If you haven’t yet heard of the refreshingly tart drink known as a ‘shrub’, you’re missing out! From the Middle East to Europe, vinegar-based drinks have been around for centuries as a way to preserve fruit and purify water without the need of refrigeration. Shrubs really blew-up in American households during the colonial era, but as refrigeration became commonplace, they were slowly replaced with juice and soft drinks. Little did anyone know, shrubs would be all the rage hundreds of years later.
So, what exactly is a shrub?! Shrubs can be made from any fruit that has been macerated in sugar to obtain a deliciously sweet syrup. The syrup is then mixed with apple cider vinegar to hit the perfect balance between sweet, tart and acidic. Great mixed with soda water and even better mixed with gin – shrubs are creeping their way back and now feature on most good cocktail menus.
This recipe can be adapted to most fruits. The juicier and riper the fruit the better to gain the most flavour. Harder fruits, like pear or rhubarb, may need to be macerated for longer to extract more juice.
Makes about 1.3L of shrub
What you’ll need
1kg ripe strawberries, roughly chopped
1 bunch of basil, roughly chopped
750g golden caster sugar or raw sugar
400mL-450mL raw apple cider vinegar
What to do
1. In a large container or bowl, mix together the strawberries, basil and sugar until fully combined. Cover and place in the fridge until juice stars to exude from the fruit, combining with the sugar to make a syrup.
2. Stir twice a day for a minimum of two full days, mashing the fruit slightly with the back of a spoon as stirred. The longer the fruit is left to macerate, the tastier the syrup will be.
3. Strain the syrup from the fruit through a fine sieve, pressing lightly to extract all the juice. The final amount of syrup extracted will depend on how ripe the strawberries were, so it is best to measure the final quantity.
4. Measure out half the amount of apple cider vinegar to syrup and stir through – this should be somewhere between 400mL and 450mL.
5. Store in the fridge for up to two months. If a large quantity is made, the mixture can also be frozen and defrosted when needed.
How to enjoy
- Mix 30mL with gin, top with soda water and garnish with a wedge of lime and fresh basil
- Mix in cocktails where a sugar syrup would normally be used
- Add a dash to salad dressings or marinades for a sweet touch
What to do with leftover fruit pulp
- Turn into jam by adding pectin and cooking down
- Combine with fresh apple and bake a crumble or pie
- Add to a muffin batter
- Stir through overnight soaked Bircher muesli mix
- Cook down into a compote and spoon over granola or ice cream