Shrub, Part I

The internet is a dangerous place.  On the internet, you can be going along, minding your own business, when suddenly you stumble across a recipe for a plum shrub cocktail.  That’s going to change the course of your day right there.  Especially if you then find yourself falling down a rabbit hole of shrub theory and practice and are the type to conduct the occasional science experiment in your kitchen.

So the gist, for those of you new to shrubs, is that they’re a fruit syrup vinegar concoction.  They go in drinks (alcoholic or not) and have a delicious fruity/sweet/tart flavor that makes for a delightful addition to an awful lot of things.  I’d never made one.  After a few hours of reading, and I felt possessed with the burning desire to remedy that situation.  One trip to the farmer’s market later, and things are bubbling in my kitchen as I type.

I’m going to show you what I do, and report on its success.  Now, just to be clear, I’m new at this and I could very well do something wrong.  So if you decide to try this, you should read what someone with more experience has to say (see, for example, those handy links up top) and make your own decisions.  I’ll be over here playing mad scientist.  This is a multi-day process, so we’ll start with day one.

11) Gather the troops: That’s two cartons of pears and two cartons of plums (I’m making two different batches), plus a sack of turbinado sugar.  You’ll note those pears are a bit sad looking, as are the plums.  That’s ok, this is not a beauty contest.  You want super ripe fruit, and that often means brown spots.  You also want fruit that you trust hasn’t been sprayed with all sorts of nasty stuff, hence getting it at the farmer’s market.  Not shown, but also important, is a small pile of spices (vanilla bean, cardamom pods, pepper corns, and allspice berries).

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42) Fruit massacre: Rough chop the plums and the pears.  I did not de-seed the pears or pit the plums because I’m lazy, and I don’t mind if some of the bitterness from the seeds/pits comes through. 3

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3) Sweeten up:  Most of the recipes say to use about equal parts sugar and fruit.  That seemed like an obscene amount of sugar, so I took the liberty of dramatically cutting it back.  I used more like half as much sugar as there was fruit.  I tossed the sugar plus some spices (vanilla, cardamom, allspice, and pepper for the pears, just pepper for the plums) with the fruit.  Do it in big, non-metal bowls.

4) Patience grasshopper: Now comes the waiting.  Well, first came the covering of the bowls with plastic wrap because fruit flies are not tasty, then came the waiting.  This stuff wants to sit (fridge or counter, depends on your risk tolerance, around here it’s counter) for 1-3 days.

This is a several day process, and I’m writing about it as I do it, so I’ll come back with more pics and instructions for the next steps in a day or two when everything is ready.  For now, I just have to devote myself to not sneaking bites of spiced sugared plums until it’s time for the next bit.  I predict it will be a challenge.

This is apparently a 3 part saga.  Check out part 2 and part 3 for more details.