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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Easy Shrubs

The first time I'd ever heard of a shrub I was trying desperately to decode Smallman Galley's cocktail menu.  In general, the whackier the cocktail, the more I want to try it.  Smallman Galley (a local "chef incubator" has a bar menu filled with whackiness.

I didn't actually even TRY the drink with the shrub in it...just noted it on the menu as I tried to make sense out of ANY of their offerings.

The cocktail in question, "Here and Now" was a solution of "Market Alley" gin, dry curacoa (don't know how to make the little tail on my c), summer berry shrub, and lemon.  The one I tried instead was Vilified.  I found its contents more exotic.  BUT...I noted the term "shrub".  And learned that it was a way of preserving fruit juices/syrups in a vinegar solution.  It sounded kinda gross if we're being honest.
each ingredient less likely than the last

Except, a month or so later, at a Yelp Elite event at Muddy Waters (an amazing local oyster joint (probably they wouldn't appreciate that appellation, but here we are)), Boyd and Blair Vodka gave a two station presentation...1)  Making a shrub, and 2)  Creating a holiday punch from said shrub.  I tried the shrub.  The shrub was delicious.  I took pictures. 
the shrub

the punch

Right then  and there I vowed to make a shrub.  It was easy!  I would make a holiday punch for thanksgiving from the shrub I'd made (I didn't) or maybe Christmas (I didn't).  But the thought was there.  And I did make a shrub that November.  I just...I just kept forgetting to buy cheesecloth to strain it when I was done.

For months that shrub sat in a 32 ounce mason jar in my refrigerator, and two days after I finally pushed the button on my amazon app purchasing cheesecloth, it arrived on my doorstep (on a Sunday...god bless you, Amazon).  I strained.  I invited my sister over later that week.  And we got to work. Drinking.

Okay...

Apparently the idea of the shrub dates back to colonial days.  Seasonal fruit was preserved using vinegar and sugar, jarred and stored until needed/wanted, straining the fruit through cheesecloth left a mildly vinegar-tasting fruit syrup, or shrub.  Mixed with club soda, or carbonated water, you basically have shrub sodas, or drinking vinegars.  Mixed with spirits...you have excellence. 

Boyd and Blair's original recipe (they handed them out on printed cards at the Yelp event) was holiday-esque, it was spicey and wintery and delicious, and although I wanted to replicate it, I was missing some of the fancier ingredients. 
I still have this card in my recipe box.

Couldn't find it on their website, but they have some awesome drink recipes WITH shrubs.
http://boydandblair.com/recipes/

But you can basically make a shrub out of any fruit/vegetable that's juicy.  The more fibrous fruits/vegetables don't work as well.  I loved the idea of strawberries and basil.  I got a package of strawberries and some fresh basil along with unfiltered cider vinegar and some mason jars and a fruit masher and a canning funnel (that delivered months before I realized I needed to place my cheesecloth order).

There are several ways to make shrubs.  Two main ways...hot or cold.  There are several great posts on the merits of each (easily searchable..."how to make a shrub"), but broken down into very basic terms...cold keeps the brightness of the fruit better, hot minimizes the tang of the vinegar better.  Why I use the cold method, however, is because it's suuuuuuuuper easy.  And I'm a single dad raising two kids, one of whom is autistic.  I like things easy.  Easy is my jam.

Okay...Cold method...there are a couple approaches to this as well:

1)  mash fruit, mix/mash with sugar, let sit a few days, add vinegar, mix, let sit a couple weeks.
2)  mash fruit, mix/mash with sugar, add the vinegar, let sit a couple weeks. 

I picked the easier method of...just throw all the shit together and mash it up and then let the vinegar and sugar do its work. (method 2)

If you look at the Boyd and Blair recipe, there are some decimal places there that I thought were too complicated.  I simplified my own version to be...in essence this:

1)  1 1/2 cups of mashed fruit (take a bunch of cut fruit, toss it in the mason jar and mash the shit out of it until it's down to 1 1/2 cups.  Add more fruit until you get 1 1/2 cups mashed.
2)  1 1/2 cups of sugar (I then take the fruit muddler/masher and mash the shit out of the fruit with the sugar until it's all one big syrupy mulch)
3)  1 1/2 cups of unfiltered cider vinegar (or however much room you have left in the 32 oz mason jar)

Easy.  Close the lid, shake all up until the sugar granules are all fully dissolved (if they weren't already) and put it in the fridge.  I labeled my jar with the date since you're supposed to wait a couple weeks.  Every day I'd grab the jar, mix it all around, and put it back in the fridge.  Until...I didn't anymore.  Because it was months before I had cheesecloth.

