A shrub? Yes. Well, no, not if you’re thinking about the garden variety, but definitely yes if you are thinking about a delicious, summery syrup that will keep in your fridge well into the fall, then the answer is definitely yes.
What is a shrub exactly? Well at it’s most simple it’s a sort of drinking vinegar. While that doesn’t sound terribly appetising, bear with me because it’s actually delicious. Using vinegar to preserve fruit has a long history, but it became especially popular in colonial America, making drinks with or without alcohol. And it’s exactly this ability to enjoy with or without alcohol that makes them so nice in the summer– they are super refreshing and full of flavour!
The prep work is wonderfully simple, but there is some waiting involved. Patience is definitely not a virtue that I have been particularly blessed with, but if I can wait two days for this, you can too. If you were to google ‘shrub’ lots of different recipes and combinations will come up, ranging from one with a single fruit, or multiple. The idea for this recipe comes from Renegade Kitchen and uses plums (one of my favourite summer fruits) and basil (one of my favourite herbs). Besides these two things you’ll also need some sugar, plain granulated works great, and apple cider vinegar (yay probiotics!).
I definitely recommend using a granulated sugar rather than something liquid like agave or maple syrup since the friction will be your friend here. A lot of recipes call for white wine or golden balsamic vinegar, but I like apple cider here because it adds some good-for-you fermentation and hints at the flavour of kombucha.
• 4-6 plums (your favourite kind), pitted and quartered
• large bunch basil, roughly chopped or torn
• 1c sugar
• 2c apple cider vinegar
- In a large bowl combine the plums, basil, and sugar. Use your hands (or a wooden spoon) to really coat the fruit with the sugar. Set this in the fridge at least overnight, stirring once or twice in between.
- The next day, strain this mixture through a fine mesh strainer (or a clean pair of stockings). There should be a lot of liquid around the fruit, but be sure to press/squeeze any excess out of the plums. Discard any solids
- Combine the strained juice with the vinegar and stir gently to combine. Decant into a glass container of your choice and leave in a cool place on your counter overnight.
- It will be ready to try the next day, but the longer it sits the more the flavours develop, and the more the vinegar mellows.
A really lovely and refreshing way to enjoy this is to add a bit to the bottom of a collins glass, add some ice, and top with sparkling water or club soda. It’s a lot more interesting than soft drinks, and is a great way to enjoy a cocktail without any alcohol. An added bonus is the gorgeous pink colour from the skins of the plums.
For an more ‘adult’ version of the above, add a shot of your favourite gin, and a lemon twist for garnish.
I’m definitely excited to use this once the temperature begins to dip again as well– I think something like whiskey or bourbon combined with the summery plum and basil could be really interesting, so check back in a few months to find out.
If you liked this recipe and want some more inspiration, the New York Times has a great article on shrubs here.