One of my recent fascinations has been with the fruit drinking vinegars that are on the menu at two Portland restaurants: Ping and Pok Pok. These drinks are light, fruity, not too sweet, and, because the vinegar is topped with sparkling water, a little bit fizzy. A perfect taste for a hot summer afternoon or evening and a great companion for spicy, complex foods.
A few weeks ago someone tweeted about a New York Times Magazine “Case Study” by Toby Cecchini that included a recipe for drinking vinegar and I knew the gauntlet had landed. I was going to try making my own drinking vinegar at home. A weekend trip to Hood River which resulted in several bags of cherries provided the final ingredient — the fruit I needed.
The recipe is not complicated. The first step is to pick through the fruit (and in the case of cherries, you remove the pits), mash it up a bit, cover it with vinegar and let it sit in a covered container for a week. Pitting cherries is messy work, and my fingers are stained red right now, but I think it will be worth it in the end.
As recommended in the original article, I used an additive-free organic apple cider vinegar — Bragg vinegar — that I was able to find at my local New Seasons grocery. You might have to order this vinegar; it is available online.
After the shrub has developed, the recipe calls for adding 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar, boiling the mixture for an hour, and testing it for sweetness. The drink is served mixed with sparkling water over ice.
Here’s the full recipe from the NYT website:
Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts, depending on fruit used.
These measurements can be played with quite liberally, as some fruits contain more natural sugars.
2 quarts fruit, use any fruit, pears, figs, raspberries, cherries
1 liter apple-cider vinegar (preferably Bragg) or other vinegar.
1/2 to 1 cup raw sugar
1. Rinse the fruit and discard any rot. Place in a large non-reactive or ceramic pot and mash for several minutes with your hands or a wooden spoon to break up. Pour in enough vinegar to cover and top with a lid. Let macerate at room temperature for a week, stirring once a day. (Do not be alarmed by the smell or the sludge on top.)
2. After a week, stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and gently boil for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. (The smell created from boiling is a bit offensive, so open the doors and windows.)
3. Make a test shrub: cool 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fruit mixture. Fill a 20-ounce glass with ice. Add water or soda water to almost the rim, then add the chilled fruit mixture. Taste to determine sweetness. If it is too tart, add sugar to the fruit mixture, little by little, while still hot. Cool fully and funnel into bottles. Will keep indefinitely in refrigerator.
Since I have only completed the first part of the recipe myself, you’ll have to wait (with me) for a week to find out how the shrub turns out. Stay tuned!