Yes, we are here!

At MOTHER EARTH LIVING and MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we have been educating folks about the benefits of self-reliance for 50 years. That includes researching and sourcing the best books and products to help individuals master the skills they need in times like these and beyond. Our online store is open and we are here to answer any questions you might have. Our customer service staff is available Monday through Friday from 8a.m.-5p.m. CDT. We can be reached at 1-800-456-6018 or by email. Stay safe!

Drinking Shrubs

An important part of cocktail history, shrubs are a classic food preservation recipe, as tasty as they are packed with health benefits.

| November/December 2016

  • Pear Shrub
    Shrubs are the basis of many wonderful fruity, herbal drinks, and have been around for centuries.
    Photo by Emily Han

  • Pear Shrub

If you’re looking for an unusual, tasty beverage to serve this holiday season, look back into our history to rediscover shrubs. A shrub is a concentrated syrup made from three ingredients: fruit, vinegar and sweetener. It is traditionally mixed with water to make a sweet-tart drink. It also makes an excellent cocktail. Because shrubs can be enjoyed with or without alcohol, they are a great addition to the holiday bar. Party-goers can pick their flavors and mix their own drinks.

The shrubs we enjoy today have been adapted from a 17th century English technique of preserving fruit and vegetables in vinegar. Colonial Americans, in the heat of summer, quickly recognized the thirst-quenching benefits of these flavored vinegars. The drinks became so popular that you can find their recipes in the cookbooks of Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Mary Randolph.

In the 19th century, supporters of the temperance movement hoped shrubs would become the alternative to alcoholic drinks. Unfortunately for them, shrubs are also delicious mixed with gin, vodka and whiskey. Eventually, as refrigeration became accessible to all and sugary carbonated beverages gained popularity, shrubs fell out of favor.

Historically, vinegar drinks were believed to bring down fevers and prevent scurvy, and traveling medicine shows marketed them as health tonics. While these health claims haven’t been validated, the National Institutes of Health has studied the medicinal effects of apple cider vinegar and fermented foods, and found them to have anti-tumor effects. They also have had promising results in reducing cholesterol and triglycerides, the main constituents of body fat. Keep in mind that any potential health benefits are reduced by the cooking process as well as the type and amount of sweetener you add. Although you can safely add shrubs to your diet, it should not be your first line of nutritional defense.

Cold-Processed and Fermented Shrubs

1. Slice or gently mash 1 cup of fruit(s) in a nonreactive bowl.
2. Add 1 cup of sweetener and stir gently to combine. Cover with a clean cloth and leave on the counter for up to 3 days, stirring daily.
3. Once fruit becomes very juicy, strain juice into a clean (sterilization is not necessary) container. Discard fruit solids.
4. Add an equal amount of vinegar to syrup. Bottle in a sterilized (drop into boiling water for 10 minutes or run through sterilize cycle in dishwasher), narrow-neck jar and store in refrigerator, where it will last up to 6 months.

Quick and Easy Hot-Processed Shrubs

1. Make a simple syrup by combining 1 cup of sweetener and 1 cup of water in a medium saucepan set over low heat, stirring until sweetener is dissolved.
2. Add sliced or chopped fruit(s) and bring mixture to a low simmer. Allow to simmer until syrup takes on the color of the fruit, about 20 minutes.
3. Stir in 1 cup of vinegar and bring mixture back to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
4. Strain syrup into a sterilized, narrow-neck jar, discarding fruit solids, and store in refrigerator for up to 6 months.

Subscribe today and save 58%

Get the latest on Healthy Living and Natural Beauty!

Mother Earth LivingRedefine beauty and embrace holistic living with Mother Earth Living by your side. Each issue  provides you with easy, hands-on ways to connect your life with the natural world -- from eating seasonally to culinary and medicinal uses of herbs; from aromatherapy and DIY cosmetics to yoga and beyond. Start your journey to holistic living today and you’ll discover all the best and latest information you want on choosing natural remedies and practicing preventive medicine; cooking with a nutritious and whole-food focus; creating a nontoxic home; and gardening for food, wellness and enjoyment. Subscribe to Mother Earth Living today to get inspired on the art of living wisely and living well.

Save Money & a Few Trees!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You’ll save an additional $5 and get six issues of Mother Earth Living for just $19.95! (Offer valid only in the U.S.)

Or, choose Bill Me and pay just $24.95.

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter


click me