Shrubs may be a current trend in the craft cocktail scene, but this method of preserving the harvest goes back to at least the 15th century. Basically an infusion using any fruit, herb, vegetable, even nuts, shrubs were historically spirit-based, combining fruit and herbs with rum (or brandy) and sugar. After letting the mixture stand for several days, the fruit is strained, resulting in a custom, seasonal cordial.
Another version, and the ones found on trendy back bars today, is what was once called “drinking vinegars.” Similar to the boozy version in preparation, the spirit is replaced with vinegar, resulting in a sweet and tangy fruit-flavored syrup that is an unexpected base for a number of applications from simple refreshing sodas and cocktail mix-ins, to marinades, sauces, and dressings.
Basic Citrus Shrub
The combination of fruit, herbs, vinegar and other ingredients is endless. This basic shrub uses cider vinegar, which is softer than white, especially when using citrus as your base fruit. But, play around with different seasonal fruits, herbs, and types of vinegar.
3 to 4 large lemons, rinsed and scrubbed (approximately 4 cups chopped), preferably organic
3 cups organic cane sugar
2 cups organic cider vinegar
Cut lemons into ½-inch slices, and then quarter the slices. Place in non-reactive (e.g., glass) bowl. Cover with sugar and stir to coat.
Let the lemon-sugar mixture sit for at least 4 hours (or up to several days in the refrigerator), until the sugar has begun to extract juice from the lemons, creating a syrup.
Add vinegar to the bowl with the lemon-sugar mixture. Stir until any remaining sugar is dissolved. Place mixture into a sterile glass jar, cover, and let sit in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days more. Strain away the fruit solids, press to remove any residual juices, and put the liquid “shrub” into a clean jar or bottle.
Makes 3 to 4 cups
Pour about 1 ounce of shrub over ice and top with 8 ounces of sparkling water for an old-fashioned, refreshing soda. Add 1 1/2 ounces of gin to a citrus shrub and soda, garnish with an orange peel — and you may find your new summer cocktail.
Citrus Shrub, Garlic & Herb Marinated Grilled Salmon
Shrubs make a perfect marinade that’s delicious with fish, seafood, and chicken.
1 cup citrus shrub
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs (basil, parsley and thyme is ideal for this recipe)
4 6-ounce skin-on salmon filets
Whisk together the shrub, seasoning, garlic, and herbs for the marinade. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. It should be tangy, a bit sweet, and fresh with a little garlic kick.
Place salmon filets in a shallow dish, pour marinade over and coat both sides. Cover and place in refrigerator for 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.
Oil grill and heat to high (400 degrees). Place salmon filets, skin-side up on grill. Cook 2 to 3 minutes per ½-inch thickness, then turn fish over and cook skin-side down another 2 to 3 minutes, until fish begins to flake with a fork. Serve skin-side down, or remove skin altogether before serving.