This all started when I wondered what my grandmother or great grandmother would have had as a refreshing summer drink, so I googled it. The answer was shrubs. What?
What is a shrub? Before there was Coke, Pepsi or Dr. Pepper, our relatives drank shrubs. They’re homemade, healthy, affordable, and satisfying cold or hot drinks made from a mixture of fruit preserved in apple cider vinegar then mixed with water and served. My first batch was a huge success and I’m excited to share the experience with you.
Let me start by saying the basic recipe has 3 ingredients and you cannot make a mistake. This is the most forgiving recipe I have ever used. It’s a balance of sweet and tangy flavors catering to your specific taste. The prepared syrup is then refrigerated so you can use very small amounts to make refreshing drinks. I love it in a glass of water with ice. It also goes well in club soda, seltzer, or mineral water and will dazzle up a cocktail.
It’s no wonder shrubs are making their way back into our refrigerators. They taste great, cost very little per serving, use fresh fruit, store easily, and have the additional health benefits of apple cider vinegar. The recipe options seem endless. I discovered several cooking blogs offering recipes and demos which I will reference for you.
Before we begin with the delicious summer shrubs, let’s not forget seasons vary around the world. For those of you who are bundled-up and in the grips of winter here’s a link to The Noshery for a spiced orange shrub hot toddy. Stay warm and you’ll be making cold shrubs soon.
Making shrubs is very easy, but I noticed many variations from recipe to recipe. Don’t let that throw you off. Follow your recipe instructions.
To put things in perspective, here’s a quick look at the basic process.
Batch sizes can vary but you always use equal parts by volume of fruit, sugar, and vinegar.
Chop fresh fruit. Chopping helps release the juice.
Cover with sugar - let stand for 24 hours.
Strain the fruit to separate the juice from the fruit. Many recipes discard the fruit, but I enjoyed it on my morning yogurt.
Add the apple cider vinegar.
Refrigerate in a covered Ball jar for several days to a week.
Time to enjoy your shrubs!
It stores for at least a month in the refrigerator.
Now that you see just how easy this is, it’s time to visit a few blogs. I used the recipe from Bon Appetit for my first batch because it was very easy to follow. It was delicious, and we never thought to make iced tea, have a Pepsi or any other beverage all week.
Nancie’s Table makes a nice strawberry shrub and offers lots of historical information. Her process is different, but again it’s an easy recipe. This Ball jar photo is from Nancie’s Table.
Mary’s Nest is probably the best find if you enjoy history, love making things traditionally from scratch, and want a recipe to make apple cider vinegar. Mary, as she says, “is a former NYC girl now living in the Texas hills with her husband”. Her traditional cooking school has a large following and I think you’ll enjoy her.
As the fruit crops ripen around the Midwest, our family will try new recipes and build up a summer selection in the refrigerator. Can you imagine a peach shrub with mint? When you do your first batch, I want to emphasize again, you cannot make a mistake. Improvise if necessary. I used a grease splatter screen to separate the fruit from the juice because the holes in my strainer were too big. It seemed so wrong, but the outcome was so right.
To the diabetics reading this, I tried to find information with alternatives or reduced sugar. My husband was a diabetic and he would probably have used smaller shrub portions mixed in his water to control the sugar. I did not find sugar substitute recipes.
Shrubs are refreshing, and they dress up nicely for special occasions. Have a flashback with your family and friends. It’s fun to sit leisurely on the patio and think of past family members sipping their shrubs under an old oak tree.
Here’s a toast to the past and enjoying today!