Thursday, August 2, 2012

Shrubs. Historical Goodness.

I came across a way to preserve fruit and drink the result. And apparently, it is an OLD technique. It's called 'Shrubs.' I thought the name referred to the fruits picked from shrubs, or trees, and are usually the older fruit. Meaning the fruit is almost mushy or bad, but not yet and is still edible. But according to the history here I am totally off base. But that's nothing new. I still like my definition better.
A basic background is thus:

The word shrub comes from the Arabic sharaba meaning 'to drink.'

The first reference to 'shrub' in the English Dictionary comes in 1747 and is defined as 'any of various acidulated beverages made from the juice of fruit, sugar, and other ingredients often alcohol.'

So I started making my own shrubs today. I'm starting out with one from strawberries and one from cherries. Now, as the article link states, they have focused on alcoholic shrubs. I am making non-alcoholic shrubs using apple cider vinegar.

Okay- don't go all Blech! on me. Vinegar has been around a long, long time and has not only been in a lot of the foods you eat, but also doubles as a cleaning agent around the house. What's not to love?

Apparently, when you combine mashed fruit and sugar, let it hang out a few days, then add an equal amount of vinegar and let it hang some more, the end result is a fabulous sweet and tart drink you can then make into an alcoholic drink if you wish. Or, you can just add some club soda and have a nice refreshing beverage.
Depending on how long you let the fruit and sugar mash together, you may end up with an alcohol anyway!

The basic premise is this:
Take equal amounts of fruit and sugar and mash together. Let hang out in the fridge a couple of days. Then using a  cheesecloth, strain the juice from the fruit, squeezing as much as possible to get the most juice from your mixture.
Add an equal amount of apple cider vinegar to the juice (if you used 1 cup fruit and 1 cup sugar, use 1 cup vinegar). Mix well and pour into clean bottle and stash back in the fridge to hang out some more.

The sugar will settle at the bottom. That's fine. Just shake it up and put it back in the fridge. After doing this a few times over several days, the acid in the vinegar will eventually dissolve the sugar.
It should be pungent but not overly so. Even if it is, the longer you let your shrub mature, the mellower (is that a word?) it will get. It's a chemical reaction, basically. From what I understand, the yeast/bacteria in the fruit reacts with the sugar forming alcohol, then the bacteria in the vinegar turns the sugar into more alcohol, and eventually everything stops fermenting and mellows out and becomes one big happy family. Yay!

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