Strawberry-rhubarb Balsamic Shrub
When you hear the phrase “drinking vinegar,” what comes to mind? Weird old-timey medicine? Something gross you’d drink if you were doing some sort of “cleanse”? It’s vinegar. And you drink it. That doesn’t sound delicious at all.
I decided to make a shrub purely out of curiosity. I had a bunch of strawberries and rhubarb leftover from making ice cream, and my eye on this post for a while now. I wanted to try it and I wanted to like it, but deep down, I was worried I’d hate it. It would be too vinegary for me, and I’d feel like a wimp. I’d wind up putting it in smoothies or trying to dilute it with seltzer and/or booze, all the while lamenting the waste of expensive balsamic. But now that I’ve finally tried it, I can honestly say that I don’t like it. I LOVE it.
I really don’t know if I can express how much I love this weird vinegary deliciousness I’ve created. It has a wonderful sweetness to it, counterbalanced by a refreshing tang that kicks you right in the the back of the tongue. Normally, I’ll make a soda syrup that will wind up just sitting in the fridge, hoping it gets used for a few cocktails before it’s deemed no longer drinkable. But I just can’t get enough of this stuff. I’ve been drinking a glass or two of it per day, while telling myself that I can’t have any more because I need to save it for cocktails this weekend. (I’m even considering not using it for cocktails, especially after a little experiment this evening left me craving more shrub and less gin. What?!)
If you’d like to learn a little bit of history about shrubs, Serious Eats has a great article that includes two different methods for making them (hot- and cold-processed). For my shrub, I followed the cold-processed method. Call me old fashioned, but I think there’s something much more appealing and wholesome about giving the ingredients a few days to naturally get acquainted with one another, rather than tossing some stuff in hot sugar water and straining it out after a matter of minutes, then throwing in some vinegar and calling it a day. I can only speak to the results of the cold method, but what I can say about that is it only requires patience and stirring, and the end result is amazing. I already know that I will be making this many, many more times this summer.
Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub (with a little pineapple too!)
(adapted from Fudge Ripple)
yield: approximately 2 cups of syrup
1 1/4 cups of ripe strawberries, cleaned, hulled, and sliced
1/2 cup of rhubarb, cleaned and sliced
1/4 cup of pineapple, sliced (if you don’t want to bother with pineapple, feel free to replace this with another 1/4 cup of rhubarb or strawberries)
1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
10 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
1 cup of balsamic vinegar (make sure you use a decent quality balsamic)
1/2 cup cider vinegar (again, decent quality)
Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl or jar, stirring to evenly-coat the fruit. Allow mixture to sit for around 1 hour, then macerate until everything is nice and broken up. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. (At room temperature is fine, but feel free to stick it in the fridge too.)
After 24 hours, macerate the mixture again, trying to crush the fruit as much as possible. At this point, you can add the vinegars immediately, or let it sit for another 24 hours. (I let mine sit for another day.)
When ready, add the vinegars and stir well. Store at room temperature for 7–9 days, giving it a good stir each day. When finished, pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, then transfer to a clean jar or container. Store syrup in the fridge.
To mix: Add 1 part syrup to 2.5–3 parts seltzer.
As far as cocktails go, I did not like this very much with gin. I think it would pair much better with tequila, which will be my next experiment!
UPDATE: This shrub + tequila = a match made in heaven. The flavors work with each other so well that you can barely tell where one ends and the other begins. It tastes like a beautiful summer day in a glass! Combine 1 part reposado tequila, 1 part shrub syrup, and 2.5 parts seltzer in a glass filled with ice. (I also added a few drops of pear bitters, and it was divine. I realize most people won’t have these on hand unless you happen to be one of those crazy people that bought Brad Thomas Parsons’s Bitters and immediately made six different batches of bitters . . . like I did. If you’re mega-jealous, do not despair — there just might be a giveaway in the future!)