Shrub, Part II: Quince Vinegar, Syrup, and Shrub

quince shrub, syrup, & vinegarThe various historical meanings of shrub have always fallen into two groups, the syrup, or pre-mix, and the finished drink. I’ve often made shrub as a finished drink but seldom as a pre-mix, because it makes more sense, to me, to preserve fruit either as a flavored vinegar or as a syrup without vinegar. Flavored vinegar can also go on salads; syrups can go into cocktails or lemonade or over ice cream or pancakes. To make shrub from flavored vinegar, you add sugar and water. To make it from syrup, you add vinegar and water. Either method is barely more complicated than making shrub from fruit syrup with vinegar already added.

I have wondered, though: Which is better—shrub made from fruit syrup or shrub made from flavored vinegar? I decided to do a comparison using my homemade quince syrup and quince vinegar.

Making quince syrup and vinegar is easy enough for anyone with a quince tree. To make the vinegar, put diced quinces (there is no need to peel them) into a jar, and cover them with cider vinegar, distilled vinegar, or white wine vinegar (I recommend cider vinegar, for reasons I’ll explain shortly). For 2 pounds quinces you’ll need a 2-quart jar and about a quart of vinegar. Close up the jar, wait about three weeks, and then strain and bottle the vinegar.

There are many ways to make fruit syrups, but I prefer a raw method: Layer equal weights of diced unpeeled quinces and sugar in a jar (don’t skimp on the syrup or you’ll end up with a sort of quince wine). Close up the jar, and shake it occasionally over the next few days, until all the sugar has dissolved. After two weeks or longer, strain the syrup. It’s a good idea to store the syrup in the refrigerator.

I made my first quince shrub from the syrup, as follows:

Quince Shrub 1

2 tablespoons quince syrup
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
¼ cup cold water
3 ice cubes

Stir the syrup and vinegar together in a glass (I used a small wine glass). Add the water and ice, and stir again. 

I filled another glass with quince shrub made this way:

Quince Shrub 2

1½ tablespoons sugar
2½ tablespoons quince-flavored vinegar
3½ tablespoons cold water
3 ice cubes

Stir the ingredients together just as for Quince Shrub 1. 

The two shrubs tasted equally strongly of quince. The syrup-based one had a slightly earthier flavor, perhaps because it was made with cider vinegar, whereas I’d used distilled vinegar to make my quince-flavored vinegar. The big difference between the two drinks, though, was in appearance: The vinegar-based shrub was colorless, like my quince-flavored vinegar; the syrup-based shrub was golden. Using cider vinegar would have eliminated this difference. Then I decided to try using both of my quince products, the syrup and the vinegar, in a third glass of shrub:

Quince Shrub 3

2 tablespoons quince syrup
2½ tablespoons quince-flavored vinegar
¼ cup cold water
3 ice cubes

Stir the ingredients together as for Quince Shrub 1. 

The third shrub was golden in color and undoubtedly the quinciest in flavor. But don’t worry if you have only enough quinces for vinegar or syrup; all of these shrubs were deliciously refreshing. With carbonated water in place of still water, any of them would make a lovely soda. And with a splash of brandy or rum, any would make a tasty sort of cocktail—one that would I think would please Sir Walter Besant, whether he recognized it as shrub or not.  

About Linda Ziedrich

I grow, cook, preserve, and write about food in Oregon's Willamette Valley.
This entry was posted in Fruits, Sweet preserves and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Shrub, Part II: Quince Vinegar, Syrup, and Shrub

  1. graemeu says:

    Perfect timing, as we grapple with our quince harvest. A couple of questions:
    for the syrup do you include the pips?
    “Layer equal weights of diced unpeeled quinces and syrup in a jar (don’t skimp on the syrup or you’ll end up with a sort of quince wine)”
    It’s difficult to layer a liquid, should this be sugar rather than syrup?

  2. Yes, I meant sugar! Thanks for pointing out that error, which I will fix. And, no, I don’t include the pips; I core the quinces. This isn’t necessary, but doing so allows you to use the fruit after the syrup is made. A friend of mine eats the quince and calls it candy. I think I have also cooked the quince, in white wine or water, after draining off the syrup. (Probably I have written about this, somewhere . . . )

  3. By the way, I often make the syrup with honey instead of sugar.

  4. graemeu says:

    Thanks Linda, all these different ideas are great. There is only so much quince jelly one (or two) can use.

  5. Recipes marked for when our new quince trees bear fruit. I always peel and core the quince because I do not like their taste. The color is a light rose instead of yellow.

  6. Nadia, what variety of quince did you plant? I love Pineapple for its productivity and disease resistance, but it seems slow to redden even with long cooking.

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