I was first introduced to shrubs here in Cincinnati, at the Metropole restaurant in the 21C Hotel. I had never heard of this syrup of fruit, sugar and vinegar, which the Metropole hand-crafted and then blended with ice and sparkling water for such a refreshing drink - it was perfect for our hot and humid Midwest summers! Mixologists are using them now for all sorts of cocktails, as their taste is sweet, aromatic and sour at the same time.
We don't make shrubs in Greece but we do have homemade fruit syrups that we mix with ice and water to cool off on hot summer days. The queen of these is the sour cherry visináda that is synonymous with the Greek summer in many people's minds, including mine. You would always be served this sweet-tart drink when visiting relatives and my mother used to make it every summer for her grandchildren, using her own cherries from our yard.
But back to shrubs! I've been reading about them lately because I wanted to make one for myself now that the humidity levels are going up, so I went online to see what I could find. Not surprisingly, there were all kinds of recipes but they all seemed to require a lot of time and patience and very precise ratios...and I don't have a lot of patience, definitely don't have a lot of time these days, and my creative side hates exact ratios! But then I found a recipe that called for first boiling the fruit with sugar and only then adding the vinegar and it was such a revelation - I realized I'd been totally blind and for the past year I had been sitting on the best raw material for shrubs - Citrus Chios spoon sweets!
Spoon sweets are another typical flavor you experience when visiting people in Greece (especially relatives who still make their own from their backyard fruits). What I love about the spoon sweets Zelos brings to the States from the island of Chios is that the Citrus team keeps them clean - slices of island fruit peel float in a simple syrup of sugar, lemon juice and water, with no glucose, preservatives or additives at all - just a naturally sweet desert and with a syrup perfect for a shrub.
Now I know that some of you purists might be cringing right now, and maybe my recipe below won't be as perfect as you'd like, but I'd say it's close enough and I thought it tasted pretty darn good, so don't think twice and give it a try! You can try this with any Citrus spoon sweet, and I think next time I will use the Chian tangerine peel spoon sweet just because it has the boldest tangerine aroma I ever experienced in my life. Stay tuned!
1 jar of a Citrus spoon sweet of your choice
1/2 cup of cider vinegar
Pour the entire jar of the spoon sweet into a small sauce pan. Add the vinegar and warm on the stove at medium heat, mixing well to blend. Bring to a simmer for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat. Strain the mixture through a sieve, keeping the fruit peel pieces - they make a great topping for your breakfast oatmeal, yogurt or chia pudding and are a really nice touch to shrimp dishes!
Your shrub syrup can go in the fridge for a few days - anytime you're ready for a cool drink, fill a tall glass with ice, splash some of your lemon shrub syrup, top it up with sparkling water or seltzer and enjoy! I like to use 20% shrub and 80% water, but experiment with the ratio that you like the most.
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Pasta night goes Greek thanks to our friends at Pinwheel Provisions.
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