How To Make Fruit Shrubs (Syrups, not Bushes)
There must be something in the air this week. My escapades with my shiny new soda maker have continued. I remembered about shrub syrups, and proceeded to make a raspberry shrub out of simple ingredients around the house. The very next day, I arrived at work and there was a grapefruit shrub ready and waiting for me to make something delicious. I felt so privileged.
What's a shrub, you ask? It's a syrup that dates all the way back to the days of colonial America. Unlike your average sweet syrup, shrubs have an acidic kick, usually accomplished through the addition of vinegar. Back then, it was a way to preserve fruit flavor for months after fruit season had ended. These days, we make them because they taste good.
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Traditionally, fruit shrubs were cooked syrups. I'm not a fan of this method; the bright fruit flavors dull so easily when heat is applied. Thankfully, it's easy to make uncooked shrub syrup.
The most obvious ingredient you need for a fruit shrub is fruit. In spring and summer when fruit is plentiful, this syrup is a great way to use up anything in the fridge that's a little past its prime. Likewise, ask around at farmers' markets to see if they have any bruised fruit that isn't getting any love.
Since we're in prime citrus season, now is a good time to make a citrus shrub. While you can make a decent one by juicing citrus and combining it with sugar and vinegar, the end result is considerably better if you mix together the citrus zest and sugar. The sugar draws out the zest's essential oils, making an especially fragrant mixture called oleo saccharum.
The rest of the year, you can head to the freezer aisle of the grocery store. Frozen fruit is picked at its peak, and since it's going to be mashed into oblivion anyway, you don't need to worry about it not looking good when it thaws.