As a Mormon, I don’t drink alcohol. And as a foodie, the only time that bothers me is when I want to pair a wonderful drink with a wonderful meal and have to choose between a soda or water. For years, every time I eat at a fancy restaurant, I ask the server to recommend something non-alcoholic that isn’t soda and every time they bring me lemonade. It’s hardly the worst problem in the world, but I always think that somebody needs to get on this problem already. Mormons aren’t the only grown-ups that don’t drink and would be interested in some carefully thought out concoction that enhances their meal.
I think I may have solved it. As happens so often on the internet, I ran into the same idea in a few different places and knew it was time to work on it. Tasting Vinegars or “shrubs” have a history that goes back to colonial times and a need for food preservation. Now modern bartenders are experimenting with them in complicated drinks, but I think they’re even better for the home canner. The sugar and vinegar in the mix makes it easily safe for canning, and then I can just keep an open bottle in the fridge for mixing as I need.
I started with blackberries since that’s what I had on hand, but you can use any fruit at all for this process.
1 part fruit
1 part sugar
1 part vinegar
The recipe is extremely simple. However much fruit you can get your hands on, chop up and squish and completely macerate. The more ripe your fruit is the better. If you can get some that is just a breath away from being moldy, that’s perfect. Just make sure you don’t include any mold when you squish it all up. Get the same amount of sugar as you have fruit and pour it right on top. You can give it a little toss, but don’t let the sugar just get stuck to the bottom of the bowl. Now stick it in your fridge for three days and leave it alone. Sugar is hydroscopic, so it will soak up all the water in that fruit, creating a juicy mess. After three days, strain the fruit through a fine mesh sieve, mashing the fruit to get out as much juice as possible.
In a large saucepan, add the juicy sugary syrup and turn on the heat. Add vinegar in roughly the same amount as you had fruit, but you can adjust that a little to taste. Any vinegar will do the trick, but I tend to favor apple cider vinegar. It’s got better flavor than white vinegar, and is a whole lot cheaper than anything else. Boil until it starts to foam, then scrape that off and discard.
Then it’s done. If you want to can it, add to hot jars and process for ten minutes. Otherwise put it in your fridge and use as you please. Different fruit flavors will work with different mixers. Blackberry shrub and ginger ale was a match made in heaven, but cantaloupe shrub and ginger ale was a miss. Cantaloupe shrub and mineral water, however, was exceptional. That mix and matching is what makes it so much fun.