Make sweet cherry shrub – an unusual way to preserve the season’s fresh fruit.
Shrubs are an old colonial drink, basically a sweetened fruit juice and vinegar concoction. Vinegar was an insurance in the days of questionable water sources. Since the acid in vinegar kills off most bugs, it was safer to drink vinegar than it was to drink water. It’s the same reason why watered wine and beer was considered everyday fare for eons.
But once safe water became a given – not just a hope – shrubs fell out of favor. However, with the renewed interest in fermented foods, and kombucha bars even in the heartland, shrubs are making a comeback. It doesn’t hurt that fermented and vinegar drinks are considered healthy for our ever-grumbling digestive systems. Plus, shrubs are a refreshing drink that tastes great.
How to Make a Cherry Shrub
Shrubs are much quicker to make than their more fermented cousins. And a shrub is a great way to keep the harvest flavors going long after the fruit trees have shed their bounty. I chose to start with a sweet cherry shrub because I had a plethora of lush, ripe Bing cherries – courtesy of the Washington State Fruit Commission/Northwest Cherry Growers and the Canbassador program.
What is a Canbassador?
As a Canbassador my job is to make all kinds of wonderful preserved cherry items and then share them with the SeedtoPantry community here on the blog. Cherries and other stone fruits are one of the reasons I love living here in the Mid-Columbia. Commercial crops here include all kinds of sweet cherries, apricots, peaches, and plums. At one point we had two cherry trees of our own, but cut them down several years ago. I just couldn’t get the same beautiful results the pros at Northwest Cherry Growers get.
You can find out lots more about our wonderful Washington stone fruits over at the SweetPreservation site. There are instructions for canning and freezing fruit, all kinds of ideas for throwing a “preservation party,” recipes, tips for choosing the best fruit at the grocery store, and professionally designed labels to download.
Although you can apparently speed up the shrub syrup making process with heat, I used the highly recommended cold process method. I adapted this recipe from on found on the Food52 site.
- 1 pound pitted, chopped sweet cherries
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar (I use Braggs brand)
- Add chopped cherries to a bowl or large-mouth jar.
- Pour sugar over all. Toss to combine.
- Cover with a paper towel or cheesecloth and rubber band.
- Let sit on counter for 2 days, stirring every now and then until the sugar melts.
- Strain the mixture into a bowl. Discard solids.
- Measure syrup. Return to jar.
- Add an equal measure of vinegar. Stir to combine.
- Store in refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Make a Shrub Syrup Drink
Now that we have made our shrub syrup, what do we do with it?
Make a refreshing drink by adding 3-4 tablespoons of syrup to a glass of ice water or seltzer water. Or you use the syrup to make your own fancy cocktail.
Storing the Shrub Syrup
The syrup should keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 months. I will probably try freezing some also. I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I will try anything to keep the taste of fresh cherries available all year!
Full disclosure: This recipe was made with cherries I received from the Washington State Fruit Commission.