I love to make cordials when soft fruit is seasonal and in full force. Lately I have been experimenting with fruit shrubs. Made with vinegar in addition to the fruit and sugar, these tart and tangy cordials are a marvel.
Often referred to as drinking vinegars in many 19th century cookery books, fruit shrubs, or sherbets, are also a common drink in the Middle East. With the vinegar acting as principal preservative agent as opposed to the sugar in cordial making, fruit shrubs by their definition, are intensely refreshing.
What fruit you choose to use, likewise which vinegar you have to hand, will determine the characteristics of your shrub. Shrubs like fizz as a mixer, water or sparkling wine, served as a long drink over ice. Used in cocktails to sharpen, provide bite and backbone, shrubs are an essential ingredient in mixology. Intensely fruity, these fruit vinegar shrubs also make an excellent salad dressing or marinade.
Blackberries are a favourite fruit of mine, mostly I suppose, because I enjoy the ritual of picking them. Memories from my childhood and beyond - a sunny day, a basket, all purple juice stained fingers - blackberry picking, to my mind, is always a day well spent...
Equal volume: blackberries and red/white wine or cider vinegar (e.g. 1 cup of each)
Equal volume or ½ volume of sugar (e.g. 1 cup or ½ cup to your preference)
3 whole star anise (whilst optional, the liquorice characteristics of star anise particularly flatter the blackberries.)
Wash and sterilize a kilner or large jam jar.
Spread the blackberries out over a clean table or tea towel removing any bugs, blackberry stalks or unripe berries.
Add the blackberries to the clean jar.
Pour over the vinegar and seal.
Leave for 2 – 3 days, giving it a gentle shake daily.
Strain the fruit and add the fruit flavoured vinegar to a non-reactive saucepan.
Add the sugar and star anise, bring to the boil and simmer until the sugar dissolves.
Pour the hot syrup back into the jar and cool.
Stored in the fridge, the shrub should last indefinitely.
*Use the strained fruit for any chutney making.
*Used as a fruit drink, dilute the shrub as you would a fruit cordial.
*Experiment using the shrub for cocktails, salad dressings and various marinades.
Claire wears TOAST Linen Cross Over Apron in natural.
Words by Claire Thomson.
Photography by Mike Lusmore