At the Philly Farm & Food Fest, I bought a bottle of Tait Farm Ginger Shrub, and since then I’ve been a bit obsessed with shrubs. A shrub is a concentrated syrup made of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Recipes for shrub syrups date back to Colonial times when the syrups were created as a way of preserving the fruit. There are many methods of making shrubs and many variations on the recipe, but I thought I’d start with the simplest method I could find to begin my DIY shrub experiments.
I had rhubarb at the farmers market that I used to make my first shrub syrup. Yes, rhubarb is a vegetable and I said shrubs are made from fruit. Cooking rules are never hard and fast. I went with a basic 2:1:1 formula that seems to be usable for most shrub syrups. 2 pounds fruit/vegetable:1 part vinegar:1 part sugar. As I learned when I was making limoncello recently, there are a million variations on old-time beverage recipes. Some shrub recipes call for adding water. Some are cooked on the stovetop; some are done in a cold method and steeped for a couple days.
- 4 pounds of rhubarb, cut into 1-inch dices
- 1 cup white vinegar
- 1 cup sugar
- Place all ingredients in a heavy bottomed sauce pan and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Reduce to low, and stir frequently until the rhubarb is completely broken down and total mush. It took mine about 20 minutes to get there.
- Place a colander over a large bowl and strain the mixture. You can stir the mixture around to help strain it, but do not press it through the holes of the colander. Once you think you have it all strained, walk away for about a half hour to allow any remaining liquid to drip through.
- Take the strained liquid and then pass it through a fine sieve, lined with cheesecloth if desired, to make the liquid even smoother. I put mine through the sieve four times.
- Bottle and put in the refrigerator. It will last several weeks.
Once you your shrub is made, there are many ways you can use it in drinks and in foods. The simplest way to use it is to add 2 tablespoons of shrub syrup to 10 ounces of club soda over ice to make a homemade soda. You can also mix it into iced tea, cocktails, cook with shrub syrups, use it in vinaigrettes to dress salads, and more.