Monday, September 17, 2012

Cherry Shrub and Shrubet


Acetic acid is powerful stuff, capable of clearing your sinuses, cleaning your bathroom, or transforming bland and perishable cucumbers into zingy pickles with a near-infinite shelf life.   

Along with water, acetic acid is the essential ingredient in vinegar--but it need not be the dominant flavor.  Brewing vinegar directly from tasty ingredients such as fruits and grains ("pure vinegars") or adding these ingredients to vinegar prior to a second, shorter fermentation process ("compound vinegars") can result in something more like a liqueur:  smooth, intense, aromatic, and even drinkable, usually as an apertif, digestif, or diluted into a kind of spritzer.  In many places, that mixture of fruit vinegar and water or soda water is known as "shrub". 

Home-brewed compound vinegars have a long history and after a quiet spell have seen a recent bump in prominence.   Making your own is easy (shrub is the jam of lazy DIYers) and relatively cheap if you use the fecund-est local fruit of the moment (in my case, cherries).  

Cherry Shrub

4 lbs cherries, washed, sorted, stemmed, and pitted
4 c vinegar (I used Bragg's apple cider; depending on your fruit you could use white, balsamic...)
1/2 c sugar (to taste)

-Put the fruit in a large non-reactive pot or several glass jars and add enough vinegar to cover.  
-Let the fruit sit, covered, at room temperature temperature for a week, stirring well each day. 
-On Day 7 or 8, stir in the sugar and heat the fruit to a low boil for about an hour.  
-Remove from the heat and when the mix is cool enough to handle, strain the liquid into clean jars.  Reserve the fruit solids (see below). 
-Mix chilled shrub with water or soda water to taste, or sip straight.  


Bonus:  Shrub-et!

Why waste all that yummy fruit mush?  If shrub makes for a refreshing drink, it's off-the-charts invigorating as a frozen treat.  

leftover shrub fruit (of course this is best done with fruits such as pitted cherries that are entirely edible)
sugar to taste
spices and flavorings to taste
approx. 2 T vodka (depending on the volume of fruit)

-If your fruit is chunkier that you like in a frozen dessert, whizz it in a food processor.  
-Add just enough water to dissolve about 1/2 c of sugar; stir, shake in a jar, or heat gently until the sugar grains completely melt.  
-Mix the fruit and syrup.  
-Add any desired spices or flavorings (to my cherry mush I added a little cinnamon, ground cardamom, and black pepper, plus about 1 T of almond extract).  
-Stir in a little neutrally-flavored alcohol to keep the mush from freezing rock-solid. 
-Pour into a plastic tub or bowl and place in the freezer.  To create a softer texture, break up the ice crystals by raking the shrubet with a fork every hour or so as it freezes, then give it a final fluff about 15 minutes before serving. 

For more on shrub's history and resurgence in popularity, check out this NYT article

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