Drinking vinegars, or shrubs, are refreshing beverages made from fermenting a combination of fruit, sugar and vinegar. Last week, in honor of my new SodaStream, I created a pineapple drinking vinegar recipe that is light, energizing and fresh. Shrubs are not a new idea - they were used in colonial America as a way to preserve quick-spoiling fruit. Lacking proper refrigeration, fruit turned quickly. Adding vinegar to the fruit solved the issue of decay and was a means of preservation, as vinegar is high in acid and prevents mold and spoilers from forming. There are no limitations to ingredients that can be combined and preserved safely, so drinking vinegars are a great way to experiment with preservation. I prefer softer and sweeter vinegars - apple cider or champagne work well with many fruits and vegetables.
Products like Bragg's apple cider are a great choice as they have healthy bacteria that is alive and active. (Read: Great for your gut!) Of course, you can also make your own vinegar at home, using a fermentation process. This is a great idea for apple season, and I have a recipe in my Apple Cookbook that is easy to follow and make.
Drinking vinegars and shrubs are alcohol-free, thus a festive option for anyone who does not drink alcohol. Add a spoonful of drinking vinegar to make juices more complex, or go straight for the sparkling water and make a brightly colored fizzy drink. (Here, I have a lot of other lovely ideas for homemade sodas! And here I have additional recipes for drinking vinegar, including one using beets.)
To age, I leave the drinking vinegar out on the counter for several days, covered with a thin linen kitchen cloth. This allows the mixture to breath and ferment, while keeping out insects. The pineapple-mint mixture fermented for five days, but a few days longer or shorter is also fine. Use your nose - when it's strong and yeast-y smelling, call it done.
I use my SodaStream to create fizzy water at home. I went for a big bubble in the water and compressed the machine seven times. The fruit juice is dense and thick and I wanted the water to sparkle in the mouth. To serve, spoon some juice into a glass and top off with soda water. Using more drinking vinegar results in a stronger, sweeter drink. Less is obviously more subtle. I'm in love with my new SodaStream!
PINEAPPLE MINT DRINKING VINEGAR
2 cups chopped pineapple 1/2 cup sugar or honey 1/2 cup mint leaves 1/2 cup LIVE apple cider vinegar
Add all ingredients to the bowl of a blender and puree until fruit is mashed and mint is chopped fine. Pour into a 1 quart jar and cover with a thin linen cloth and secure the cloth with a rubber band. (This prevents gnats and other insects from getting in.) Leave on the counter for 3 to 5 days to ferment. To serve, set a fine mesh strainer over a bowl and pour in the fruit, pressing on it to release all of the juice. Store any leftover shrub in a covered jar in the fridge where it will keep for many weeks.