Recipes at Sound Food

An Old-Time Sip of Summer: Raspberry Shrub

Our raspberries are just starting to ripen, and soon there will be a flush of berries each morning and another each evening. We'll have berries enough for pies, for my mother's famous Raspberry Bavarian (fresh raspberries folded with sweetened whipped cream and set with plain gelatin), to store in the freezer, and to eat by the handful with every meal. We are blessed with very productive canes!alt

This week we're getting a couple of kid-sized handfuls a day, not enough for any recipe we knew of, but what if we mixed one day's berries with some vinegar? A quick Googling and we discovered shrubs. Not the leafy sort, but the beverage popular before industrialized food, a hit drink in colonial America and during Jane Austen's days. A shrub is a sweetened fruit vinegar that can be mixed with water, with or without the addition of booze, the perfect way to liquefy and preserve the fruity essence of summer's fragile fruits.

This, we had to try! We found a clean glass jar and filled it with clean raspberries. My girls took turns pouring raw, unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar into the jar, enough to cover the slightly-packed berries. We capped it and put it in our favorite dark cupboard. For the richest flavor, it's best to let the berries macerate for 3 days, but we had to taste it the next morning. While most shrub recipes call for boiling the fruit vinegar with sugar to produce a syrup that can be stored for months in the fridge, we like to keep our vinegar raw and full of life; we're also trying hard to avoid processed sweeteners and to find local alternatives wherever we can. So we ladled off a few tablespoons of our bright pink vinegar and mixed it with an almost equal volume of local honey. We poured about 1 tablespoon of this syrup into each of our fancy drinking glasses and filled the rest up with plain old water.

The resulting shrub was delicious. The vinegar almost made it feel carbonated, the honey was just sweet enough, and the raspberry flavor came through so bright and clean. It doesn't hurt that, even diluted with water, the color is a gorgeous pink, with a tickly sort of fragrance.

In a couple of days, we'll strain our raspberry vinegar into a clean glass bottle and store it at room temperature. Treated this way, it will keep indefinitely, and can be used for all sorts of things. When we're thirsty, we'll mix up the amount of syrup we'd like using honey and then we'll drink our shrub, our Bainbridge Island summer in a glass.

Whether you're looking to circumvent industrialized food, eat local, eat seasonal, avoid processed sugars, lower your carbon footprint, or find a cooking project that kids can do entirely on their own, a simple shrub can do it all and taste good, to boot.

More reading about shrubs:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/01/magazine/01food-t-000.html
http://www.laughingduckgardens.com/ldblog.php/2008/11/21/consider-the-cranberry-shrub/
http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2011/06/cocktail-101-how-to-make-shrub-syrups.html

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