Hello friends! It’s been a bit over a year since I started this wild journey and it seemed like the right time to move all our online presences into one place. So I did. Come visit us at our new home on the web where you can shop, read blog posts, and see what our upcoming vendor schedule is.
Hello friends! This Summer has been a total whirlwind of travel and parties and tasting events. It’s been amazing. One of the funnest things I did this year, was show up to booze focused tasting events and serve non-alcoholic mocktails.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love a well crafted cocktail. Seasonal ingredients, locally produced spirits, fresh and innovative spins on classics all make me excited to imbibe. But my beloved is not a drinker, and he’s often stuck sipping a Sprite or other bland sugar bomb, while I enjoy my crafted cocktail. So this Summer, I set out to change a few minds about what a mocktail could be.
When I craft a mocktail, I try to keep in mind that a balanced cocktail has something sweet, something sour, something bitter, something weak, and something boozy in it. So, I remove the booze component, and focus on the other four. Sweet and sour are provided by the shrub, as they would be in a cocktail, and form the main flavor of the mocktail. Once a shrub is chosen, it’s just a matter of choosing bitter and bubbly ingredients to round out the experience.
For the bitter component, I reach for my bitters collection. 2-3 dashes in a glass will provide loads of flavor, but the alcohol by volume of the drink stays at less that .5%, which is within the non-alcoholic category. However, bitters are alcohol tinctures and should not be used if you’re making a drink for someone who cannot have any alcohol. So what are some other options? Muddled herbs such as rosemary, sage, or mint. Thin strips of citrus peel, especially lemon, lime and grapefruit have loads of flavorful oils that express easily when muddled with sugar. Or you can make bittered simple syrups using things like cinnamon, orris root, angelica, dandelion root, or burdock root.
Lastly, pick your weak component, which in this context is a non-alcoholic mixer, usually with bubbles. I tend to prefer a combination of seltzer water and something else. That something else can be freshly squeezed juice, your favorite soda, non-alcoholic beer or non-alcoholic wine, flavored fizzy water, or anything else that pairs well with your shrub and bitters combo.
Here’s what that might look like in action:
In a glass with 8-10 ounce capacity put one teaspoon of sugar. Using a veggie peeler, peel off two thin strips of lemon peel. It’s ok if some of the white pith is on this, as it will add a nice bitterness to the finished mocktail. Use the back of a spoon to crush the lemon peel into the sugar to draw out the oils and start dissolving the sugar. This shouldn’t take more than 15-20 presses with the spoon.
Add 1 ounce of Blueberry Cinnamon shrub to the glass and give it a good stir. Try to ensure the sugar dissolves fully. Then add 2 ounces of Vanilla Bean soda, I like Dry Soda because it’s not as sweet as a cream soda but has loads of flavor. Give everything a good stir, add enough ice to fill the glass, and top it off with seltzer water. Since the lemon peel is already in the glass, it acts as your garnish but you can add a lemon slice if you want to be extra fancy.
As summer winds down, and holiday parties start being planned for, it is my hope that you will find encouragement and have fun making mocktails for your guests that are just as delicious as the cocktails you’re serving.
July was so intensely busy for me that I forgot to tell you all about my new favorite way to use shrubs: as an ingredient in brine for BBQ! The following works for both pork and chicken, and would likely work for beef as well but I haven’t tried it yet (although now I’m totally envisioning Blackberry Balsamic Brisket). As with most non-cocktail recipes, this is meant as a jumping off point for you. Change the flavor of shrub. Add more or less sugar. Use water and beer or broth or some other liquid. Food should be fun, and so should making it.
Mix well in a zip top bag and add 3-4 lbs of meat. So far we’ve used this for chicken hind quarters (where the thigh and leg are still attached) and pork butt. You could also use this for any meat that benefits from a “slow and low” cooking style such as ribs, shanks, and pot-roast style cuts such as chuck or round. I have plans to do this to chicken wings at some point and I expect it will be glorious!
Zip the bag closed, making sure to gently press out any air, and let it sit in the refrigerator for no less than 2 hours, and up to 6. In the bag, a magical thing will happen called osmosis. The end result is the meat will soak up salty sweetness, and any other flavors in the mix (like Peaches), while expressing water. This gives a wonderful texture and means that the meat won’t lose water during cooking (thus staying moist).
Take the meat out and rub it down with your favorite BBQ dry rub. Be generous. Right now I’m totally into Deb Perelman‘s dry rub recipe, though as usual I’ve messed around with things. This rub is earthy, smokey, spicy, sweet and so fragrant. The recipe makes a bit over a cup, so you should get 2-4 applications, depending on the size of your meat.
6 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
4 tablespoons sweet or smoked paprika (I used a half-and-half combination of both which I found well balanced, if you will be grilling this you can lean more toward the sweet)
3 tablespoons chili powder (I have Penzeys Medium Hot Chili Powder at home, which is full of delicious Ancho chilies and cumin)
Up to 1 tablespoon ground red pepper (if you like things quite hot) or to taste (I used something like 1/8 tsp since my chili powder already has ground red pepper in it)
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons Kosher salt (I admit I used about half this amount, as we like things a little less salty here, and it was just fine)
Up to 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
Put your well coated meat into an oven safe pan with a tight fitting lid, a roaster, or foil packet, and bake at 300 degrees for 3-5 hours. Much will depend on the thickness of your meat, but I found 3 hours is perfect for bone in chicken and thinner cuts of pork, where a beef chuck roast or pork shoulder will likely take 4 or more hours.
Once the meat is cooked through and falling apart tender, take it out of the cooking vessel and set it aside on a sheet pan. Time to make a sauce!
Transfer the accumulated juices into a sauce pot and bring to a gentle boil. If you cooked in a pan that can be used on the stove, you can use that instead. Reduce the cooking liquid by about half, or until it’s very syrupy and coats the back of a spoon. It will likely be pretty salty, but an extra splash of vinegar (a tsp or two) and another tsp or so of sugar should round out the flavor of your sauce.
If you want you can pop your meat under the broiler for a few minutes to give it a quick sear. I like to do this with meat I’m going to eat by itself, like chicken hind quarters, but often skip it if I’m going to shred the meat like with pulled pork.
Eat delicious BBQ you made yourself. Perhaps with a shrub cocktail along side!
Wow, I can’t believe that it’s nearly the end of the year. I’ve had the amazing good fortune to land myself in a job I’m loving, with seriously rad people around me, and the opportunity to meet more amazing people all the time. To everyone I’ve met this month at the Farmer’s Markets and shows, thank you for being part of this amazing journey. I hope everyone you bought shrub for loves it, that all of your parties were an amazing success, and that you all get a chance to relax at some point this season.
I just wanted to let you know how awesome the new pear flavor is. Sweet, lush D’anjou pears, whole vanilla beans, and just enough vinegar to give it a zing.
I love that it’s winter white in color, and just look at all those specks of vanilla bean! Make sure you come visit me at the Christmas in Seattle show November 14-16 at the convention center.