What is a shrub? It is a flexible, creative infusion of fruit, herbs, or even vegetables mixed with sugar and vinegar that can be added to alcohol or soda water. But you can do so much more with it once you know how to make a shrub. A perfect shrub recipe and drink for history and travel buffs.
I can’t say I have stumbled across “shrubs” on any of our travels in England. But when I first saw a shrub recipe, I had to wonder, as you might, what is a shrub?
A shrub is a slightly mulled infusion of your choice of fruit, vegetables, or herbs with sugar and vinegar. Not too sweet and a bit of a subtle pucker from the vinegar, just the sweet-tart I love to add to all sorts of drinks. It's a taste I guarantee you will love as well once you learn how to make a shrub.
Its origins per historical websites date back to 16th and 17th century England where vinegar was used to preserve fruit. American colonists decided the concept of a mulled fruit infusion was a great one for making refreshing drinks in this new, often hot and humid American climate. Once refrigeration became widespread, it wasn’t necessary to preserve fruit with vinegar, so the wonderful concept of shrubs fell out of style.
The name “shrub” allegedly stems per the Oxford Dictionary from the early 18th century Arabic word of “šariba,” meaning “to drink.”
How to make a shrub to relive travel memories
Leave it to today’s mixologists to reinvigorate the idea – and cooks globally to take them a step further. How to make a shrub? I have tried shrubs with cantaloupe, watermelon, cranberries, lemon, and lime, with either regular vinegar or apple cider vinegar, or with a blend. I have sometimes added a few herbs in the infusion, sometimes not. This old English shrub is a marvelous way to use up aging fruit while you are reliving memories of travel around the world.
Back in old English days, it was most popular to mix the syrup that resulted from the mulled infusion with seltzer or regular water for a refreshing soft drink. You could even make a warm drink with a shrub. But keep an open mind: If a shrub is good enough to be soft, why not make it hard too?
The best way to make a shrub
First things first is making your shrub: I’ll offer a solid recipe for one style I have liked, but then you get to be creative with others. The amount of sugar you add will often depend on the sweetness of the fruit, while the type or quantity of vinegar you add may be influenced simply by your own love of pucker power, or not. To start, think mostly 1:1 for sugar and vinegar but start slowly with each and see what you think, taking little tastes even prior to the short mull period.
Be forewarned to start: I’m a big “to taste” gal when it comes to cooking and creating so both the shrub – and my favorite drink made with it – have a big dollop of “to taste.”
I will admit that so far I adore my cranberry shrub the best of all I’ve made. In fact, when I add it to a drink, I invariably do a little happy dance after my first sip.
Get ready for your shrub happy dance
You will find a lot of complicated recipes, but shrubs like simplicity.
How to make a traveler’s dream cranberry shrub:
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