Shrub Syrup Concentrate

Shrubs? – What are they?
Shrub, often referred to as drinking vinegar or sipping vinegar is a cordial concoction that showcases both the flavor of the fruit and botanicals, and the vinegar. It is an acidic syrup which adds depth and complexity to a variety of drinks and culinary dishes.

If you’ve never had a shrub before, they are about the most refreshing thing you can drink, especially in the summertime! They are packed with electrolytes from the vinegar and vitamins from the fruits. This is why we often liken them to “Old-Timey (insert name brand electrolyte drink here)”

History
Nearly always, the first thing people wish to know about Shrubs is why are they called Shrubs. The word shrub is derived from the Arabic word sharab which means “to drink.” Shrubs were brought to Europe by traders from the exotic Middle East in the 15th century as medicinal elixirs.

Traces of vinegar have been found throughout civilization. Egyptian urns dated to 3000 B.C. contain traces of vinegar, and documentation in Babylonian scrolls record the use of date palm fruit to make vinegar dating to around 5000 B.C. It has been known as “poor man’s wine”, and we’ve all probably had that bottle of wine in the back of the fridge that we poured out because it became “vinegary.” Well, the French word vinaigre means “sour wine”. Vinegar is a sour liquid that is produced from the fermentation of diluted alcohol products, so that makes perfect sense. During the first step of a two step process, vinegar is derived from fermentation of a sugar containing source such as grapes or grains. Sugars break down in the absense of oxygen by yeast and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. Come on, you knew there’d be chemistry in here somewhere, at least if you know me even a little. In the second step the addition of oxygen enables bacteria (good bacteria!) to produce amino acids, water, and some other compounds. Over time and around the world a wide variety of vinegars have been created. In all probability, the creation of vinegar was a complete and fortuitous failure to produce alcohol

We know back as far as 2000 B.C. Babylonians were using vinegar to heal wounds and this was a practice continued through World War I. Hippocrates (the father of modern medicine) prescribed apple cider vinegar mixed with honey for coughs, colds, and other ills. Ancient Greeks utilized vinegar for preservation and the Romans used it as a drink, and sometimes partially converted wines on purpose to use for preservation of foods for storage and travel. There is documentation of the flavored vinegar brines of fish being carried by Roman soldiers, and ketchup originated as an oriental fish vinegar brine that had sugar added to it to create the predecessor of the condiment we now know. Because there was a spectacular increase in the types of foods available because of expanding trade routes, Europeans of the time were creating a vast number of clever recipes using vinegar.

Thanks to research by historians such as Tim Oakley, Bill Toland, Jessica Gelt, and Katie Loeb (thanks guys!) we know some pretty interesting things about Shrubs: the most interesting to me being that early versions of the drink as we know it were being developed parallel with flavored alcoholic counterparts, but for very different reasons. During the late 17th century, smugglers used to sink barrels of spirits offshore to avoid paying import taxes. To mask the taste of sea water that inevitably fouled the alcohol, fruit was put into the barrels. This also helped weight the barrels so they sank faster. This fun fact alone makes me wonder if smugglers were somewhat responsible for some of the fruity vodka flavors we enjoy today. An early recipe in 1864’s The English and Australian Cookery Book (which is considered the first Austrlian Cookbook and was penned for the upper eschelon of society) specified nuts, spices, and oranges infused into rum. This indicates to me that not only did the smugglers do a good job with their flavoring (enough to encourage experimentation,) but that flavoring alcohol eventually became a standard practice across all social classes.

Ok, back to vinegar…What we now know as Shrub was derived from the “pour off” of preserved barrels of fruits and as our ancestors were a thrifty lot, this liquid became a commodity in its own right. It was prized for its restorative qualities. The practice of drinking vinegars carried over into colonial America. While not intentionally created as was the fruited alcohol, both mechanisms do bear a striking resemblance to each other in their ability to preserve and to be flavored.

