I’m a strong flavour kinda gal. And a little bit obsessed. And not just with Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Bold, grainy or creamy cheeses, lots of citrus, confit of pretty much anything including duck, rabbit, garlic, what have you.
When it comes to a meal, I want my taste buds to be totally surprised and engaged… Kind of like a good wedding proposal. A solid marriage between sweet, sour, bitter, spicy and salty/umami. But first, all of those elements and the energy that went into creating them, even if perfectly balanced in a dish, are utterly wasted if the foundation lacks quality. And by foundation, I mean the raw ingredients. The elements before we manipulate them and they come together to create a finished meal that are more than the sum of their parts… Before they morph into something totally delicious.
That’s why I get my food from the farmer’s market and a CSA box program. Sure it’s good for the environment and better for our local economy to patronize the farmers in my area who practice perma-culture and organic growing methods. There are a lot of good reasons to shop small scale, locally organic and seasonal. But ultimately my choice to eat regionally appropriate food is a selfish one: It tastes fucking amazing.
I remember the first time I tried real garlic. And how generous and kind the producers were. Just ask to taste a leaf of farm fresh arugula vs. store bought and you’ll be convinced. Or farm fresh garlic that’s just been harvested vs. the mass produced Chinese garlic at the supermarket. Or spoon Joseph Gordon-Levitt, err, I mean… Uhh.. a jar of local, organically grown preserves or honey and compare them to the overly processed, sugary, preservative-laden and “natural flavor” added bottles at the store. They just can’t compete.
Thankfully the first farmer’s market of the season starts today in Vancouver. And that means flavour city, population me, bro.
When it comes to the better half of the meal – the drinks – I like them strong too. Boozy, flavourful and bold. And like food, the foundation you begin with is paramount to enjoying the finished concoction. I think of it like sex: The better quality you have, the less you need.
Okay, that’s not true. The better quality it is, the more you need. Both for sex and with delicious things you put in your mouth. But I couldn’t think of anything clever to say there. Except sex. And everyone likes to talk about sex.
Point being: If you spring for the good stuff your pleasure will be infinitely higher and you’ll be a much happier person. True of drinks, true of food, true of sex. Ah-ha! It worked that time…
Now put your hands together – fresh, local, organically grown delicious produce + alcohol. And by god, you have yourself the makings of a pretty decent par-tay.
That’s what I base my column on in Edible Vancouver – drinking local, ethically grown produce. It’s also the inspiration I drew upon for this gem of a drink.
The base is a delicious, simple recipe for a rhubarb shrub (aka drinking vinegar), chased with simple soda water. You can read the full history of shrubs (or at least as much as you need to know) at The Kitchn. But here’s the gist: Shrubs are basically a way to preserve produce from colonial times, resulting in drinking vinegar.
Fruit or veg. Sugar. Vinegar. Perhaps some flavour enhancers like herbs, citrus and/or spices. And a little bit of time in the fridge for the flavours to develop, mingle and become something truly spectacular and reflective of the growing season.
I know, I can see your adorable button nose crinkling at the idea of actually ingesting vinegar for leisure. But here’s the thing about shrubs:
- They’re super delicious and refreshing;
- They’re good for your gut and thus make tequila or bourbon or gin or vodka (choose your poison) totally healthy;
- They’re what all the cool kids are drinking so if you’ve been scouring for a way to break into the Hipster scene, this is your gateway drug.
I prefer mine with a couple shots of alcohol but you don’t have to; Virgin shrubs are almost as fun as boozy ones. Especially when rhubarb is involved. Partly because rhubarb is tartly wonderful, partly because when the CSA box shows up, it’s difficult to know what to do with all the rhubarb. You know, short of make a pretty amazing oatmeal, crumble, coffee cake, rhubarb pickles or cheesecake honey’d rhubarb sauce. Or draw from any one of The Food Blogger’s of Canada fairly delicious collection of rhubarb beverage recipes, rhubarb strawberry combos, and sweet & savoury rhubarb recipes.
Whoa. Okay, I stand corrected; There’s lots of things you can do with fresh Spring rhubarb.
So all that being said, is it just me or is rhubarb kind of a thing this year?
I’m not bragging or anything (okay maybe a little bit) but my cocktail – The Rhuby Tom – made the cover of Edible Vancouver this issue and I’m clearly not the first person to come up with a recipe for rhubarb shrubs. In fact, I’ve listed 8 other rhubarb shrub concoctions below my recipe that I think you’ll enjoy. And totally drool over. And become utterly obsessed with. Now between those 8, my 1 and the shruberiffic book by Michael Dietsch, Shrubs (thank you for introducing me to this stellar book Jayme!), you now have 10 good reasons to drink your rhubarb this season, shrub style.
Sparkling Rhubarb Shrub
Yield 4 drinks
- 1 Lb fresh rhubarb, sliced into 1/4" pieces
- 3/4 C organic cane sugar
- 1/2 C white wine vinegar
- 2 C soda water
- Optional: 4-8 shots good quality silver tequila like Patrón (depending how boozy you want your drinks)
- To garnish: Limes, fresh mint and/or additional rhubarb
- Place rhubarb and sugar into a bowl and toss well to combine. Using a muddler or potato masher, grind it all together. This helps speed the maceration process along. Cover and place in the fridge for about 3 days.
- After 3 days, remove the mixture from the fridge and strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve. If there's any leftover sugar on the rhubarb solids, just place a second bowl under the strainer and pour the liquid back over the rhubarb to get all the sugar remnants. You may want to squeeze/press on the rhubarb to ensure all the liquid is extracted.
- Pour liquid into a dry, clean mason jar and add vinegar. Cover and shake vigorously to combine. Place in the fridge for 1 week to allow the flavours to mingle. Shake occasionally.
- After a week, pour 1-2 shots of good quality tequila into a glass along with 1 shot of rhubarb shrub. Fill the glass with ice and top with soda water. Serve with a wedge of lime, some fresh mint or rhubarb stalk.
Other Rhubarb Shrubs Worth Guzzling:
- Fizzy Rhubarb Shrub via Yummy Supper
- Rhubarb Shrub via Family Feedbag
- Lavender Rhubarb Shrub via Produce on Parade
- Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub via A Thought for Food
- Strawberry Rhubarb Shrub via Reclaiming Provincial
- Rhubarb Shrub via Feasting At Home
- How to Make A Shrub Syrup via The Kitchn
- Homemade Rhubarb Shrub via Serious Eats
Have you made shrubs before? Do you infuse flavors for dishes? Do you enjoy strong or more subtle flavours? What’s in your glass right now? Do you like rhubarb? What are you obsessed with?