Whenever he has a glut of fruit, Tom Hill, chef/co-owner of Duck Soup and Little Duck The Picklery in London and Emilia in Ashburton, Devon, turns it into drinking vinegar. “At the moment, we’ve got a rhubarb one on,” he tells me, “and even once the rhubarb is spent, there’s still lots of flavour in the fruit, so I turn that into chutney to go with cheese.”
Drinking vinegars, or shrubs, can be made from just about any fruit. Soft fruits will break down naturally, but if you’re using a harder fruit such as pear or peach, grate or chop it up first. At this time of year, for instance, the hedgerows should be full of juicy, ripe blackberries, and blackberry shrub just happens to make a great cocktail known as a bramble. To serve two, pour 100ml dry gin and 100ml fresh lime juice into a shaker, add ice, shake hard, then strain into two glasses filled with crushed ice. Drizzle a 25ml shot of blackberry shrub over the top of each glass (see how to make it below), garnish with a slice of lime and a couple of blackberries, and serve.
Shrubs and drinking vinegars
I love adding a couple of teaspoons of apple cider vinegar to a glass of drinking water – they give it a wonderful, subtle sourness and zingy twang – but shrubs are even more delicious, being infused with fruit, often in combination with a herb or spice and served like a cordial. Interesting flavour combinations include cherry and sage, blood orange and mint, and blackberry and black pepper, as I’ve made for today’s photograph, seeing as the fruit is in season.I’ve adapted this recipe from one in my cookbook Eating for Pleasure, People & Planet.
300g sugar, or another sweetener such as honey, or agave or maple syrup
300g vinegar – apple cider, white-wine, red-wine, in order of preference
1 herb sprig – sage, mint, rosemary; play about with flavour combinations you like (optional)
½ tsp spices – black pepper, cinnamon, allspice (optional)
Put the fruit, sugar and vinegar in a large jar, and add the herb sprig and spice, if using (a a little goes a long way here). Seal and shake energetically for about 30 seconds, then store out of direct sunlight for a week or two, shaking the mix once a day to help it infuse. Strain out the fruit pulp (save it for another use: I sweeten it and use it like a fermented jam or compote), decant the shrub into a clean bottle and store in the fridge to enjoy diluted with sparkling or still water.