In the By Thistle By Thimble story, “Onatah's Table”, the Duke’s son is very ill, and none of a long line of doctors seems to be of much help to the boy. One doctor, however, suggests they visit an unusual Inn called Onatah’s Table where he has heard that miraculous recoveries take place. The Duke is at first suspicious of the Inn's simple philosophy, but soon discovers that, not only does it help his son, it helps the Duke, as well.
“Lamb with fresh ramps, new beets with greens, salad with peas and summer arugula, and the first of the corn!”
When the dinner menu at Onatah's Table is announced to the guests, it's hard to imagine how anyone wouldn't feel better after such a fresh, bountiful meal. But, tucked in after that description of the mouthwatering food, you may have missed that the guests at Onatah's Table were also enjoying raspberry cider to wash the feast down. It's from there that this week's recipe—a raspberry shrub—takes its inspiration.
Do you know about shrubs? They're drinks made with fruit, sugar, and vinegar. They were popular in the colonial era—both mixed with alcohol and mixed with water as a non-alcoholic "day drink”—and are now enjoying a comeback as trendy craft cocktails and homemade sodas.
If you haven't tried one, you're probably thinking, "Drink vinegar? Ew!" But the vinegar really just gives the berries and sugar complexity. It's not truly sour; just a little "wang" on the back of your tongue.
We like to mix our shrubs with seltzer or tonic water, and my kiddos love the “fizzy drink” that results. These do take a bit of (mostly inactive) prep time to prepare, through, so get a batch of syrup started today so that you can enjoy a refreshing raspberry shrub before the end of summer.
“Onatah's” Raspberry Shrub
(makes 1-2 cups of shrub syrup, which will make about 4-6 drinks*)
6 ounces raspberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup AC vinegar
Seltzer or tonic water for mixing
If you're at all familiar with shrubs, we'll be making this one using the “cold shrubing” method. It takes a little bit longer, but, in my opinion, results in a shrub with a more vibrant flavor.
To start, mix the berries and sugar together in a medium bowl, crushing the berries a bit as you do. Cover the bowl, and let the berries and sugar sit in the refrigerator for about 48 hours.
Next, use a fine sieve to strain the berries from their liquid. Use a spoon to press on the berries to extract as much juice as possible. Discard the berries, or reserve them for another use.
Add the vinegar to the berry liquid, stirring very well to dissolve any remaining sugar. Pour the mixture into a clean jar or bottle, and put it back into the fridge. You will need to let it sit for at least 2 days before sampling, but if you can wait a week it will be better. If any undissolved sugar settles in the bottom, just shake the container to mix it back up. Kept in the fridge, this syrup will last a month or more.
When you've waited as long as you can stand it and you're ready to try some, mix a few spoonfuls of the shrub syrup into a tall glass of seltzer or tonic water with ice. Since we can't go to Onatah's Table, I recommend drinking this on a comfy porch swing in the shade, instead.
(This recipe is written to make just enough to sample. If you already know that you love shrubs, feel free to double or triple it.*)
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About the Author
The Sparkle Kitchen Series is created by Meryl Carver-Allmond.
Meryl lives in a hundred year old house near the prairie with her sweet husband, two pre-schoolers, one puppy, one gecko, and about ten chickens. While she's been writing since she could pick up a pen, in recent years she's discovered the joy of photography, too. She feels lucky to be able to combine those skills, along with a third passion--showing people that cooking for themselves can be healthy and fun--in her weekly Sparkle Kitchen posts.
When Meryl isn't writing for Sparkle Kitchen, you can find her on her personal blog, My Bit of Earth, where she writes about chickens, babies, knitting, gardening, food, photography, and whatever else tickles her fancy on any given day.