Drink your vinegar!
I am not talking about a new plant variety that yields juicy watermelons. In this case, shrub refers to a fruit infused vinegar syrup that was popular during the American Colonial era. The traditional recipe for shrub uses vinegar poured over fruit (typically berries) and left to infuse for a few days. The fruit was then strained out and the liquid would be mixed with sugar or honey. The sweet and sour syrup is then added to water, soda or alcohol.
This practice of preserving fruit fell out of popularity with the advent of refrigeration. As with most traditions, they make their way back into modern popularity eventually. Shrubs have been re-introduced to bars and cocktails as “artisanal vinegar” or “handcrafted vinegar” and as an alternative to bitters in cocktails. No need to pay the exorbitant prices for something so simple to make at home.
Shrubs are a snap to make. It works well for any overripe fruit and it’s another way to preserve your harvest. We still have a couple of watermelons from this year’s summer garden. They were a bit over ripe and soft on the inside; not ideal for eating. Instead of sorbet, we made shrub.
To serve shrub:
I like to add the shrub to soda water. You can add as much or as little as you like. Add it to punch, sparkling wine or as an alternative to bitters in cocktails. Also, if you are not a fan of cider vinegar, you can use a lighter vinegar like rice wine. You do taste the vinegar in the final product, but it’s not overwhelming. The acidity of the shrub is refreshing and is a palate cleanser. It’s perfect for an aperitif. Plus, vinegar has many health benefits such as lowering blood sugar levels and aiding in weight loss. It’s good to drink vinegar and shrubs make it easier to go down.
How long will the shrub last?
The shrub recipe above will last a few weeks. Most vinegars are high enough in acid to inhibit the growth of botulism. There are many different shrub recipes which employ different methods. I decided not to add the hot, simple syrup to the watermelon because cooked watermelon is not a pleasant flavor. If the shrub looks off color, has an unappealing smell or had mold growing on the surface, toss it.