Two Shrubs, Both Alike in Ingredients....

... in the Booth Kitchen where we lay our scene.

Luckily this experiment should have a much happier ending than "Romeo and Juliet"!  Mainly because it involves cooking and taste tests!

Of late I've been doing research (prompted from a new book and my Rev War reenacting group) about the historic drink Shrub.  A very delicious concoction containing fruit, sugar and either brandy or rum (if you are in the 18th century) or vinegar (more 19th century).  And while there have been vinegar drinks made since the invention of vinegar (which was probably around the same time as wine) shrubs are making a comeback in the modern world of cocktails.

The two recipes I decided to try today are focused more of the fruit/sugar/vinegar mixtures of the 19th century, with the particular fruit being raspberries.  This seems to be the most popular choice of shrub flavoring during the 19th century, with currants and gooseberries coming in a short second.  And it makes sense because Shrub was not only a refreshing drink (since the vinegar will promote hydration) but also a way to preserve fruits that would not be able to store well out of season without refrigeration.  And, even when stored in a fridge, raspberries tend to mold easily.

The first shrub recipe comes from Mrs. Child in "The American Frugal Housewife".  I personally have a copy of  the 12th edition, published in 1833.  It was one of the most popular cookbooks of its time, being published in over 35 editions.  But I personally liked this particular receipt (recipe) because it gives a bit of an explanation, as she does with almost all her receipts in the book, about why it's such a good thing to make.

“Raspberry shrub mixed with water is a pure, delicious drink for summer; and in the country where raspberries are abundant, it is good economy to make it answer instead of Port or Catalonia wine.  Put raspberries in a pan, and scarcely cover them with strong vinegar. Add a pint of sugar to a pint of juice; (of this you can judge by first trying your pan to see how much it holds;) scald it, skin it, and bottle it when cold.”

So I rinsed off a pint of raspberries, and added them to the pan and covered them with apple cider vinegar. (For each of these recipes I used the same fruit, same type of sugar (white granulated) and the same type of vinegar, apple cider)

I added what I felt was the right amount of sugar (1 pint of sugar equaling 2 cups, but I added more since it seemed like it was more than a pint of liquid) and then stirred it all in.

Now I remembered what scalding was from making cheese, but for those of you who don't know, it's when you bring the liquid you're heating up to right when it starts boiling, then you take it off the heat.

At this point I skimmed the top of the shrub of the white scummy parts on top and let it sit to cool.

The thing I found perplexing about this receipt, unlike many of the other 19th century shrub receipts, is that it doesn't say that you need to strain the liquid of the fruit pulp and seeds.  So, following the receipt to the letter, I decided to leave the berry pulp and seeds in it and will see it affects the consistency or not.  I might try this again at another point and strain it to see if it is any difference in taste or texture.

Once cooled I poured it into the jar.  The amount seemed to fit into a quart jar perfectly, and a small taste revealed a pleasantly sweet/tart syrup, with a prominent raspberry taste with almost no traces of vinegar.  I'm excited to try it out!

Now, when I was looking for another recipe to compare Mrs Child's shrub to, I wanted to find something that used an almost completely different technique in preparation.  Specifically, I wanted to use a historic recipe that would involve having the fruit steep in the vinegar for several days.  After some searching, and reading through several similar recipes, the one I chose was in a book I'd never even heard of.  This is  a Raspberry Vinegar recipe (both shrub and vinegar are often used interchangeably), and it was written down by Mrs. Stuart Oliver in the "My Pet Recipes, Tried and True", which is a compilation of recipes from the Ladies and Friends of St Andrews Church in Quebec. This isn't one of the best selling cookbooks of it's era, but I have a particular fondness for old recipe collections like this and will be reading through the whole book when I get a chance and learn a little bit more about these ladies and friends!


Cover with vinegar and let them stand about a week, stirring every day, then strain the fruit and to each pint add a pound of sugar. Boil till it seems as a syrup about one half an hour, bottle, cork when cold.

So I took 2 pints of raspberries, just like the other shrub recipe, and then covered the raspberries with apple cider vinegar.

And that's as far as I can get right now.  Over the next few days I'll take time to stir the mixture, and get a few more pictures of what it looks like.  

And, when the week is done, I'll finish the mixture, and then... the TASTE TEST!!!
Stay tuned for Act II...


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