Recipe: Concord Grape and Lavender Shrub by Amy Pennington
This post is part of our Fall Blog Blitz! For the next few weeks, we’ll be bringing you special posts in support of our Slow Food Fall Membership Campaign. Come back often for more recipes, photos, tips, and resources as we celebrate Slow Food in all its forms!
Slow Food membership supports sustainable food production, teaching children how to grow food, preserving traditional foods, and celebrating food cultures. Together we are linking the pleasure of good food with a commitment to local communities and the environment. There is a place for you at our table here in our local Seattle chapter. Join now!
Slow Food Seattle has been thinking a lot about shrubs (aka drinking vinegars). This recent fixation might have started with the Slow Food Speakeasy Contest, which was a cocktail recipe competition focusing on Slow Food Ark of Taste products. The Ark is "a living catalog of delicious and distinctive foods facing extinction." The shrub is in the Ark to celebrate its colonial past and help encourage its present-day place in cocktail culture.
Our local entrants, Shaun and Christa from Booze Nerds, used a shrub in their July 5th cocktail, which made it all the way to the finals!
Then, of course, came summer and summer fruits, and shrubs remained top of mind as a way to preserve the harvest. We had a blackberry shrub at our August picnic, and from there, further experimentation led us to proposing a partnership with Anu Apte of Swigwell and Rob Roy to offer a shrub class.
That class is on the docket for November, and we'll have details on that soon! (At this time, it is looking like this class will be a very limited seating that will offered exclusively to our current members and members of the Washington State Bartenders Guild. If you're interested in being on the list when the ticketing info is sent out in early October, and you are not yet a Slow Food member, you still have time! You can sign up to become a member here. You'll receive invitations to members-only events like this shrub class and our popular tuna canning event. You will also receive discounts and pre-sale opportunities for our events that are open to the public. Plus you'll be supporting a great organization!)
In the meantime, we're excited to share this Concord-Lavender Shrub recipe from local author Amy Pennington, author of Fresh Pantry, Urban Pantry, Apples: From Harvest to Table, and Apartment Gardening.
We're excited because a) it's a shrub! b) It uses Concord grapes, which have a short season that is happening right this very moment! c) It uses culinary lavender, a wonderful Washington state product. d) It's from Amy, whose books are full of tasty and creative ways to use seasonal produce.
And e) it's very delicious. We just shared some at our recent board meeting. It has the refreshing tang one wants from a shrub, with the fruity roundness of that true Concord flavor and a light floral note from the lavender.
Some shrubs take several days to develop, but this one is ready as soon as it cools. The forecast is, of course, always subject to change, but currently it's looking sunny and warm again this weekend. Essentially, it's looking like everything - the grapes, the recipe, the weather - have come together to make this coming weekend your perfect shrub-drinking weekend! We hope you enjoy. Thanks, Amy!
Concord Grape & Lavender Shrub
MAKES 1 QUART
EXCERPTED FROM FRESH PANTRY
BY AMY PENNINGTON
Concord grapes are perfect for juicing—no surprise, given their popularity as a flavor in kids’ snacks and juices. Sadly, this bold, grape-y flavor falls to the wayside as we age, and it is more difficult to come by in grown-up drinks. This drinking vinegar, or shrub, is an excellent throwback to grape juice, but largely appeals to adults. Grape juice is paired with sweetened vinegar and laced with a subtle floral aromatic. Concord grapes are only available for a short time in early fall, so get them when you see them, lest you miss the season.
3 1/2 pounds Concord grapes, rinsed
4 to 6 cups hot water
1/2 to 1 cup sugar
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup lavender blossoms
Place the grapes (stems and all) into a large stock pot and cover with the hot water. Set the pot over medium heat and bring to a low simmer. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the grape skins are split and soft, about 20 to 30 minutes. Set a mesh strainer over a large, deep bowl and drain the liquid from the grapes. Press down on the grape solids to release any residual juice, then discard the solids.
Measure the juice, which should be about 1 quart. Stir in 1/2 cup of the sugar until it’s dis- solved, then taste. Add the remaining 1/2 cup if you’d like a sweeter juice. Add the apple cider vinegar and stir to combine. Add the lavender blossoms to the warm juice and steep until the desired potency is reached, anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes. Strain out the leaves before storing the juice. Pour the juice into a large glass jar.
Cover with the lid and put the juice jar in the refrigerator to cool completely before serving. To serve, fill a tumbler with ice and add 2 or 3 large spoonfuls of grape shrub. Fill with sparkling water and serve.
PANTRY NOTE: Grape shrub will hold in the fridge, covered, for several months. Use as a beverage, or add a spoonful to a bowl of crushed berries or sliced peaches for an easy and inter- esting fruit topping for ice cream, cheesecake, or yogurt.