When I finally had the cheesecloth...I strained the syrupy mashed fruit mix through it into another jar and I had my shrub.  It smelled amazing...strawberries and basil...and yes, a hint of vinegar.


I encourage anyone who wants to try a shrub to start with strawberries and basil.  It's amazing...

My sister and I collected some mixers together and made the following:
1)  Strawberry basil shrub mule (with ginger beer, vodka and a bit of lime juice)
2)  Strawberry basil shrub old fashioned (bitters, bourbon, teaspoon of sugar)
3)  Strawberry basil shrub with rum and lime juice
4)  Strawberry basil shrub margarita (tequila, cointreau, lime) (not pictured below)




They were ALL.  UH.  MAY.  ZING.  Seriously, I would have thought at least one of those things would have sucked a little.  None did.  None sucked.  They kicked ass.  No sucking.  All kicking.

So...I made more...blueberry ginger, cherry, grilled pineapple with jalapeno, and, in honor of Donald Trump...peach mint!  mmmmmpeachmint.  All soooo good.
peach/mint...skins...no skins...no worries!

blueberry ginger

cherry

And then I was at another Yelp Event at Tres Rios where they served a roasted red pepper margarita.  "Nobody else in the city is making this margarita," they said...NOT.  SO.  FAST, Tres Rios...I roasted red peppers and jalapenos...I mashed, I mixed...and right this very minute there is a roasted red pepper/jalapeno shrub aging in my refrigerator waiting for its turn in the margarita merry-go-round.  It smells soooooo good.


It's gotten a bit out of hand, I'm not going to lie.  The other day, Emma tried to put something away in the fridge and she said, "Dad, can we move all your 'special juices' to the basement fridge?  There's no room for food."  And she's...she's sort of right.

I'm taking a brief break from shrub-making and transitioning over the fourth of July holiday to shrub DRINKING.  But there will be more.  So many more.

If you decide to shrub here's the equipment you'll need:

1)  32 oz mason jar
2)  Fruit masher
3)  cheesecloth
4)  canning funnel (optional...but it's less messy)

The recipe is constrained only by your imagination and budget.  Healthy people are drinking unfiltered active yeast vinegars these days, and while I can't speak specifically to any health benefits I'm observing...I did feel pretty amazing after my sister and I finished our cocktails.

Despite the health benefits of the unfiltered cider vinegar, nothing is holding you to it.  Use champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar...whatever you think.  The same is true of the fruit the sugar and any spice you use.  The recipe amounts to:

1)  fruit or vegetable you want to preserve/shrub
2)  spice (optional) you want to mix with it (I recommend basil/mint/jalapeno...it cuts the vinegar smell and taste and if you pick well, pairs really nicely with your fruit)
3)  sugar (this can be any sugar...cane sugar, raw sugar, maple syrup...whatever you think would be a nice mix with the fruit/veggie you selected)
4)  vinegar (again...any vinegar will do, but I highly recommend the unfiltered cider vinegar)

and that's it...1 1/2 cups of mashed fruit veggie of choice with spice of choice, 1 1/2 cups of your sugar of choice, 1 1/2 cups of  your vinegar of choice....mash/mix...refrigerate two weeks, mixing daily.  Strain and mix in cocktails or carbonated water.
mash up your fruit

add sugar

mash it all up

add vinegar

label with the date (if you're forgetful...like me)

refrigerate two weeks, mix every day or so
strain a couple weeks later!  voila!

Experiment with how much you want to use.  With cocktails we basically used 1:1...1 shot of shrub with 1 shot of liquor.  With carbonated water, there weren't any other flavors so 2 shots of shrub made a nice fruity flavorful summer ...shroda (props to Kate for the portmanteau name).
cherry shroda!

Great for summer bbqs.  Kids or adults...

Drink responsibly.

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