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Shrubs (drinking vinegar)

27 Dec


A shrub (a.k.a. “drinking vinegar”) is a mixture of fruit, sugar and vinegar. It was popular in Colonial America as it was a way to easily preserve fruit pre-refrigeration, and has enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years as a non-alcoholic apertif or as an element in cocktails.

I was first exposed to one a few years ago at the Whiskey Soda Lounge in Portland, OR, and loved the tart/acidic flavor, but didn’t realize it was part of a broader movement. Fast forward to this fall and I got a shrubs and cocktail syrups lesson from Kelly McVicker , at Workshop, and then over the holidays made two more batches.


Made at Workshop: a small batch involving strawberries, cider vinegar, szechuan pink peppercorns, and lemongrass (the glass on the right is a mint-and-peppercorn-syrup julep):


And in my kitchen, after finding organic meyer lemons and blood oranges in a local market:


Macerating the sliced lemons in sugar along with basil, straining, then adding a mix of cider and white vinegars. I let the fruit macerate for four hours but could have given it a day. This is the “cold shrub” style of preparation, letting the sugar draw the liquid out of fruit (I came back after a few hours and the bowl was almost full of liquid), which I hear keeps the most clean fruit flavor– the other approach is to cook fruit in sugar and make more of an infused simple syrup.


Another one involved blood oranges soaked in a mix of brown sugar and Maine maple syrup made by my sister, with star anise and cider vinegar:


And because any food preservation project also has to turn into a craft project, trying out a few quick label designs (with the usual milk-as-label-glue).


I’d initially planned to draw the fruit on the label, but when the shrub itself is so colorful,  why hide it?

These both turned out quite well, and different– the lemon is great on its own or with soda, the blood orange is probably better in a more robust cocktail or in cooking.

Canning Stonefruit, Tomatoes

7 Aug

The result of canning (with short breaks) from around 11am until after midnight: about 11 pints of peaches, 17 pints of white nectarines, and 15 pints of Juliet tomatoes (plum/grape hybrid, for sauce), all from carefully taste-tested ferry building farmer’s market produce:

Whew, that was more work than I realized it would be (I haven’t canned anything except some pickles in, say, 15 years?). More photos and rudimentary recipe/process notes:

Cutting sweet white nectarines into halves, leaving the skin on (and soaking in 1 tsp citric acid per gallon of water to keep them from browning):

Boiling them for three minutes in an extra-light syrup (about 10% sugar: 1 cup sugar in 8.5 cups of water):

After following all the usual jar and lid sterilization in boiling water procedures, filling the jars with the hot fruit and syrup, then canning for 25 minutes in boiling water.


[ Other boring side notes to myself to remember months from now when taste-testing or trying again, since I may lose the paper notes:

We also made a second batch later with a light-to-medium syrup (added 2.5 cups sugar and 4.5 cups water to the nectarine-juice-filled syrup from the last batch, which brought us up to about 3.5 cups sugar (+ nectarine sugar) in 13 cups of water, or about 25% sugar — I have a geeky notebook page of the basic solve-for-X math I was trying to do on the fly while things were boiling).

For the first batch, I actually had the nectarines in syrup for more like 6 minutes– 3 minutes to get the syrup back up to boiling after adding them, then 3 minutes in boiling syrup. For the second batch, I just put the nectarines in syrup for 3 minutes (which just started boiling again as I took them out). The first batch also involved more “poking down” of the nectarines in the jar to pack them together and knock out any air.

Also, the first time through we boiled the pints (for canning) for 20 minutes, took them out, and boiled the quarts for another 5 minutes, since it was a mixed-sizes batch. For the second batch (all pints), we boiled for 20 minutes, then turned off the heat and let them slowly cool down in the kettle for 5 minutes before removing. Both batches looked good by eye, and the jars all sealed with a “pop!” a few minutes after removing, so maybe none of this makes a difference… if I get botulism from one of the batches, I’ll know what not to do next time. ]

Next up: O Henry peaches, which are supposed to be excellent for canning. Blanching them in boiling water for 60 seconds and then shocking them in cold water caused the skins to easily rub off– often leaving a gorgeous sunrise blend of yellow, orange, and red flesh.

At some points, there was a lot going on. Soaking the quartered peaches in a light citric acid / water solution as well (since we didn’t have lemon juice):

Boiling in syrup (very light, about 10% sugar, 2.5 cups sugar in 20 cups water) for three minutes, then filling the jars with that (this batch went quickly):

The majority of the day’s work: canning Juliet tomatoes. So many tiny tomatoes to peel! Blanching in hot water for 2-3 minutes (4x the time a recipe suggested, though maybe the sheer quantity we were processing cooled the water down too quickly) eventually caused the skin to split– then shocking in cold water made it easier (though still time-consuming) to remove the skin. Or for some batches we blanched for 30s, shocked, then had to peel more laboriously. After many hours, a dinner break, and five batches of blanching, we worked through the 20lb(?) flat.

Then as a “cold pack” we put the whole peeled tomatoes, 1 Tbsp of lemon juice per pint (to keep pH low and avoid botulism…), and 1/2 tsp of salt per pint into recently-boiled pint jars up to 1″ below the top or so, filled them with boiling water, and sealed and boiled/processed the jars for 45 minutes (two batches of this in series). One experimental jar involved halved unpeeled, unblanched tomatoes, but they shrank a large amount during canning (since they hadn’t been pre-cooked), and the jar ended up half water.

Finally, as the day faded, everything was done!

I’ll see how they all turn out in a few months…

Side note: This is what carrying $45 of nectarines by bike looks like: