Hayden Homesteading: Summer shrubs | SteamboatToday.com

Hayden Homesteading: Summer shrubs

Beth and Will Melton

Will and Beth Melton

— Summer heat calls for cold drinks. Our summer adventures often revolve around drinking in our backyard, and this year is no exception. Recently, we've been playing around with the unique drink known as a shrub.

A shrub is one of two things:

  1. A fruit-infused drinking vinegar
  2. The cocktails made with said drinking vinegar.

First, the drinking vinegar. Shrubs date back to 17th-century England, when vinegar was used to preserve fruit for the offseason. Like many preservation methods, shrubs became less popular with the growth of modern refrigeration. However, because they are refreshing and delicious, shrubs have made a comeback in the United States in the past few years. We got to know apple shrub at Pok Pok in Portland, Oregon, a Thai restaurant that bottles its own drinking vinegar.

This summer, due to our patronage of the produce-buying cooperative Bountiful Baskets, we often find ourselves with more fruit than we could eat — strawberries, apples, nectarines. We remembered the refreshing summery taste of a nice shrub cocktail and decided to make our own. After some Internet exploration, we found an easy process that seems to work well for most types of fruit:

  1. Mix equal parts fruit and sugar (we like to use about 1 cup of each in a mason jar). Shake or stir, macerate the fruit with a pestle or spoon if needed (e.g. for berries). For bigger fruits, grate or chop before mixing.
  2. Let sit in the fridge for 24 hours.
  3. Mix an equal amount of good apple cider vinegar. Shake or stir.
  4. Let sit in the fridge for two to three days, shaking or mixing as needed to dissolve the sugar.
  5. Strain out the fruit solids.

Now, you can make a delicious non-alcoholic summer drink by just mixing some of the shrub with seltzer (play around with the proportions to find what you like), or you add your favorite liquor and make a delicious cocktail. Here are a couple of our favorites:

  • Apple shrub + gin + seltzer + lemon (equal parts shrub and gin)
  • Nectarine shrub + bourbon + angostura bitters

But, as with most mixers, just be creative and you’ll be sure to find some new combinations that just scream summer.

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Will and Beth Melton are proud first-time homeowners in Hayden. Will grew up in Steamboat, and after stints in Portland, Missoula and Denver, they moved back to the Yampa Valley in May 2013. Will and Beth bought their house in Hayden in October after falling in love with the Western spirit of the town. They look forward to explorations in gardening, home improvement, food preservation and everything else a life in Hayden has to offer.