Shrubs went in and out of fashion for nearly 400 years. They were sold in public houses alongside alcoholic beverages. All social classes partook of Shrubs, though due to basically being the world’s first energy drink they found favor with those who worked hard and required constant hydration. During the Temperance Movement of the 19th century Shrubs were considered acceptable alternatives to spirits. It became trendy during this time to find historical and biblical refereces to imbibing drinking vinegars which lent additional legitimacy to the beverage. The drink that started its American presence as a thirst quenching drink for field laborers is now enjoying a resurgence as a flavoring for water, cocktails, meat marinades, sauces, and salad vinaigrettes.

Shrub vs Switchel
You might hear the word Switchel in conjunction with Shrubs. Shrubs (aka Drinking Vinegar) and Switchels (aka Swizzle or Haymaker’s Punch) have both some similarities and differences. Both have history as a way to preserve fruits with vinegar. Shrubs rely on the fruit and sugar for their flavor while Switchels rely on the vinegar combined with ginger and molasses for their flavor. Shrubs are fruity while Switchels are closer in taste to flat ginger beer. Switchels are meant to be consummed as a stand alone drink while Shrubs are a syrup which can flavor a variety of liquids or be used in a culinary capacity.

Versatility
Shrub Syrup Concentrate makes a very refreshing, thirst-quenching drink when combined with water, seltzer/sparkling water, and iced tea. It’s also useful and yummy used as the vinegar portion of BBQ sauce and meat marinade. Salad dressing really showcases the flavors of Shrup Syrup Concentrate in a simple oil and vinegar preparation. I especially love an oil/shrub dressing on fresh spring mix greens with a little feta.

Benefits of Drinking Shrub
The benefits of drinking apple cider vinegar are many! Studies show that daily consumption of acv leads to regulation of blood sugar levels and reduced cholesterol. By preventing your body from fully digesting starch, acv lowers the body’s glycemic resonse to the starch ingested thus keeping blood sugar levels in check. There is chat about its weight loss benefits and this is thought to be because of the satiety conferred between meals. Scientists are studying links between tumor size/growth rate and consumption of apple cider vinegar, as well as cancer risk and acv consumption. Research is also being done into the effects and potential benefits for diabetics. That’s research – not conclusions yet, so if you fall into one of those health scenarios then discuss with your physician and make your choices.

You may have heard about all the ways energy drinks are bad for those who consume them? If you are looking for a natural and healthy energy boost then Shrubs are a great answer. ACV contains enzymes and potassium that counter fatigue and also which have alkalizing effects in the body. ACV nutrients can help buffer acidity and restore an alkaline pH, protecting against oxidation and cellular damage. Ascetic acid as well as acv’s other acids (malic and ascorbic) have been shown to improve the body’s nonheme iron uptake and that’s even more important for vegetarians and vegans that do not get heme iron from consuming animal products. Ascorbic acid in acv also enhances copper absorption, and copper helps the body absorb iron. Iron is needed to transport oxygen between muscle cells, which helps produce energy. This is why many people who are iron deficient suffer from fatigue.

ACV helps lower high blood pressure because it helps reduce sodium levels. Potassium works with sodium to maintain blood pressure levels, but when there’s too much sodium in the body blood pressure goes up. Adding extra potassium via acv can help balance the sodium in the blood and reduces high blood pressure. Shrubs are a great alternative to those seeking to move away from the empty calories and sugar overload of soft drinks.

I had to throw some more science in here. It’s awesome info! I know, I’m a nerd. You’re welcome. lol

Shelf Life
One of the main reasons Shrubs fell out of style the last time was due to the advent of home refrigeration. I see this as precisely why they have become of interest again. Our society is becoming more in tune with our past, and we are looking for alternatives to food storage and preparation – just in case. Shrub Syrup Concentrates can wait patiently in the pantry for several years unopened, and for about a year in the refrigerator after opening.

Cats Paw Farm Shrub Syrup Concentrates
I seasonally create several flavors of Shrub Syrup Concentrate.
Currently in stock are:
Apple Sage
Apricot Cacao
Blackberry Lemonbalm
Cherry Thyme
Huckleberry Wild Rose
Peach Cinnamon
Pear Rosemary
Raspberry Mint
Strawberry Chamomile
Plum Basil will be back soon, the plums are nearly ripe for this year’s batch.
All flavors are available in 6oz bottles, and most are also available in 14oz bottles. 6oz bottles are available on our website. Currently the 14oz bottles are only available through our physical storefront. I’m working on finding a box appropriately sized for shipping them.

