It’s a hard time of year. The new semester has begun, and I am busy with my new crop of students. By the end of a term, I have grown so comfortable with the subject matter I’m teaching and so familiar with (and fond of) the personalities of my students, that I struggle to adjust to a new class and a new semester. Add on Boise’s relentless heat, I get home from work in need of a cold pick-me-up.
I find that a chilly, fizzy, old fashioned shrub is the perfect drink — and also an ideal way to preserve the sweet flavors of summer. So let’s move ahead with another #savingtheseason post, this time for those delightful summer berries — the longer season for which is the one saving grace of our never-ending hot weather!
And on these warm days, the last thing I want to do is have the stove at capacity cooking down jam and boiling water in the canning vessel. The beauty of a shrub, though, is that there’s no heat required. Just combine your fruit and vinegar, and let them mellow at room temperature for a few weeks. It couldn’t be easier.
You can use any summer berry — or a combination of berries — in this recipe. You’ll first create your berry vinegar, then use some of that vinegar for a shrub syrup. The vinegar itself can be used as you would any other vinegar — making pickles, adding flavor to meat and veggies — or can be made into sweet shrub syrup.
What’s a shrub, you wonder? These Colonial-era refreshers seem to have taken the enlightened, craft cocktail scene by storm, and can be found on just about any letterpressed menu that lists prices without the dollar sign next to them. I think I’m probably a year or two late to the shrub party — but forgive me, as I live in Idaho! Shrubs are drinking vinegars, muddled and infused with fruits, herbs, and sugar, then combined with seltzer, booze, or soda. They’re tingly and tart little elixirs, but delightfully refreshing on warm days.
The sharp vinegar flavor of the shrub syrup really rounds out after a couple of weeks in the fridge. So if your shrub initially too tart, let it mellow for a week and taste again. Enjoy #savingtheseason!
Makes ~4 C vinegar | start at least 2 weeks ahead | Adapted from Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves by Ziedrich
- 2 pints boysenberries
- 4 C red wine vinegar (or 3 C cider vinegar + 1 C red wine)
- Rinse boysenberries and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Lightly crush berries then place them into large air-tight, sterilized mason jar and add vinegar. Affix lid and store in cool, dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks, but up to ~2 months.
- Mull berries and vinegar to completely crush the berries. Pass mixture through a fine sieve and into another sterilized jar. Use a small spatula or back of a spoon to press as much liquid out of the berries as possible. Discard boysenberry seeds and solids.
- Affix lid on jar, and store in refrigerator for up to 8 months.
Makes ~4 C shrub syrup | start just a few minutes ahead of serving
- 4 C boysenberry vinegar (above)
- 1 C sugar
- sparkling water (can also use lemon-lime soda and add wine, rum, etc.)
- Combine boysenberry vinegar with sugar, and mix well. Allow sugar to dissolve. This is your shrub syrup.
- To assemble shrub, shake shrub syrup well to homogenize mixture. Combine syrup with sparkling water (or other mixers) to your taste — I like a ratio of 1:4 syrup:water.
- Store syrup in air-tight jar in refrigerator up to 8 months.