Live Beverages: Shrubs v2.0

It’s still hot and sticky here – perfect shrub weather. Shrubs have a uniquely palate-pleasing combination of sweetness and sour, and adding sparkling water creates a fizzy thirst-quencher!

In my pursuit of the perfect shrub, I have tried a number of different recipes. All have resulted in tasty syrups, but I wanted to focus on optimizing the fermentation piece of the process, and preserving as much of that probiotic goodness as possible. I know – shocker!

In this round, I used a variation of the cold-process method to make 3 kinds of shrub syrup…and still had a bowl of delicious, leftover shrub fruit compote at the end.

These shrubs – banana, wild blackberry, and plum – were made by either smashing (in the case of the banana and blackberry) the fruit or chopping it into small pieces (plum). Once adequately pulverized, sugar was added to the fruit to begin the maceration process. Unlike last time, I added the vinegar at the beginning. I did this for two reasons: to encourage fermentation (the raw vinegar acts as a starter culture) and to allow for better melding of flavors. I also used homemade kombucha vinegar, instead of apple cider vinegar.

Over the course of the next six days, the nascent shrubs gradually transformed into liquid below a fruity “cap”. I shook the jars each day to re-mix the contents and encourage fermentation. The ferment was active, so I also burped them daily to release pressure.

On day six, I strained the liquid from the jars and put the solids into a pan. The banana required extra effort to extract the last bits of liquid, but I’ve come to expect that after using banana frequently to flavor water kefir second ferments. While it may be work to smash the banana juice through the sieve, it’s worth it!

Each of the shrubs was well-balanced and retained much of the fruit flavor. The banana, in particular, surprised me with how much banana came through. There was less of an acidic “bite” to the finished syrups than when I had used apple cider vinegar, so I’ll be using kombucha vinegar – plentiful around here – more often in shrubs.

As a mocktail or a cocktail, shrubs are delicious, refreshing, and easy to make…and though we may understand the science underpinning the shrub-making process, it still feels like a bit of magic goes on in those jars. Cheers!

Fizzy water fun

Environmentally conscious? Then you likely already know that plastic waste is a major problem, worldwide. Instead of buying sparkling or mineral water in single-use plastic bottles, making your own fizzy water of your choice – or even sodas – is easy and economical to do in a SodaStream. We paid for our own after doing our research, and have been very pleased with the unit, particularly with the customizable level of carbonation and small footprint. If you drink sparkling or mineral water, consider making your own and avoiding single-use plastic.