Recipes
Here’s a Basic Shrub Salad Dressing
1/2 cup Shrub Syrup Concentrate of your choice (I like Blackberry Lemon)
1/2 cup olive or avocado oil
2-3 tbsp pure maple syrup or raw honey
1 clove minced garlic (optional)
salt of your choice (I like himalayan pink salt) and pepper
Whisk it all together and drizzle over your salad. Yummy!! This lasts well in the fridge for about a week

“French” Dressing
1/2 cup Shrub Syrup Concentrate of your choice (I like Strawberry Chamomile)
1/2 cup olive or coconut oil
1 tsp tomato paste (or 1/3 cup ketchup)
2-3 tbsp pure maple syrup or raw honey
1 tsp paprika
salt of your choice (I like himalayan pink salt) and pepper
Whisk it all together and drizzle over your salad. Yummy!! This lasts well in the fridge for about a week

Basic Marinade (chicken, pork, steak, salmon, veggies…)
ACV weakens the colagen and protein in meat so will soften a tough steak as well as flavor it. Limit veggie marination to 30 minutes; fish, pork, chicken, and any kabob meat to 2 hours max, and steak to 6-8 hours.

1 cup oil of your choice (olive is good, it helps seal in the juiciness)
1/2 cup Shrub Syrup Concentrate
1/3 cup tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tbsp mustard (Honey Dijon is good or Peach Mustard for pork)
optional as desired
1 small onion minced if not blending
2 cloves garlic if not blending
thyme leaves and/or rosemary leaves as desired (no stems)

You can either 1) whisk all of this together or 2) add it to a food processor and blend it
Add the meat to a bag or a bowl and add the marinade. Cover tightly if you use a bowl. Place in refrigerator for the desired time according to your meat or veggie type and turn the food a couple of times so it gets evenly exposed to the marinade.

Not-Really-Recipes, but More Ideas on how I use Shrubs in Cooking
I cook a lot without a recipe. Shrubbed Chicken is a favorite for me. I cook on the stovetop in a skillet. Pat the chicken down with olive oil and sprinkle a little salt, pepper, and basil over the meat. Brown the meat and then add a few tablespoons of Shrub Syrup Concentrate (Pear Rosemary is good) to the pan and let it steam to finish cooking. The flavor and texture is great! You can also do this with pork and salmon.

Shrub Seltzer
Simply choose your favorite flavor of Shrub Concentrate and pour a little into seltzer over crushed ice. The Shrub Syrup Concentrate lends a festive splash of color and a refreshing tangy twist. We all need to drink water, why not make it fun?

Sober Mule
Add Apple Sage Shrub Concentrate to ginger ale and garnish with a slice of lime.

Ginger Pear-fection
1 part Pear Rosemary Shrub Syrup
1 part Ginger Liqueur
2 parts whiskey
.5 part fresh lemon juice
splash of seltzer water
Stir the first 4 ingredients together with ice and strain into a lowball glass full of ice. Top it with seltzer water and garnish with lemon peel.

Berry Shrub Cocktail
1 part Raspberry Lemonbalm Shrub Syrup
1 part Vodka, Gin, or Tequila – your choice
splash of seltzer water
Add Shrub Syrup and alcohol to a glass of ice and garnish with raspberries (or other seasonal fruit)
This one can be made with any Shrub Syrup just switch out the garnish for something appropriate

Peach Out
1 part Peach Cinnamon Shrub Syrup
2 parts Vodka
.5 parts fresh lemon juice
drizzle of honey
just a dash of bitters
Shake all of this together and train into a glass over ice. Top it with seltzer water and garnish with a cinnamon stir stick.

I’m always cooking up something, and lately my thoughts have turned to a fruity Shrub Salsa. I’m thinking peaches, onion, maybe a little jalapeno and some Huckleberry Wild Rose Shrub Syrup.

Thanks to my beautiful sister Katie for suggesting that I write this blog article so she has all my info & trivia about Shrubs in one place, and to my husband Cole (Goats Ate My Book Blog) for proofing for me when my eyes started to cross from rewrites. You are both loved and adored!

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