Love Fresh Fruit? Try These Garden-Fresh Shrubs

What’s the most refreshing way to preserve raspberries, strawberries, blackberries or even gooseberries found at your local market this summer?

You might think the answer involves home canning or preserves, but you’d be wrong. Making fresh-fruit “shrub” syrups for drinks is a great idea, and the catering pros at Jerry’s Kitchen are glad to show you how.



In the history of drinks, the word shrub has meant many things. Basically, it’s a beverage made of fruit juice, sugar and other ingredients, made a little more tart by adding either fruit juice or vinegar. Some shrubs are prepared using alcohol that steeps along with the fruit, acid and sugar. Hard-core shrub enthusiasts make their own fruit-flavored vinegar, but that’s a whole other story!

The sugar, acid and alcohol preserve the fruit juice, and that was one original purpose of creating shrub syrup. Before refrigeration came on the scene, this syrup was a means of preserving fruit long past its picking. Shrubs were popular in Colonial America, mixed with cool water as a pick-me-up on hot summer days.

A proper shrub is both tart and sweet, so it’s a perfect thirst-quencher. Colonial-themed places such as Philadelphia’s City Tavern have helped keep the tradition alive.



The good news is that shrubs are really easy to whip up in your kitchen. If you’re up for a summer or fall of shrub-making, you can start with strawberries early in the season and move right through all the berries and fruits to come.

There are 3 essential ingredients:

  • Fruit:berries, peaches, plums, rhubarb, apricots … take your pick. The fruit doesn’t have to be perfect! In fact, you can ask farmer’s market vendors for their seconds, as these will make fine syrups.
  • Sugar: We recommend using basic refined cane sugar, but you can try turbinado or other forms of organic sugars if you like.
  • Vinegar: Use either red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. Some shrubbers have used balsamic vinegar, too – so feel free to try it out.



Many recipes call for stove-cooked syrup — essentially, fruity simple syrup with vinegar added in at the end. This is the simplest method. Here’s how it goes.

  1. Add equal parts of sugar and water to a saucepan, and heat and stir until the sugar dissolves.
  2. Add berries or fruit and simmer until the fruit’s juice blends well into the syrup.
  3. Let that mixture cool. Strain out the solids.
  4. Add your choice of vinegar to the syrup, pour into clean bottles and store in the fridge.

There’s also a cold method for making the syrup that enhances the freshness and brightness of the fruit. Instead of making the syrup over heat, you simply macerate the fresh fruit in the sugar, leaving it sitting in the fridge anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days.

The sugar slowly draws the juices out of the fruit and makes syrup. Then the fruit is strained off and the vinegar blended in to finish the syrup.

The tradeoff, of course, is time. The cold process does take longer, but the fruit flavor is brighter than you’ll get with the stovetop method.



  1. Wash and prepare the fruit. Most berries can be lightly crushed, even with your hands. Strawberries should be hulled and quartered. Stone fruit such as peaches need to be quartered and pitted.
  2. Cover the fruit with sugar. We recommend a ratio of 1 part each of fruit, sugar and vinegar. If you’re starting with 1 cup of fruit, add 1 cup sugar. Stir to combine, cover, and stash in the fridge.
  3. After several hours or days, your fruit should be surrounded by juice and syrup. Strain the syrup away from the solids, pressing lightly on the solids to expel the last of the juice. If any sugar is clinging to the bowl, scrape it into the syrup. It should settle to the bottom under the syrup.
  4. Add the vinegar and whisk to blend until sugar dissolves.
  5. Use a funnel to transfer the syrup into a clean bottle. Cap, shake well and refrigerate.

Shrubs mellow with time. The tartness and sweetness both remain, but they start to blend after just a few weeks in the fridge. The result is a lightly sweet-tart syrup with a rich fruit flavor.

Combine your homemade shrub syrup anytime with chilled sparkling water for a refreshing drink bursting with fruit flavor. Add your favorite vodka or rum for a cocktail that’s great any time of year.



If you love great food and drink, then you should know more about Jerry’s Kitchen! We provide expert catering services for families, individuals and corporate clients throughout Doylestown and Greater Philadelphia. To book a food truck or traditional catering services for your next event, call Jerry’s Kitchen today.


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