The very thing that got me started with food preservaion, my gateway drug, if you will, was making infusions and liqueurs. After traveling to Italy, I was smitten with limoncello, and was mildly blown away when I figured out I could make my own, easily. This opened the door to a range of projects, experimenting with infusing fruits and vegetables into alcohol base to extract the pure essence of the ingredients.
What had not occurred to me yet was the idea of infusing these ingredients into vinegar, at least for drinking purposes. Yet it turns out that shrubs, or drinking vinegars, are in fact a very old beverage; in fact, the word "shrub" derives from the Arabic root, sharab, meaning to drink. This same root brought us other familiar words: Sherbet, sorbet and syrup. All hint at a similar concept: Flavors infused into a sweetened base. In shrub's case, that base is vinegar.
So I learned in Michael Dietsch's new book, Shrubs: An Old Fashioned Drink for Modern Times. (Disclosure: Links in this post may be affiliate links from which I may derive revenue.) A longtime cocktail blogger and drinks writer for Serious Eats (and personal friend), Dietsch digs deep into the history of drinking vinegars, then proffers up news you can use on how to make them, and, at least as importantly, how to use them.
At their most basic, shrubs are vinegar, sugar, and flavoring agents, be they fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and so on. As is the case with so many things with simple roots, the permutations are endlessly complex. Dietsch discusses what kinds of vinegars work best, and for what. (Like me, distilled white is pretty much only useful as a cleaning agent.) Sweeteners also influence flavor. Many of the shrubs are straightforward single-fruit recipes, whereas others get more complex, like a gazpacho-esque tomato, cilantro and coriander shrub. Most importantly, they're a great way of capturing seasonal flavors. The cranberry-apple shrub, for example, is a great addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Shrubs are delicious simply mixed with sparkling water for a refreshing soft drink. (It turns out that shrubs can trigger saliva production, quenching thirst more effectively -- another fun fact from the book.) But being a cocktail maven as he is, Dietsch offers up an array of sophisticated cocktails to use them, such as an updated julep made with cherry-mint shrub.
Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me.
Knobby, hard and fuzzy, quince won't win any beauty contests, but their intoxicating perfume lures you in. Once you know how to conquer these rugged beasts, their heady flavor -- and substantial pectin structure -- make them a preserver's dream.
Cooler, crisp days and oblique light. Autumn is upon us, and with it the first fall fruit that comes to mind. Juicy, sweet pears are delicious and versatile. Here's almost a dozen ways to preserve the bounty of the season.
Are you pumped for pumpkin season? Think beyond the Jack-o-Lantern and put up pumpkins and winter squash. You'll be living the gourd life.
Disclaimer: An electronic copy of this book was provided gratis for review, and another copy is being provided by the publisher for giveaway. I have received no monetary compensation for this review.
Dehydration can be an underappreciated form of food preservation. Most people think just of apple and banana chips, or perhaps an easy way to dry fresh herbs. Only slightly more adventurous sorts might branch out to beef jerky. However, dehydration has a far more versatile set of applications than that. In The Ultimate Dehydrator Cookbook: The Complete Guide to Drying Food, Plus 398 Recipes, Including Making Jerky, Fruit Leather & Just-Add-Water Meals, authors Tammy Gangloff, Steven Gangloff and September Ferguson dig deep into this oft-overlooked technique.
Far more than a simple cookbook, the authors preface the recipes with dozens of pages outlining the principles and benefits of dehydration. Since most foods are anywhere from 80-95% water before the dehydration process, removal of that water impacts the food in a number of ways. The first, of course, is that it makes it lighter, so dehydrated foods make for a useful staple pantry without taking up much room or weighing down shelves. As someone who lives in a seismically active area, the idea of adding lightweight homemade dehydrated foods to my disaster kit is very appealing indeed. Even if you're not concerned with preparedness, they also can come in useful as easy packables for camping and travel food.
The lack of moisture also abates spoilage, with many pathogens unable to grow in such dry environments. Dehydrated foods are not impervious to spoilage, though, and the authors provide erudite information on how best to store your foods so that they will last anywhere from five to 20 years.
Once again it's Three Things Thursday, where I highlight three things that ran on the site recently that inspired, intrigued or impressed me. This week, it's all about hot fruit.
Biting into a fresh, crisp apple is the quintessential taste of autumn itself. But when you are faced with more apples than you can eat out of hand, try some of these tempting ways to put them by for later use.
Gleaming purple-black elderberries are more than just delicious. They have a potent immune-improving power, so pick a peck now and prepare for cold and flu season. Here's seven ways to use them.