Elderflower Shrubs - Don't Fear the Vinegar!


I surveyed my cupboards this morning, and came up with nine different bottles of vinegar.  I covet pickles, and take my meals with obscene amount of mustard.  I suspect it is safe to say that I am a fan of vinegar's sour pop.

But I know that not everyone feels the same.  That makes makes it difficult when I try to sell people on the concept of shrubs, which are fruit or herb infused syrups that have been punched up with a heavy dose of vinegar.

When freshly brewed, shrubs possess a strong taste of vinegar.  However, they are magical potions, and vinegar is the key to their amazing taste.  With time, all of a shrub's harsh vinegar edges round out and meld with the syrup to make the perfect hybrid of sweet and sour.  Shrubs can make for a sophisticated pantry staple, especially for people who find jams and syrups to be too sweet.

This year, instead of putting up my usual elderflower cordial, I decided to turn one of my favorite eating flowers (learn more about foraging for elderflowers here) into several varieties of shrubs.

Elderflower Rhubarb Shrub


3 c. chopped rhubarb
1 c. stripped elderflowers (try to get most of the flowers off the stems)
pinch of salt
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
juice from 1/2 lemon
white, apple cider, or white wine vinegar

1.  Place the chopped rhubarb, elderflowers, and salt into a large glass bowl.

2.  Combine the sugar and water in a medium pan over medium-high heat.  Once the syrup comes to a boil, turn off the heat.

3.  Pour the hot sugar syrup over the rhubarb and elderflowers.  Let sit from 12-24 hours.

4.  Strain out the solids (they make a nice topping for ice cream and cheesecake).  Measure how much elderflower rhubarb syrup you have, and add half that amount of vinegar.  For example, if you ended up with 5 cups of syrup, add 2 1/2 c. of vinegar.

5.  Finally, stir in the lemon juice.

6.  Store in mason jars in the refrigerator, or can the elderflower rhubarb shrub in a water bath if you prefer to store it in the pantry.  Shrub is best enjoyed after it ages for at least 6 months.


Elderflower Lychee* Shrub


4-5 c. stripped elderflowers
2 c. sugar
2 c. water
juice from one 16 oz. can of lychees
white, apple cider, or white wine vinegar

1. Place the elderflowers in a large glass bowl.

2.  Combine the sugar, lychee juice, and water in a medium pan over medium-high heat.  Once the syrup comes to a boil, turn off the heat.

3.  Pour the hot sugar syrup over the elderflowers.  Let sit from 12-24 hours.

4.  Strain out the solids.  Measure how much elderflower syrup you have, and add half that amount of vinegar.

5.  Store in mason jars in the refrigerator, or can the elderflower shrub in a water bath if you prefer to store it in the pantry.  Shrub is best enjoyed after it ages for at least 6 months.

*This recipe came about simply because I shared a can of lychees with a friend, and didn't want to throw out the juice.  If you don't have lychee juice, substitute the juice from one lemon, and you will have a gorgeous plain elderflower shrub.


The best shrub I made last year was strawberry wild rose.  You can find the recipe for that here.  Play around with the basic template for making shrubs using whatever fruit and herbs are booming in your area.  I think you'll be very pleased with the result.

Comments

  1. Eeeeee I love this post! Right now I have a sour green plum shrub and an elderberry shrub brewing. I'm one of those 'don't like vinegar too much' people, but looove shrubs :).

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  2. I hear that one can use the leftover fruit matter from making syrup into good fruit leather by pureeing and thinning with water, if needed, and dehydrating.

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    Replies
    1. Do you need the syrup from the syrup to make it cohesive, or could you do this from the marc from boozy fruit, too?

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  3. I learned what a shrub is: thanks. You beat me in terms of types of vinegar: I have only six. I could not do without it. I see a lot of recipes for using elderflowers, but I am not sure I have seen them around here.

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    Replies
    1. I'm guessing you probably have elderflower there. It is mainly an ornamental here, but once I learned how to recognize it's pattern, I could see it everywhere. It is a tangled shrub, has slightly lighter green leaves, and the flowers form very distinctive sprays.

      Juicy fruits can be made into shrubs by simply macerating, sieving out the juice, and combining with vinegar. Once I tasted shrubs, there was no going back!

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  4. I've never even heard of shrubs but I'm excited to try making some.

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    1. Just don't make the mistake I did the first year and make too little. I wasn't convinced, thought I'd only make a few pints. Come late winter, when I finally broke the shrubs out, I was deeply sorry that I hadn't made more!

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  5. Jealous of the green plums!

    It's hot here today. I could really go for a shrub in fizzy water.

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  6. Thanks for the info. I'd been mulling over the shrub idea ever since you mentioned it but clueless about how to do it. Glad that lychee syrup came in handy. Waste not, want not.

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    1. You know that I try to never let anything go to waste. Interesting part is that I gave a blind taste of the elderflower lychee shrub to a friend with a great palate. The first thing she said was, "lychee?" Perhaps we should toast the new year with that one? It would be a great memory to share.

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