Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Shrub #2: "Sarah"

Fruit: Raspberries
Sugar: C & H Bakers Sugar(Ultra Fine Cane)
Vinegar: Balsamic[Brand Unknown]
Additions: Whole Split Vanilla Bean, Cassia Cinnamon Stick

After completing shrub #1, I was fortunate enough to have a whole extra pound of raspberries on hand, and I thought it might be fun to go in a much different direction. Where the first shrub was light, bright, and just a little tart, I thought it might be fun to display a richer, more decadent side of the raspberry in the second shrub.

As I had just started the other shrub, I realized that was lacking another jar. Undeterred, I grabbed a glass bowl with a Tupperware lid, and got to work. I weighed the remaining raspberries and dumped them in, along with the same measure of Baker's Sugar. I put on some rubber gloves and began crushing the sugar/fruit mixture through my fingers, taking care to make sure that every raspberry was at least beginning to express a bit of juice. I placed the lid on it, and let it hang out in the fridge the mandatory minimum of 5 hours. It was then time for the balsamic. Unfortunately, I got a bit caught up in the thrill of making the shrub, as I not only forgot to take process pictures[Booo!-Ed.], but I also neglected to note the brand of balsamic vinegar I used this time[Double boo!-Ed.]. I can note, however, it was a moderately priced brand from our local grocery store. As balsamic can be really quite expensive, you may or may not want to use the large quantities necessary for making a shrub. For my money, if you err somewhere between the cheapest and the most expensive, you'll probably be ok. For this exercise, I used an entire 16 oz bottle.

During this process, I quickly realized why locking jars are preferable to bowls. As the first week goes along, it is advisable to agitate the newly formed shrub everyday, as this helps to dissolve any of the residual sugar that may not have incorporated from the syrup stage into the full shrub. Jars with lockable lids are great, because you can make like Carmen Miranda shaking her maracas all over the kitchen without consequence. The bowl with the lid, well, that's several Clorox wipes and another story. In the case of the bowl, there was just enough air that the liquid collected and was able to escape. Please, for the sake of your kitchen and the delicate balance of domestic bliss in your household, spring for some extra jars.

It wasn't much of a struggle to figure out what to call this, especially after I tasted it for the first time. I named it after my best friend and spouse, Sarah, who in all of the time I have known her, has been crazy for nearly anything raspberry related. In fact, it's amazing how the shrub reminds me of its namesake; it's sweet without being cloying, has a pleasing depth of character, and is mighty pretty to look at.


In more concrete terms, the shrub is nearly opaque, appearing in the glass to be the same color of the digestif Fernet Branca. The aroma and flavor, however, are very strongly vanilla, though unfortunately, very little evidence of cinnamon coming through. My guess is that the issue lies in the physical state of the cinnamon stick itself. Without being ground or the application of heat to release the oils, the stick wasn't able to impart much flavor while steeping in the cold liquid. I'm thinking that ground Vietnamese cinnamon might be a better choice here, as it has a high oil content and would likely have no trouble be a more assertive part of the final product. The raspberries, while perhaps more muted that the first shrub, are still noticeable, despite the typically sweet, yet tangy balsamic flavors we all know and love. The one change I might make in a future batch would be to cut the balsamic a bit with either a milder wine vinegar, or a sharp vinegar to offset the balsamic's syrupy, viscous nature.

I love this shrub for many reasons, but especially its versatility. This syrup itself is rich enough that it could be sipped as an after dinner drink, but I used it in my standard test: shrub syrup with a glass of sparkling water. Unsurprisingly, this came out beautifully, as the soda helped lighten the heavy feeling of the shrub, giving the flavors more room to express themselves. The syrup itself is also brilliant over vanilla ice cream, and would likely be quite decent when paired with the right cocktail ingredients.

"Sarah" with Soda Water

I can honestly say that while I have never been crazy about raspberries, I'm just wild about "Sarah."

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