During a recent heat wave, Brian and I found that water was not replenishing our bodies or quenching our thirst. We did not have any of our homemade sodas on hand, so we searched through cookbooks to find a simple, refreshing drink that we could make with ingredients we had on hand. We found shrubs.
Shrubs, or drinking vinegar, were popular during the 17th and 18th centuries, and have enjoyed a revival in recent years, not only in home kitchens but also in cocktails. A shrub can refer to a type of fruit liqueur, or a non-alcoholic beverage made from a sweetened, vinegar-based syrup. The addition of vinegar preserves the fruit syrup, and also adds a tangy and thirst-quenching quality.
A few years ago we planted hundreds of native and edible trees and shrubs. (For those of you in Missouri, check out the George O.White Nursery, which offers a wide variety of Missouri natives for wildlife habitat, reforestation, and erosion control at an incredibly inexpensive price – we got many of ours for .35 cents per plant!) This year we’re enjoying the literal fruits of our labors, harvesting elderberries and chokeberries. Chokeberries (Aronia genus) are gorgeous shrubs that produce blueberry-sized berries that are very high in antioxidants. Personally, I find the astringency of the raw fruit very hard to stomach, but that mellows considerably when the berries are cooked.
We decided to make a shrub out of our Aronia berries, but you could make them with any berry you have on hand. I think an elderberry or blackberry shrub would be incredibly delicious!
How to Make Shrubs, or Drinking Vinegar
2 cups of berries (try Aronia berries, blackberries, elderberries, raspberries, cherries, etc.)
1 cup Apple Cider Vinegar
3/4 – 1 1/2 cups sugar (adjust as desired, according to how sweet your berries are)
To Make Your Shrub
- Place berries in a pot, and pour the vinegar over the berries. If you have a berry that will release its own juice, such as blackberries, you may not need to add the vinegar at this point, and could choose to add it after cooking and straining. Heat the berries gently, while adding the sugar, and stirring until it is dissolved completely. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat.
2. Mash the berry-vinegar-sugar mixture, then put it through a strainer to extract as much of the juice as possible. We ended up pouring water over the strainer and catching it in a separate glass, so we could enjoy a glass of shrub with the “rinse water.”
3. Pour your concentrate into a glass jar and refrigerate until you’re ready to use. I have read that shrubs can store in the refrigerator for up to six months, but I don’t think you could wait that long to drink yours up!!
4. Pour 1/4 cup of the berry concentrate into a glass of ice, then top with water. You may need to adjust ratios, depending on how large a glass of shrub you wish to enjoy!
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