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Strawberries + Vinegar = Shrub, A Beverage Revelation

Pickled strawberries.

As I type this post, I’m sipping on a shrub. (Don’t worry; no backyard foliage is involved.) A shrub is a colonial-era sweet and sour syrup made from fruit, sugar, and vinegar believed to have been brought to the U.S by British settlers.

19th century writer Oliver Wendell Holmes references the shrub in his 1861 novel Elsie Venner: A Romance of Destiny:

“…but I do feel thirsty’ said the poor lady, ‘and I do think a glass of srub would do my my throat good: it’s dreadful dry. Mr.Peckham, would you be so polite as to pass me a glass of srub?”

The poor lady in question had the right idea; the shrub is a genuine thirst quencher and whets that whistle like nothing else. I had my first taste at a recent CAA meeting when fellow canner Kimberly McKittrick shared a jar of pickled strawberries that she had put up the previous summer. One sip and we were all hooked: Slightly sweet but really more spice-forward and a tad tangy, the syrup and its pickled fruit are a revelation.

Carbonated strawberry shrub.

We’ve seen historical references to the shrub as a mixer for alcohol, lemonade and water of the tonic-ed, carbonated, and still varieties. No doubt it is a pre-cursor to soda pop, which unfortunately has taken over the world and made the shrub obsolete. In fact, the shrub is part of Slow Food USA’s Ark of Taste, a list of food and drink items that have faded into obscurity in the light of industrial agriculture.

The recipe below comes from Wright Eats, written by Seattle-based food bloggers Dawn and Eric Wright. What follows are details for how to make your own shrub.
P.S. I am considering trying this with raspberries and blackberries, what with brambles on the horizon here in the Pacific Northwest.

Spiced Pickled Strawberries

Adapted from The Complete Book of Pickling, by Jennifer MacKenzie
6 pints strawberries, hulled (preferably on the smaller side and just a touch under-ripe)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
2 cups cider vinegar

Puncture strawberries with fork tines and cut any large ones in half.

Combine remaining ingredients together in a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar and salt are dissolved.  Remove from heat and let cool slightly.  Pour over prepared berries.

Cover the berries and let stand at a cool room temperature for at least six hours or overnight.
Prepare water bath canner, jars and lids.

Re-heat berries, gently stirring occasionally until strawberries are heated through but still hold their shape.

Gently spoon strawberries and hot pickling liquid into hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust head space as necessary.  Wipe rim and place hot lid on jar, screwing band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner and return to a boil.  Process for 10 minutes.

Turn off heat, remove canner lid and let jars stand in hot water for an additional 5 minutes.

Transfer jars to a towel-lined surface or a cooling rack and let stand undisturbed until completely cool, about 24 hours.  Check lids and refrigerate any jars that are not sealed.

Makes approximately 6 pints.

Use Up What You Put Up: Strawberry Shrub
2-3 tablespoons pickled strawberry syrup (and whole fruit if you like)
12 ounces sparkling water or club soda

Stir together in a tall glass, with or without ice, and enjoy. Add more syrup to taste.


P.S. I’m fairly certain that a vodka and soda would love to meet pickled strawberries…

One last thing: In the event that my shrub supply runs short, I am heartened to know of Tait Farm Foods, a family farm in Centre Hall, Pa., also the home to CAA friend Erin Hare.  I have had the pleasure of trying their raspberry shrub and it is an excellent stand-in for the homespun stuff.


CAA Photo of the Week: Enjoying Whole Preserved Strawberries by Putting up with the Turnbulls

Enjoying Whole Preserved Strawberries
We have a repeat contributor this week — Putting up with the Turnbulls, with Strawberries in Light Syrup. I agree wholeheartedly with their assertion that strawberries are a great ingredient to begin the canning season. If you’d like the recipe for this picture, you can check it out on their blog.

Thanks, Turnbulls! Keep those pictures coming!

If you’d like to participate, please join our community’s Flickr pool and submit your photos.


Savoring Summer With Strawberries

Photo by Lelonopo/from Flickr

A fresh strawberry is one of life’s great delights. Icons of summer, these luscious red jewels of nature inspire our senses with their perfumed and sweet flavor.

Canning lets us capture the bounty of this delicate and perishable fruit so we can enjoy it all year long. Strawberry jam, for example, is a staple of many a home pantry. It’s easy to make and a recipe that allows for the expression of unique tastes and creative flights of fancy. Whether it be a basic jam that lets this beautiful fruit stand on its own, a recipe that couples it with its classic partner of rhubarb, or a more exotic one that combines it with black pepper and fresh mint as Christine Ferber does in her book Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber, the sky’s the virtual limit when it comes to creating a lovely preserve that can allow us to connect back to summertime any time during the year.

In addition to their deliciousness, strawberries also offer us their nutritiousness. With vitamin C that rivals that of the oranges, strawberries can also be counted on as concentrated sources of fiber, manganese, and antioxidant phytonutrients such as flavonoids and ellagic acid.

If you don’t have a favorite strawberry jam recipe, check out the two we feature on our website:

Strawberry Jam, by Greg Atkinson

Strawberry Jam, by Karen Solomon

CAA contributor Stephanie Gailing, MS, CN is an astrologer, wellness consultant, and natural health writer. She is the author of Planetary Apothecary: An Astrological Approach to Health and Wellness (Crossing Press, 2009). Read her recent post, A Stellar Approach to Putting Up Food.