Shrubs are drinks made from fresh fruit soaked in vinegar. They were popular during American Colonial times. The word, “shrub”, is a derivation of the Arabic, “shrab” or “shurb”, meaning drink or draught.
Here are two versions. In the first, the fruit is macerated in the vinegar for a week, then cooked. The mixture will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator. In the second, the fruit and vinegar are pureed in a blender without maceration. This concoction is uncooked and should be used within a few days. The flavor is more complex in the first method, though you will lose the benefits of raw vinegar.
Cherry Shrub, Version One
1 quart cherries (or use any fruit: pears, figs, raspberries…)
2 c or so apple-cider vinegar, or other vinegar
1/4 to 1/2 c sugar
sparkling or soda water, or still water
1. Rinse the fruit and discard any rot. Pit or core, or not, and chop coarsely. Place in a large non-reactive or ceramic pot and mash for several minutes with your hands, a wooden spoon or a potato masher for several minutes to break up. Pour in enough vinegar to cover and top with a lid or plate. Let macerate at room temperature for a week, stirring once a day. Don’t be alarmed by the smell or the sludge on top. (Really.)
2. After a week, stir in 1/4 c of the sugar, transfer to a saucepan and bring just to a boil. Boil gently for one hour, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain.
3. Make a test shrub: cool 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fruit mixture. Fill a large glass with ice (a 20-ounce glass, for example). Add water almost to the rim, then add the chilled fruit mixture. Taste for sweetness. If it’s too tart, add sugar to the strained fruit mixture (reheat if it’s not hot) little by little until it pleases you. Cool fully and funnel into bottles. This will keep in the refrigerator indefinitely.
Cherry Shrub, Version Two
2 c cherries, rinsed, pitted, and halved (or other fruit)
1/2 c vinegar
1/4 c sugar, or to taste
3/4 c water, sparkling, soda or still
1. Put cherries, vinegar, and sugar in a blender and puree. Strain (or not). Measure 3 T into a tall glass, add water and ice cubes. Stir. This will keep about a week, covered, in the refrigerator.