Two Shrubs: Act II
Here we are, a week later, ready to finish Mrs. Oliver's Raspberry Vinegar recipe. And to finally have the taste test to see which is the better Shrub! If you are curious about how all this began, check out the previous post, "Two Shrubs, Both Alike in Ingredients".
MRS. OLIVER'S RECIPE
So this is what the raspberries in vinegar look like after a week of daily stirring and soaking. The raspberries have mostly broken down, and lost most of their coloring, which has gone into the vinegar.
The recipe calls for the liquid to be strained , and I pushed the leftover fruit pulp to get all the liquid I can. It ended up being 2 cups of liquid total. Which works out because the recipe calls for a pound of sugar for every pint of liquid. And 2 cups equals 1 pint!
So to the liquid, which was a really pretty red, I added 1 pound (2 cups) of sugar and brought it to a boil.
Though the recipe didn't call for it, I felt it would be a good idea to scum it. And it helps keep the syrup from being cloudy. So, once it was scummed, I let it boil for 1/2 an hour, as suggested in the recipe.
And cue the REALLY potent vinegar fumes! It was BAD!
My poor husband refused to come into the kitchen, staying on the other side of the apartment where the scent was the least invasive. He only ventured out to try to minimize the scent by spraying Febreeze, which created a strong vinegar scent with floral accents throughout the whole apartment. It took a day of open windows to finally have the scent dissipate. So learn from my mistake. If you need boil vinegar off, do it outside!
Besides the potent smell, half an hour later, I had a rather pretty looking pan of raspberry/vinegar syrup!
Now, another mistake to learn from, when you are pouring liquid into a jar, make sure the jar is large enough to accommodate ALL the liquid. Luckily the syrup was thick enough that I didn't lose it down the sides. And it has the consistency of molasses, so I was able to salvage the majority of the excess into another jar.
It really is very pretty. And, once jarred, I put it in a cool, dry place (as stated in the recipe). And I was ready for the taste testing!
THE TASTE TEST
So letter A is Mrs. Child's recipe, and letter B is Mrs. Oliver's recipe. If you are curious to what these recipes are, or need a refresher, see the above link to the previous post.
It was amazing how different each shrub came out. With Mrs Child's version, it was much more of a liquid that was easy to pour. I did end up straining the berry pulp because it seemed like the liquid would keep longer without it. It has a very tart taste to it, with the raspberry and vinegar flavors both being distinct, but the sweetness keeps it from being harsh. Mrs Oliver's recipe was more like a jelly than a liquid. And the vinegar taste was subtle, in the background to the tart raspberry and the sweetness of the sugar. It kind of reminded me of a fruit roll up and it would probably make a great fruit leather. Or even just to be used as a jam on toast. For all the vinegar stench while cooking it, it was really good!
So, to see how they would taste as a shrub drink, I decided to try it with both seltzer and with just cold water. This way I could get more of a variant on the taste.
So I poured in the seltzer first. Mrs. Child's shrub took to it very well, becoming a lighter pink and mixing quite well. Mrs. Oliver's shrub... well... I guess I forgot my High School chemistry class when trying to mix those two. The cool seltzer hit the jelly at the bottom of the cup and it became very hard almost instantly. So, let's just say, this shrub doesn't mix well with cold seltzer.
But, I still had another shrub that was ready to taste. So while I put the kettle on (figuring hot water would be better at dissolving jelly then cold liquids) I took a sip of this pretty concoction. And it was VERY good! The extreme tartness that you got from the direct syrup was toned down, making a nice, refreshing raspberry tart flavor, with very little of the vinegar taste. It was so good I ran into the other room and had my husband take a sip, which he reluctantly did. And he was pleasantly surprised as I was. He's such a good sport!
I also tried the shrub mix with cold water, feeling like this would be the most common way it would have been drunk in the past. Minus the fridge ice cubes. Now, I will say, that the recipes don't have the amounts for what would make a good drink, so I had a bit of a guessing game on my hands. But, figuring this was less concentrated than Mrs Oliver's syrup, I filled about the bottom 8th of the glass and the rest with liquid, and it seemed to work.
Now the water I feel wasn't as good as the seltzer version. It probably is why shrubs were so popular at late 19th century soda fountains. There was more of an emphasis of the vinegar flavor, which wasn't as pleasant as the tartness of the seltzer version. But the sugar also helped it from being too much in the way of vinegar tartness. It was also surprisingly refreshing though, and I could see how it would taste very good when you are very thirsty and looking for another option besides water.
So, by now, the kettle was whistling loudly, and I was ready to try Mrs. Oliver's syrup (not trying to make it sound medicinal, but that's really what it became in the end). So I added a tablespoon of the syrup to about 2/3rds of a mug full of hot liquid. And, luckily, this time the syrup dissolved in the water. Yay chemistry! But I wish I was as excited about the taste. It was TERRIBLE! The raspberry tartness and the sweetness of the sugar are completely lost to the vinegar taste. I might as well poured apple cider vinegar in the cup with hot water. I now see how this was also thought of as medicine. Apple cider vinegar is very good for you, but there are better ways to ingest it, like Mrs. Child's shrub mix... or BBQ sauce!
So, to conclude, Mrs. Child's recipe is great as a refreshing seltzer drink, sitting out on a hot day when you just don't want to drink another bottle of water. And Mrs. Stuart's recipe will make a great fruit leather, unless you like hot apple cider vinegar.
It's was so much fun to do this! It was eye opening and was a great introduction to the world of Shrubs.
But don't fear! This certainly isn't the end of the Shrub experiments. I still have to try 18th century shrubs, which often start with a bottle of rum or brandy! Or 25 bottles of rum, depending on who is writing the recipe.
Any volunteers for taste testing?