Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hiding in the Shrubs

Up until a couple of years ago, the only definition I knew for 'shrub' was something along the lines of 'a woody plant smaller than a tree.'  Thanks, Dictionary.com.  A shrub was something green, generally round, and bordered your property line or was planted in neat rows down the length of your driveway.  Then I discovered a whole new definition:  '...a sweetened vinegar-based syrup, a drinking vinegar...often infused with fruit juice, herbs, and spices for use in mixed drinks.'  My first reaction?  'Hell, yes, count me in!'

So it was the October 2012 issue of Sunset magazine where I first discovered this mysterious shrub.  Considering how I've rarely used vinegar for more than salad dressings or for pickling, I was very interested in trying it.  The Sunset recipe is for a cranberry shrub and since it was perfect for Fall, I jumped right into making it.  Happily, it's easy-peasy to make and it truly is a great mixer for cocktails.  I also love drinking them as a soda, where one part shrub to 2 parts sparkling water or club soda on ice is a treat.

1've used the Sunset magazine recipe as my base for the shrubs since that first time.  Over the past couple of years, there has been cranberry, raspberry, Italian prune plum, and the latest incarnation...gala apple.  A little swap of apple cider vinegar for the red wine vinegar, the addition of an overripe Bartlett pear, and this mix is so, so, so perfect for Fall.  I also took it upon myself to make a little Fall cocktail that's perfect for sharing.

Gala Apple Shrub
Adapted from the Sunset recipe
Makes about 2 1/2 cups

3-4 Gala apples, cut into small pieces 
1 pear, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar 
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water

In a medium saucepan, add all the ingredients and bring to a low boil over medium heat.  Stir occasionally and with the back of the spoon, smash the fruit as much as you can.  Let simmer for about 10-15 minutes, making sure all the sugar has dissolved.  Place a fine mesh sieve or a medium size bowl and pour the shrub into the bowl.  Let the shrub drain and press the fruit to get as much liquid from them as you can.  Allow to cool, then store in a bottle in the fridge.  Lasts at least 2 weeks.

Note:  You don't need to peel the apples or pear.  


Apple & Rye
Serves 2 (and maybe a wee bit more)

1 fl. oz ginger simple syrup
4 fl. oz gala apple shrub
2 fl. oz rye whiskey
tonic water
apple slices, thin, for garnish

Throw all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake vigorously to mix.  In two old fashioned glasses, add ice cubes and a thin slice of apple.  Pour in cocktail three-quarters of the way and top with tonic water.  Toast.  

Note:  If you don't have the ginger simple syrup, I recommend making some.  It will last for awhile and you'll be able to use it in many drinks.  If you don't want ginger, make a plain simple syrup and muddle a thin slice of ginger in your glass and discard before adding ice and the cocktail.  To make the ginger simple syrup, in a saucepan, add one cup water and one cup sugar.  Bring to a boil over medium heat and stir frequently to allow sugar to dissolve.  Add 3 or 4 3-inch pieces of ginger. Allow mixture to come to a simmer.  Remove from heat.  Let mixture steep for half an hour or so.  Discard ginger and store syrup in the fridge.  

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