Lately, I have been on a bit of a heritage kick. In the garden, I am loving the heritage varieties of allllll the veggies. In my home, I am incorporating different pieces from my grandparents into my decor and general life rhythms; and in my kitchen, not only am I working on adapting some recipes from my grandmother’s Hungarian cookbook into versions that are gluten and corn-free, I am looking at heritage recipes in general. That is where this grapefruit shrub comes in.
A “shrub” (also called drinking vinegar) is a fermented beverage that can be made out of just about any fruit you want. It can also be mixed with a number of different other things, so it’s pretty versatile. Shrubs are a colonial-era method of preserving fruit past its season. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never heard of them before–I hadn’t either, not until encountering one on a friend’s bar inspired me to do a deep dive into researching them. In addition to jams, jellies, and curds (look out for our lemon curd coming in the next week or two!), shrubs are one of the ways that people could still get fruit past the season it naturally grew in. And they’re super easy!
Let me say a word about making a vinegar you’re supposed to drink. It’s not as “vinegary” as you might think, although that might change with the type of vinegar you choose to use for the recipe. Apple cider vinegar is supposed to be on the more accessible side, taste-wise, so I stick with that. My first thought when I was looking into and trying it, was that it would kick me in the face with vinegar taste. But it didn’t. The fruit and the sugar in the shrub mellow things out, and it’s actually quite refreshing. This grapefruit one is also a little tart and a little bitter, but that is more because of the grapefruit themselves.
Why grapefruit? If you don’t know by now, I have the world’s happiest grapefruit tree, and I could probably harvest an average of 20 a week for more than half the year and still not catch them all. But this is not an easy-going ruby red grapefruit tree. Nope, this is a white grapefruit tree, whose fruit is both more floral in taste that a ruby red, and a bit more bitter. I am always on the hunt for a way not to let all of that beautiful fruit go to waste, which is one of the things that led me to discover shrubs in the first place. If you have suggestions for using more grapefruit, please send them to us in the comments below or via email!
Anyway, making the shrub is actually quite easy. Think of it as infusing the vinegar with fruit, and making it a little more sweet. Very similar to making a liqueur, just without the alcohol. And you can change out the fruit into something else, or add herbs, anything you want!
- 1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
- 1 ½ cups cane sugar
- 1 ½ cups white grapefruit sections (about 4 medium grapefruit)
- Cut away the peel and the pith from the grapefruit, taking out the sections without getting the membranes between the sections. To be honest, do this however you can, and it takes a bit of work. I prefer to set down my knife and pry the sections away from the membrane with my fingers. Play around with it!
- Combine all of the ingredients in a ½ gallon jar and give them a good stir.
- Cover the jar with some cheesecloth, and let the contents breathe for about 12 hours.
- Replace the cheesecloth with a lid, and set in a cool, dark place* for a week. Remove once per day to shake.
- After a week or two, (use your personal preference) your shrub is ready to finalize. Shake once more, then strain through a cheesecloth or fine mesh strainer.
- Mix in with your favorite sparkling water, or add alcohol to make a refreshing adult beverage.
- *When I first started making shrubs, I did a deep dive into the internet. By all accounts, it seems to be a personal preference whether you refrigerate or put in a cool place during the steeping period. I prefer to get a little more fermentation in, so I stick it in my pantry. If you are concerned about the safety of that, by all means, steep in your fridge!