Looking for a plastic-free alternative to fizzy water and soda? Mix yourself a batch of summer fruit shrub, and you can avoid every sort of plastic that comes with commercially bottled beverages: Even glass bottles have plastic inside their caps, and some cans of soda are lined with BPA.
I wrote about the raspberry version of this drink from colonial-era America (or Jane Austen’s days, take your pick) for Sound Food, and we’ve been busy mixing up various batches since then. We have 10 pounds of organic cherries in the fridge right now, thanks to All One Family Farm, so that will be our next shrub flavor.
This is such a tasty way to bottle summer, and my kids are as happy with a glass of shrub as with their favorite fizzy drinks. I think you’ll gain style points if you serve your shrub in a salvaged glass soda bottle with a Glass Dharma straw; I’ll have to try that for myself.
For our Sound Food raspberry shrub, we macerated the fruit in vinegar first, then added honey. Here’s another way to make shrub, macerating in sugar first, then adding the vinegar. Either way works well, but I’m rather preferring the slightly different flavor that comes from macerating in sugar. We used rhubarb for this batch, but any fruit will work – The proportions of fruit:sugar:vinegar stay the same regardless of the fruit, and the directions do, too.
Cut your fruit to allow the juices to escape. In this case, we cut a bunch of rhubarb stalks into 1/2″ pieces. If you’re using soft berries don’t worry about cutting them, just move along to the next step.
Measure the cut fruit then place the pieces in a large glass jar.
Add the same amount of sugar as fruit. We’re using guaranteed gluten-free Sucanat these days, but you’ll get a prettier color in your finished shrub with something more refined, like raw organic sugar.
Mix the fruit and sugar well. Put some oomph into it and smash things up to kickstart the release of the fruit’s juices.
When every piece of fruit is well coated with sugar and bruised/smashed a bit, put a lid on the jar and set it in your fridge for 2 days, allowing the fruit to macerate.
Now here’s the part that I don’t have photos of: When everything is nicely sludgy and the fruit’s flavor and juices have been sucked out to mix with the sugar, remove it from the fridge. For raspberries, I let things sit about 3 days in the fridge. Rhubarb seems to taste best after 2 days, but use your own palate as your guide. When the sugar fruit mixture tastes like the very essence of the fruit you’re using, it’s time to move to the next step.
Strain the jar’s contents through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth into a liquid measuring container. Don’t worry if there’s a layer of sugar that sticks to the bottom of the jar, and don’t wash the jar out!
Once you know how much strained liquid you’ve got, pour it back into the sugary jar. Add an equal measure of raw apple cider vinegar and stir well.
Put the lid back on and put the jar back into the fridge. You can use it right away, but the flavor will mellow and improve with time. This will keep for months in the fridge, so there’s no rush.
When you want a nice, tall glass of shrub, pour a bit of the vinegar syrup into a glass, then add water. Adjust to taste and drink.
Rhubarb, berries, and stone fruits all make delicious shrub. Please let me know if you try a batch!