The border under the terrace wall is clearing away to receive currants and gooseberry bushes, and a spot is found very proper for raspberries.
Jane Austen to Cassandra
February 8, 1807
The word Shrub comes from the Arabic word sharab, which literally means “to drink” (it’s also the same word which gave us syrup and sherbert). The first mention of this word in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1747 and its meaning (beyond that of the “woody plant or bush”) is “any of various acidulated beverages made from the juice of fruit, sugar, and other ingredients, often including alcohol.”
Both the alcoholic and non-alcoholic (using vinegar) versions of these drinks are refreshing on a hot summer day. Commonly made in an orange, lemon or berry flavor and bottled, they would last all season long in a time before refrigeration. The presence of the brandy or vinegar added a bit of a bite to this non-carbonated, early soft drink and helped to prevent it from spoiling in the warm weather.
The following recipe is for an alcoholic, citrus Shrub, while Martha Lloyd’s recipe for Raspberry Vinegar could be adapted instead for a refreshing berry drink suitable for all ages.
“Take two quarts of brandy, put it into a large bottle, and put into it the juice of five lemons, and the peels of two, and half a nutmeg; then stop it up and let it stand three days, after which add to it three pints of white wine; a pound and a half sugar; mix it, strain it twice through a filtering bag, and then bottle it up. This is a fine cordial.”
John Davies, The Innkeeper and Butler’s Guide, or, a Directory in the Making and Managing of British Wines, 1808
A Modern Version of Citrus Shrub (Alcoholic)
1 pint Orange Juice
Zest and juice of three lemons
2 Quarts Rum
Combine these ingredients in a gallon jar. Cover and let stand at room temperature for three days.
In a large saucepan, mix 4 Cups sugar with 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil stirring constantly to create a simple syrup. Add this syrup to the rum and juice mixture. Cover the jar and let the mixture stand at room temperature for two weeks. Strain the mixture and bottle.
Raspberry Shrub (Non-Alcoholic)
- 4 cups fresh Blackberries or Raspberries, about 16 ounces
- 2 cups cider vinegar
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- cold water
Place berries in a non-metal bowl or pitcher; add vinegar. Cover with plastic wrap or lid; refrigerate for 3 to 4 days. Strain mixture into a saucepan, pressing blackberries to extract all liquid. Discard solids then stir in sugar. Boil 2 to 3 minutes; remove from heat and let cool. Store in a tightly covered jar or pitcher. For each serving, combine 1/4 cup of the blackberry concentrate with 1 cup cold water; pour over ice in glasses.
Makes enough concentrate for about 12 servings.
Other Raspberry Shrub recipes can be found here and if all this sounds like too much work, ready made shrub cordials can be purchased from Tait Farm Foods in a variety of fruit flavors including Cherry, Raspberry, Cranberry and Strawberry.
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