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Here’s an easy step-by-step into making a fruit shrub, sometimes called a “drinking vinegar”. Today I’m using rhubarb, but any fruit will work here- berries, stone fruit, even tropical fruit. When added to sparkling water or cocktails, a shrub adds refreshing flavor while stimulating the appetite, quenching the thirst and energizing the body.
What is a shrub?
A “shrub” is an old way of preserving. It’s typically a fruit-infused syrup, made with fresh ingredients, fortified with vinegar (or alcohol), and then aged, which develops its flavor and complexity. You can often find these now in specialty stores, called “drinking vinegars”, most commonly used in craft cocktails, or mocktails.
Before we had refrigeration, many methods were used to preserve nature’s bounty, saving them for the leaner months. Most of us are familiar with canning, curing, smoking, dehydrating, and fermenting, just to name a few- but in the last couple years, there has been a huge revival of the “shrub”, a way of preserving the essence and flavor of fresh produce – one that’s easy and fun to do at home, requiring no special equipment.
The idea is simple really -it’s basically creating a syrup by macerating fruit (or vegetables) with sugar and then fortifying it with vinegar ( or alcohol) , which not only helps preserve but continues to work with the sugars and over time, creates complexity while mellowing and melding into a wonderful concoction.
For mixologists, shrubs have opened up a whole new world of flavor, adding dimension and complexity to cocktails, because the combinations are truly endless. For example, infuse strawberries or blackberries with mint, or star anise with pineapple, or peaches with basil. Shrubs can also be savory, like a tomato shrub infused with chilies and cilantro, or cucumber infused with fresh ginger, or even something as ordinary as celery infused with caraway seeds. Using different kinds of vinegar and types of alcohols broaden the possibilities even further.
So this basic recipe is just a starting place. Play around with what you have growing in abundance in your gardens and see what you can come up with. Have fun!
Cut the rhubarb into very small pieces. Toss with sugar. Cover with plastic wrap.
Put in your fridge. Stir once every day, for 4- 5 days.
Eventually, you will have a syrup.
Strain, pressing the solids.
Add vinegar, which will not only preserve but brighten and help the flavor develop further.
Pour into a jar and keep in the fridge.
For a quick pick me up, spoon a tablespoon, or more to taste, into cold sparkling water, or ice water.
Rhubarb Shrub Recipe
- Prep Time: 15 mins
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 2 cups 1x
- Category: preserved
- Method: preserving
- Cuisine: pacific northwest
A simple shrub recipe using rhubarb or any other fruit. Delicious added to cocktails or sparkling water. An old way of preserving the essence and flavor of fruit!
- 2 cups fruit – rhubarb, diced into very small 1/4 inch pieces ( or use other fruit or berries)
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup vinegar (white or apple cider, or any other)
- Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
- Calories: 50
Keywords: shrub, how to make a shrub, rhubarb shrub recipe, what is a shrub?, shrub recipe, rhubarb recipes, rhubarb shrub
I’m wondering if I could do it also like an Oxymel? Adding the rhubarb with honey to the vinegar and let it sit for a while, frequently shaking it. Like this I could also swap the sugar for honey.
What do you think?
Hi Eileen, Just make sure your vinegar is at least 5% acidity. Use honey and process just like the sugar, letting it macerate with the fruit for a day or two before adding the vinegar. You’ll get more fruit flavor and juice this way.
This may be a naive question, but can you substitute granulated Monk Fruit for the sugar?
That should work. Though we have not experimented with Monk Fruit.
What do you do with the rhubarb solids afterwards?
You know, it has bee a while since I’ve made this. Do they taste good?
I’ve used the solids to make chutney by adding chopped, dried apricots, almonds, shallots, garlic, crystallized ginger, spices, and a little more sugar and vinegar. Great on baguettes with chèvre!
That sounds fantastic Lar! Yum.
I’m making rhubarb shrub for the first time and upon seeing that you use the rhubarb solids to make chutney I’d love your recipe. Ive never made chutney before either but it sounds delicious!
Barbara, I just made it up as I went along, based on my impressions of chutney from a jar. I dumped the ingredients listed above in proportions that looked “right” into a kettle, and cooked it up until it had kind of a jammy consistency. Use spices you like; cinnamon, cloves, and maybe garam masala would be good. Sorry this isn’t more specific—use your intuition and ingredients that you enjoy.
Ok, so I messed up and put the vinegar in with rhubarb and sugar right away.
Do you think it may turn out or should I start over?
It’ll be fine! The reason to do sugar first is that it can draw more juice out of the fruit. But it is not a big deal!