Shrubs

I’ve recently noticed shrubs showing up on menus at coffee shops and bars. Shrub sodas, shrubs in cocktails, etc. I had no idea what a shrub was, so I did some research and found out that shrubs are vinegar-based syrups or “drinking vinegar.” My reaction was skepticism followed by curiosity. I decided I needed to try them.

There are two ways of making shrubs at home. A cold method and a heat method. I tried them both. Both are quite simple. The cold methods takes longer, but seems to have a fresher, smoother taste. However, the difference is very slight. Both make a syrup that is sweet and tart.

Blackberry Shrub

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The first shrub I made was blackberry, using the cold method. I put 8 ounces of blackberries in a bowl, mixed in 6 ounces of sugar, and let the berries macerate for several hours. I then strained the syrupy juices from the blackberry pulp, mashing the berries to extract extra juice. To the blackberry syrup, I mixed in 6 ounces of apple cider vinegar.

Peach Shrub

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The second shrub I made was peach, using the heat method. I made a simple syrup by bringing 6 ounces of water and 6 ounces of sugar to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolved. Keeping the heat on medium, I added 8 ounces of fresh, ripe peaches to the syrup and mashed them with a potato masher. I strained the liquid from the peach pulp and added 6 ounces of apple cider vinegar to the peach syrup.

Shrub Beverages

Shrubs can be used to make a variety of different beverages. Whether used in a non-alcoholic soda or a cocktail, shrubs add complexity to a drink and make for a refreshing beverage to drink on a hot summer day.

Mixing 0.5 ounce of shrub with 6 fluid ounces of seltzer water or club soda makes a nice shrub soda.

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Mix 0.5 to 0.75 ounce of shrub with 2 ounces of a spirit of your choice, strain over ice, top off with a splash of seltzer water, and garnish with a lime wedge. I highly recommend peach shrub with bourbon.

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Shortcut Blueberry Peach Pie

I had perfectly sweet, perfectly ripe blueberries for breakfast this morning, which made me think of this pie.  I think the flavors and textures of blueberries and peaches are very complementary.  I prefer the blueberry-peach combination over an all berry pie.  There isn’t a lot of sugar in this pie – the recipe relies on the natural sweetness of the fruit, brought out by bright, citrusy lemon juice.

Blueberry Peach Pie

This creation was pretty easy to whip up but the lattice top makes it look like I spent forever in the kitchen.  While you could use fresh peaches or make your own pie crust, my shortcuts get me in and out of the kitchen in no time, which makes this a great dessert for a lazy summer weekend.

For this pie, I used a package of store-bought pie crusts: one was used for the bottom and the other was rolled out and cut into strips to make the lattice (for help with your lattice crust, check out this website: Simply Recipes.).   If I’m feeling industrious, I make my own crust but in the middle of the summer when it is 100 degrees outside I’ll take the help from the grocery store.   Frozen peaches hold up better than frozen blueberries, which makes frozen peaches a great substitute when I can’t find ripe, fresh peaches or I don’t feel like blanching and peeling two pounds of peaches.

I don’t follow an exact recipe for this pie, but below is my best recollection of the recipe:

Blueberry Peach Pie

two refrigerated, pre-prepared pie crusts

pint of blueberries, rinsed and patted dry

16-ounce bag of frozen peach slices, thawed and drained

juice from half a lemon

sugar, to taste (I think I used 1/4 cup)

1-1/2 tablespoons corn starch

pinch of salt

two tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Line a 9-inch pie pan with one pie crust. In a bowl, gently combine blueberries, peaches, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt (if you mix this together too vigorously, you will smash the blueberries). Spoon the fruit mixture into the pie crust. Dot the fruit with small pats of butter. Using the second crust, create a lattice top on the pie.  Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil so they don’t burn. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. and the fruit is bubbly. Allow to cool for 20 – 25 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

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