Summer is the time of year when my eyes tend to be bigger than my stomach or my fridge. I hit the farmer’s market and get so excited—the peaches! The nectarines! The blueberries! The blackberries! All the peak-seasons fruits are begging for my attention and I can’t help but over-buy. Visions of galettes and muffins and handfuls of fruit in my morning yogurt beckon and then… reality sets in. Though I can definitely take down a minimum of three peaches a day in the middle of July, I always seem to have stragglers left in the back of my fridge, promising to go bad on the same day I have zero time to transform them into something delicious.
That’s where shrubs come in. A shrub is a cross between simple syrup, fruit juice, and vinegar. If you like the tart, bracing flavor of kombucha, a shrub is a much easier product to make. I love a spoonful or two stirred into my iced tea or sparkling water, but they’re also delicious drizzled on ice cream, mixed into popsicles, or used as a base for a super-refreshing cocktail. (Think gin or vodka, maybe a little bourbon with your peach shrub.)
Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated
The best thing about a shrub is that it is extremely easy to make, requiring only three ingredients and about 5 minutes of active time. The rest of the magic happens in the commingling of the ingredients and the time that you give them to meld together. Lots of people have lots of different recipes, but I’m here to tell you that you don’t even really need a recipe. You just need to understand the flavors at play, and manipulate them to your personal preference.
RECIPE: Basic Shrub Recipe
I like to start with about 2 cups of fruit. Strawberries, peaches, blackberries and even tomatoes are good options, but anything juicy that you have in your fridge will work. Place the fruit in a non-reactive bowl (that means not metal!) and sprinkle in some sugar. The amount that you use will depend on how sweet your fruit already is, and how sweet you want your shrub to be. For peak-season peaches that are already pretty sweet, I usually do about 1/2 cup of sugar, which is enough to create a syrup for the peaches to float in. There’s no need to peel your fruit—I usually don’t. Use a wooden spoon to mash and stir the fruit with the sugar. It should look goopy and wet. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature.
RECIPE: Rhubarb-Basil Shrub Cocktails
After 24 hours, add your vinegar. White wine vinegar is always a good option, because it is relatively gentle in acidity and neutral in flavor. Apple cider vinegar is naturally sweeter, and balsamic vinegar can be overpowering. A combination of two vinegars is often good—try blackberries with white wine and balsamic vinegar. I usually use about the same amount of vinegar as I did sugar, but I almost always start by adding 1/2 cup and tasting. Once it tastes good to you, cover again and refrigerate 24 to 48 hours, then strain out the chunks of fruit. The remaining shrub will stay good in the fridge for a long, long time because sugar and vinegar are two of the best preservers out there. But I doubt it will stick around for more than a few days. Cheers.
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