Champagne Vinegar

Raspberry and Blackberry Shrub

I can just picture you sitting there staring at the title of this post thinking “Raspberry and blackberry what? What on earth is a shrub?” I know I was thinking exactly the same thing only a few months ago. Also known as drinking vinegar, shrub is a fruity syrup that was very popular in the days before refrigeration. Vinegar and sugar were added to fruit as a means of preserving them once picked. With the rise of home refrigeration shrubs fell out of fashion, but they have made a comeback within the last few years thanks to the craft cocktail movement. They make a wonderful cocktail mixer, but are just as delicious on a hot afternoon with nothing more than a splash of sparkling water. I first heard of shrubs when I went to a styling workshop in Seattle with the lovely Ashley Marti of Local Haven. She had three different (and all delicious) shrubs for us to try, and I was completely hooked. 

I thought making my own shrub would be a great way of making the most of berry season while it was here. I usually love making jams to preserve the season, but I already had so many jars of jam in my cupboard that I wanted to try something different. Out of all the berries I think I will miss raspberries the most, so of course it had to be a raspberry shrub. I managed to get a tray of raspberries at the markets for half price because they were picked the day before, rather than that morning. Personally I think they looked (and tasted) perfect anyway, but I do love a bargain. I added a handful of blackberries for good measure and a bunch of lemon thyme for a little boost of flavour. I’ve found that this drink is especially delicious on a hot summer day - the vinegar makes it super refreshing. We took a bottle along with us to a beachside picnic on a crazy hot day this summer and could not have wanted anything better. 

 
 

I've listed a recipe here, but this is really just a rough guideline. You should definitely follow your tastebuds with this one. If you like things on the sweet side, add a bit more sugar. If you are after something with more sharpness, increase the vinegar. Mix and match different herb/fruit combinations - you are only limited by your imagination. The flavours of the shrub will mellow over time; I’ve had this bottle in my fridge for about a month now and it seems slightly different each time I taste it. I might try out a plum and tarragon shrub next time - I think it could be used in some pretty brilliant cocktails.

Ingredients
1kg mixed berries (I used mostly raspberries, with some blackberries thrown in)
1 cup sugar
big handful of lemon thyme (or other herbs)
1 cup champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

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Method
Combine the fruit, sugar and herbs together in a bowl. 
Using a potato masher, blender or food processor, crush the berries into a rough puree.
Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in the fridge overnight or for a couple of days to allow the berries to release all their juices. 
Strain the mix through a fine mesh strainer or (preferably) a piece of cheesecloth.
If using cheesecloth, allow the berries to strain for at least an hour.
Add the vinegar to the juice and taste it - add more if you feel like it needs it. The berry flavour should come through first, followed by a nice sharp and refreshing bite from the vinegar. 
Finally, pour into a clean bottle and store in the fridge. 

Enjoy this with anything you so wish - my favourite way to drink it is with a handful of mint, splash of vodka (or gin if that is your preference) and topped up with mineral water. Though I can't wait to invent a few different cocktails to use this in...

 
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