Shrubs, commonly referred to as “drinking vinegar,” are rich in history. Records indicate that this beverage rose to popularity during the colonial era as a refreshing drink for farmers. Nearly spoiled fruit is preserved, sweetened, consumed and celebrated. In our age of perfectly shaped ripe fruit that is often thrown away when the slightest blemish appears, shrubs celebrate and give new life to what may be viewed as waste.
Through shrub-making, we participate in deep care of the earth and her fruitfulness. We dive into the trash pile and pull out what’s good. We cut away the rotten parts and discover what is useful, in order to make something new, vibrant, delicious and refreshing — shrub.
- 1 cup strawberries, cleaned and hulled (bonus points for local and organic)
- 1 cup rhubarb, cleaned and chopped into one-inch pieces
- 2 cups apple-cider vinegar (unfiltered is recommended)
- 2 cups sugar (try unrefined organic cane sugar)
Mash strawberries and rhubarb in apple-cider vinegar. Store fruit-and-vinegar mixture in the fridge for a day or 10. In a soup pot, combine fruit/vinegar mix with sugar. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for five minutes. Carefully strain out the pulp from the mixture using a metal strainer or colander (unless you are a pulp enthusiast). Store in a canning jar in the fridge.
To serve, combine two ounces of shrub concentrate with eight ounces of seltzer water and ice. Garnish with something cool, like basil or fresh strawberries. Share.
Shrub concentrate can be used in cocktails. (One friend uses the strawberry-rhubarb shrub to make a mean Moscow Mule.) For more ideas and recipe-sharing, join “Pittsburgh Shrub” on Facebook. Experiment with fruit seconds from the farmers’ market; different vinegars and sugars; herbs; and the cold or hot method. Shrub’s high apple-cider vinegar content makes it excellent for gastrointestinal health. Drink with friends on your porch, or bring to a party as a drink mixer.
Through conversation, several friends and I traced our knowledge and training about shrubs back to one local shrub enthusiast, farmer Greg Boulos, of Blackberry Meadows Farm. Thank you, Greg.
Sarah Walsh owns Caffè d’Amore Coffeeshop (5400 Butler St., Lawrenceville) and serves house-made shrub soda there.