop 2 cups of apricots and place them in a large glass jar. Mix in two cups of cane sugar and let macerate for 2-3 hours at room temperature. Place lid on jar and refrigerate for 7 days shaking the jar once or twice a day to dissolve the sugar. After 7 days strain the fruit mixture thru a fine mesh sieve squeezing the pulp to extract all the juices. Add 2 cups cider vinegar. Decant into a 16 ounce bottle with swing top rubber stopper. Shrubs will keep up to one year in fridge.
To make the strawberry shrub:
Chop 2 cups of strawberries and place them in a large glass jar. Add two cups of cane sugar and let macerate for 2-3 hours at room temperature. Place lid on jar and refrigerate for 7 days shaking the jar once or twice a day to dissolve the sugar. After 7 days strain the fruit mixture thru a fine mesh sieve squeezing the pulp to extract all the juices. Add 1 cup cider vinegar and 1 cup Champagne vinegar. Decant in to 16 ounce bottle with swing top rubber stopper. Shrubs will keep up to one year in fridge.
STRAWBERRY CHERUB’S CUP
1 part St-Germain
2 parts Vodka, Cirtus Vodka, or Hendricks
1 part lemon juice
1 part strawberry shrub
top with Brut Rosé Sparkling Wine
Shake and strain over fresh ice in a Collins glass. Top with Brut Rosé or Brut Champagne. Garnish with strawberry.