Peaches are coming in, juicy and scrumptious, so I make shrub with the skins and scraps and even some pieces plus herbs.
What is a ‘shrub’ you ask? A vinegar sipping beverage with fruits, sweetener, and herbs/spices dating back to the Babylonians, who mixed date vinegar with their water to make it safe to drink. Sooner than that, in 15th century England, fruits were preserved in barrels of vinegar (referred to as the shrub) then strained and sipped for medicinal purposes. A simple combination of sour and sweet, shrubs are medicinal and nourishing and easy to make.
The vinegar, I use raw apple cider vinegar that is unpasteurized, is a source of probiotics; friendly bacteria that modulate the immune system, break down environmental toxins, prevent inflammation, and create essential nutrients such as vitamins and short chain fatty acids among other things. The macerated fruits provide their own benefits to a shrub, such as anti-oxidants, vitamins, and minerals depending on the fruits included. Same with the herbs and spices, they steep in the vinegar and infuse the drink with their own properties. Herbs such as rose and hibiscus are heart allies, anise hyssop is calming and anti-inflammatory, and tulsi is a potent adaptogen; and they all taste phenomenal in shrub. When using high quality honey instead of sugar to prepare shrub, of course the honey generously adds its own nourishment as well.
The basic recipe that I play with is to half fill a gallon jar with peach parts, add rose petals, a bit of hibiscus flowers, and chopped up anise hyssop (or tulsi, or both, sometimes I’ve added star anise and it works quite well) till the jar is 2/3 full.
Then I cover them with honey, and if I have none I use raw sugar instead (or vice versa). If I have any remaining infused honeys from the previous year, I use those and they really add oomph; especially tulsi, anise hyssop, or rose honeys.
Cap and set on counter till liquidy and contents drop toward the bottom of jar, happens in a few hours here in Virginia; then I smoosh them together with a wooden spoon, cap, shake and leave overnight on counter.
Next day I fill with raw cider vinegar, and more herbs and peaches if moved to do so, as well as more sweetener if it’s not as sweet as I’d like it to be.
Shake and let rest about a week to ten days (sometimes it’s snoozed for close to three weeks) on the counter, and then I pop it in the fridge without straining.
We serve it diluted with water (sometimes sparkling water instead), strain out however much we need to, and eat the peaches as we go along; over the course of a year they get tastier as they macerate.
Some great combinations are:
pears, ginger, lemon verbena, and thyme
peaches, blackberries, roses, cardamom, and basil
peaches, strawberries, fresh orange peels, rosemary (a little goes a long way with this herb), and vanilla beans
Lavender, lemon balm, fennel seeds, mint, cinnamon, clove, lemongrass, wineberries, nectarines, plums . . .play with them and discover your preferences. My favorite is peach, anise hyssop, tulsi, hibiscus, and of course, rose.
Fun thing about shrub is the versatility it gives to play with fruit, herbs, vinegar, and sweetener to proportions that please your taste buds; while it is more medicinal with honey than sugar, I’ll make it either way.
Leave out the fruit and you have an oxymel instead. The women of my family always make and store an oxymel called sekanjabeen made with vinegar, mint, and sweetener (usually sugar); I carry on the tradition with apple cider vinegar mostly though my grandmother used white wine vinegar.🍹🍯