This isn’t your Monty Python’s Shrub!
So I finally decided to get even busier this past week after the new cocktail roll out and finish some projects I’ve been holding out on.
Thanks to Camper English and his fantastic Alcademics blog I found out what I could use the huge bag of stinging nettles in my refrigerator for. Nettles isn’t just a bush that sucks ass to fall in (like I have before at my cabin), it’s actually a delicious little treat when prepared correctly. I had bought it at the local farmers market in San Francisco and used some of it to make a soup for a really fancy dinner. Well I had 3/4 of a pound left over and I didn’t want anything to go to waste. I typed “stinging nettles” in Google and the same old Wikipedia crap came up, but a Nettles cordial post came up in a blog and I just went on and read a few of them. I was thoroughly impressed with the research and how some people actually made it.
What I came out with in the end was a Nettles Cordial. I took the 3/4 of a pound of stinking nettles and threw them in a rich syrup mix. I used Turbinado sugar, but you can try Demerara or even plain white cane sugar if you like. It’s really up to you how you want everything to taste. The syrup mix needs to simmer for at least 10-15 minutes because you don’t want any little needles sticking you. They’re really not fun and are so miniscule you cannot see them or pull them out. Once everything melted and mixed, I took some ascorbic acid (which is basically powdered Vitamin C since I couldn’t find Citric Acid anywhere in stores) and added it to the mix. I let everything sit for about 8 days and then strained through a cheesecloth and bottled. It’s now sitting in the fridge ready to be drank at anytime. It’ll go great with cocktails or even just soda water. Try it out!!
Now the other thing I have always wanted to make ever since reading some Jerry Thomas books and the Gentleman’s Companion Vol II is SHRUBS!! I don’t think there’s any guide set in stone for these, so I had to improvise a bit. It was my first time, so I didn’t really care if I messed up. I just made sure to write down everything I was doing so I could retrace what I did right or wrong. Since summer is right around the corner, I decided to work with strawberries.
I started out with a pound of Demerara sugar and half a cup of water. I tried Tangelo’s instead of oranges and added just their peels and juice and added a few lemon peels in as well. I cooked this up for about 30 minutes so some of the oils would come out and add some different flavors to the syrup. Then I tossed in some cinnamon sticks, cloves, black pepper and fleur de sal and cooked this some more. Once I was satisfied with how everything was coming along and tasting (I continuously tasted to monitor any changes) I pulled out the peels and spices. Next I took about 6 pounds of strawberries, cut the stems off of them and sliced them in half. I also added some sage to the mix to create another layer of flavor. I basically let this cook for another 45 minutes and then turned off the heat. I let it sit overnight so everything got good and soft and I could get as much juice as possible out of the strawberries.
The next day I heated up the mix again to a boil and added another cup of Turbinado sugar. After that I added about 48 oz. of Apple Cider Vinegar and let this boil for 5 more minutes then removed everything from the heat. I let all of this cool and then I took a large stainless steel pasta colander and lined it with cheesecloth. I had to pour everything in and strain, but I made sure to squeeze the crap out of the strawberries in the cheesecloth to get every ounce of goodness out of there. No way I’m letting any of this stuff go to waste!! All in all I bottled about 110-115 ounces from this first batch. I’ve played with some of it at work and it’s been pretty well received. Surprisingly it goes really well with Turbinado syrup and white whiskey. Although I may need to add some more sugar to the Shrub mix to cut down on some of the acidity. We’ll see, I’m not a friggin chemist! Hopefully the shrub can be finely tuned and it will appear on the early summer cocktail menu at Chow Danville and can be enjoyed by all! Cheers!