It seems that season change is, at last, undeniably on the horizon. I think many of us felt it approaching weeks ago, when otherwise normal summer afternoons gave way to cooler nights and brisk mornings. It hit me as I was riding my bike home early one morning in mid-August: “Ah! There it is — the smell of fall.” Bring it on. I am so ready for boots and cider. Butternut squash and cardigans. Scarves, scarves, scarves!
This is also the time of year when I find myself especially drawn to food bloggers in the southern hemisphere. While we’re dragging out canning equipment and preparing to throw elbows to get our hands on the first cider doughnuts, they’re experiencing picnic weather and spring wild flowers. It’s a welcome reminder that the world is so much bigger than me and my scarves.
As I eagerly await all that I love about fall, I am simultaneously attempting to preserve what I can of summer. I want shrubs of all kinds. Blackberry. Peach. Plum. I managed to get my hands on some fresh figs when I was in NY this past weekend, only to have them go bad before I returned to VT. (I knew they were a risky purchase, but all I could see when I bought them was fresh figs with goat cheese, and a fig balsamic shrub. Throwing that pint container away this morning was a sad thing.)
I talked shrubs in an earlier post this year. But for those who missed it, shrubs are a beverage made (primarily) from fresh fruit, vinegar, and sugar. They date back to the pre-refrigeration days of the 18th century when they were a means to preserve fruit, and they’ve stuck around because they’re darn tasty. Their combination of sweetness and tang makes them super refreshing. They’re great with some seltzer, and they also make excellent cocktail mixers.
This cherry shrub is wonderfully tart (and a gorgeous shade of red, to boot). I can’t say that like it more than the strawberry-rhubarb shrub (which was to die for), but it has grown on me to the point where I’d say I like it almost as much, albeit for different reasons. The strawberry-rhubarb shrub was smooth and refreshing, while the tang of the cherries gives this one a bit more of a kick. I think this shrub would still pair well with tequila, but I imagine it would also go splendidly with whiskey. (Unfortunately, I drank/gave away all of this one before I could test out my theory!) If anyone would like to give it a try and report back, I’d love to hear the results.
Cherry Balsamic Shrub
- 2 cups of cherries, halved and pitted
- 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar
- 10 black peppercorns
- 1 cup of balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 cup of cider vinegar
Combine fruit, peppercorns, and sugar in a bowl or jar, stirring to evenly-coat the fruit. Allow mixture to sit for around 1 hour, then macerate until everything is nice and broken up. Cover and let sit for 24 hours. (At room temperature is fine, but feel free to stick it in the fridge too.)
After 24 hours, macerate the mixture again, trying to crush the fruit as much as possible. At this point, you can add the vinegars immediately, or let it sit for another 24 hours. (I’d recommend giving it the additional 24 hours, as I think this extra fermentation time does nice things for the final flavor.)
When ready, add the vinegars and stir well. Store at room temperature for 7–9 days, giving it a good stir each day. When finished, pour the mixture through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, then transfer to a clean jar or container. Store syrup in the fridge.
To mix: Add 1 part syrup to 2.5–3 parts seltzer.
Here’s to enjoying what’s left of summer. Happy September!