by Solara Goldwynn, Hatchet & Seed –
The height of summer: abundance in the gardens, in the fields and at the farmer’s markets. What a wonderful time of year for local food.
Working at the North Saanich Farm Market is such a rewarding experience for me. Every Saturday between June and October I chat with local farmers and growers about the week’s bounty, the struggle in the fields, the wins and the losses of growing local food. Each week brings new surprises: black currants from a former vendor appear at the community table (a space for small growers to drop off produce to be sold by volunteers); cherries, raspberries, and blueberries come in waves as the various varieties ripen during the season.
Most weeks my baskets are so laden with goods from the market that it takes me a week to eat everything. To prolong the abundance, I preserve the produce in a variety of ways. Last week I spent an hour chopping up veggies for sauerkraut (see my recipe in the April 2016 Seaside edition), and this week I’m making raspberry shrub.
What is a shrub, you ask? It is a form of preservation that uses sugar and vinegar with fruit (or vegetables). It’s similar to making syrup, by boiling down the fruit with sugar, but there is the added vinegar element that helps the flavour develop and aids in the preservation process. The shrub is then mixed with sparkling water or added to cocktails for a refreshing drink.
You can use any fruit for a shrub! I’ve even found recipes for squash shrub, so the possibilities are endless. I am also about to try goumi berry shrub, a beautiful edible ornamental shrub (the plant kind) that has cherry-sized berries. We often plant goumis in our edible landscapes and they can be so abundant. The flavour is slightly astringent and sweet, making it a perfect candidate for a shrub. Experiment away with this easy, delicious preservation technique and stretch out this abundant local food season.
Here is the adaptable recipe:
2 cups fruit (blackberry, blueberry, raspberry, goumi berry, peaches etc)
1 cup sugar (I use Level Ground cane sugar)
1 cup vinegar (I used homemade blackberry wine vinegar, but apple cider works great)
Put the fruit in a bowl and mix in the sugar; let this sit in your fridge for a few days, mixing once or twice every day to get the juice flowing. After a few days you will have thick syrup. Strain into a jar and add the vinegar. This mixture can be left in the fridge for several months. To use, put one or two tablespoons into a glass with sparkling water or try it in a cocktail!