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Fun with Shrubs

This is the third month of the food preservation Mastery Challenge hosted by Marisa McClellan at Food in JarsMarch’s challenge is a choice of Jellies and/or Shrubs.  Always one to try something new, I decided to explore shrubs.

What’s a shrub, you might ask?  At least, what is it when we’re not talking about the woody plants growing around the foundation of your house?  Shrub is sometimes known as drinking vinegar.  It’s a sweet and tart syrup made with fruit, sugar, and vinegar.  Other herbs, spices or aromatics can also be added.  Typically, a shrub is added to seltzer water for a refreshing drink or, with some added alcohol, a cocktail.

I like getting familiar with a new way to preserve fruit that’s an alternative to jellies and jams.

The first shrub I made was Pomegranate Shrub.  I had half a bottle of Pom pomegranate juice in the fridge, so I tried one-third of a batch of this recipe from Punch Drunk. It was super simple.  All you need to do is combine juice, sugar, and vinegar.  I heated the vinegar first to accelerate the dissolving of the sugar, then added the juice.  Pomegranate is tart to begin with, so the vinegar enhanced the tartness, which was toned down by the sugar.

My second attempt was a bit more experimental.  I started with strawberries I had frozen after a summer berry picking outing.  After reading about the different processes, I opted to start with the hot method, where the fruit is infused in simple syrup to extract its juice. I added slightly thawed berries along with some crushed peppercorns to a warm simple syrup and simmered it.  Then, I strained out the fruit and added vinegar and some vanilla extract for good measure.  This Strawberry-Vanilla-Peppercorn Shrub reminded me of summer.  The berry flavor was pronounced, the vinegar added some tang, and the other flavors gave it some mystique.

Shrubs are a worthwhile discovery!  Both shrubs were delicious added to seltzer. I still have to try adding this to cocktails.

After I’ve gone overboard picking fruit this summer, I’m also interested in trying the cold method for making shrubs where fruit is simply tossed with sugar to draw out its juice before adding the vinegar.

Strawberry-Vanilla-Peppercorn Shrub
Makes a little more than a cup

½ pound strawberries (unsweetened frozen OK)
½ cup water
½ cup granulated sugar
½ tsp black peppercorns, crushed
6 Tbsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Heat the water in medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve completely.  (If you already have simple syrup on hand, gently heat ¾ cup simple syrup in the medium saucepan instead of dissolving sugar in water.)  Add the strawberries and crushed peppercorns, and bring to a light simmer.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the syrup is a rich color and the strawberries are soft.  Let the fruit cool in the syrup until lukewarm.

Strain the berries from the syrup.  (No need to discard the strained berries.  Stir it into yogurt for breakfast or a snack.)  Stir the vinegar and vanilla into the syrup.  Transfer to a bottle.  Store in the refrigerator.




Orange and olive salad {ffwd}

Orange and Olive Salad

I was unexpectedly under the weather this week, so was happy that this week’s recipe for French Fridays with Dorie turned out to be one of Dorie’s non-recipes. Not only was it super simple to put together, but without any planning on my part, I had all of the ingredients on hand. After last week’s tagine, this week’s orange and olive salad offers another glimpse into the tastes of Morocco.

As one might expect, I made a single serving because Howard had zero interest in this orange salad. All I needed was an orange, an onion, some olives, and olive oil. The orange is peeled and sliced. The onion first soaks in an ice bath to remove its bite. Then, all the ingredients are composed for a colorful, festive salad.

Simple Ingredients

If had were a better meal planner (2015 New Year’s Resolution?), this would have been a nice accompaniment to last week’s tagine. Alas, I just ate it as a side with our regular meal (roasted winter vegetable pot pie).

I wasn’t sold on this salad. The citrus was refreshing, but I might be in Howard’s camp on this one. The rest of the flavors didn’t meld for me. It could be because I used a yellow onion, which was all I had on hand. I’m not a fan of raw onions, and though Dorie’s taught me that an ice bath helps, I might have enjoyed red onion better. It would have added a nice touch of extra color as well.

To see what the other Doristas thought of this salad, check their links here. This hardly needs a recipe, but you can find it in Dorie Greenspan’s book Around My French Table.

I’m loving the Dorista holiday cards and recipes that arrive in my mailbox daily! Thanks to Alice for organizing this now-annual card exchange as a lovely way share holiday wishes with our cyber-friends (and in many cases, now, real friends). Whether I sent you a card or not, I wish you and your family a magical holiday season and a delicious new year in 2015. I look forward to continue cooking with you next year!

2014 Holiday Cards