Marsha

Pineapple and Red Pepper Shrub

The theme for month three of the 2017 Food in Jars Mastery Challenge is “Jellies and shrubs.” I’ve been experimenting with shrubs since last summer, so I would have been happy to venture into new territory with this month’s effort. But my family is not super keen on jelly: we very much prefer that our fruit-based spreads have chunks of fruit in them. Maybe one day I will play around with jellies (maybe some with delicate floral flavors), but for now I wanted to make something that I knew would be consumed and enjoyed: Pineapple and Red Pepper Shrub.

I started with Michael Dietsch’s basic recipe for cold-processed shrubs, which calls for 1:1:1 ratios of fruit, sugar, and vinegar. Rather than make a small batch that would be gone before I knew it, I decided to go all in and make enough to last a while.

First, I measured out 2 cups of diced pineapple and 2 cups of diced red pepper. In Dietsch’s recipe, these 4 cups of produce are matched with 4 cups of sugar. When I measured out 3 cups of sugar, I was somewhat horrified to see just how much that was, so I decided to start with that amount and add more as needed.

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After stirring in the 3 cups, though, the fruit didn’t seem very well coated with sugar, so I ended up adding in the fourth cup after all (and reminding myself that only a very small amount of sugar ends up in each beverage).

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I mixed everything up thoroughly, snapped a lip onto the bowl, and put the whole thing in the refrigerator. The next day, I worked on it a bit with a potato masher (which in my house is never actually used for potatoes—those go in a ricer) to encourage more of the juice to come out. Pineapple is somewhat juicy, but red pepper doesn’t release nearly the same amount of liquid. So the sugar mixture had a consistency that was more pastelike than syrupy.

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One day later I took the bowl out of the fridge and stirred it up again. The sugar was still pastelike, though, and I was worried that when I strained the mixture I’d end up leaving a lot of the sugar behind. So instead of adding the vinegar after straining per Dietsch’s instructions, I added it at this point so it could help dissolve the sugar and carry it along into the final product. I used apple cider vinegar, which has mellower edges than white vinegar.

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Then it was time to strain the mixture. For this, I turned to our chinois. (A chinois is a ridiculously overpriced piece of kitchen equipment. After making do with other sieves, strainers, and cheesecloth for years, we finally broke down and bought a chinois two years ago. We use ours all the time [best way to strain yogurt!] and wish we’d gotten this sooner.) Its very fine mesh ensures that no solids get through. And the wooden cone-shaped pestle that comes with it is just fantastic at pressing out the last bits of liquid—in this case, at least a full cup of liquid that would have otherwise been lost to the compost bin.

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This recipe yielded two quarts of pineapple-and-red-pepper shrub. I like to add about 4 Tb of shrub to a tall glass of seltzer. Any less, and the flavor (especially the red pepper) is a bit too faint; any more, and the drink is just too piquant. This is an amazingly refreshing beverage on a hot day!

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One Response to “Pineapple and Red Pepper Shrub”

  1. […] Pineapple and Red Pepper Shrub – First Things First […]

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