Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Fruit Shrub

by Sheila Connolly

This week with its holiday thrown in the middle of it has us a bit discombobulated, so I'm filling in for Cleo today.

Here's a recipe that's tailor-made for the Fourth of July, since it's as old as the country:  shrub!

In the Colonial era in America shrub was a soft drink, also known as "drinking vinegar," because it included vinegar that had been steeped with fruit or herbs for up to several days.  (Vinegar is actually less acidic than lemon juice—and it was a lot easier to obtain in this country). Strained and sweetened, it would be reduced to a syrup and added to water or carbonated water. The sugar in the fruit plus the added sugar smooth out the acidity of the vinegar.

It can be served with or without alcohol.  Either way, it's a cool drink for a hot evening (with a lot less sugar than commercial soft drinks!).

Here is a simple recipe from a half-century ago:

5 quarts ripe raspberries or strawberries
1 quart mild vinegar (any kind)
Sugar (to taste)

Crush the berries and add the vinegar.  Let it stand for 24 hours, then strain.  Measure the liquid and add one-half pound of sugar for each quart of juice.  Heat to just boiling then put in jars or bottles. 

Here's a more modern recipe, which can be adapted to whatever amount of fruit you have on hand, since it is based on weight:

Three pounds of fresh strawberries
Select very ripe fruit.  Chop or mash it, then weigh it.  In a bowl, combine equal parts (weights) of the fruit and sugar, and cover.  Let the mixture sit for anywhere from a few hours to a few days, while the sugar draws all the liquid from the fruit. Then add an equal amount (weight) of vinegar and stir.  Strain it and bottle it.  It is ready to use right away, but it will also age well.

Three pounds, mashed
Equal weights fruit and sugar
When ready to serve, dilute your syrup with three parts cold water to one part syrup, and serve in tall glasses with plenty of ice.

 Of course you may add rum or vodka or brandy, and you may vary the fruits depending on what is ripe. Now I'm wondering what a blueberry shrub might look like, or a mixture of red and blue fruit.  Experiment!

This recipe will appear in
Golden Malicious, the
next Orchard Mystery,
coming 10/1


  1. I should add one note: all vinegar is not created equal! Taste your syrup, and if it's too tart for you, you can always add a bit more sugar.

  2. Fascinating post, Sheila! So how does it taste? That's a lot of fruit and sugar to offset the vinegar, but I can't imagine how it tastes. Fruity with a kick?


  3. Sheila, the bottled results of your efforts look like liquid jewels.
    I'm having a hard time imagining that much vinegar, however. Did you use regular white vinegar?

  4. I did, Libby--I was afraid that cider vinegar, which might be milder, would make it look muddy. And remember, the syrup should be mixed with water and some of that new-fangled ice, which would dilute it.

    BTW, my grandmother was a firm believer in drinking a couple of tablespoons of vinegar (straight!) each day. She lived to be 94.

  5. Bless her! They say that apple cider vinegar used like your Grandmother did can help keep your body alkaline and healthier.

  6. What an intriguing recipe. I could imagine this also used with salad ingredients; would have to experiment. I am so anxious for your October release; have loved the series so much, maybe because I live in MA too, but for the great story, great writing of course, and believable characters.

    My mother also took a bit of cider vinegar each day and washed it down with hot water!!! She probably would have lived to be much older but cancer took her at age 81. She swore by vinegar though.

    I love balsamic vinegar on strawberries and/or watermelon salad; have many of you tried that? The better (more aged basically) the balsamic is, the better the mixture will taste. It is an acquired taste for some people however.

    Thanks for the recipe, Sheila, and keep the Orchard Mystery series coming. You do great work!!!

    Have a great 4th.