It is fun to ride the wave of food trends, and shrubs are definitely experiencing a comeback. Made with fruit juice, vinegar and sugar or honey, the term “shrub” comes from the Arabic word “sharab,” which means drink. Shrubs are an ancient method of preserving fruit in the form of a syrup that can be used to create refreshingly tart and sweet beverages or to brighten and deepen the flavors of your glazes, salad dressings and desserts. The ratio of juice, sugar and vinegar called for in shrub recipes is commonly about 1/3 of each, but I tend to like them with a little less vinegar and sugar.
Shrubs have regained momentum alongside the craft cocktail movement, and many bars and restaurants make their own shrubs to flavor their signature cocktails. My favorite way to enjoy a shrub is with soda water; historically, they were simply added to water.
The best shrub I have ever tasted was a Shiro plum with allspice and honey out of Brooklyn. It had a perfect balance of sweet and tart and an interesting, subtle flavor that was accentuated when it was mixed with soda water.
You can make a shrub out of any fruit you wish. The best part of making shrubs is experimenting with the herbs and spices used to make your creation unique.
Something about this freedom brings me back to the apothecary lab. There are many fruits that have traditionally been used for their nourishing or medicinal properties. I envision shrubs combining fruits with healing herbs and spices to make medicinal tonics. Cherry juice is known to help with arthritis and elderberry to treat the lungs and colds. Blueberries and pomegranates have become popular due to their high amounts of antioxidants.
Consider combining these juices with spices and apple cider vinegar and drinking them as cocktails for good health. But then, celebrating itself is a form of medicine, so combining flavors that are inspiring may be healing enough!
Some wonderful winter treats to experiment with include lemon with honey, apple cider vinegar, ginger and a touch of cayenne; pomegranate with black pepper; and beets with lemon and rosemary. There are many spices that you can use as well.
Jordan Champagne is the co-owner and founder of Happy Girl Kitchen Co. She has a passion for preserving the local, organic harvest and loves sharing her secrets at the workshops she teaches across the region