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Refreshing Apple Shrub Syrup

It's June and that means it's starting to heat up outside. School is out, pools are open, beaches are packed, and the scent of someone grilling clings to the thick summer air. In my book, that means I need a refreshing drink in my hand, and that's what I'm going to share with you today in the form of a shrub.

While shrubs, sometimes called drinking vinegars, have been around for ages, they've started to gain popularity once again over the past 5 years or so. Originally made from necessity, fruit and sugar were held in a crock as a means of preservation, eventually fermenting and turning into a fruit vinegar.

Although I'm sure it can still be done that way, a quick and simple (and modern) way to make a shrub syrup is by mixing fruit and sugar with vinegar and letting them sit for several days before straining the solids for resulting liquid. This shrub syrup can then be mixed into sparkling water and served over ice for one of the most refreshing drinks you'll ever try.

The strong scent and flavor might seem strange at first, but it grows on you. It can be made

with any type of fruit you have on hand, which makes it a great way to use up some fruit that's just past its prime. Enhance the flavor with fresh herbs or ginger, and try experimenting with different types of vinegar, as well.

Today I'm sharing my recipe for a refreshing apple shrub syrup that combines apples with fresh mint and fennel seeds. No matter what type of fruit or berries you choose for your shrub, just be sure to cut them up into small pieces so that you have a lot of surface area. I chose to grate my apples, setting a box grater into a pie plate to catch any juices, which I added to the fruit mixture. You don't even have to peel the apple, just hold it with your thumb on top and your other fingers on bottom, grate and turn until all you have left is the core.

How to use your shrub:

● Stir together 1 part shrub syrup and 3­-4 parts mineral water and pour over ice.

● Stir into lemonade or iced tea.

● Stir into sparkling wine or combine with booze to make a signature cocktail.

● Use as a flavor base in a vinaigrette.

● Use your favorite seasonal fruits and flavorings to make a syrup and mix with your

favorite alcohol to make a signature cocktail for a party, bridal shower, or wedding!

Refreshing Apple Shrub Syrup

yield: ~2 1/2 cups

2 cups shredded apples and any accumulated juice

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

leaves from 2 fresh mint sprigs

1 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed

2 cups (16 fluid ounces) white wine vinegar

Divide the apples, sugar, mint, and fennel between 2 quart­sized jars; use a muddler (or a
wooden spoon) to smash and smoosh everything together until the sugar has dissolved. Pour in the vinegar (half into each jar), put the lid on, and give it a shake. Store the jar in the fridge or in a cool, dark spot for 3-­4 days, shaking gently once a day. Set a small strainer over another jar and strain the mixture into the clean jar; discard solids. At this point, the shrub is ready, but you can store in covered in the fridge or a cool, dark spot.

Heather Schmitt-­Gonzalez explores culture through food on her blog, All Roads Lead to the kitchen, where she finds recipe inspiration in the most unexpected places. Although she lives in Indiana now, she grew up in Michigan and will always be a Michigan girl at heart.