the ark of taste, unprocessed-- apple cranberry shrub

thirsty thursday
notes from maggie's farm

I know you're thinking it.  What the he(ck) is a shrub?  She's drinking shrubs?  "Gladys, she's gone and ground up a bush and now she's saying it's a drink.  Must be farm fever getting to her, poor woman."  I couldn't blame you.  If you'd offered me a shrub a year ago, I'd have been a little confused, too  (although our landscaping needs are epic--I'd have said yes to whatever) After joining ranks with Slow Food USA, and the local Slow Food Austin,  I learned more about this endangered pre-industrial popular refreshment from the 18th century:

According to Slow Food USA Ark of Taste,

image courtesy of
"Shrub is a colonial-day drink whose name is derived from the Arabic word sharab, to drink.  It is a concentrated syrup made from fruit, vinegar, and sugar that is traditionally mixed with water to create a refreshing drink that is simultaneously tart and sweet.  In the nineteenth-century, the drink was often spiked brandy or rum.
Ubiquitous in colonial times, the use of shrubs as a flavoring for tonic and sodas subsided with increasing industrial production of foods.  The entire shrub market was practically ceased until the Tait family in Pennsylvania revived the drink.  In addition to being available for commercial sale by the Tait’s, shrub is also served at establishments that stress historical connections to colonial times, like Williamsburg, VA, and City Tavern in Philadelphia."

Endangered?!??  Oh, my.  

We set out to reproduce this little taste of yesteryear ourselves.  Found lots of recipes which called for the fruit to macerate in sugar, however we wanted to keep it real, and there were no recipes without the processed sugar stuff.  So we did what we do around here, we pulled out our lab coat, and attendant lab rat (the husband) and got to work.  And we LOVE what became of our experimentation.  

apple cranberry shrub

In a non-reactive saucepan, combine 2 apples, chopped, core, peel and all, and 1 cup cranberries, chopped,  with 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 3/4c honey, and 1/2 cup water  Bring to a boil and reduce heat, allowing to simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature. Transfer to an airtight jar and seal.  Allow fruit to steep, refrigerated, for 3 days to a week.  

To serve, strain fruit, and combine at a ration of 1 part shrub syrup to 3-4 parts sparkling water.  Sweeten to taste with honey, if desired.

If you're a fan of kombucha, as we are, you'll love this effervescent cousin.  And if you were to, say, want to dress it up for cocktails, no harm in adding a little gin to it, perhaps in place of the sparkling water.  Champagne makes it a lovely, lively brunch punch.  And by all means, experiment with the fruits in season in your area (I know we will); we'll be playing with pomegranate and thyme next. Yeah, herbs, too. There's no end to the madness!

 We'll keep you posted, thirsty friends!


  1. Fantastic! I have two bags of frozen cranberries in my freezer for who-knows-what. Now I have a use!(I'm dropping by from #unprocessed :) I think I'll be sticking around! Love the site!)

  2. Hi Gretchen!
    Thanks so much for stopping by. So happy to share the unprocessed journey with you this month. And thank you for your kind words. Kinda gave me a big fat happy grin right in the middle of the coffee shop, here. (No worries, just sucking up free wifi, nothing processed. lol)

    All our best,
    Margaret Christine,
    from maggie's farm

  3. Way back (farther than I care to remember) we use to make a raspberry shrug for a tea boutique. It was fun watching it meld in big refurbished pickle jars. I think we even put lavender with ours. Yours sounds like the perfect alternative to Thanksgiving cocktails. I'm pinning this for my Thanksgiving board. Thanks!

  4. I discovered shrubs this summer, and made two - plum and white peach. I chose the uncooked version, though your version with honey sounds good, too. I may try it once I get my hands on some cranberries later this fall.

    Here's my shrub experience:

    Thanks for writing about shrubs!

  5. Hey Girl--raspberry lavender--that sounds like the next try for me. Oh, my. Fabulous! I am so flattered to be pinned. THANK YOU!

    Meg, I really enjoyed your blogpost. Thank you for sharing it with me. Really, the only reason I cooked the fruit was that honey doesn't break down fruit like sugar does, so I used the heat to up the ante, so to speak. Plum ANYTHING is right up my plum-lovin' alley. Thanks for the comment!


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