What's up? What's up?
Shrubbery, that's what (At least, I think "shrubbery" ought to be the official term for the art of making a shrub.). And this red plum and thyme version is going to have you savoring sunshine in a glass during this non-committal segue into my favorite season. What is a shrub? In loose terminology, a shrub is a drinking vinegar, usually infused with berries or other juicy fruit. First, the fruit is combined with sugar and left to rest for twenty-four hours. It is then strained and the resulting syrup mixed with vinegar, which is then "cured" in the refrigerator for a week. When these steps are finished, your shrub is ready to use! A shrub kept in the refrigerator will last at least three months if not quite a long while more.
My first encounter with "drinking vinegar" was a cherry balsamic, which I learned the overpowering way was meant to be diluted in water. But my family has always been vinegarically-inclined, though I've never gone so far as to drink pickle juice. While thinking about what recipe I wanted to feature next on the blog, I couldn't get plums out of my mind. Then the phrase "plum and thyme" popped up out of nowhere. The only thing I can think is that I have some vague recollection of seeing a plum-thyme sorbet in Erin Gleeson's The Forest Feast cookbook? Either way, I remembered I had been wanting to make a shrub for a while now and, well, here we have it. The recipe is mine, concocted by instinct and the suggestions of several general suggestions for shrubbing a plum. This is version is something that tastes the way I imagine rosé would taste, which probably means it tastes nothing like rosé. Still, plums and thyme are a surprisingly robust combination when paired with vinegar; equal parts feminine and strong, masculine and delicate. This red plum and thyme shrub would be the perfect drink for a romantic picnic, or a quiet, linen-clad afternoon lounging by the sea in Nantucket. And for those of us who are single and Nantucketless? A glass of this shrub whisked into soda water (or something stronger, if that's your thing) will take you to a moment of reddish-gold contentment you thought you wouldn't get till mid-October. It's just that special.
Red Plum + Thyme Shrub:
4 cups sliced red plums, packed (about 2 pounds)
2 cups all-natural cane sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or a light palmful of sprigs)
1 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1.) Muddle the fresh thyme in the sugar, crushing the leaves slightly before adding, and pressing well into the sugar with the back of a wooden spoon. You may also use a mortar and pestle if you have one.
2.) Add sugar to the fruit, muddle about, then cover with plastic wrap and allow to marinate (macerate might be a more accurate term) in the resulting juice/syrup for 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
3.) Strain syrup through a sieve into a pitcher. I used a double-colander and allowed some of the smaller thyme pieces to remain in the syrup. Kind of like confetti.
4.) Add vinegar, being sure to dissolve all the sugar. Pour into a glass bottle and let your shrub rest in the fridge for a week before using, when flavor will be keenest.
To Use: Pour 2 Tablespoons of your brilliant concoction over a glass of ice. Add seltzer water to finish filling the glass. Swizzle around and enjoy!
(And now watch a video of me spazzing about the colors of the plums because evidently I didn't feel the camera was doing them justice.)