Preserving plenty was never of greater importance than in the early years of agriculture. When times were lean, naturally, great pains were taken to ensure that nothing was wasted. This applied to wine that had turned to vinegar just as well as fruit that had turned too ripe to eat.
Thus the historic Shrub, or farmer’s lemonade, emerged in Colonial America as a way to save hard-grown produce and – in an age of questionably clean water – became a safe thirst-quenching beverage.
At SHED, Shrubs have always been part of our Fermentation Bar offerings. We like them for the charming way they straddle the line between soft drink and adult beverage, because they are an easy and fast way to preserve, and for the pleasing balance of flavor they achieve by marrying fruit and vegetables, herbs, and vinegars.
Gillian Helquist, SHED’s fermentation crafter, gets inspired to create the flavor combinations behind our seasonal list of Shrubs through a combination of historical reference, botanical relationships, and enduring flavor memories from her childhood. Her philosophy is to let the fruit shine through first and to capture the moment of peak ripeness when the fruit tastes like itself most. To do this, she considers the benefits and drawbacks of various vinegars, choosing ones that compliment but don’t overpower. Here are SHED’s current Shrubs and the inspiration behind them. Come taste for yourself at our Fermentation Bar.
Blueberry with Nutmeg and Red Wine Vinegar
“Blueberries have a tannic skin so I use the stronger red wine vinegar which pairs well with them, and also gives the fruit more body.”
Strawberry with Tarragon and Champagne Vinegar
“What grows together goes together. Strawberries and tarragon show up at the same time in spring. They’re both soft, delicate flavors. And champagne vinegar is the softest vinegar, so it lets the strawberry flavor comes through.”
Grapefruit with Juniper and White Wine Vinegar
“This in an homage to one of my favorite cocktails, the salty dog, which is gin or vodka with grapefruit juice. It goes great with the addition of Jardesca, too.”
Satsuma Plum with Shiso and Rice Wine Vinegar
“Satsumas are a hybrid plum from Japan, so I chose shiso, which is an Asian mint, and rice wine vinegar to play across that.”
Blackberry with Thyme and Apple Cider Vinegar
“This is a classic flavor combination because in a typical year, blackberries usually ripen right along with the first Gravenstein apples.”
For more shrub stories, and to get a first-hand lesson from Gillian herself, join us for our workshop this Saturday.