This seriously underused & under-rated garden gem is a favorite in our family -- We can't get enough! From savory sauces for pork loins to tart jams & desserts, rhubarb hits the mark. And, while she freezes like a champ, I am happy to share another way to make this taste of Summer last all year with my recipe for an old-fashioned Rhubarb Shrub, & of course a few zero-proof & craft-cocktail recipes to make with it!
Let me stop right there for a moment --I can feel a few of you out there going “What the heck is a shrub? Like a shrubbery?!” No! When I say SHRUB, I am not referring to your bushes! I am talking about culinary shrubs, sometimes referred to as drinking vinegars. Shrubs are the result of fruits/veggies/aromatics preserved by being acidulated with a combination of vinegar & a sweetener. Created as a way of preserving your harvest [& its vitamins] to store in the days before refrigeration, shrubs were incredibly popular in Colonial times. The result is a rather magical liquid that aids digestion, quenches thirst, & adds a deeply sweet-tart complexity to drinks & dishes that you'd be hard pressed to find elsewhere! There are quick shrubs & aged ones, where the natural fermentation process kicks into overdrive & creates even more probiotic, digestive support. On top of being wonderful for you, the flavors shrubs provide are outrageous & are being fully embraced by modern bartenders & at-home mixologists -- especially those looking to skip the alcohol, but keep the flavor in their drinks. The possibilities are endless & I am SURE I will dive more deeply into this in future posts, but for now--BACK TO RHUBARB!
Cultivated as far back as 2,700 B.C, rhubarb was first brought to America in the early 1770s by Benjamin Franklin. It is a hardy, perennial vegetable filled with antioxidants, Vitamins C & K, calcium, potassium, & a whole lot of fiber. Its tart-acidic flavor sweetens up considerably when cooked & can be used in both savory dishes & desserts with great success. Two of my family’s favorite ways to enjoy it are in our Cherry Rhubarb Pork Loin & in a simple clafouti dessert paired with candied ginger.
Our rhubarb plants are well-established & prolific producers, providing us with a bounty of food. It is such a hit in this house, that we are eager to ensure access to it all year long. Freezer space & Rhubarb shrub are two ways we accomplish that! Cleaned & cubed, rhubarb will last well in your freezer for up to 12 months. In the shrub recipe that follows, it will last almost indefinitely-- hard to say exactly how long as we always seem to burn through it before Fall no matter how much I make!
This recipe is for a quick shrub, meaning it is instant-made & does not need to age prior to use. This is a really easy recipe & nice “entry-level” shrub, so don't be intimidated! It provides a beautifully balanced, sweet-tart punch that works well on its own with soda water for a super refreshing drink, but also plays nicely with tons of other ingredients, allowing you to build really interesting complex flavors. Not only is its unique taste delicious, it is a beautiful pure-pink shade that is visually pleasing to boot. Here we go--
Ginger Rhubarb Shrub
*The vinegar used is completely up to you. I find a combination of half Apple Cider vinegar/half white vinegar is our favorite. Play around & find your mix. Add all your ingredients to a heavy pot or cocotte over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring as you go. The thick, fibrous stalks will quickly begin to break down & let off liquid. Once a full, rolling boil is reached, lower heat & cover. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. You'll find your rhubarb has broken down completely & lost its pink & red tones. The result is a sort of rough jam that is fibrous & yellow-green. Strain off your shrub & see where all that color went! Allow the shrub to cool to room temperature, then decant & chill. You can use it right away, but it will be best after 24 hours. I keep ours in the refrigerator, but you could sterilize/seal jars for long term storage if you wish. Pretty, isn't it? Now lets play with it!
Let’s get started with my Rhubarb Refresher -- a sassy blend of spicy Maine Root Ginger Beer & this zesty Rhubarb shrub. Zero-proof, but packed with complex flavor, these are thirst-slaking to an extreme!
I strongly recommend the Maine Root Ginger Beer as your ginger beer of choice here if you can get it. It is extremely spicy & really takes the combo up a notch.
1.5 oz Ginger Rhubarb Shrub
.5 oz fresh squeezed lemon juice
3-4 oz Ginger Beer
Lemon wheel & edible flower garnish [optional]
Fill a tall glass halfway with ice cubes. Shake shrub & lemon juice with ice until well combined & chilled. Strain into glass, adding ‘dirty ice’ [from shaker] if needed. Top with ginger beer to fill the glass. Stir with a bar spoon or long straw twice to combine but not break all your bubbles. Garnish as desired & serve. Beautiful!
If you are booking to build some alcoholic-cocktails with this shrub, you will find its flavors pair wonderfully with champagne & gin -- although it is definitely into meeting bourbon & vodka too! I particularly like it instead of OJ in a glass of champagne at brunch, in an Oblique Gin Fizz [pictured below the text in a coupe glass,] or in this twist on a classic French 75 that I have named after the man responsible for bringing rhubarb to the USA.
À votre santé!
The Franklin 75
1 oz Ginger Rhubarb Shrub
1.5 oz Gin [botanically forward gin is best here]
.5 oz fresh lemon juice
.5 oz simple bar syrup or a sugar cube
3 oz dry champagne or prosecco
Long lemon twist & edible flower for garnish [optional]
Add gin, shrub, lemon juice, & sugar syrup [or sugar-cube & crush it if using] to a shaker. Add ice & shake until well combined. Strain into a tall flute. Slowly top with champagne or prosecco to fill the glass - it will react with the vinegar & fizz up quite a bit, so pour slowly! Garnish as desired. I like to use a long, thin lemon twist on these for a touch of drama! I make a small slit in it to thread the stem of a flower through & hold it nicely in place. These drinks are light & delicious, perfect for a hot Summer day!
Well, that is it for this round! I hope you give this shrub a go -- it is a yummy, easy introduction to the world of cocktail shrubs! Please let me know what you think & how you use it! I love to hear all about it from all of you!
Until next time--cheers!