Blueberry Thyme Shrub
We’ve talked about shrub before when we posted the Shrub Lyfe and Beginning Mandarin cocktail recipes, but it’s high time we dug a little deeper into this delicious ingredient. Shrub is an Anglicized version of the Arabic word ’sharab’, which means (not coincidentally), “to drink” (or “beverage”, depending on who translates it for you). It’s a crazy concoction of vinegar and sugar and a little somethin’ somethin’ to add more complexity and flava’. Shrub, much like the beginnings of all drinks, were concocted as way to make water safe to imbibe. Well…technically peeps were making wine to make water safe, and somehow the miracle of all miracles happened, and not all the wine was consumed in time and it turned to vinegar. Not ones to be wasteful, our ancestors tried it out anyway. When they realized that vinegar on its own tasted…less than amazing, our industrious forefathers threw in some sugar to sweeten it up and some fruits to make it…fruity. Fun fact- Science tells us that sour tasting drinks are really good at quenching thirst. They stimulate your salivary glands. Go figure. Hence lemonade stands in the summer time make a killing. Plus they’re manned by adorable children. How do you say no to those faces?!
Anyway, back to the lesson… so tart quenches thirst, got it. Water in ancient history…not always safe to drink. Check. Wine mixed with water- safe and awesome. But what happens when you have a little thing called Islam that wags its finger at alcohol consumption? You get a veritable ton of people gettin’ down on sharab. The safe, non-boozy way to get your hydration on. Thanks Islam! Ok, so trade routes, civilization, boats and stuff, blah, blah, blah… fast forward several centuries and Martha Washington is making shrub for ol’ Georgie boy to consume after a long day on the range. Or the Potomac. Or whatever that crazy cat was up to on any given day.
So that’s the quick and dirty on shrubs. Mix it in a cocktail, throw it in some sherry, heck- add a little soda water and go booze-less. For once.
After reading this, then making some of your own, and then loving it, we highly suggest you go buy the book Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times by Michael Dietsch. Not only is the title really apropos, but Dietsch gets more in depth than any blog could. Even this blog. We were shocked too. At any rate, let’s get in to this action…
First you’re gonna take two cups of fresh blueberries. Heck, go organic, it’s good for you. Add those little antioxidant powerhouses to one cup of sugar in a bowl. Squish ‘em all up. In the bar world we call that “muddling”. Stir it up together, making a bit of a blueberry syrup. Let that action sit for a while (covered). Like, two days. It’s a maceration…let it macerate!
While that’s going on, you will of course, have put approximately eight sprigs of thyme (so, so many pun options just surfaced, but we really don’t have thyme to cover them. Sorry- we couldn’t resist it that thyme.) in one cup of apple cider vinegar and cover/seal your container. Make sure you get some raw vinegar. It will be cloudy. That cloud is called the mother. Please email us for further jokes about cloudy mothers, now is NOT the thyme for such shenanigans. Anyway, the raw organic stuff is made from actual apples, whereas other “apple” vinegar is sometimes made from grape must. Lame.
Ok- so you’ve got your thyme hanging out in some vinegar. Close up your jar/container and put it in a cool dark place for those two days that the blueberries are macerating with the sugar.
Fast forward two days- you have a pulpy, purple syrup. Why blueberries don’t produce blue syrup… God only knows. Ok, take that stuff and pour the thyme/vinegar combo in. Strain the heck out of it. We don’t think it’s necessary to go all coffee filter on it, but you definitely want to get the small particulates out. We ran it through a fine filter back and forth several times to get all the sugar and goodies all mixed together, and in their proper places.
Once that’s done, and you’ve made a fine mess of your kitchen- seal up your new found shrub and stick it in the fridge for a week. Then take it out and use it to great success in your cocktails.
2 cups blueberries
1 cup sugar
8 sprigs thyme
1 cup apple cider vinegar
Combine blueberries in sugar, macerate, let sit for 2 days (covered). Also combine thyme and vinegar, let sit in cool dark place for the same 2 days (also covered). After the 2 days, combine all ingredients, strain really well, several times if needed. Put shrub mixture in the fridge for 1 week. Use in your new cocktail recipe!