WTF is a shrub I hear you saying. It’s an indispensable tool in a modern mixologist’s belt – a way of preserving the season’s freshest ingredients into perpetuity.
Okay, fine but here me out. My dad gave me his extra Costco card, and now on the regular I’m like WTF am I going to do with 7 pounds of strawberries. The struggle is real.
I’m not trying to make 700 strawberry smoothies or tons of jam which I’ll never eat. Plus, I like mocktails.
Hey, don’t judge me.
I’m making shrubs like it’s my job right now. If you’ve never had one, it’s basically a drinking vinegar – a syrup made from fruit, sugar, and an acid of your choice, but mostly vinegar. Back in the old days, people used this preservation method to hang on to those last few weeks of juicy peaches or perfect blackberries, or voluptuous pears.
Today, we’ll be trafficking in strawberries, not because it’s seasonally appropriate here on December 1st, but rather because I meant to post this a long time ago, but then I lost all the pictures so I abandoned it, but then I found them again.
And I’m just warning you, I don’t have a final picture because of Señor Recycle Bin but the shrub turned out redder than Jamaica Kool-Aid. So beware, this recipe will yield something gorgeous. We’ll be using a cold process rather than a hot process because (1) laziness and (2) it preserves the fresh fruit flavor better. (I find hot processed shrubs taste a little too jammy.) It takes longer, but it’s worth it.
Here’s what I did (full recipe follows below):
- Start with gorgeous, ripe fruit.
2) Chop it up and put it in a sterilized jar.
3) Add sugar and aromatics, toss to coat and put it in the fridge. After a few days, it should look like this:
4) Remove the solids, add vinegar.
Makes approx 2 cups of Strawberry White Balsamic Peppercorn shrub, which is a lot, as you really only use one tablespoon at a time.
We’ll be using a 1:1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar to vinegar. Isn’t that handy? Now, I happen to think this is an excellent starting point, but once you get the hang of this, you can modify some of the quantities slightly because some fruits and some vinegars have a higher sugar content than others, etc.
1 cup of ripe strawberries, washed, hulled, diced large (measure after dicing)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup white balsamic vinegar
15 black peppercorns
1 large sprig of thyme
- Sterilize a very large non-reactive container by washing in very hot soapy water, and sterilize the lid by placing in boiling water. Wash your hands thoroughly and any surfaces you’ll be working on.
- Place chopped fruit in the jar, add sugar, peppercorns, and thyme, and toss to coat. Sugar should be coating every piece of strawberry.
- Cover with lid, and place in fridge.
- Check on it every day. How long it takes for the strawberries to disgorge all their beautiful juice depends on how firm or juicy they were to begin with. It could take anywhere from 6 hours to 3 days. Once they are nearly entirely covered in their own juice, they’re ready.
- Pass the whole mixture through a sieve and catch all of the juices, making sure to incorporate any white sugar that has stuck to the bottom of the jar. Lightly press the mass of fruit to remove any additional liquid, without pushing fruit matter through the sieve.
- Pour your syrup into a sterilized jar (cleaned the same way I described above) and add in the cup of vinegar. Whisk until all the sugar has dissolved.
- Your shrub is ready to use, or if you want to wait a few weeks for that vinegar bite to work its way out, store in the fridge. Mine keep for months and months, and I like the last serving of it the best.
To use: Mix 1 tbsp with water or seltzer to make an excellent mocktail. Or for a great cocktail, add 1 tbsp to gin, whisky, mezcal (really anything) and either shake it in a shaker with ice or serve it on the rocks with a splash of water or soda.