Blackberry Drinking Vinegar

Inspired by a recent trip to Portland (see previous post), I set off to make my own drinking vinegar, also known as a shrub, or in culinary terms a gastrique.

I followed an old NYT recipe from 2008 by Toby Cecchini

Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts, depending on fruit used.

These measurements can be played with quite liberally, as some fruits contain more natural sugars.

2 quarts fruit, use any fruit, pears, figs, raspberries, cherries
1 liter apple-cider vinegar (preferably Bragg) or other vinegar.
1/2 to 1 cup raw sugar
Soda water

1. Rinse the fruit and discard any rot.  Place in a large non-reactive or ceramic pot and mash for several minutes with your hands or a wooden spoon to break up.  Pour in enough vinegar to cover and top with a lid.  Let macerate at room temperature for a week, stirring once a day.  (Do not be alarmed by the smell or the sludge on top).
2.  After a week, stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and gently boil for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Cool slightly then strain.  (The smell created from boiling is a bit offensive, so open doors and windows.)
3.  Make a test shrub:  cool 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fruit mixture.  Fill a 20-ounce glass with ice.  Add water or soda water to almost the rim, then add the chilled fruit mixture.  Taste to determine sweetness.  If it is too tart, add sugar to the fruit mixture, little by little, while still hot.  Cool fully and funnel into bottles.  Will keep indefinitely in refrigerator.

Well, the shrub was a success!  I am already planning my next batch, which will be Meyer lemon;-).

 A few observations:

Getting the ratio of sugar to vinegar is key in the final process.  When making the blackberry shrub, I used the full cup of sugar because the blackberries were not as sweet as they could have been.
When I boiled the vinegar with the sugar, it reduced quite a bit, and I lost a lot of liquid.  I think when I make my next batch I will simmer it on a lower temp.

When using dark fruit such as blackberries, you may wish to use gloves as the juice tends to stain.  I had splattering issues when straining pulp in cheesecloth and my hands took on a purple tint.

At first the smell of vinegar did not bother me.  It was only after I had boiled and bottled the shrub that I noticed my apartment took on a vinegar smell.   I recommend you remove any cheesecloth, pulp or remnants of shrub to outside garbage right away.

Finally, I used organic cider vinegar from Trader Joe's which came in nice small glass bottles.  I soaked these and peeled off the label.  They are perfect for bottling the final shrub, especially for gifts.

choc tee ka and choc tee khap!

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