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Shrub a Dub Dub

September 22, 2015

I’m not quite ready to give up on summer. It’s a fool’s errand to try and hold onto a fleeting memory of a season on the way out. Thanks to the CSA, I cannot say that I didn’t eat enough corn, or glorious tomatoes, or fragrant, juicy peaches.

It’s hard to complain. I had my fill. The truth is that some of these things are still around. They are just a shadow of their former selves.

When produce is at its peak, you don’t have to do anything to it at all. Famously, the cafe at Chez Panisse offered a single peach on a pedestal for dessert. Given the proximity of Frog Hollow and the general excellence of peaches I could buy from the farmers market, I never took Alice Waters up on this temptation. But it’s a great way to hammer home the point.

Caprese salads exist to demonstrate the same concept. The season to enjoy this beloved menu item might be one or two weeks long somewhere towards the middle or end of August. But it’s gone now.

Now is the time when you have to do things to produce to make it amazing. And I only recently discovered this ancient idea for what to do with fruit.

Two things led me to my first experiment with shrubbery. One was the underripe peach in my hand. The other was encountering a local shrub maker at the FarmOn benefit over the summer in Copake, NY. What I told her at the time was that my food friends would laugh at me if I ever bought a fancy bottle of shrub syrup.

But her shrub syrup was so delicious.

It turns out that with equal parts of sugar, fruit and vinegar, you are most of the way there. The other real critical step is time. I’m no expert, so I won’t tell you how to do it. Instead, I’ll share this handy dandy link to Serious Eats.

I’ll also let you know that I made mine with a crappy peach, some amazing vanilla sugar from TC Paris Bakery, and some fantastic champagne cider vinegar that’s far too fancy for something like this.

I’ll also let you know that after a couple of weeks it was excellent, and I really wish I had more underripe peaches and could go back in time to make a larger batch.

As for that inspiring shrub maker I met on Empire Farm? Well, I used her bitters in my shrub cocktail. 1T of peach shrub syrup, 4T of good white rum, and a couple shakes of The Hudson Standard ginger bitters made for a great drink. It gets hit with about three ounces of seltzer, and chilled down with a few ice cubes.

But even on a night with a chill in the air. The kind of night where it might be nice to relax in a warm tub. It’s nice to know that you can still capture a little of summer in your glass. That is, of course, if you started a couple weeks ago.

Maybe there are still a few peaches out there. But I say grab whatever you can find and stock up for winter. Because it’s going to be long, and cold, and last an intolerable number of months.

Before signing off, there is one small bit of housekeeping. Tomorrow is Yom Kippur. I spared you my annual whine about how I hate to fast. I do. So while you are eating your nutritious breakfasts and your delicious lunches, please think of me in sackcloth and ashes, ruminating on the important issues of self-failure and forgiveness. Really, I’ll probably be wearing a suit. But I will be doing a fair bit of ruminating. As unpleasant as it may be, I’m very glad not to be fleeing violent oppression or struggling with a significant health crisis.

And once again, I’m feeling very very lucky to get to pursue my own interests, regardless of how crazy they might be. Speaking of which, don’t forget about donuts this Saturday.

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