Raising a glass of something sweet, tart and bubbly seems to be a basic human urge. But the modern form of this refreshing beverage, soda, is quite harmful to health. For most of human history, people have been making and enjoying various fermented beverages, with or without alcohol, which have had health benefits derived from the live bacteria and lactic or other acids produced through natural fermentation. The fermentation revival has brought kombucha, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut juice and the like back to the table, and one of my new favorites, shrub, or drinking vinegar, which all give a boost to digestive power as well as pleasing the palate.
Turns out most people who suffer from occasional indigestion, heartburn and the like actually suffer from too little, not too much stomach acid, and drinking live vinegar or sour tonic beverages before or with a meal helps a lot. It will certainly help with sparking the digestion so you don't suffer too much from the rich food of the upcoming holidays. I learned a lot about shrubs and got inspired recently checking out Michael Dietsch's new book Shrub: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, check out his blog here. Salud!
Fruit and Herb Shrub
Preserving the harvest in vinegar is a time honored technique, and shrubs, originating in Persia and popular in colonial America, enjoyed a heyday during Prohibition as a non-alcoholic libation. They are now making a comeback among foodies and cocktailians (with or without alcohol added). Flavored vinegar can also be used in salad dressings to add more flavor complexity and herbal benefits. Drinking vinegar before meals is a great way to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, augment stomach acid and it can relieve liver qi stagnation, lifting the spirits. Using raw local honey instead of sugar and a raw vinegar such as apple cider, plus avoiding cooking the fruit as in many recipes, will all maximize the enzyme content of your drink, making the most healthful version.
Makes about 1 ½ quarts.
4 cups coarsely chopped fruit, such as berries, grapes, stone fruit, etc.
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, rose geranium, basil, etc.
4-6 cups raw apple cider, rice, white wine or other mild vinegar
1-3 cups raw honey or sugar, to taste
Combine the first three ingredients in a 2 qt. Mason jar or similar and allow to infuse for 2-6 weeks. Strain and add sweetener to get a taste that suits you. Enjoy. If you are using the shrub as a drink, dilute with 4-5 parts water or mineral water per part shrub, garnishing with sliced fresh fruit or herbs.
Combos to try: strawberries, basil and rose geranium, fig, black pepper and lemon, concord grape, peach, rose hip and rosemary, etc.
UPCOMING CLASS: This Saturday, Nov. 8th I'll be teaching a day-long nutrition class in Berkeley, focusing on cooking and eating for the winter season and strengthening the kidneys. It is suitable for acupuncturists (6 CEUs), students and those with some background and a passion for nutrition. Follow this link to register.