Friday, June 23, 2023

F ³: Sweet and Sour Storytime


Welcome to this week’s Free Form Friday!

Let’s talk about shrubs. No, not this.

Photo from Wiktionary 


Photo from Wikipedia

I recently attended a social event where someone ordered a mocktail which contained, amongst its ingredients, a peach shrub. Or some kind of shrub, I can’t remember. This revelation caused immediate hilarity around the table. 

“Shrub? A shrub is a bush!”

I didn’t laugh, mind you. I knew what a shrub was from reading old cookbooks. I tried to explain but that made people laugh even more. People took out their phones to look it up, of course. This was Google’s immediate response to me:

Odd - - poetic even - - but not too helpful.

You’ll find a quick explanation of the basics here:

What is a Shrub? (The Drinks, Not The Plant) Taylor Sacco, Mad River Distillers

Before refrigeration, people relied on differing ways of preserving fruits and vegetables so they would keep, especially over the winter non-growing season. A shrub was produced by pouring vineagar over fruit and sugar and allowing it to sit. The resulting syrup (once strained) could be used to make drinks by adding water or spirits. It concentrated the fresh fruit flavors and kept them fresh far longer because of the vinegar component.

This is why I knew about shrubs from reading 1920’s era cookbooks:

In America, during prohibition, there was an increase in shrubs being used as thirst-quenching liquor alternatives—drinks that could “cheer, but not inebriate.” In fact, because vinegar promotes salivation, shrubs are particularly hydrating and thirst-quenching, which led to widespread consumption across the United States during our hot summer months. 

With the advent of refrigeration concoctions based on vinegar passed from popularity. In fact, they have been out of sight for so long that the mention of them at the dinner table was deemed to be a joke. But (don’t laugh) the shrub is now having a moment due to the recent surge of interest in mocktails and other nonalcoholic beverages.

A relative of the shrub is switchel, which relies on ginger rather than fruit for flavor. Big surprise: I know about switchel from reading the Laurel Ingalls Wilder books. It’s said to be a great drink for hot summer days. Maybe you’d like to try making some yourself.

How to make ginger switchel, Summer Miller, Simply Recipes

If you’re ever at a quiz night and the words shrub or switchel come up, you’ll be able to impress your teammates. Fair warning: they may laugh at you first.

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