The great thing about this particular shrub is that it's ready to consume immediately, as a lot of the vinegar's intensity is cooked out. It's a lot more mild and sweet than most shrubs, and doesn't require anything but a splash of soda or a shot of your choice of booze to make a tasty beverage.
For a nonalcoholic treat, fill a 12-ounce glass with ice, add 3 ounces shrub, fill with seltzer, stir gently. If you want to spike it, aged rum, bourbon, and even cognac (Hennessy and cider shrub tastes like apple pie) make excellent accompaniments. Add a little black walnut or whiskey barrel-aged bitters to balance the sweetness, if you like. Or, if you have a big enough pot and any sort of holiday party going on as soon as that same evening, a quadruple batch of this would make a great base for a punch bowl libation.
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 2 tablespoons whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons whole allspice
- 1 large black cardamom pod, slightly crushed
- 1 quart apple cider
- 1 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 inch nub fresh ginger, sliced thin
- 2 apples, quartered and sliced thin (I use sweeter varieties like Fuji or Golden Delicious)
- Peel of 1/2 orange
- Peel of 1/2 lemon
In a large pot, combine sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean, cloves, allspice, and cardamom. Place over high heat. Once the sugar begins to melt and caramelize slightly in places, stir occasionally to ensure somewhat even caramelization and some toasting of spices. Once sugar is all melted and caramel is almost the color of maple syrup, remove from heat and carefully add cider, then vinegar, ginger, apple and citrus peels.
Return pot to heat, bringing to a gentle simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Once all sugar has melted back down, remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature before pressing through a fine mesh strainer. Keep chilled, shaking gently before using as shrubs tend to separate a little in storage. Keeps for at least a month.
Stock pot, fine mesh strainer