Our ranch manager recently told me she and her husband love to use vinegar shrubs as a mixer in their cocktails. The subject came up because I had been telling her that I recently started drinking apple cider vinegar in water to help with the pregnancy indigestion I had been suffering from. When she mentioned the shrubs I looked at her blankly and asked “What the hell is a vinegar shrub?”
Well after a bit of Pinterest research I was able to answer that question for myself. A vinegar shrub is a concoction made from steeping fruit in sugar until juices form, straining the fruit out of the juice and adding vinegar. Then you let the whole thing sit in the fridge for a day or two until the flavors blend and create the most delightful, flavorful, sweet and sour syrup like mixer for anything from cocktails to sparkling water to lemonade. You can of course just buy your shrubs as well if you’re not in the mood to make them. My ranch manager likes this company out of Texas. I haven’t tried them but their shrubs do sound amazing!
I however, was excited to try making my own. I used three different recipes I found on Pinterest to help me get started and then veered off the path to do my own thing. The first recipe I looked at was from the blog Food52. I loved the simplicity of their instructions and all the room they give you to get as creative as you like. The second recipe I drew inspiration from was on Serious Eats. Both recipes talk about the two different ways to make shrubs. Either the cold process or the hot but seriouseats gives you some of the history behind the invention of shrubs and includes a step by step picture tutorial. The third recipe I found was on Deer Nation Herbs. Now this blog goes into far more detail behind the healing benefits of shrubs and includes information on the different medicinal benefits of certain herbs, fruits and spices. Their process for making shrubs is a bit more time consuming but I had to try it as well. I’m pretty into natural remedies and loved the idea of tailoring the shrubs to my particular health needs.
The first thing I did was hit the grocery store and buy a bunch of ripe fruit, fresh herbs and spices. Then I got out my trusty idea notebook and started writing down the different fruit and herb combos I was going to try. I decided to go with the cold process option and followed the very basic and simple 1:1:1 ratio all the recipes I looked at spoke of. One part fruit, one part sugar and one part vinegar. Once you’ve got the ratio down you can get as creative as you like with the fruit, sugar and even vinegar choices. When adding herbs or spices I chose to add half the amount of the fruit I put in. So if I did two cups of fruit I did one cup of herbs or spices, though for some spices like star anise, cinnamon sticks or ginger root I just put in half a cup because of their strong flavors. Use your instincts with the herbs and spices and only put in what you think will taste the best to you and your family.
I won’t bother to write down the details of the recipes since you now know the 1:1:1 ratio. I’ll just give you the different combos I did and some of the modifications I made for inspiration and then hopefully you’ll get creative and blaze your own shrub trail!
I used Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar for my shrubs and hope to try balsamic, champagne, and white wine vinegar the next time I make a batch or twenty! I also used Truvia baking blend as my sugar choice. I was a little worried it would affect how much juice steeped from the fruit, or that it might not make the shrub sweet and syrupy enough. However, it worked beautifully and made my shrubs a little less caloric which is a real plus for me. For a couple of the shrubs I used only one cup of sugar to my two cups of fruit to see if I could lighten the mixture up even a little more. They turned out great as well, though I didn’t get quite as much juice from the fruit. I also rough chopped everything to keep it simple and make it go a bit faster. I started out peeling the ginger and stemming the herbs but quickly realized these steps were unnecessary since it all gets strained out in the end.
- Strawberry & Mint
- Strawberry & Sage
- Strawberry & Ginger
- Strawberry & Rosemary
- Blueberry & Mint
- Blueberry & Thyme
- Blueberry & Raspberries
- Peaches & Pink Peppercorns
- Peaches & Cinnamon & Brown Sugar
- Watermelon & Rosemary
- Watermelon & Mint
- Plum & Thyme
- Plum & Ginger
- Mandarin & Sage
- Mandarin & Mint
- Raspberry and Rosemary
Once I measured out the fruit into my glass pyrex measuring cup I used my hands to muddle it and get some of the juices out. I found this easier than trying to press the juices out with a wooden spoon. It’s a bit messy but kinda freeing if you ask me.
I poured the fruit, juices, sugar and herbs I’d chosen into a gallon mason jar and let the whole thing sit for two days. I’d shake the jar about once or twice a day when I thought of it.
Once I strained the solids from the juices and added the vinegar I poured the mixture back into the mason jar and let it sit for another two days in the fridge. Then I funneled four different shrub flavors into the glass bottles I had left over from my Simple Syrup Christmas gifts. I used them to flavor the homemade lemonade I made for the recent movie night I hosted. The kids adored them! Which I thought was kinda amazing seeing as they do have vinegar in them, but the sweetness of the fruit blended with the sugar cuts the tartness of the vinegar just enough to make these perfectly kid friendly.
After I finished with the above shrubs I decided to make a few healing ones using the Deer Nation Herbs instructions. Like I said it’s a bit more time consuming and as I write this mine are not yet complete and are still melding and growing bacteria in my refrigerator. Once they’re ready though I’ll make sure to let you know how they turned out.
- Kiwi, Mint & Tellicherry Peppercorns
- Kiwi & Star Anise
- Mandarin, Ginger & Cloves
- Apricots, Cinnamon Sticks & Rosemary
I am now officially obsessed with vinegar shrubs and am so grateful to have discovered their tart, sweet wonderfulness. Especially seeing as I’m pregnant and have become increasingly sick of drinking nothing more than water or herbal tea. A splash of one of these in a tumbler filled with ice and sparkling water makes me feel like I’m indulging in my new favorite summer cocktail.
Let’s be honest, during the course of a pregnancy and gal needs to feel like she’s indulging every once in awhile!