Posts Tagged ‘shrubs’

Bending the calendar with fruit shrubs

Friday, October 5th, 2012

It is October, right? Or am I being punked by my calendar, fooled into thinking it’s October when the weather seems more like the end of August? If so, then the joke is also on the blackberries, plums and other late summer fruit still heavy on trees and bushes. But I will have the last laugh when I am enjoying these fruits into 2013.

I won’t freeze them or make jam. Instead, I’ll do as American colonialists did and make shrubs – a combination of fruit, vinegar and sugar.  Shrubs can be used in cocktails or enjoyed splashed into plain club soda or even Diet Coke (try with cherry shrub!). The vinegar lends a tangy taste to produce and serves as a great preservative.

In my cranberry Thanksgiving shrub post, I described how to cook a shrub. For late summer’s softer, juicier fruits, I love the cold-process approach because it is so easy and the ingredients do all the work. But don’t be limited by season: I have found that frozen berries make excellent shrubs with this same technique.

Blackberry shrub

2 c. washed blackberries
1 c. sugar
1 c. champagne vinegar

Combine the blackberries and sugar in a covered jar or bowl and refrigerate for a day or two, until the berries break down and a syrup forms. Fine strain the berry solids out, then add vinegar to the syrup, bottle and refrigerate. For best taste, wait another day or two for the flavors to meld and then enjoy!

I use the recipe above as my template for most shrubs: 2 cups fruit to 1 cup sugar and 1 cup vinegar (usually white wine, champagne or apple cider vinegars). Then I experiment with flavors, using my shrubs as substitutes for citrus juice and muddled fruit in cocktails.

Sometimes an existing cocktail recipe provides the perfect foundation for a shrub tweak. Such was the case with the Bufala Negra, which calls for balsamic vinegar. I can’t compare it to the original recipe, but my version makes a flavorful and refreshing drink to enjoy all year round.  

Bufala Negra Shrubbed

1½ oz bourbon
4 fresh basil leaves (+1 for optional garnish)
3/4 oz shrub
2 oz ginger beer (I used Fentimans)
Brown sugar (optional)

Muddle the shrub and basil. Add bourbon and ice and shake hard. Strain over fresh ice cubes into a glass and top with ginger beer. Garnish with basil leaf. Note: Since shrub sweetness can vary by fruit and time of season, you can add a teaspoon or more of brown sugar when muddling the basil if you like.

Combined, blackberries, bourbon and basil are a tongue twister — and a tongue tingler. Enjoy!

  

Cheers, ICE

*Bufala Negra is from Imbibe Magazine online

 

A Sauced Cranberry gets you ready for the big meal

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

More than any other holiday, Thanksgiving Day is defined by The Meal: The lore of the first Thanksgiving meal between pilgrims and Native Americans (who certainly must regret it now) and the meals we Americans eat every fourth Thursday in November. Since cranberries are such an integral part of the turkey dinner, I was drawn to incorporating them into a pre-dinner cocktail.  An aperitif primes the digestive system for a meal, and this cranberry shrub cocktail will do just that.

Shrubs are fruit preserved with vinegar and were widely consumed in the colonial America that came after the pilgrims. They are an effective way to make seasonal fruits last longer, and, in cocktails, add both sweet and acidic elements.  Having that acidic component is a huge plus for group cocktails as it means no tedious citrus squeezing.   

There are two ways to produce a shrub, either the cold-process method where fruit is macerated with sugar for 24-48 hours before adding vinegar, or by simmering the ingredients together until the fruit is broken down.  For cranberries, using heat is a better option to soften the harder fruit.

Cranberry Shrub

4 c. fresh cranberries
3 c. sugar
1 c. water
2 c. apple cider vinegar (I used unfiltered)

Split open all of the cranberries with a muddler or other hard tool. Combine with sugar and water, and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes as fruit softens and sugar dissolves. Add apple cider vinegar and simmer for 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Strain out all solids, bottle and keep in the refrigerator. Makes 3+ cups after straining. A shrub can last months because of the preservation nature of vinegar.

For this occasion, I chose apple cider vinegar because I thought it would pair nicely with the cranberries, but any variety – white or red wine vinegars, white vinegar, champagne vinegar – will do. Brandy also seemed suiting, along with a final garnish of cayenne pepper to add a bit of heat. So while the cocktail was coming together with aspects of tart, tangy and heat, it still needed a touch of sweetness to round it out. An amaretto’s almond flavoring provided the missing element.

Sauced Cranberry

1 oz brandy
½ oz cranberry shrub
¼ oz amaretto (I used Di Saronno)
Pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix brandy, shrub and amaretto in a glass with ice. Add a pinch of cayenne pepper to garnish (this is optional, but provides a nice heat and offsets typically non-spicy Thanksgiving dishes to come later).  It will be lacking the full flavor, but if you want to substitute an almond syrup for the amaretto, start with half the amount and add to taste.  To scale into a pitcher drink that serves 12, use 12 oz of brandy, 6 oz of shrub, and 3 oz of amaretto; pour into a glass with ice and garnish.

There is some research showing that consuming vinegar (in salad dressings and such) can help stabilize blood sugar, lower glucose levels in diabetics, and help with general digestive issues.  Like, perhaps, those caused by ingesting mass quantities of turkey, mashed potatoes and pie?  But even if the Sauced Cranberry doesn’t provide health benefits, it is easy to make ahead and the shrub could do double-duty as a mocktail with Sprite or ginger beer.

 Have a Happy Thanksgiving. May you pull the long side of the wishbone!

 Cheers, ICE

 

As always, check out my Glossary of Spirits page for alcohol and mixer definitions and details.