Three Delicious Shrubs

Let’s begin with a couple of apologies: First, I’d like to say sorry for posting this much later than intended, as the fruits included in these tasty things are no longer in season where many of us live. I’d also like to apologize for the shots of the final product, which are not my finest. I tried on numerous occasions to take pictures of the individual drinks, but things just were not working for me. So this weekend, I just said “screw it!” and crammed them all together into one shoot, hoping that the varying colors would bring some life to the photos. But still, I was not happy with what I managed to capture. After trying a ton of slight adjustments in Lightroom to get things where I wanted them, I lost it. I gave up and applied a color filter. So now, I present you with photos that look like they were created in Instagram. Except it took me hours. But it’s OK, because I have plenty of nice ingredient pictures to supplement them. (Focus on the positives, Nersh! And stop complaining like a psycho . . . also, stop referring to yourself in the third person.)

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Homemade Sriracha

homemade sriracha

Note: This post contains an updated recipe after numerous trials and some obsessive tweaking, as well as a note about the updates at the end of the intro, before the recipe itself.

If I had to sum this post up in two words, those words would be “F#@% YES.”

Sorry, that’s a bit of an aggressive way to start off a post! But seriously, can you blame me? I have been obsessing over making this stuff for nearly eight months, ever since Joshua Bousel detailed his experiments with homemade Sriracha on Serious Eats. I planned my entire garden around it, sacrificing what would have been a variety of peppers to grow only jalapeños. And then I waited, and waited, and WAITED for those darn peppers to turn from green to red. Being an impatient person, I also spent my Saturday mornings elbow-deep in Half Pint Farm’s hot pepper bin at the market, collecting every last red jalapeño I could find. It was on one of these days that Spencer of HPF suggested that red serranos might also work well, so I started buying up those too. (A great suggestion, it turns out, as a little more research led me to the fact that serranos were once the pepper from which Sriracha was made, until the company deemed them too difficult to harvest [or perhaps too costly] and switched to red jalapeños.)

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Cherry Balsamic Shrub

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.

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Homemade Bitters Giveaway!

Hey, guess what — this is my 100th post! Shall we celebrate with free things? Yeah!

Bitters and cocktails are a relatively new interest of mine. While my parents didn’t care much for alcohol outside of social events, a few random bottles of beer could always be found in the basement fridge, along with the occasional half-empty, forgotten bottle of wine. Liquor, however, rarely (if ever) made an appearance. Long, twisty spoons, shiny shakers and their accompanying gadgets, pretty glasses of various shapes and sizes — all of these things were unknown to me.

Without a scotch-sipping grandfather or a cabinet filled with old, mysterious bottles to instill charm and intrigue during my childhood, my first impression of liquor/mixed drinks came from college. (College students in Albany, NY do not drink “cocktails,” they mix swill with more swill, and then they guzzle it. Lots of it.) In case you can’t already tell, my first impression was not a good one. Liquor was bleached-blonde, spray-tanned girls sucking down appletinis or cosmos in between attempts to out-screech each other. It was guys sporting double polos with popped collars, a pound of hair gel, and a suffocating amount of Acqua Di Gio elbowing me out of the way at the bar to order a round of panty droppers for the appletini girls and Captain ’n’ Cokes for the bros. It was drinking to get wasted. It was drinking to get so wasted that you just puke directly onto the floor of a bar, then nonchalantly stumble away while a girl screams about the vomit on her feet. (Yeah, I saw that happen. I bet that girl never wore open-toed shoes to a bar again.)

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Strawberry-Rhubarb Balsamic Shrub

When you hear the phrase “drinking vinegar,” what comes to mind? Weird old-timey medicine? Something gross you’d drink if you were doing some sort of “cleanse”? It’s vinegar. And you drink it. That doesn’t sound delicious at all.

I decided to make a shrub purely out of curiosity. I had a bunch of strawberries and rhubarb leftover from making ice cream, and my eye on this post for a while now. I wanted to try it and I wanted to like it, but deep down, I was worried I’d hate it. It would be too vinegary for me, and I’d feel like a wimp. I’d wind up putting it in smoothies or trying to dilute it with seltzer and/or booze, all the while lamenting the waste of expensive balsamic. But now that I’ve finally tried it, I can honestly say that I don’t like it. I LOVE it.

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