A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of teaching a class at GYST in Minneapolis. GYST is a fermentation bar specializing in, you guessed it, all things fermented, like wine, beer, cider, cheese, chocolate, pickles, kraut, charcuterie, kombucha – you get the idea. My class was on making Shrubs. A shrub is a type of lightly fermented syrup made by macerating fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices with vinegar and sugar. The mixture is strained and the resulting liquid is mixed with soda water or bubbly and drunk, similar to lemonade. Shrubs also make great cocktails.
To start the hands-on class we sampled a selection of shrubs mixed with Cava sparkling wine to get our inspiration flowing. I brought three shrubs to try, raspberry, mango cardamom and strawberry balsamic (to be posted soon, I promise!) GYST loaded up our prep table with seasonal produce, including rhubarb, fennel, grapefruit, pineapple, strawberries, grapes, mint, thyme, basil and ginger. Apple cider and white vinegar, plus local honey and raw sugar rounded out the ingredients list.
I explained to the class that shrubs are old concoctions. While popular in colonial American times, many researcher think they date we’ll before that, possibly back to the middle ages. Seasonal fruits were macerated in vinegar to preserved them with no refridgeration. It was also thought that vinegar had medicinal properties, which we know today to be true. Un-pasturized vinegars do indeed contain beneficial probiotics that may help your gut ecology.
Shrubs are very free-form. When thinking about a shrub combination, start with your own experiences cooking, eating and drinking. What kind of pie do you like? Think spiced apple, blueberry peach, or coconut banana shrubs. Do you love Thai food? Think thai basil, lemongrass, or tamarind paste shrub? What’s your favorite cocktail? Think Old Fashioned with orange, cherry and brown sugar shrub, or Slo Gin Fizz with plum and lemon shrub, or a Mojito, with a mint and lime shrub. All of these flavors can all inform your shrub recipes. The important thing is that your ingredient are as fresh as possible because that’s where the flavor comes from. Start with a simple 1-3 ingredient combination, try different vinegars and sugars, and build from there. The class came up with some dynamite combinations! Strawberry rhubarb fennel, red grape basil, grapefruit mint – the list goes on and on!
At the end of the class I made a batch with the remains, mashing together pineapple, leftover grapefruit zest and chopped ginger, mixed with honey and white vinegar. I brought it home and left it on the counter to ferment. After a week I strained it and gave it a taste. Ka-blam! It brought me straight to a tropical locale. My brain added rum and I knew that I had a tasty cocktail on my hands. After tinkering with a classic daiquiri recipe, the resulting Pineapple Shrub Daiquiri was delicious.
So try this shrub and cocktail, and make up your own version! You probably have the ingredient in your fridge right now.