Friday, July 29, 2011

Shrubbery! - Explained

OK. So I got a teensy bit excited in my previous post and really didn't tough too much upon *what* a shrub is, before I told you all how to make one. Akin to teaching you how to drive without explaining what a car is. This will not do.

A shrub is really a beverage that was popular in colonial times - as far as I can tell for two reasons. One: it's a great way to preserve the flavor of those ephemeral summer fruits and berries that ISN'T a jam, and two: it's a very refreshing beverage to have in the heat.

Essentially a shrub is an acidulated beverage base. It historically can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic, and my version (and many other's, btw) is of the non-alcoholic variety. It does, however, go very well with gin (what I have in the house), and is reported to go very well with vermouth, etc.

There seems to be, as with many things, a renaissance of sorts going on in the cocktail world - people are going back to the old fashioned classics of yesteryear, and the shrub seems to be a highlighted member of the party. As I haven't been to a classy bar in ages (nor will I ANY time soon. And that is not a complaint, mind you), I haven't seen this happening, but it seems to be.

In colonial times people would mix a bit of the shrub syrup in with cold water, and off you go. It was evidently as popular as lemonade, and we have the Temperance Movement to thank for both of these beverages' popularity.

If you're into food science (and let's face it, all of the coolest of us are) - here's a nice little explanation of the science behind it from Neyah White:

    "When a shrub ages, it is like an ecosystem. The ambient yeast (yeast on the fruit itself and yeast from the air) turns the sugar into alcohol, and the acetobacter (the bacteria in unpasteurized vinegar) turns the alcohol into more vinegar. Eventually this will stabilize and not turn the whole shrub into fruit vinegar since the bacteria-induced pH change will stall out the yeast’s fermentation process (and thus the bacteria’s acetic acid-producing pathway)."

Very cool.

I highly recommend trying one out if you have one cup of random fruit on hand - and I would suspect that just as with jam, those fruits just slightly past their prime might be the best suited for this treatment as their flavor will be the most intense.


Anonymous said...

Interesting... I just threw out about 8 peaches that were "past their prime"... mmmm... I wonder...

George and Kerri said...

Excellent article as always kiddo. We have the means to make our own carbonated beverages. I was going to put that on the back burner this trip and still might, but now I have an extra incentive. :)