Bartender-writer Toby Cecchini talks about drinking vinegars and making "shrub" out of fresh fruit. Shrub is the American version of drinking vinegar and it's still popular in the South. The inventor of the Cosmopolitan cocktail, Cecchini is author of Cosmopolitan: A Bartender's Life. He recently wrote about drinking vinegars in this New York Times article.
Makes about 1 1/2 to 2 quarts, depending on fruit used.
These measurements can be played with quite liberally, as some fruits contain more natural sugars.
2 qts fruit, use any fruit, pears, figs, raspberries, cherries
1 liter apple-cider vinegar (preferably Bragg) or other vinegar
1/2 to 1 cup raw sugar
1. Rinse the fruit and discard any rot. Place in a large non-reactive or ceramic pot and mash for several minutes with your hands or a wooden spoon to break up. Pour in enough vinegar to cover and top with a lid. Let macerate at room temperature for a week, stirring once a day. (Do not be alarmed by the smell or the sludge on top.)
2. After a week, stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar and gently boil for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly, then strain. (The smell created from boiling is a bit offensive, so open the doors and windows.)
3. Make a test shrub: cool 3 to 4 tablespoons of the fruit mixture. Fill a 20-ounce glass with ice. Add water or soda water to almost the rim, then add the chilled fruit mixture. Taste to determine sweetness. If it is too tart, add sugar to the fruit mixture, little by little, while still hot. Cool fully and funnel into bottles. Will keep indefinitely in refrigerator.
Music break: Easy Way Out by James Hardway