Today I am here to talk to you about shrubs. No, I am not talking about bushy green plants that grow out of the ground, I am talking about the tart, sweet, and fruity vinegar syrups that used to be added to water and cocktails back in the days of yore, and which are currently making quite the comeback in the home bar circuit. I hadn’t heard of shrubs until I came across them on Carey’s blog, Reclaiming Provincial, a few months back. She has some amazing recipes for them, including (but not limited to!) a Plum Orange shrub and a Cherry Balsamic shrub. A shrub syrup is made from fresh fruit, sugar, and vinegar, and was used as a tool to preserve fruit juices back when refrigeration wasn’t readily available. The possible variations on shrubs is enormous; you can use different types of sugars (cane sugar vs turbinado sugar, for example) for different flavors of sweetness, one or a mix of the many types of vinegars that exist, and fruit…well, there’s a lot of different fruit out there. You can also add dried herbs and spices to the mix for even more flavors.
At the time that I was reading through Carey’s posts it was a chilly autumn evening, and I bookmarked them in my brain to attempt once the weather had warmed up and I would truly appreciate a cold and fruity beverage. Well my friends, the time has come. It was in the 80’s-90’s this past week in North Hollywood, and boy did I need a drink. So, I rolled up my sleeves and decided to try my hand at this shrub business. Shrubs take about a week to make, the first day is spent letting the chopped up fruit sit in sugar and release its fruity juices. The second day you filter out the whole fruit bits and just keep the syrup in a jar with the vinegar. Then for the rest of the week you simply shake the jar once a day, and seven days later you have a nice little shrub syrup. If you want to, however, you can let the shrub sit for several weeks, as I’ve read that the tartness and sweetness mellow overtime and become more harmonious with a couple extra weeks in the fridge. This time I was too impatient and wanted to try that shrub syrup asap, but the next time I make them I am definitely going to let them sit in the fridge a few weeks longer to see if I can taste a difference.
You can mix shrub syrup with whatever beverage you like (seltzer water, ginger ale, etc.) I made some toasted coconut syrup and mixed it with the kiwi shrub, ginger ale, and spiced rum for a little tropical cocktail I dubbed Tart of the Pacific, inspired by Kevin Liu’s many cocktail discussions in his book, Craft Cocktails At Home. I helped Kevin with some tastings on his chapter about bitters, (wormwood tastes exactly like dill pickles after extracting around for 10 days. Weird.) and Carey from Reclaiming Provincial contributed a portion about shrubs in the book along with more of her delicious shrub recipes. And because Kevin is awesome, he has offered to share Craft Cocktails at Home with one of you! The giveaway is comprised of:
If you are even slightly curious about making cocktails, I highly recommend reading through his book (the kindle version is only $3.99 on amazon. A steal, my friends!) From making flavored foam toppings, to building your own universal temperature controller, to how the mouth processes tastes and textures, this book covers absolutely everything that the inquisitive cocktail enthusiast would want to know about. I am a very curious person, and after reading it from cover to cover, I could not think of a cocktail-related subject the book hadn’t talked about. Even proper glassware!
To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below about your favorite cocktail or beverage. The deadline for entries is March 22nd and the winner will be announced in a new blog post on March 23rd. Good luck everyone!!
Note: This giveaway is open to residents of the United States and those 18 and older only.
Peel the kiwis using this spoon technique and cut them into quarters. Toss the kiwi quarters in a large bowl with the sugar until coated. Cover and leave the bowl in the refrigerator for an hour, then come back and macerate the mixture, cover it again, and refrigerate it overnight. The next day the mixture should look like it is surrounded in a syrup and most of the sugar granules should be dissolved.
Strain the fruit pieces out through a mesh colander and keep the syrup. Some of the sugar will settle to the bottom of the syrup, and that is fine (once the syrup is mixed with the vinegar the acidic qualities of the vinegar will dissolve the sugar over a short period of time).
Your shrub syrup is now ready to use! Feel free to mix it with water, sparkling beverages, juice, or cocktails. Make sure to keep your shrub syrup covered and refrigerated when not in use.
Makes about 2 cups of kiwi shrub syrup.
Toasted Coconut Simple Syrup
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and break the coconut open. The method I found that worked best for opening the coconut was to hit the it repeatedly really hard with the back of a knife. It sounds crazy, but you can see this guy explaining/doing it here. He is much larger and more muscular than I am and was able to do it in two strokes, whereas it took me about 2 dozen flurries of whacking to get it to crack open all the way, but it works! Just make sure you do it over a bowl so the milk has somewhere to drip once it pops open.
The next step is to empty the milk out of the coconut and place the coconut halves/pieces on a baking sheet, white side up, and place it in the oven. Allow it to bake for 20 minutes, then remove and cool to room temperature. Once the coconut has cooled, you should be able to see that it has separated from the shell a bit around parts of the edges. Use a metal spoon to pry the white pulp off the shell. The pulp will still have a brown coating on the back, and this can be peeled off with a vegetable peeler.
Once the coconut pulp is removed and peeled, cut it into 1-inch chunks and place it in a bowl with the turbinado sugar and water and mix well. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, pour the mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until pulpy, but not entirely smooth. Pour the mixture into a canning jar, screw on the lid, and place it in the refrigerator. Shake once a day for a week. Then filter out the coconut pulp through a mesh colander.
Give the syrup another filtration through a piece of cheesecloth just to get any remaining fine bits of coconut pulp out. Your toasted coconut syrup is ready for use! Make sure to keep your syrup covered and refrigerated when it’s not in use.
Makes roughly 3/4 cup toasted coconut simple syrup.
Tart of the Pacific
Stir together the toasted coconut simple syrup, rum, and ginger ale until combined. Then quickly stir in the kiwi shrub and serve.