Sometimes, life makes decisions on your behalf, regardless of your own preferences. My experience has been that this doesn’t always work in my favor — but occasionally, serendipity strikes.

The March Food in Jars challenge was like that. With a choice between jellies and shrubs, I started out the month with a handful of jelly recipes that I intended to make: I didn’t care for the only fruit shrub I’d ever tried, and after last month’s experience with gravlax, I wanted to end up with a product I would actually enjoy. Then I got the thing that’s going around — you know. That thing. I don’t care where you’re living; if you are required to venture outside of your house for any reason, then you know what I’m talking about. I’m assured that I didn’t have the flu, but I’m pretty certain that the differences between the flu and this virus are strictly molecular (or maybe systematic – I am totally willing to credit this virus and the flu with convergent evolution). Four days of fever and three weeks of bronchitis did not leave me a lot of time or inclination for canning. (On the other hand, it did give me plenty of at-home time to plan my raised bed gardening – an urgent task, as apparently this year Spring waiteth for no man! Nor even a decent schedule. We should just enjoy it, right? Nothing to fear… eh-heh-heh….)

So… that was March. But I was determined to complete the March challenge, so I defaulted to a strawberry balsamic fruit shrub. I’d like to say I did this in the spirit of giving shrubs another try, but it was purely a choice based on time investment: I chopped up berries on Sunday, let them macerate on the counter with sugar for two days, strained out the fruit and mixed in the other ingredients, and BOOM, done. That’s about how much spare time I had this month.

Speaking of my gravlax experience, can I just say that the liquid-extraction process is way more pleasant with strawberries than it is with raw fish?

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Plus, you don’t want to lick the spoon when it’s raw fish.

I was extremely dubious about the recipe I used. Being desperate to complete the challenge may have helped me here, because instead of waffling, I just got it done. I chopped up 1 pound of strawberries, set them to macerate in two cups of sugar, then strained them out and added two cups of red wine vinegar (actually, it ended up being more like 1.75 cups – this is where my taste buds told me to stop) and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I admit, what sounds good on a salad doesn’t sound like something I’d want to drink.

Also, can we just acknowledge here that once again, at a certain stage of the process it looked like I killed someone in my kitchen? That is just a lot of viscous red stuff in a bowl on my counter.

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This is the same bowl, two days later.

But it is pretty, and I wanted to show off the color when it was bottled. I have a small collection of non-canning glassware for things that don’t get processed, and once again, serendipity gave me a “but that never happens!” moment. My finished shrub fit perfectly into this clear bottle. I guess it was just meant to be!

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I can neither confirm nor deny that moonshine has been in this bottle at some point in its existence.

The truth, however, is in the tasting. Shrubs are also called “drinking vinegar” –drinking being an adjective, not a verb — which I guess someone meant to sound refined in the manner of “drinking chocolate.” Somehow, that label misses the mark on appeal. But I’d come this far, so I added a splash of my shrub to a glass with some tonic water and … and …!!!

Okay. You know what? Shrubs are delicious and this has just become my new obsession. My first taste of a shrub just happened to be a combination I didn’t like – but this one is fantastic! I’m happy to have something fancy to offer friends who don’t enjoy alcohol… which is not to say I won’t begin experimenting with some high-proof additives to my own shrubs.

Now that I’m a shrubbie (Wow. Nevermind, forget I used that term), what are your favorite shrub recipes?

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